Goodbye, Newman

1609697_10152650821929989_322121146_nZeev Vinokurov examines the follies of the Newman government

There are a range of lessons to be drawn from the Newman LNP government’s one-term government. I don’t pretend to have all the answers; the Newman government’s campaign was riven with problems. I will fix on a few of those problems: the government’s divisive and illiberal VLAD laws, their contempt for the separation of powers and their contempt for the public. I don’t pretend that these were the causes of Newman’s downfall, though I wish they were. But I do think they posed an unnecessary distraction for the government. The anti-association “VLAD” laws proved a distraction precisely because they targeted innocent people and persecuted them for spending time with one another, both on the road and off it. The VLAD laws were designed to lock up any group of three or more persons who associated with one another and were deemed members of a club which the government or a court deemed to be unlawful. The punishment was six months imprisonment; the maximum punishment for club members involved in criminal activity was also increased dramatically. Dramatic as these punishments might seem, it does not appear as if they had any effect on crime rates. Crime was steadily going down before VLAD and it was steadily going down after it. But VLAD turned an entire community of motorcycling enthusiasts, numbering in the tens of thousands, into anti-LNP sympathisers and activists.  What’s more, the government’s attacks on the legal profession, its scurrilous suggestions that the ALP enjoyed links to organised crime, and the transparent bribery of the election season cemented the LNP’s reputation for transparent demagoguery.

The VLAD laws had other offensive features. For example, as a final humiliation, those charged under the VLAD laws would be segregated from the general prison population and forced to wear pink jumpsuits. The government declared a number of motorcycling clubs to be illegal on the spot, but it was always open to a Court to declare that any association was unlawful if it had a criminal purpose. For instance, a football club that was engaged in a minor brawl once might become a target of the VLAD laws.

There was never really much going for the VLAD laws: they were introduced on the flimsy premise that the acts of a few club members should condemn the membership to persecution. The additional punishments imposed on club members guilty of other offences were arbitrary. The nature of the deed, not your associations, should dictate the punishment a person should receive on committing a criminal offence. But they made for a good law-and-order campaign for the public to swallow up. At least that’s what Newman thought.

Faced with criticism from the Bar Association and the legal profession at the draconian nature of the laws, Newman fired back with accusations that any lawyer acting for a VLAD law defendant was a “hired gun” in cahoots with organised crime. This extraordinary comment elicited a suit in defamation, as well as criticism from across the legal profession and even the normally impartial judiciary.

Unsurprisingly, the VLAD law proved incredibly divisive. Polling commissioned in early 2014 demonstrated that almost half of the electorate was more likely to vote against the LNP because of their enactment. Perhaps a little incredibly, the poll predicted that the LNP could lose up 30 seats as a result. Moreover, in July 2014, the electorate demonstrated their willingness to do so by voting out the LNP in the Stafford by-election. Newman seems to have partly attributed the loss to the enactment of the VLAD laws, which he immediately wound back in response. Prisoners would no longer be segregated or forced to wear pink jumpsuits, but the rest of the VLAD law would remain in force.

It was too little, too late. Queenslanders were tired of seeing their fellow citizens harassed for their choice of friends or their motorcycling hobbies. Innocent recreational riders were repeatedly harassed on the roads by police. The Vietnam Veterans’ motorcycling club was raided by police. A librarian, with a clean record, was charged with the crime of entering a pub with two of her fellow motorcycling club enthusiasts. Five Victorians on holiday were charged with the same offence. Another five Queenslanders got similar treatment. Newman refused to back down. Even as he afforded a minor concession to VLAD law opponents, he offered them more contempt. As he put it then:

“I’m sorry today, if I’ve done things that have upset people.”

That is to say that he wasn’t sorry in the least. Apparently, anyone who disagreed with him was being irrational.

It’s worth noting that in opposition the LNP campaigned against a milder version of the VLAD law backed by the governing ALP government in the 2009 election. At the time, the then-opposition leader Lawrence Springborg observed:

“The Bar Association, the Law Society and the Council for Civil Liberties have justifiable and fundamental objections to this bill, including its attack on the freedom of association and the application of a civil standard of proof in what is otherwise a criminal proceeding…[.].”

Springborg was Health Minister under Newman’s former government. He did not breathe a word of criticism against the VLAD laws on their introduction.

