A modern day witch hunt: how unexplained wealth laws victimise the innocent

Pictured: how unexplained wealth laws combat organised crime

Pictured: how unexplained wealth laws combat organised crime

We like to think of ourselves as superior to our ancestors, but as I look at Australia’s unexplained wealth laws I venture to disagree.  The laws have empowered police to confiscate the property of the innocent without a trial, and they have been introduced in every State, every Territory and federally. Indeed, in New South Wales, the Coalition is promising to increase their scope in the run up to the election. Punishment without a trial is a process that is equivalent to a medieval witch hunt.

All of your property—gone. Unexplained wealth laws empower law enforcement officials to permanently confiscate your property without being convicted of a crime. If you’re suspected of committing a minor criminal offence, the police are empowered to confiscate everything you own. In Queensland, it can be as trivial as recreational marijuana possession. There is no need to even accuse you of having committed a crime in obtaining the property; no need to charge you with a crime; no need to bring your trial; and no need to prove you guilty. Punishment without a trial or due process is the agenda. It’s up to you to defend yourself in Court against the allegation that you obtained the property unlawfully.

Absurd law, absurd results. In one instance, recreational marijuana possession was in fact used as the pretext for the confiscation by police of almost $600,000.00 of cash belonging to one man, Mr Henderson, and his siblings in 2002. [1] Mr Henderson proved in Court that he obtained that money legitimately from the sale of a family heirloom belonging to himself and his siblings. But the money was confiscated anyway, for the absurd reason that he could not prove that the family heirloom was legally acquired by his now-dead parents. Police did not offer any other explanation as to how the property was acquired. They did not produce a victim claiming the heirloom was his, or even a police report. They did not allege that Mr Henderson or his property acquired the property illegally. They weren’t required to. Mr Henderson was a member of the vulnerable underclass which unexplained wealth laws seem to target and victimise.

That money sure looks suspicious. Unexplained wealth laws also empower the police to permanently confiscate specific items of your property on the suspicion that it was acquired illegally. Again, the onus is on you to get it back.

Carrying cash is a crime? Thus in another case in Western Australia, police targeted a man, Mr Morris, for carrying around his life savings of over $100,000.00 in cash in a plastic bag.[2] It was suspicious. So when police pulled him over while he was driving back in 2011, they took the cash. He kept his savings in cash because he was suspicious of banks; he had lost his meagre savings due to a bank failure in the 80’s. He was planning to use the money purchase and open a fitness training centre. Police did not allege that the man had committed a crime of any kind. They simply suggested that he had obtained the bag of money from a friend. This single suggestion was the entirety of the prosecution case. Mind, they had no proof of it. No witness came to the stand in their favour. Nor did they offer any evidence the man’s friend had gotten the money illegally.  Mr Morris got his money back, but the case took two years to be disposed of—a punishment in time and money in and of itself. If Mr Morris had been subjected to the traditional process of criminal procedure, this would never have happened at all. The police could not and did not charge him with the “crime” of carrying around a bag of money. But with unexplained wealth laws, they confiscated it anyway. This is not justice.

No evidence of effectiveness. Witch hunters could only practise their trade because witchcraft was popularly thought to be real and dangerous. Similarly, our modern day law enforcement officials confiscate on the premise that they are combating organised crime. The dangers of organised crime are no superstition, of course. But then again, neither were the diseases witches pretended to cure. And much as peasants never asked witch hunters for evidence, few people seem to ask for any evidence that these laws do anything to combat organised crime. There’s a reason for that. There is none. Unexplained wealth laws are designed to catch people who haven’t been proven guilty of a crime. That does nothing to assist police in their investigation of actual crimes.

A wider net catches more innocent people. It is more likely than not that some of the people caught by police will be innocent. Some indeed might be guilty of something, but if they are subject to unexplained wealth laws then we often cannot be sure what they are guilty of, if anything. With unexplained wealth orders, there need be no convictions or sentences, nor even any reported crimes to justify a confiscation. The accused and the prosecution can simply consent to an order being made against the accused for his property to be confiscated. Nobody knows what they are accused of or whether the punishment is in proportion to the crime.

Disproportionate, draconian punishments. We should not assume that the punishment is just simply because the accused did not contest it. The accused may not have had the funds or the time to contest the accusations against him. While he may have been guilty of some offence that might justify confiscating the proceeds of crime, it does not follow that law enforcement officials should be empowered to take everything that person owns. The punishment has to match the crime. The typical punishment for a marijuana user is a counselling session or a small fine—not the confiscation of all of their property.

