Campaigning Like Last Decade

by on 5 March, 2015

The NSW Liberal Party’s failure to embrace digital campaigning will lead to disaster, writes Dean Hamstead: 1924165_50280265534_4415_n

In 2015 the NSW Liberal party seems to once again be relying on the Old Boys Club and a few corflutes to win them another election.

There is no doubt Campaign headquarters are very busy rolling out strategies that succeeded for John Howard, with campaign funds flowing to the usual consultants who assured them that it will work. However I am yet to receive a single campaign email from the NSW Liberal party. I haven’t been asked for a donation, nor have any of my friends and family received any correspondence at all. Surely having corresponded with sitting members past and present, they would be the first people asked to get involved, donate and vote?

Meanwhile, the Union campaign against the privatization (that isn’t) is already underway in NSW. Radio ads on 2GB during Alan Jones serve to compliment the (probably illegal) signs hanging around Sydney claiming utility prices will soar and even a legitimate advertisements on the M4.

That’s just what’s spilling over from the Union’s digital campaign happening online.

The fight in NSW against the privatisation (that isn’t), should only come as a surprise to people who somehow missed the (avoidable) losses in Victoria and Queensland.

It’s the same tactic the Unions used for “Work Choices” brought out of the freezer, warmed up and modernized for the Internet era. The next step is to hand the campaign to Labor so they can ride the wave of misinformed voters to winning yet another election.

Obviously the Unions’ apparatus presents a huge asset to the Labor and Greens parties.

But Digital Campaigning presents Conservatives with the tools to present their values and solutions directly to voters – erasing the Union backing advantage. It has never been easier to  stay in contact with them, motivating them to donate, volunteer and motivate them to ultimately vote Conservative.

Labor and the Greens get this – why doesn’t the Coalition?

The tools and platforms are out there, battle tested, mature and ready to go. But the Conservative Parties in Australia continue to ignore it. Considering that The NSW Liberal party has yet to achieve 20,000 Facebook likes in a state of 7.5 million, no one is hearing it. After a $10million campaign, The Victorian Liberal Party has just barely passed 40,000 Facebook likes in a state approaching 6 million people. Donor should be asking: “Where is the money going?”

Perhaps the Greens and Labor’s cries against the “Americanization” of campaigning are actually finding ears on William Street. Maybe thats why the party doesn’t hold rallies or Conventions, keep a database of party faithfuls election to election or make any serious effort to coordinate their ground game.

Unless something changes, only be surprised if the Coalition holds on to NSW.

 Dean Hamstead is a Sydney-based Telecommunications and Computing Engineer who specialises in open source systems and works for a major Telco. He has also spent a number of years working abroad and for local government, and his hobbies are running regular computer gaming events and sailing yachts.

The great, untapped resource of Australian conservatism

by on 5 March, 2015

10177381_1376888429295594_7917562803949026775_n
During the 2013 election the Australian Broadcasting Corporation commissioned an online poll known as “Vote Compass” where voters were asked their opinion on several hot-button issues in Australian politics. This article uses those published results as a source.

When I ask people where they think the most conservative electorates of Australia are, their answers are usually the same. They are quick to mention electorates like Maranoa in Queensland, good rural voters in the capable hands of my party, the National Party. It is true that on most issues of traditional family and moral values the electorate of Maranoa or ones like it in Australia usually hold firm in respecting the values that have forged us as a nation.

On the issue of gay marriage, Maranoa is the most strongly opposed. On whether Australia should become a Republic, the voters of Maranoa are the most strongly opposed. On another issue of great concern to Australians, whether terminating the life of an unborn child should be less accessible – Maranoa comes in third.

Neighbouring Groom (another stalwart Liberal-National seat) leads the country in voters who reject the notion that a child should be killed for being inconvenient to their mother. You might not guess which electorate holds second place…

I am of course speaking of the Western-Sydney division of Chifley. The seat is named after an icon of the ALP, Ben Chifley (often called the founder of the modern Labor Party) and has been firmly held by the Labor Party since it’s creation in 1969. What the electorate has become famous, or even infamous for in recent years is being the seat of Labor MP Ed Husic, the first Muslim member of Australian Parliament and the first Minister of any Australian Government sworn in on the Quran. I do not consider this a positive or a negative event in our democratic history, merely a reflection of changing times and demographics in this country.

A change that shows what it takes for the Australian Labor Party to field a socially conservative candidate in its modern student-pandering era. A change that shows the heart of Labor conservatism is no longer truly at the hands of Catholic trade unionists behind closed doors, but Muslim voters on the streets and in the houses and businesses of places like Western Sydney.

A quick look at those of the Labor front-bench who voted against their publicity advisor’s wishes (a great crime in Labor circles) and supported traditional marriage in the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government shows that so called Labor conservatives like Chris Bowen, Tony Burke and Ed Husic are respecting the wishes of their large Muslim constituent bases by supporting causes like the protection of marriage and the unborn. For this small glimmer of hope in the social policy of the Labor government, we have them (this minority of Muslim voters) to thank.