Of a similar piece was Newman’s decision to promote the controversial Chief Magistrate Carmody to the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland. That saga began when the then-Chief Magistrate emailed his fellow Magistrates, warning them of the danger of realising persons in motorcycling clubs on bail. The move was seen as a clear sign of support for the Newman government. When the bail applications kept going, the Chief Magistrate arbitrarily reserved all such bail applicants for himself. He was then promoted to Chief Justice on the retirement of his predecessor. The legal profession and the judiciary regarded his elevation as a clear act of political favouritism. His appointment ceremony was boycotted by the other Justices of the Supreme Court. Justice Muir even called on Carmody to refuse the appointment given that the Bar and the judiciary lacked confidence in him. Carmody refused, and even went on talkback radio to defend the government’s decision to appoint him. It was a political act that was clearly inappropriate given his judicial appointment. The appointment itself smacked of clear political favouritism and was an attack on the independence of the judiciary.

As the State election drew closer, Newman dug in. The ALP had committed itself to repealing the VLAD laws, so the Premier accused the ALP of being in league with organised crime. (The commitment was later watered down to a review.) Newman offered no proof, but asked journalists to “google it.” The best that might be said of his claim is that there is a video on YouTube in which an Electrical Trades Union official, speaking at a protest against the VLAD laws, admits to having accepted donations from motorcycling clubs. This is not quite the same as showing that those motorcycling clubs are criminal. That is, and remains, a baseless accusation. Newman miscalculated; without proof, the media portrayed the claim for what it was: a base slander.

To make matters worse, Newman engaged in transparent vote-buying. Of course, every politician promises taxpayer-funded, so-called “free” goodies to his electorate during election season and Newman was no exception. But not every politician has the temerity to threaten to withdraw the goods on offer if the seats in question aren’t held by his party. The problem is that the threat lays bare the pretence that these spending measures are for the public good. That is much harder to do when the message is “if you don’t vote for us, you don’t get a pool.” The media blasted Newman for it, and quite rightly so. Rarely does one see such openly displayed appeals to avarice. Politicians are usually more subtle than that.

The Newman government’s extraordinary excesses were not the only factors responsible for his downfall, but they were undeniably factors. You simply cannot make enemies of tens of thousands of motorcycling enthusiasts in Queensland and across the country, not to mention the legal profession and the judiciary, without losing votes and winning the ire, and even the fear, of the electorate. There is a lesson to be drawn from this. I, for one, am not sorry to see Newman go.

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

And on it goes

EXCLUSIVE:

by Perkin-Warbeck 

T
here is only one person standing between open warfare between Queensland’s judiciary and the Newman Government on the matter of the new laws to control bikie gangs – the Chief Justice, Paul de Jersey.

CJ de Jersey, both wily and wise, has been a Supreme Court justice since 1985 and got the top job in 1998. He has seen a succession of Premiers and Attorneys-General in his time and will undoubtedly see more before his scheduled retirement aged 70 in September, 2018.

Last weekend he did make some guarded comments about the controversy saying, “The public commentary bears a highly political flavour and thereby the courts should remain detached from that,” he said.

“(And) a challenge to the validity of the new (bikie) legislation could proceed in the Supreme Court, and that’s where challenges to grants of bail will be heard. (I) cannot by any public comment risk compromising the perceptions of the way in which the court discharges its duty in those situations,” he said.

The Chief Justice is first among equals and is not inclined to tell his fellow jurists what they can and cannot say even if he could but, clearly, his measured comments were aimed at them – in effect, he was telling Queensland judicial officers to pull their heads in.

Without a doubt, most if not all magistrates and judges resent governments restricting their independence in sentencing by, for example, imposing minimum mandatory sentences on those convicted. The new bikie laws do exactly that and the Newman Government is in no mood to compromise. They know they are on a winner with the public.

Some judges cannot help themselves from making comments which are easily exploited by the government and others as showing they are woefully out of touch with public sentiment. Judicial officers – unless they commit some horrendous crime – have a job for life and retire at 70 with a vastly generous superannuation. Queensland governments have to face the voters every three years.

Last week when sentencing a paedophile, District Court Judge Milton Griffin said, “I want to make it absolutely clear in this case the sentence I impose is not a sentence affected by any consideration of what might be said the public of Queensland wants.”

And just in case people didn’t get the message loud and clear that judges know best, he added, “Judges won’t be affected by what the public of Queensland want and to do so would be contrary to the oath of office.” 

It wasn’t calculated in the slightest degree to dispel any notion that judges were living in ivory towers.

Meanwhile the second most senior Queensland judge, Court of Appeal President Justice Margaret McMurdo, has written to the Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie urging him not to interfere with judicial discretion.

This letter, which mysteriously found its way to The Courier Mail, was written on 31 July after the government flagged dumping court-ordered parole and suspended sentences but before the new sex offender and bikie laws were introduced. She wrote that, “The interests of justice and the community are best served by arming judicial officers with the widest possible range of options when sentencing offenders. That is the way judicial officers can ensure the punishment fits the crime.”   

Justice McMurdo thoughtfully attached to her letter a clipping from The Economist which highlighted that tougher sentences around the world were not reducing crime.