A pointless, hysterical distraction from punishing real criminals. Finger pointing hysteria may sweep up a lot of innocent people together with the guilty. But there’s no evidence that organised crime is likely to suffer as a result. Indeed, unexplained wealth proceedings will distract police from the actual task of investigating real crimes and real criminals. They will be too busy investigating loosely hypothetical possibilities that might warrant a confiscation order to worry about any real criminals. Therein, I suspect, lies the appeal. Police and politicians can look like they are doing something about crime without doing much at all.

Reversing the presumption of innocence undermines our liberal society. The Coalition like to market themselves as tough on crime, but unexplained wealth laws punish suspects, not proven criminals. Punishing suspects means punishing more innocent people. The traditional, conservative view of law enforcement sees the presumption of innocence as the cornerstone and a distinguishing feature of the English legal system. It is as old as the English Treaty of Magna Carta:

“No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.

Or as famous English jurist Sir William Blackstone put it:

“It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”

People must have confidence that the legal system will not unfairly target or persecute them. With the introduction of unexplained wealth laws, the Coalition, the ALP and the Greens have renounced their commitment to this fundamental principle of liberal society. They have undermined a core, embedded principle of our legal system and our society. This is a remarkable and troubling tri-partisan consensus indeed. The only politician to have spoken against these laws to date is David Leyonjhelm of the Liberal Democrats. Leyonjhelm has separately pointed out that reversing the presumption of innocence is tantamount to accepting the “just world fallacy”:

The just-world fallacy holds that a person’s actions always result in fair and fit consequences, and it exists because people are uncomfortable accepting [that] suffering is random and that sometimes bad things happen for no reason at all. It is common to believe people must have done something to deserve what they get, including being accused of a crime. The argument goes: if bad things only happen to those who deserve them and I am a good person, then I can be sure nothing bad will ever happen to me.”

Unfortunately, the world is not fair, and law enforcement officials are not perfect. They are fallible human beings. They are capable of making mistakes. They are capable of persecution, not merely prosecution. Judging people guilty before proven innocent is tantamount to a sacrilegious worship of law enforcement officials as nigh-infallible human beings. Unexplained wealth laws turn them into the witch finders of our modern day witch hunts.

Revenue raising gone mad. Add to the mix the fact that confiscations generate revenue for the government and you will see a dangerous combination at work. Police who return more money towards government coffers than they put in will naturally be in line for more funding. Politicians will be more inclined to give it to them. It is not hard to see how law enforcement officials might be more inclined to prosecute law abiding citizens when their pay packet is on the line. That’s the experience in the United States, at any rate, where law enforcement officials get every penny they confiscate back into their own local police department. Then they spend it on holidays, nice cars and other like perks, as the Institute for Justice, an American civil liberties law firm, has recorded. If law enforcement officials get their way we could witness much the same here. It is a comfortable revenue stream indeed.

Would you do it to your neighbour? A final thought. If you took your neighbour’s property and refused to return it to him, without even telling him why or caring to prove that he acquired the property illegally, what would that make you? A thief. It’s one thing to confiscate the proven proceeds of crime, but unexplained wealth laws are something else entirely.

Vladimir Vinokurov is a solicitor and a deputy Victorian State director of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance. The views expressed here are his own.

Vladimir Vinokurov is a solicitor and a deputy Victorian State director of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance. The views expressed here are his own.

[1] See Henderson v Queensland [2014] HCA 52.

[2] See Director of Public Prosecutions v Morris [2010] WADC 148. (Note: you will need access to a subscription service such as LexisNexis to access this decision).

Rudd finally goes—the modern day Hannibal.

EXCLUSIVE:

by Bertel Torsten in Canberra

KEZ

Perhaps the greatest military strategist of the ancient world was Hannibal, the Carthaginian general who famously crossed the Alps—elephants and all—in 218 BC and invaded Italy routing Roman armies and never loosing one significant battle for fifteen years.

He was recalled to Carthage in 203 BC to defend the city state against the vengeful Romans but met with complete disaster and the ancient Mediterranean power was smashed to smithereens. It was said of Hannibal that he won the battles but lost the war.

Much of the same could be said of Kevin Rudd. His 2007 victory over John Howard, the most formidable conservative leader since Sir Robert Menzies, was a major triumph but when he was recalled to try and defend a tottering and shambolic regime, his previously sure touch deserted him. The ALP regime came crashing down as Carthage did—the vote nationally was the lowest in a century.

And when it came to quit Parliament, Kevin proved—for the final time—that he could be the utter bastard that so many of his former colleagues had said he was after the poll defeat. He gave his Leader Bill Shorten a scant ten minutes notice of his farewell speech because, it seems, he couldn’t trust him not to leak it.

Shorten was reportedly heard swearing and cursing Rudd as he left the Chamber and one Labor insider was quoted as saying, “He was furious.”