Why is it though, that in these majority Muslim divisions we see the re-election of progressive political parties? Sure, people like Bowen, Burke and Husic respect the wishes of their electorates and support causes relevant to Christian and Muslim families alike – but by voting for the Labor Party, Muslim voters are outright rejecting the national preservation of traditional family and moral values.

I honestly believe that the reason Muslims turn so often to the Labor Party is due to the outright xenophobia produced in the media and by many members (and some MP’s) of the Liberal and National parties towards Muslim-Australians. While the ALP in a shrewd political move races to accept Muslims and cater for them at a political level, it seems that the right of Australian politics does all it can to foster a jingoistic fear of all Muslims as terrorists, unable to integrate with multicultural Australia or even as backward and insular – perhaps so far as morally or religiously bankrupt. In my experience with the Australian Muslim community, nothing could be further from the truth.

The Muslim community I know and have grown to love are caring, devoted family people, a true community and one that by and large respects the religious and moral traditions set forth by the Quran and to a large degree also presented in our own Christian Bible. As seen by the Vote Compass results, Muslim communities reject abortion, gay marriage and euthanasia. They value time with their family, fight to retain their traditions and culture – and most of all love and treasure their religious freedoms and teachings.

I ask you how this is different to the Australian Christian? We should all be devoted to preserving the traditional family unit, fighting for the rights of the unborn and giving everyone the right to worship in peace and respect. This is why I will ask every one of you reading who is a member of a conservative political party – Nationals, Liberals, Katterites or Family First – to find a Muslim, a good-hearted, Australian Muslim connected to his or her community, sit them down for lunch or dinner and by the end of the conversation sign them up to your party.

At a time when half the membership of the Liberal Party would scoff at the idea of regular church attendance or call you an extremist for merely supporting the right to life of a child – we need these committed conservatives and family-people. We need to visit our local mosques like we visit our local churches, to find fast friends in the Muslim community of Australia and to convince them that we (the Coalition or conservatives generally) are not their enemy.

We need to field good, conservative Muslim candidates in electorates like Chifley, McMahon and Watson because there is nothing intrinsically holding Labor to these seats. We need to inspire the new generations of migrant, refugee and minority that we are the party for them, the movement for them. We need to show Muslim-Australians that the Coalition is there to support them in owning a home, starting a business and caring for their family like we did for Italian, Greek, Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees before them, among others.

These candidates will be all you could ask for in a good conservative Liberal. Supportive of a child’s right to life, supportive of traditional marriage, supportive of freedoms of religion and religious expression – and to support the principles of good mainstream Australian moral values.

Within the next ten years, we can see traditional Labor holdouts turn blue as our new members embrace the economic opportunities that the Coalition offers while still maintaining their traditional cultural and religious views and values. We can help turn the tide of a continued shift to the left within our own party ranks with this fresh injection of traditionalism, and most importantly we can fight the ugly head of racism and xenophobia within the conservative movement.

Many people say you only fear what you do not know, so I say to all young conservatives in this nation – go and get to know your local Muslim community, you may well have more in common than you first thought.

Kurt Tucker

We owe David Hicks no apology

by on 23 February, 2015

By John Slater11004220_10153074719993794_467850264_n

David Hick’s recent demands for an apology and compensation following the setting aside of his terrorism conviction by a US military court shows that while he may be innocent in the eyes of the law, he is yet to learn his lesson.

To examine Hicks’ case as a question of legal guilt is to totally misapprehend the real nature of the situation. Hicks’ innocence was not because there was a lack of demonstrated links with the Taliban, Osama Bin Laden or for a want of intent to carry out violent attacks (albeit unrealised). It was because at the particular time Hicks joined the Taliban, the law was not calibrated to deal with the issue of foreign fighters joining overseas terror groups and training to commit pre-meditated mass murders. This does nothing to diminish that Hicks sought to aid and abet the Taliban – an organisation single-mindedly focused on the destruction of Western Civilization – immediately after it had carried out the most deadly attack on the American mainland since Pearl Harbour. After the events of 9/11, America went to war with the Taliban. By any standard, this made Hicks an enemy combatant.

To speak in legal semantics, Hicks may have been found not guilty. Nevertheless, in national security terms, he revelled in an ideology antithetical to not only Australia, but the values underpinning the entire Western world.

Despite all this, the Howard Government expended considerable diplomatic capital appealing to the US to secure his return Australia. Claims that more should have been done to have Hicks’ released earlier overlook the sensitivities of persuading the United States to essentially grant preferential treatment to an Australian national at a time of war. In truth, the steps taken by Australian authorities were generous in light of Hicks’ actions.

In this light, having the audacity to demand compensation for injuries like teeth decay suggests Hicks’ is either delusional, or wilfully ignorant of the seriousness of his conduct.

It is equally astounding that Hicks’ continues to be lionised by the counter-culture left.  In December last year, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young remarked that “David Hicks has a hell of a lot more guts than George Brandis and all the other government ministers who stayed silent and turned a blind eye.” Filmaker and far left polemicist John Pilger went further, describing Hicks as a “courageous Australian citizen” who had suffered from “Australia’s silence on the denigration of [his] basic liberties such as freedom of speech and the presumption of innocence.”