Bleijie’s tart response, “Everyone is entitled to their opinion” was about as close as he could get without descending to obscenities when dismissing the concerns out of hand.

As this debate rages, the Acting Head of the powerful Crime and Misconduct Commission, Dr Ken Levy, got the legal fraternity, the Opposition and sundry other usual suspects into a lather by expressing his support for the government’s bikie laws.

Dr Levy, who was Director-General of the Department of Justice and Attorney-General during the ALP reign, faced a grilling from the Parliamentary Crime and Misconduct Commission over his statements which he strongly defended saying, “I certainly don’t accept that being in an independent role requires me to disagree with the government on every occasion or that I must remain silent.”  

Opposition Leader Anastacia Palaszczuk – a member of the Committee – said Dr Levy no longer had Labor’s confidence. The Committee chair, Independent MP Liz Cunningham, said she would not support a vote of no confidence in Dr Levy.

Divisions between the Police Union and the Police Commissioner – never far from the surface at the best of times – have also opened up over the bikie crackdown with President Ian Leavers appealing to the Police Minister Jack Dempsey to do more to protect officers from any bikie retaliation.

Leavers claimed that Commissioner Ian Stewart didn’t “have the will” to provide sufficient protection and that officers should be allowed to decide themselves if they could take home their guns to protect themselves and their families.

Stewart responded by saying that, “ … we have policies around this and we are happy to deal with any officer who feels the need to take their weapons home, particularly if it is around personal security.”  

With the Newman Government hoping that bikies would get long jail sentences under the new laws, Queensland’s already crowded jails will be an even tougher environment from next May when smoking is banned.

Prison guards’ union secretary Michael Thomas has warned, “This is just putting more fuel on the fire and we have real concerns there’s going to be a crisis.”

For your average bikie, not being able to light up will be a far more provoking penalty than wearing the suggested pink uniforms.

PINK – Trademark of the macho

EXCLUSIVE:

by Harley Jamieson

Pretty in pink – dealing with bikies in Queensland

In late September in the most public outbreak of bikie violence on Queensland’s Gold Coast, a violent brawl broke out in a Broadbeach restaurant. It was all caught on CCTV and broadcast later to an understandably apprehensive public.

It was the last straw for the Newman Government and they sprang into action. Previously bikie violence was very largely inter-gang warfare and, to be frank, nobody much cared if they assaulted and shot each other so long as they didn’t put members of the public at risk.

A flurry of announcements from the Government followed. A special police taskforce was set up to target the gangs and all sorts of hairy chested pronouncements made. Leading the charge was Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie who has become something of a poster boy for law and order.

He introduced the beautifully named Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment (VLAD) Bill and it was rushed through Parliament, Yes, young Jarrod is now a latter-day Vlad the Impaler – and like the first Vlad, Jarrod is determined to restore law and order.  

Under his legislation, twenty-six bikie gangs have been declared criminal organisations and their members are barred from their clubhouses, from gathering in groups of three or more, face the prospect of extra jail time on conviction of serious offences, are automatically refused bail and not allowed to work in tattoo parlours.

They should be grateful that they will not actually be impaled. We have come some little way since the 15th century fortunately. 

The Police Commissioner Ian Stewart chimed in telling coppers that they should quit if they didn’t want to be part of the bikie crackdown. “If people aren’t prepared to do that, to step up when the going gets tough, then they really do need to consider another career,” he said.

For that bit of advice, he got a backhander from the Police Union who said officers didn’t need that sort of lecture one bit. To be fair, Queensland Police have a long history of doing their political masters bidding and sinking the boot – both metaphorically and actually – when absolutely necessary to protect civilisation.

The Government’s moves attracted the predictable opposition – from the Labor Opposition which tried to be critical out of habit but didn’t want to go too far and appear as sissy whimps, from the Australian Motorcycle Council which has launched a “fighting fund” to stage court challenges and from lawyers.

The Queensland Law Society tut-tutted that the VLAD legislation “applies to a much broader section of the community, beyond bikie gangs.”

“The principles of the VLAD Bill are so broadly drawn they can apply to any association or business, or anyone out in public with three people or more,” said President Annette Bradfield.

It was the sort of legal purity statement that does the legal profession no public good at all – as if the coppers are going to raid and arrest the Baptist Ladies Knitting Guild for having in their possession needles which they openly share. 

As the Government’s campaign really hit its stride Attorney-General Bleijie bravely confirmed that he has his family had been threatened by bikies saying with a stiff upper lip, “There have been threats made. That’s as far as I am going.”

Then in came the Police and Community Safety Minister Jack Dempsey – himself a former copper.

He announced that he had asked the Corrective Services Department to investigate changing the colour of prison uniforms, possibly to fluoro pink.