Yet Shorten has every reason to be thankful. It is Rudd’s own new leadership rules that he enforced during his brief return to the prime ministership that will ensure that Shorten cannot, in reality, be challenged before the next election. If Rudd ever entertained some fantasy about a third go as Leader, the realisation that his own rules made that impossible would be the supreme irony.

Predictably, there were the usual outpourings of affection and appreciation from both sides of politics, although many—including those from Labor ranks—sounded confected. His successor/predecessor Julia Gillard tweeted, “Best wishes to Kevin, Therese & their family as they embark on the next stage if their lives. JG” which wasn’t gushing affection or sincere best wishes. It wasn’t meant to be.

Most, if not all, public utterances from Labor people sounded like the sort of cursory comments people write on “Happy Retirement” cards for a colleague they hardly knew or didn’t like—things like, “Good luck Fred from Mary in Accounts Payable.” 

To the bitter end, Rudd tried to defend his legacy. It was he, according to himself, who saved the ALP from a cataclysmic defeat. It recalled his concession speech on election night in September—a self-justifying self-pitying rant that went on for twenty-two minutes, twice the time of Abbott’s victory speech.

PM Abbott said some nice things about his predecessor that, if not wholly sincere, did show good taste and a sense of occasion. However, when asked if his government would give Rudd ajob, he delivered a very quick and emphatic “NO”.

It is likely that the people of Griffith will have to trudge back to the polls for the by-election next February and the outcome is far from certain for the ALP.

The well-informed Chief Political Correspondent for The Age, Mark Kenny, has already written, “ALP hard-heads are conceding defeat is likely if the Liberal-National Party’s Bill Glasson runs again.”

And it is virtually certain that Glasson will run. On election night he said he would consider running again if Rudd quit and the LNP is praying that he will. An appeal for campaign donations has already been launched and the money is pouring in.

It was on election night that Rudd showed his natural arrogance by sneering, “It would be un- prime ministerial of me to say, ‘Bill Glasson, eat your heart out’ so I won’t.”  

The final result showed that Glasson scored 36,481 votes to Rudd’s 34,878—a margin of more than 1,600. A novice candidate against a sitting Prime Minister who managed to achieve a two-party preferred swing of 5.45%, Glasson is in a strong position for the by-election if he runs.

Front runners for ALP selection include left faction lawyer Terri Butler and former State MP Di Farmer who managed to lose her Bulimba seat which is in the very core of Griffith in the 2012 State election to an unknown LNP candidate. Previously Bulimba had been a rock-solid Labor seat since Adam was in shorts.

Rudd rides into the political sunset with an annual indexed pension of $155,000, an office, an official car and security arrangements.

It is a rather better fate that that of Hannibal who, driven into exile after the destruction of Carthage, finally took poison saying, “Let us relieve the Romans from the anxiety they have so long experienced, since it tries their patience too much to wait for an old man’s death.”

Perhaps Kevin might reflect on those words before he tries a new career of being a commentator on the Labor Party or worse, more dead wood on the UN gravy train.

Labor’s Climate Change Authority wants to put Australia out of business sooner

The sooner this mob are shown the
door the better.

Via the
Australian

Quote

The Climate Change Authority has recommended a major increase in the
national emissions reduction target for the rest of the decade.

The independent body recommends, in
a draft report released this morning, that Australia deepen its target to up to
15 per cent by 2020.

 

 

Follow Andy on Twitter

 

The Sermon on The Mount – St Bob retires


6a019b0057702a970cEXCLUSIVE:

by Perkin-Warbeck

There is a theory – a story, if you like – that Churchill was always able to “prove” that he was always on the side of decency, fairness, high-mindedness, and principle by quoting from his Cabinet submissions, newspaper articles and speeches from his long career as a Minister and Prime Minister.

According to this theory/story, Churchill was able to cite those self-serving quotes because he began every second paragraph with “On the other hand…” After all, he did say that “History is written by the victors.”

Eighteen months ago PM Gillard recruited the former NSW Premier to the Senate vacancy and he immediately got the plum job of Foreign Minister. Now, having served less than six weeks after being elected for a new six year term from 1 July next year, he has resigned.

This is the same Bob Carr who, when he was appointed, described himself as a “natural Senator” – which is probably true because you don’t have to bother with the little people like constituents – and that he wanted to stay forever as a Senator.

“I’m going to beat Strom Thurmond”, he boasted. Thurmond, who served in the US Senate for forty-eight years, died in office aged 100. Carr is 66.

He would, be vowed, become like “one of those ancient US Senators who just stay on into their nineties, dispensing their wisdom and speaking with more principle as each year passes.”

On the other hand, he also said, “Bob’s here for a good time, not a long time.”

We know now which was true.  

At his farewell media conference he bought the wisdom of the ages when he reflected upon the six years of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Governments.