“We will start with members and associates of criminal gangs and will look at rolling it out to other inmates over time,” he said.

He got full marks from Premier Newman himself who observed about bikies, “They are bullies – they like to wear scary-looking gear, leather jackets, they have the tattoos, they have the colours. We know that telling them to wear pink is going to be embarrassing for them.” 

We can all imagine, of course, some flabby middle-aged prison inmate who is doing time for fraud sneering at a bikie who is pretty in pink and saying something like, “What a sissy you are, you big girl’s blouse.”

From what I’ve seen of bikies, you could dress them in bras and suspender belts – the full drag in fact – and they would still look and be bloody frightening. And since the Government is planning to reopen Woodford Jail just for bikies, presumably they would be all in pink – so hardly much embarrassment.

Minister Dempsey has asked Corrective Services “to investigate the Arizona model to see if it would have any benefit in Queensland.”

The “Arizona model” is the brainchild of Sheriff Joe Arpaio who, reputedly, is America’s toughest sheriff. We know that because his own book is entitled “Sheriff Joe Arpaio, America’s Toughest Sheriff.” He has been elected five times since 1992 and, whatever else he is, he doesn’t suffer from any painful shyness.

It was he who introduced pink underwear for inmates of Maricopa County Jail and he followed that up with introducing pink handcuffs. His other innovative penal reforms include having prisoners live in canvas tents and work in 40 degree summer heat in chain gangs. And he is an equal opportunity law enforcer – women are treated the same way and it doesn’t faze him one bit that most of these inmates are actually still enjoying the presumption of innocence and are awaiting trial.

This intrepid officer’s service to law and order in the USA includes his investigation into President Obama’s birth certificate – and he is certain that it is a forgery. Gosh, I wish I could see the Briefing Paper Minister Dempsey gets from his Department.

And another really bright idea from the Sheriff for a cash-strapped Government – he now sells customised pink boxers emblazoned with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s logo and “Go Joe”.

Back in 1941, when German General Erwin Rommel had a largely Australian garrison surrounded in Tobruk, the British traitor dubbed Lord Haw Haw broadcast from Berlin that they were the “poor desert rats of Tobruk” 

The Aussies proudly claimed that for themselves and to this day the last survivors are still proud to call themselves the Rats of Tobruk. 

I suspect that any self-respecting bikies who didn’t get to wear pink, if that ever happens, would be the ones who were embarrassed – imagine the shame of knowing that the Government and prison authorities don’t think they are bad enough!

Rudd’s desperation – the Beattie “invitation”

EXCLUSIVE:

by Perkin-Warbeck 

The timing could not have been more exquisite.

While PM Rudd was introducing his brand new Forde candidate, former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie, as God’s gift to the world – apart from himself – the good people of the outer southern Brisbane electorate were receiving letters from Rudd singing the praises of Des Hardman, the abruptly dumped ALP local hero.

The electorate had already been plastered with huge billboards featuring happy snaps of Rudd and Hardman proclaiming, “Des Hardman – Kevin Rudd’s Candidate in Forde.”


Hardman was erased from ALP history as quickly as possible; his website vanished and a brief statement in Hardman’s name was released by the ALP announcing he wouldn’t be standing after all. The statement, never explained just why he was quitting, never mentioned Beattie and didn’t contain any words of praise or even comfort from Rudd – and just to be safe, the State ALP Secretary, Anthony Chisholm, and not Hardman, was listed for any further comment. Presumably this cynical brutality is part of Kev’s “new way.” 

Forde is an interesting seat – created only in 1984, it has had five Members; three Liberals and two Labor. The sitting MP, Liberal Bert van Manen – a truly local man who has a reputation for hard work – holds the seat he first won in 2010 by a slim margin of 1.7%.

The fact is that despite all of the imagined lift in support Labor expected in Queensland from the recycling of Rudd as PM, their own polling showed that they wouldn’t even win this classical marginal seat. Rudd’s “popularity” existed only in his own mind.

The big question in Queensland is just why Rudd’s popularity is so dismal at the start of the campaign. Back in January, a State-wide poll by The Courier Mail/Galaxy asked the then hypothetical question about voting intentions if Rudd was leading Labor – the ALP vote surged from 34% to 47%, giving it a two-party preferred advantage over the Coalition of 53% to 47%.

Yet the poll on the weekend showed Labor’s Queensland vote, now Rudd is back, is only 34% – the same as PM Gillard’s in February. An astounding 13% of the vote once hypothetically Rudd’s has defected now The Great Man is really back.

On the ground, LNP polling reflects this – as does internal ALP research: hence the plea to Beattie to come to the aid of the party.

Beattie, whose bitter loathing for Rudd has been well documented over many years, was in his plush New York apartment when Rudd called begging him to stand. It must have been a delicious moment for Beattie who, being a man of his word, said back in 2010 that his wife would murder him if he ever suggested a return to politics.