Firstly, and with a confected self-deprecation, he admitted that his solemn vows to stay as a Senator until hell froze over were the products of “irrational exuberance”. Every Abbott Government Minister should keep that handy comment with their Question Time briefing papers if promises don’t quite work out as hoped.

He told the media who hung on his every utterance that, “I did notice a lack of calculation, careful political instinct from 2007.” Good heavens above, it appears St Bob was suggesting that virtually five minutes after Rudd was elected that the ALP Government was losing its way.

Back in March this year, Carr flatly denied that he had lost confidence in PM Gillard yet he disclosed at his media conference that he had supported Rudd’s Second Coming. With friends like that, Gillard had no hope at all.

He realised, he said, that the Gillard Government had “lost its way” when he turned up for a Cabinet meeting expecting a discussion on coal seam gas only to be confronted with a bulky submission about media reform. 

We all remember it was Gillard who said in 2010 that the Rudd Government was “losing its way” – and it seems that this pithy little comment has far greater currency among Labor folks reminiscing about their own governments that, say, silly platitudes  about “The light on the hill.”

Other gems of retrospective insight included the view that the ALP in government showed “a lack of caution, cunning – canniness is probably the best word” and that it should have been “friends with everyone” a year out from the poll and “cooling controversy, not creating it.”

Minister Conroy’s so-called media reforms – dumped without any notice on the Cabinet table according to Carr – got a special mention in this regard and, certainly, they provoked a firestorm. Conroy is now Deputy Leader in the Senate and part of Bill Shorten’s inner leadership group so his appreciation of tactics, if accepted, will be a Christmas gift for the Abbott Government.

The NSW ALP has opened nominations for the vacancy and already Deb O’Neill, the defeated MP for Robertson, the very one who terrorised the elderly about a rising ocean sweeping all out to sea, has put her hand up. In an amazing display of shameless self-promotion, she intoned that she wanted to return to Parliament “so I can continue my work to serve the people of Central Coast and those across New South Wales.” No matter that her electorate gave her a well earned sacking.

A somewhat less-than-impressive 34.8% of Robertson voters at the election wanted her to continue her work, whatever that was. But a chance to keep one’s nose in the trough overrides all such pesky matters, it seems.

Another defeated MP, Mike Kelly who lost his Eden-Monaro seat has also indicated an interest although he really wants to win back his old seat. No doubt warming a seat in the Senate until 2016 would be a very comfy way of waiting for the people of Eden-Monaro to come to their senses. Free passage to the Senate seems to be a “Labor rejects” natural progression—a birthright.

Carr has announced that he will “reinvent” himself as a guru on Asia with nice little jobs at both Sydney and New South Wales Universities. It’s a crowded field, what with K Rudd Esq tying up that market amusing his Asian audiences that are too polite to snigger at his smattering of jerky, Chinese lingo.

And, meanwhile, Maxine McKew – the one-time Labor hero who unseated Prime Minister Howard in 2007 but who only served one term before being defeated herself – has written another chapter for her memoirs.

McKew, who spent part of the 2013 campaign travelling with Rudd and cronies, said the then PM was “off his game”, had advocated idiotic policies and had introduced a “perverse and cruel” asylum-seeker regime that she “couldn’t stomach”.

Rudd, she wrote, “went off the deep end” saying that he favoured tax breaks for companies re-locating to the Northern Territory and that Labor’s “already diminished credibility was practically shredded” when senior public servants disowned the government’s claim that they had verified a “black hole” in the Coalition’s policy costings.  

You get the feeling that there won’t be a lot of two-way Christmas card deliveries between the comrades this year.

It is also patently clear that the Australian Labor Party has learned nothing from their mistakes and seem to believe they have made none. With that attitude in play Labor will assign itself to the political wilderness until the elites within learn how to be a servants of the people, not the reverse.

The gift that keeps on giving

EXCLUSIVE:

 by Perkin-Warbeck

With the Shorten – Albanese road show over, the ALP had exhausted its rather limited appreciation of the virtue of appearing nice and it set about in the time-honoured way of having the factions decide who should be on the front bench.

And, predictably, it was a bloodbath and a public relations disaster. There was a vicious non-holds-barred fight for the spoils of defeat. 

PM Abbott probably can’t believe his luck that the Labor factions have recycled those who were such notable failures during the six years of Rudd – Gillard – Rudd. Every time they appear on TV or anywhere for that matter, Australians will be reminded just why they sent them to the wilderness. For Abbott, the ALP is the gift that keeps on giving.

The Opposition now is looking more like a disgruntled government-in-exile just waiting for voters to realise what a silly mistake they made tossing them out. With this attitude, they will be as relevant to Australia’s future as the Crown Council of Ethiopa is to that that country. Based in Washington, this sad little self-deluded bunch is hoping the monarchy, driven out in 1975, will be restored.