If Rudd genuinely thought he had even the slightest chance of winning not just Forde but other Coalition seats in his home State, he wouldn’t have given Beattie a second thought – and Beattie knows it.

Beattie, who has graciously said that he would live in Forde if he was elected and who generously added that he would also serve a full term, has moved into his brother’s house in the electorate. It’s a very long way from New York and a considerable way from his home in the trendy inner Brisbane suburbs.

The former Premier has also said that he would be quite happy sitting on the backbench of a re-elected Rudd Government which is probably a good thing because that is exactly where a re-elected Rudd would leave him.  But when the former NSW ALP Premier, who was also parachuted in, is swanning around the world as Foreign Minister, nobody believes that Beattie would be a happy little camper on the backbench.

The electors of Forde, at least so far, appear to have been rather underwhelmed by Beattie – a Reachtel poll just after his candidature was announced had him on as two-party preferred 46% to van Manen’s 54%. The local newspaper, the Albert and Logan News randomly asked 150 Forde locals who they would support and 42 said the sitting Liberal, 32 for Beattie, 60 undecided and the rest for others.

It’s hard to break the habits of a lifetime, especially when you are a self-admitted “media tart” so when Beattie appeared at the local Ormeau Show over the weekend, he piously intoned, “I’m keen at the Ormeau Show not to have the media around. One of the issues is because of my profile. I want to show I’m fair dinkum.”    

Fortunately, there was a large media attendance there to record him being humble and modest again. Probably just a co-incidence.

One of the key messages in the ALP campaign in Queensland is the claim that the State LNP government has been sacking public servants wholesale and that this has had terrible implications for the job market. We are asked to believe that Abbott will be Campbell Newman writ large.

But the facts just don’t support that allegation – in July, Queensland’s unemployment actually dropped from 6.3% to 5.9%. There goes another furphy.

When Rudd introduced Beattie as his Forde candidate – headlined by The Courier Mail as Bring In The Clown – they could well have been doing a chorus of Mac Davis’ little toetapper – “Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way…”

All women are equal but some are more equal than others

By Perkin-Warbeck

I bet you didn’t know that there are WOMEN and then there are women.

I have this on the highest possible authority – Emily’s List, no less – which proclaims in the preamble on its website, “A woman candidate, to be satisfactory, must be a ‘feminist’ in the best sense of the word…she should believe absolutely in the equality of status, liberty and opportunity between a man and a woman. A woman candidate that is shaky on this matter, or not sufficiently imbued with its importance to be able to speak convincingly on the matter, will do the movement towards establishing women in Parliament far more harm than good.”

Emily’s List is the ALP affirmative action crowd, the official sisterhood, comprising Labor women who presumably pass the “satisfactory” test. Prime Minister Gillard is a proud member.

Given Gillard’s recent attempts to paint Tony Abbott as some sort of primitive throw-back and a gross misogynist, you might have imagined that Emily’s List would be in the front row of enthusiastic backers.

Yet, curiously, they have not issued one single statement praising their star member’s recent forays in her contrived gender war campaign. In fact, they haven’t issued any media statements since 30 January this year when they issued two – one paying tribute to dumped Northern Territory Senator Trish Crossin and one congratulating Nova Paris on being Gillard’s “captain’s pick” candidate for Crossin’s Senate spot.

Just why these “satisfactory” women have remained silent for five months as Julia and her government sink deeper and deeper into a morass of their own making is a mystery.

I’m not surprised they said nothing following the death of former British Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher because although she was the pre-eminent female politician of the 20th century, she obviously wasn’t “satisfactory”. 

The utterly desperate stage of this government’s decline could not be better illustrated by the fact that not only are they trying to control their message but are even trying to control the way it is presented.

Last Sunday, Gillard staged a tea party for parents and children at Kirribilli House in Sydney to sell the Gonski school funding policy. Photographers and camera crews were admitted to take happy snaps but reporters with difficult questions were banned. On Tuesday when the PM spoke at the Women for Gillard launch, reporters with notebooks and pens only were admitted and photographers and camera crew locked out. Julia’s own office released the footage which, no doubt, was carefully edited.

Only a day or so ago, Fairfax journalist Jacqueline Maley wrote about Julia’s recent tactics. It was an assessment that “satisfactory” women would find unpalatable.

She wrote, “For the first two years of her prime ministership, Gillard was reluctant to identify as a ‘female’ prime minister. She said on the record this was how she thought about herself. She wanted to govern for all Australia.”

Noting that Gillard had “been responsible for moving thousands of single mothers off the single parenting benefit and onto the lesser Newstart (the dole), Maley continued, “Gillard refused to back the female candidate for Batman, despite the affirmative action arguments of Jenny Macklin and Penny Wong. She promised to call out sexism in public life, but stayed silent when Labor MP Steve Gibbons called Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop a ‘bimbo’.”

Noting Gillard’s outrageous assertion last Tuesday about how abortion rights would be under threat if Abbott was elected, Maley wrote, “She had no evidence for making the claim…She needs to scaremonger about Abbott’s true attitudes to women and women’s rights. She needs to paint Abbott as dangerously retrograde. She needs to because she is politically desperate.” 

It should also be noted that Gillard’s famous “misogyny” speech in Parliament last October that gave her a temporary boost, was in support of a Speaker whose own position was under threat because of his own blatantly sexists text messages. That Speaker, Peter Slipper, didn’t get any criticism at the time from Gillard because she needed him to help prop up her tottering regime.

Emily’s List as what could be politely described as a curious attitude to democracy.

Last March, when Anna Bligh’s Queensland Labor Government suffered an overwhelming defeat winning only seven seats in a Parliament of eighty-nine, Labor’s “satisfactory” women issued a statement bemoaning that, “Saturday was a sad day for the Labor Party in Queensland, but what has gone unreported is just how sad a day is was also for Queensland women.”

It was a “sad” day for Queensland woman, they alleged, and we all know whose fault this was because Emily’s List told us, “These disturbing figures were further evidence of the contempt the Liberal National Party held for women.” The voters had nothing to do with it presumably.

Seventeen Liberal National women MPs were elected in Queensland in that State election but, of course, they aren’t “satisfactory”.


Learning The Lessons of the Queensland Election

David-Russell David Russell ponders the consequences of the Queensland election: 

As life in Queensland rolls along without the thunder, lightning and devastation commonly associated with the apocalypse, some are wondering what all the kerfuffle was about. The kerfuffle, of course, was the monstrous hiding delivered to the Australian Labor Party at the weekend’s state election.

In the random wash-up of this momentous event there are numerous little things that make one think.

Anna Bligh’s almost immediate resignation from her own electorate despite continuously promising to serve a full three-year term. Yes, she did get the message that Queensland wanted to see the back of her.  And, yes, the ALP would encounter some difficulties in its rebuilding challenge with her still in office. But, for twelve months at least, she could have offered guidance and mentoring to her protégés. Anyone who thinks the Labor rump will not need someone to hold their hands for a while at least simply does not appreciate the human factor of politics.

An apology. Not a word from anyone in the ALP that they are repentant for so thoroughly disillusioning the Queensland electorate. There is a reason that religions stress repentance before absolution. If you cannot even express sorrow for your actions why should anyone excuse you? ALP leaders may well still be thunderstruck but unless and until they can persuade people to take them seriously again their future is far from certain. An apology is the foundation stone for the future. Without it, any new edifice may well be a house of cards.

Dr Heather Beattie. Wife of former Queensland premier, Peter Beattie, under whose leadership the ALP rot started in earnest has nominated for a Brisbane City Council ward in the local government elections next month. Yes, as an individual she is perfectly entitled to stand for office. But it just seems, well, unseemly. It shouts that her husband can neither see nor accept his role in the damage done to Labor. That he remains handsomely glued to the public teat through his lifetime pension (not for a moment forgetting his lucrative appointment by his successor to the plumb job of Trade Representative to the Americas) is surely sufficient burden on taxpayers. But, no, Heather wants to taste some more generous public funding if she wins a seat on council. Nowhere is there a sense of propriety in all this.

Lost in the real world. Prime Minister Julia Gillard fails to wake up from her imagined romantic sit-com in which the Australian people applaud her as their ideal leader and role model. She has vowed to continue managing the economy in the interests of ‘working Australians’ rather than the ‘privileged few’. So . . . would the privileged few include those who have for so long enjoyed the teat of the Queensland government? Would the privileged few include all the ALP apparatchiks who stream from university, policy adviser or union leadership positions direct into parliament? If the ALP could identify one ‘blue collar’ unionist who is now a federal MP, they might realise why they so badly fail to understand what real Australians want from government. And the Bill Shortens of this world who can marry into the Governor-General’s family and who design superannuation schemes can hardly be considered real world blue collar unionists.

Factions. Far from learning lessons at the weekend, Queensland Labor is still rooted in the past. The Left faction which claims Anna Bligh’s seat as its own will not let the Right faction parachute a potential future premier (Cameron Dick) into preselection. Aside from the strong likelihood that Dick would be beaten and tarred as a two-time loser, it simply signifies Labor’s refusal to learn that voters have said they will not be treated like fools. Oh, and an announced candidate for preselection is Jackie Trad, Labor’s assistant state secretary and an architect of the screw-up. Ya just gotta love it.