 There were some demonstrably bizarre and plainly ludicrous outcomes.

Don Farrell, who lost his seat and will leave the Senate on 30 June next, is on the front bench while Jacinta Collins who, in the last Rudd Government was Deputy Leader in the Senate and fourth-ranking Minister, has been dumped to the backbench.

Stephen Conroy’s decision to take for himself via factional deals the job of Senate Deputy Leader showed an arrogance and selfishness in the true Rudd tradition although he loathes Rudd and always did. When Rudd returned for his last hurrah, Conroy spat the dummy and went to the backbench in a huff.

Outgoing Speaker Anna Burke was excluded from getting anything at all and made no secret of her bitterness saying, “Our new leader, Bill Shorten,  may hope for no rancour in the caucus, but the current outcomes of the shadow ministry reflects an immediate reversion to the faceless men being firmly in control.” 

 She said “no meritocracy” exists in Shorten’s regime. No doubt the Government has already got a bulky folder of quotes from Labor about Labor to taunt the Opposition when Parliament resumes.

Two former Ministers from Albanese’s Left faction – Kate Lundy and Warren Snowden – were dumped by their own faction because they had voted for Shorten who outflanked Alabanese by recruiting star left-winger Tanya Plibersek as his deputy. The only other ex-Minister not recycled was Bob Carr who is on the way out anyway.

Veteran left-winger Laurie Ferguson spoke up for Lundy describing her demotion as “sad collateral payback.”

 The real tragedy for Labor is that talented backbenchers who are not tainted with the mistakes of the past have been locked out. They could have helped present a new fresh face to the Opposition and made serious contributions to policy formulation – Julie Owens, the only caucus member to have been the CEO of a small business organisation and Clare O’Neil who studied at Harvard and worked for leading consultancy McKinsey and Company are two who come to mind.

The most devastating expose of Labor’s six disastrous years came via retired Attorney-General Nicola Roxon who didn’t hold back in a recent speech.

She set the tone by describing Rudd as a “bastard” who, for the sake of the Labor Party, Australia and very probably the known and unknown universe, should quit Parliament and then, we can reasonably deduce, sink into a well-earned obscurity.

“Although I was frustrated beyond belief by his disorganisation and lack of strategy, I was never personally a victim of his viscous tongue or temper. I did, however, see how terribly he treated some brilliant staff and public servants. Good people were burnt like wildfire…,” she said.

There was more.

Ms Roxon said while caucus had made the right decision to dump Rudd as leader in 2010, “We were clumsy and short-sighted in the way we did it. We didn’t talk about his rudeness, or contempt for staff and disrespect for public servants. Removing Kevin was an act of political bastardry, for sure, but this act of political bastardry was made possible only because Kevin had been a bastard himself to too many people already.”

 In retrospect, Abbott and his team made only one mistake – being far too polite in their criticisms of the Labor shambles.

Rudd, in response, had his spokesman say that he had no comment adding, “He is focussed on politics for Australia’s future rather than the internal politics of the Labor Party.” It’s the sort of lofty response we can expect from Rudd who is in a tightly loyal faction of one. Perhaps he could become a strategist and adviser for The Crown Council of Ethopia.

Ms Roxon, a pal of Julia Gillard, even had some mild criticism of her but it was all in sorrow rather than anger. 

“Julia also took on too much – as the new leader, the promised ‘fixes’ were all attached to her, she wore every mistake and every setback,” she said. Really, it was all a terrible shame.

It seems that nobody in the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Governments ever had a decent, kind or worthy thought or achieved anything meaningful except, understandably, Ms Roxon herself.

New leader Bill Shorten has pledged to defend the legacies of the past six years, irrespective of how damaging that will be in the public eye. With the front bench the factions have handed him, he will have no other option.

 

 

First past the post loses

Labor’s “new face” of democracy also has a “new” method of counting and choosing.

The democratic election of the new Leader of the Australian Labor Party.
Candidates:
Bill Shorten.
Anthony Albanese.
Results:
Bill Shorten:            12,251 votes.
Anthony Albanese: 18,261 votes.
The winner is:
Bill Shorten.
Labor's new logic:
The prophet Flim Flannery has advised It is a rule of natural evolution that the candidate with the least votes, the shorter name and the lower IQ shall always be the winner.
Labor strategist Bruce Hawker said, ''I think we're going to find that people are going to be demanding more reform inside the Labor Party rather than less.''
Perhaps the smartest words Hawker ever spoke! GC.

LABOR 2013: THE AFTERMATH

After what can be aptly described as the most self-destructive episode in the history of the Australian Labor Party – and yes, I say this even considering the splits of 1917, the 1930s, and 1950s – Labor is now electing its new parliamentary leader writes Michael Smyth  

However for the first time in its history it is allowing its rank-and-file members a direct vote. 50% of the vote will be comprised of the caucus, and the other 50% will be comprised of rank-and-file members. The reforms that led to this may be referred to as a parting shot at the ALP, or mischief, by a nihilistic Kevin Rudd, intent on making them pay for his humiliation at the hands of Julia Gillard.