And then there’s The Mad Katter. Far from licking his wounds in the weekend debacle in which he had promised to become the third force in Australian politics, Katter’s Australian Party may dramatically swell its ranks by allowing a merger of One Nation and the Democratic Labor Party into its ranks. Words simply fail.

Oh, and then there was Hawker. That would be Bruce, once a champion campaign strategist for Labor but as a key architect of the weekend’s debacle, possibly not a future one. His seriously warped world view is that it was ‘probably’ not the right thing to let Anna Bligh carry the massively-alienating attack on Campbell Newman. So, why? Well, the premier’s the one who ‘gets the most media attention and she’s the one who gets all the questions’. Yeah, right. And, you guessed it, no apology and no acknowledgement of personal fault.

Nah, it’s hard to see a Labor renaissance anytime soon.

David M. Russell is a professional communicator with a passion for good governance. His personal blog can be found at davidmrussell.wordpress.com.

Queensland: What The Hell Just Happened?

David-Russell David Russell explains the Queensland election 'massacre': 

Those who live outside the borders of the Sunshine State may choose to think this weekend’s state election means little to them. Entirely their choice, of course. But there are ramifications which will likely impact politics in every state and territory from here on.

So, what the hell just happened? Well, the Australian Labor Party lost office in a landslide after holding the reins of power for 20 of the past 22 years. In which case, one might well say: oh, it was simply natural justice – the other side gets to have a go again. And that is certainly true but there are many nuances which followers of politics may find worthy of reflection.

For a start, it was not just a landslide. It was a massacre. Even the powerfully evocative analogy of voters sitting quietly on their verandahs cuddling baseball bats, waiting to deliver judgment on the incumbent administration fails to get the full measure of this rout.

Labor had assumed the mantle of natural party of government after a decade of reform and reasonable economic management. Its initial triumph over the National Party – itself a government in various guises for 32 years – demonstrated the validity of two axioms: power corrupts and nothing lasts forever.

It was after Peter Beattie’s second election victory for Labor that the seeds of this weekend’s cataclysm were sown. Beattie was glib and his greatest gift was empathy. He struck a chord with Queenslanders and they forgave him numerous faults because he appeared genuine. Time and again he apologised for administrative stuff-ups and all was forgiven – until the electorate worked out that the mistakes were not being corrected systemically. Ministers were not held to account and a culture of arrogance soon took root. This was the genesis of the apocalypse.

In the normal course of Australian politics, Labor would have lost the 2006 election but voters proved that while they may appear apathetic, there’s not a lot of things they miss. Queenslanders, largely, were willing to farewell Labor that year but they were simply not willing to endorse a coalition of Liberal and National parties that were dysfunctional in their relationship. Labor got back.

Much the same happened in 2009. Beattie knew his time was up and vacated the hot seat for Anna Bligh, his chosen successor. Voters again were not satisfied that the Liberals and Nationals could peacefully co-exist on the government benches so, again, Labor won by default. This was to prove pivotal.

Bligh became the first woman Premier to be elected in Australia. Two others had achieved the office: Joan Kirner in Victoria and Carmen Lawrence in Western Australia; but could not win election in their own right. With a fifth victory, Labor – and Bligh especially – began to believe they could not produce a bad odour. So, when Bligh quickly announced that she would privatise $15 billion of state assets to help ward off the Global Financial Crisis, voters were stunned. No mention had been made of this during the campaign and they felt cheated. Bligh failed to sell her reasoning and that was when many Queenslanders decided they would get their own revenge.

But while much has been made of Queenslanders’ anger at asset sales, it was not that per se which cost Labor so dearly. The real reason, I contend, is that Labor failed to produce a decent dividend from the privatisation. Bligh still claims the money created jobs but has never produced any evidence that this was truly the case. Meantime, the Sunshine State remains blighted by a lack of infrastructure; a massive debt set to reach $85 billion shortly and the loss of our vaunted AAA credit rating. The signal barometer of Labor’s poor performance is that it inherited arguably the best hospital system of any Australian state and has reduced it to a shambles under which many patients can’t get treatment, nearly as many spend unconscionable time waiting for treatment, bureaucrats outnumber medical staff and a payroll system stubbornly refuses to pay any of them properly.

Just as crippling was a virulent malaise that can be classified as The Labor Disease. This is the insidious practice of spin doctoring. The ALP became a world-class exponent of this fatuous form of power at any price. The astute use of focus groups and qualitative market research enabled Labor strategists to identify emerging issues and pinpoint voters’ hot buttons with laser-like accuracy. Over the past two decades, particularly, they have ruthlessly exploited this capability to inflict enormous pain on the conservative political parties across the nation.