This may also be cynically called for what it is; window dressing designed to shield the fact that the ALP rank-and-file do not have direct preselections, and are still beholden to the factions. It does provide the ALP with a rare chance to return to its roots and begin being a party that stands for something other than professional hacks with little or no real life experience outside a staffer’s office, or the union movement.

For too long, many would say since the 1990s, the rank-and-file have been neglected, and that Labor had turned its back on its values after the 1996 federal election.  Some might even say that they did so at an earlier juncture, but whatever the case, the fact stands that the ALP is no longer a party of mass appeal, but a catch-all machine designed to win at all costs.

To promise whatever it needs to promise in order to win power, and then maintain it, without letting those promises get in the way of governing.  However, it seems that despite Rudd’s mischief, the bloodletting in the aftermath of the 2013 federal election has been relatively civilised.  

Rudd stepped down with a grace that was absent after his removal by Gillard, albeit after gloating that the ALP had not been utterly destroyed in a Coalition landslide. The men most likely to contest, duly put their hands up to nominate for the leadership.

What is relatively civilised about this is that neither of the men has attacked the other, although the same cannot be said about certain supporters of each nominee, both inside caucus and among the community at large.  Let’s look at each of the nominees for the ALP leadership.

Bill Shorten, a former Secretary of the AWU holds a BA/LLB, came to prominence during the Beaconsfield mine collapse and upon election to Parliament in 2007, was immediately appointed as a Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services and subsequently pushed for a National Disability Insurance Scheme.  

In 2010, he urged Julia Gillard to replace Rudd as Prime Minister, and shortly after he was promoted to the Ministry, further cementing his power base within the caucus and the ALP at large.

Anthony Albanese, a former staffer to Tom Uren (a one-time deputy leader of the ALP), who holds an Economics degree from Sydney University, professed a devout commitment to progressivism in his maiden speech. He has enjoyed a gradual rise to prominence, eventually becoming Leader of the House after Labor’s victory in 2007.  

Due to his relentless attacks on Tony Abbott, and his admission in 2012 that he likes “… fighting Tories.  That’s what I do”, he became popular within the ALP as a headkicker.

There is plenty more written about these two nominees elsewhere online and in print, but what is important to note is that both of these nominees are strong performers, and whoever wins the leadership will probably provide a strong challenge to the Coalition government.  However, the dangers for each are as follows.

If Shorten is elected as Leader, he will have to overcome the perception that he is dishonest, untrustworthy, and – in the words of a Left-wing friend – “poison”.  If Albanese is elected as Leader, he could face the same relentless negativity that he directed towards Abbott, ironically while referring to Abbott as nothing but negative.

Shorten has the ALP establishment behind him, but Albanese has the rank-and-file backing him.  For this reason, some on the Right have dismissed Albanese as a credible leader for the ALP, but they forget that Abbott was also once dismissed as ever being a potential party leader. This was despite the fact he was appointed by John Howard as Leader of the House.  

Albanese and Abbott are, in a perverse way, similar in terms of their pugilism in regards to political opposition, and in a mature way, similar in terms of their passion and beliefs.  The differences between the two are about values first, ideology second.  Were they outside politics they’d probably be good friends, but politics is a battle of ideas that leaves no quarter in terms of its engagement.

Shorten is a machine man, lacking the passion to invigorate a demoralised and dysfunctional Labor Party, but he knows how to manipulate the media.  Albanese is a vulgar man, who prefers brawl to brainstorm, but he has a passion and genuine belief in his causes, and should be noted and respected as a credible threat to the prospective hegemony of the Centre-Right in Australia for the next decade.  

If Shorten wins, and in the first term that is highly unlikely, barring a Great Depression style event, he will be burned by defeat at the next federal election, and forced to step down.  If Albanese wins, however, he could end up going the same way as Beazley in 1998; winning the popular vote, but not enough seats in the House of Representatives.  

Who will win the contest for the leadership? The prize of which is to drink from Labor’s cup of sorrows, a poisoned chalice the likes of which are rarely seen in the democratic world. It must be noted that neither of the nominees should be underestimated, whoever wins.

For the Coalition to take for granted the idea that they have at least six years in power would be extremely unwise. Labor did that in 2007, and they failed to win the election in their own right in 2010. The following three years of minority government were amongst the most polarising in living memory and looked back on with bitterness by the majority of Australians.  

The next three years, for both Labor and the Coalition, must be years of healing, but the task for Labor is much greater, as they are yet to start.

Michael F Smyth writes from Brisbane, Queensland 

New Labor presents more Follies

The ALP Musical Follies (in b flatulent)

Presents: Billy and Alby

by Florenz Ziegfeld, musical correspondent

Madame rageIt has finally been confirmed by senior ALP officials that
the post 2013 party will be a radically new, inspirationally innovative and
multi-talented show and the launch of “Billy
and Alby – The Musical”
presages this exciting future.

A senior source described this marvellous new stage
performance as “ground-breaking in
Australian political history”
as it combines the debates between the
leadership rivals with a dynamic fund-raising campaign.

The stars – Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese – are already
being referred to in show bizz circles as “The
B A Duo”.
John Howard laughed when he suggested “BA” meant “bloody awful" in duplicate, or maybe, "bugger all."

“We are thinking out
of the box,”
said the director Bruce Hawker, who cannot be named for legal
reasons, “but inside the box-office.”
His trademark impish grin belied the extraordinary amount of work that has been
done.

The show will premiere at the MSG on Tuesday week and
tickets have been on sale for a fortnight. Card-carrying ALP members will pay
$1 and receive 10 AWU shares, while an aggressive selling campaign targeting business has marketed block
bookings of ten seats for $10,000.  It is reported that, so far, thirty-seven tickets have been
sold reaping an impressive $37 less undisclosed considerations to former MP Craig Thomson.

Labor insiders claim that one ticket has been sold to a Sophia
Mirabella who, allegedly, is seeking a political career and new friends in an
organisation that prides itself on being kinder and gentler.

It will be a whole-of- party production – for example, the
remnants of Women for Gillard will
provide a soprano chorus (“Funny to think
of them as the sopranos,”
joked Hawker) while a selection of faceless men
from the National Right will perform as the ten tenors using a unique, although
untried method whereby the lowest note is a shrill high “C” throughout the aria.

However, not all has gone smoothly.

Former PM Gillard was reportedly in a “murderous rage” when
told she would have work co-operatively with former PM Rudd on the libretto for
a signature piece tentatively entitled “Hail
to The Messiah”
. It seems Rudd
had already decided he would sing this engaging ditty into a into a large
convex mirror although he publicly stated that under no circumstances
would he ever do any such thing. Cross his heart and hope to die.

Julia was initially delighted to appear as a solo artist
singing an adaptation of “Everything’s
alright”
from Jesus Christ Superstar
and there was a real buzz about her rehearsals as she sang,

“Try not to get
worried, try not to turn on to

Problems that upset
you, oh.

Don’t you know

Everything’s all
right, yes, everything’s fine.” 

Then she discovered the original character who warbled this
ditty was Judas. More “murderous rage” was
reported.

A compromise was reached whereby Julia would sing to Kevin,

“Every time I look at
you I don’t understand

Why you let the things
you do get so out of hand

You’d have managed it
better if you’d had it planned

But your government
lost direction and we were all dammed.”

The cast and crew have been sworn to secrecy about the fact
this is another Judas-related tune. Mr Hawker has threatened to sack anyone who
leaks to the Murdoch media.

Rudd, for his part, will be his usual show-stopping self
with an enthusiastic rendition of another adaptation from Jesus Christ Superstar,

“Julia, you won’t just
believe the hit you’ve made around here

You are all we talk
about, the wonder of the year.

Oh what a pity it’s
all a lie

Nobody can relate to
you, nobody can demystify.”

Being an expert on practically everything, Rudd knew the
tune was based on a song for King Herod and that pleased him mightily,
especially as the crown has been refurbished with ermine.

Another feature individual performance will be by Wayne
Swan. There is already talk that he will be hailed as the World’s Greatest
Timpanist when he belts out, while beating his own drum,

“In my dreams I have a
plan

That would make me a
wealthy man.

I wouldn’t have to
work at all

I’d tax the lot and
have a ball.”  

But the poignant, haunting, emotion-charged finale by Billy
and Alby already has a place in ALP and light musical comedy history when their
extraordinary, prolonged transitions beyond high “C” shattered the large
stained glass window of da Vinci’s Lambs
to the Slaughter
and cracked the massive bass pipes on the rented, antique
Whurlitzer organ.

Looking stunningly individual in matching Zegna suits
(Mercifully ex PM Keating is doing the costumes after ex PM Hawke was ruled out
as he could only think of shorts, blue singlets and thongs) and tasteful blue
ties, The B A Duo will face each
other, feign a smile and sing,

“Knowing me, knowing you

There is nothing we
can do

Knowing me, knowing
you

We just have to face
it

This time we’re
through

Breaking up is never
easy, I know

So bugger off, you
have to go.”

Late news!

The previously mentioned Ms Mirabella, who describes herself
as a former country lass, has asked if she can actually be in the show rather
than fork out the $1 for the ticket. It seems the super hasn’t come through
yet.