Oh, it is not that the conservatives have not tried to emulate Labor because they certainly have – sometimes with success. But, for Labor, spin has become an end in itself. Ultimately, Labor has forgotten what it truly stands for as it blindly chases any issues which may deliver political advantage. The true believers have been left with no credo. Labor is living a sad fantasy that it still represents the ideals which led to its formation a century ago.

This is the true lesson of the 2012 Queensland election. Brand Labor is a failure because its practitioners have forgotten the fundamental attributes of their product. It is near unsaleable anymore because voters know the quality of the original product has been watered-down so badly that it is over-priced, offers little taste and next to no nutrition.

This is the brutal reality of Labor being left with fewer seats than qualifies it for official party status in the Queensland parliament. This is the brutal reality of electorates that have been Labor strongholds for a century now hosting LNP Members of Parliament with comfortable majorities. The truly brutal reality that Labor must now confront – not just in Queensland but elsewhere across the nation – is that many of its most die-hard supporters have indulged the ultimate act of betrayal and voted for their arch-enemies to deliberately tell their party it has lost the plot.

It must be noted that the staunchest Labor voters generally did not exercise a protest by giving their ballot to an alternative like the Greens or even the Katter Rednecks. No, they went straight to the Liberal National Party – for generations the most hated bogeyman they could use to frighten children – in their droves. Truly, this is a momentous challenge for Labor.

Thus far, there is scant evidence all but a few Labor stalwarts have realised just how precarious is their position. Anna Bligh’s valedictory was an object lesson that those who will not see just won’t ever get it. Her lengthy ode to her own term in office failed to address the factors that brought her supposedly beloved party to the brink of extinction in Queensland. Attempting to defy the adage that it is the victor who gets to rewrite history, Bligh extolled her own perceived triumphs blithely ignoring the hard truths that must be faced if Labor is to rediscover its purpose.

Bligh mounted the most negative, slanderous campaign of character assassination yet attempted in Australia.  At no stage did Labor offer a vision for the future of Queensland. They had zip, zilch, nada. Just nothing. And voters clearly recognised this. It appears to have still not occurred to Bligh that her real legacy is not becoming the first woman elected Premier of an Australian state but failing so badly to capitalise on that achievement that it has set the cause back substantially.

It is just as pertinent that Labor’s opponents do as much soul-searching over these issues as the ALP should. The lesson for those in the Liberal and National parties who are tempted to triumphalism is that the Australian electorate has now tasted a new volatility. The electorate has learned something from this poll. More than ever before voters are today savouring their own power. They proved to themselves that they can forge a new direction if they want to scout new territory. It would be a fool who believes the LNP has won its new constituency for the long term. If it governs well, it may convert them. But if voters who have fled their comfort zone to try this new product feel they have been taken for granted, we now know just how vicious they can be in demanding satisfaction.

The electorate has spoken in a new and compelling way. We must heed their message, not simply count their ballots. 

David M. Russell is a professional communicator with a passion for good governance. His personal blog can be found at davidmrussell.wordpress.com.

Police State Queensland Where It’s OK to Punch the Bejesus out of Handcuffed Prisoners

Queensland’s top cop has declared officers can be justified in punching (handcuffed) people in the head.

Bash cop photo

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Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson made the comments on Wednesday after The Courier-Mail revealed CCTV footage from the Surfers Paradise watchhouse showing officers allegedly assaulting 21-year-old chef and father Noa Begic.

Mr Atkinson was asked if there could be any justification for police punching someone in the head, as the footage shows.

He said: "Of course … but it would depend on the circumstances as to whether that use of force – punching someone in the head – was necessary and justifiable."

His comments were backed by Police Minister Neil Roberts.

Watch the video below and at 1:47 you can clearly see this really brave police officer punching a handcuffed prisoner four times in the head.

At 2:27 another officer uses a bucket of water to wash away the prisoner’s blood.

 

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Australian Civil Liberties Council president Terry O'Gorman said the Begic footage was "appalling" and police brutality was continuing despite the presence of CCTV cameras.

"If police are doing this when the CCTV cameras are on, what they are doing away from the cameras?" he said.

Good question. What indeed are they doing?

I can hardly see how punching repeatedly a handcuffed individual is either necessary or justifiable. It’s not like the prisoner is going to hurt the officers or escape (Did the police officers think the prisoner was going to do a Jason Bourne by getting out of his handcuffs, kung-fu-ing the officers and then make his escape?)

When Campbell Newman becomes QLD Premier, his first order of business should be to sack the police commissioner and his second order of business should be to launch a fresh inquiry into the police force. There is clearly a culture of brutality in the Queensland Police Force.

A handcuffed man for pete’s sake…truly scary that the people who serve to protect the public think its ok to act this way. It’s even worse that the Police commissioner and that dope of a Labor police minister thinks its ok behaviour also.

 

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