Under cover of darkness, she performed a stirring piece from
Hair

“How can people be so
heartless

How can people be so
cruel

Easy to be hard

Easy to be cold

And especially people

Who care about strangers

Who care about evil

And social injustice

Do you only

Care about the
bleeding crowd.

How about needing a
friend.

I need a friend.”

While no final decision has been made about her inclusion in
the show, she has already won the ringing endorsement of Rainbow Labor, the gay
equality crowd.

Said a spokesperson, “Her
performance puts the Wicket Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz in the
shade!”

 

The ALP leadership campaign

EXCLUSIVE:

Perkin-Warbeck

Labor’s two leadership aspirants, Antony Albanese and Bill Shorten are, allegedly, in a life and struggle for the hearts and minds of the ALP membership – and wherever they go with their so-called “debates”, they stir up apathy to an almost unprecedented extent.

Presenting as Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the two have agreed that the legacies of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Governments are holy writ and triumphs of compassion, commitment and decency, that – yes – there may have been one or two minor and regrettable lapses of common sense during those six years but that the ALP will sweep to power in 2016 especially under their leadership.

It seems they have also agreed that they are both intellectually brilliant, have superb leadership skills, are possessed of a reforming and campaigning zeal and are inclusive, noble, sophisticated, dedicated, handsome, kind to animals and all-round wonderfully nice. Both would be happy, delighted, honoured and grateful to serve under the other even if it means making the tea.

So, the challenge for each is to try and find some small space which would allow a sliver of light to penetrate and show some sort of individuality.

Shorten was first out of the barrier with his declaration that he would introduce as Leader a quota for gay and lesbian parliamentary candidates to allow a greater “diversity” – an announcement immediately welcomed by Rainbow Labor, the gay equality crowd inside the ALP.

Rainbow Labor features very prominently on the official ALP website and proudly boasts, “The Australian Labor Party now supports marriage equality” which is both true and simultaneously misleading. Yes, it is official policy but it also accommodates a conscience vote by Caucus members – the “get out of jail free” card and more than a few have used it.

I’m reminded for some reason of the pharmacy chain which emblazons its shops with the sign “AUSTRALIA’S CHEAPEST CHEMIST” – you can hardly read, in much smaller letters the two word preface, “Is this”. It’s their “get out of jail free” card vis-à-vis the meddling ACCC crowd.

That it should have been Shorten, who is the Right candidate, who came up with this brilliant idea and not Albanese from the Left is somewhat surprising given that the Right is considerably against things like gay marriage. Gillard’s once best friend and Right faction powerbroker Joe De Bruyn of the shoppies union has railed against the gay agenda.

Given the track record of the leadership “debates”, we can reasonably expect Albanese to play catch-up and make sympathetic noises about the quota idea.

Now this thought bubble masquerading as policy is fraught with possibly unforseen difficulties. Well, in other words, it is a complete crock. Incidentally, Shorten didn’t include bisexual and transgender people in his quota idea and they might feel a bit peeved.

The trouble with sexuality is that for many people it is an evolving characteristic. Of course, there are folks of both sexes who were born gay and will die gay but some switch sides.

Just ask Christine Forster, the lesbian sister of PM Abbott, who five years ago was a married woman with children living a comfortable life on Sydney’s north shore. She met another woman, fell in love, and her world changed.

She is now also a Liberal Councillor on the Sydney City Council and got there without any sort of quota rubbish.

I wonder if Shorten has considered the potential difficulties. Under ALP policies, 40% of safe seats are supposed to go to women so perhaps the lesbian quota would be a slice of that. Or perhaps not. If gay men deserve a quota all of their own, then lesbians do also, one presumes.

It would be interesting to see if an allegedly straight male Labor MP was under serious pre-selection threat suddenly announced that he was gay and had to stay to meet the quota arrangements. It might not do a lot for his home life but it could save his career. And if two women were contesting a preselection, possibly one would be automatically picked if she announced she was a lesbian.

Why not quotas for all sorts of other people I wonder – a quota, for example, for obese straight male Trade Union hacks. Oh, no need for that really – there is already quite sufficient, thank you.

Then there could be quotas for ethnic minorities – an “Asian” quota for example although I suspect that a Thai man might not think that a Japanese man could adequately represent him and his special needs, that a Mandarin speaking Chinese might have issue with a Cantonese speaker as his quota representative and so on. 

Clearly under any enhanced quota rules inside the ALP, it would be tremendously advantageous to tick as many boxes as possible – an ideal candidate would be a black disabled lesbian. 

But it would mean one great big happy ALP family, reaching out to suburban mums and dads with a new slogan, “Land Rights For Gay Disabled Whales.” That should wrap it all up.