In the real world, ‘basic liberties’ and ‘human rights’ exist only to the extent that sovereign nation states are willing to protect them. Not coincidentally, the nation states with the greatest will to safeguard such rights – North America, the Anglosphere and Continental Europe – also happen to be the major targets of Jihadist groups like the one that Hicks signed himself up for. In the end, human rights mean nothing if they aren’t supported by the most basic right of all; the right to life.  One seriously wonders why the left are so fixated upon the purported injustices suffered by Hicks, yet have little energy when it comes to standing up for the rights of the real victims of terrorism: innocent people who have lost their lives.

Similar delusions appear to affect those who spend their time apologising or making excuses for Hicks. Just last week Bill Shorten said that while Hicks’ decision to fight with Al Qaeda after the 9/11 terrorist attacks was ‘foolish’, he had nonetheless suffered an ‘injustice.’ This habit of using distractions and weak language to downplay individual wrongdoing has also been seen in recent suggestions that a lack of social inclusion is to blame for Australian citizens flying overseas to join forces with ISIS. The key feature of this mindset is that it deflects blame away from terrorists by raising the question of whether our own values and culture may be partly responsible for inciting groups like the Taliban. Such ideas are alarming, to say the least. We cannot expect to defeat radical Islam if we are left apologising for the values and way of life that are the very reason Australia and its allies have become targets for terrorism in the first place.

Make no mistake, wavering in our resolve about what sets the West apart from the barbarism of radical Islam would be gifting terrorists a home goal. Apologising to David Hicks would amount to doing exactly that.

[Editor’s note: Shorten later commented that “There’s no doubt Mr Hicks was associating with known terrorists, and that’s absolutely deplorable.”]

John Slater is the current President of the University of Queensland Liberal National Club and is in the third year of his Law/Arts degree. John’s main ambition is to lift the profile of classical liberal ideas in Australian political debate. In particular, he is interested in exposing the failings of left wing economic policy, fighting state paternalism and changing the perception of right-of-centre political thought. John has also been involved in grass roots campaigns against curfew laws limiting night time trading hours for pubs and clubs and the former Labor Government’s SSAF tax on students.

Fundamentals of Liberty & Free Market Economics – Melbourne & Brisbane

by on 20 February, 2015

It is with great great pleasure that the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance can announce that we will be running our hugely-successful “Foundations of Liberty & Free Market Economics” in Semester 1 of 2015 in Melbourne and Brisbane!

It is a simple fact that Australian universities teach a biased version of political economy that promotes big government and failed Keynesian policies. This is why we launched a comprehensive education program to equip students with the intellectual tools to understand the fundamental of good economics, and to be able to combat the left.

The course shall consist of 10 interactive 2 hour evening seminars and will include student-led discussion, stimulating debate, and structured material, followed by further discussion over beer and pizza. Between seminars, students will be given recommended reading and YouTube videos, and have the opportunity to ask questions from our panel of academic advisors and the ATA staff. Seminars in Melbourne shall be led by Professor Sinclair Davidson and Professor Jason Potts from RMIT University. Seminars in Brisbane shall be led by Professor Tony Makin & Dr Alex Robson from Griffith University, Gary Johns from the Australian Institute for Progress, and John Humphreys from the University of Queensland.

This course will cover a lot of material and provide students with the intellectual ammunition needed to take on the left, but it will also be an opportunity for networking, enjoyment and building friends within the Australian pro-freedom community. 

This course is open to EVERYONE and not just currently enrolled tertiary students or recent graduates. The cost of the full program is $750 for adults or $200 for students. However, both full and half scholarships may be awarded in cases of financial need for deserving applicants. 

Here’s what some of the students previously took the course said:

“A must for anyone who wants to understand economic policy, network with others and win debates. The program provides invaluable instruction from respected academics and reaches further than any university course” – Alex Bedwany, University of New South Wales

A thorough and challenging journey, this course should be the first stop for anyone serious about exploring the freer side of political ideology in an academically rigorous way.” – Sam Bradshaw, Macquarie University

“This course challenges the ‘status quo’-style teaching of economics on offer in universities. The expert lecturers bring their keen insight to investigating dominant economic narratives, unravelling fallacies and exploring the economic issues of the future” – Lara Jeffery, University of New South Wales

“The course is a must! With engaging and extremely knowledgeable lecturers, it gave me the perfect foundation in economic theory, and was of incredible in helping me argue for limited  government!” – Margie Iliescu, Melbourne

 

Applications close on 5pm AEDT Friday 6th of March.

Persons interested in donating to assist us in providing scholarships may be able to do so here.

Build new friendships. Gain valuable career and intellectual skills. Challenge the status quo. Click HERE to Enrol today! 

Hunting knives seized, scores of Christians murdered, citizenship doled out like candy: the stakes couldn’t be higher

by on 19 February, 2015

RachelRachel Bailes dissects the Greens’ response to Abbott’s pledge to end the ‘benefit of the doubt’ in the light of recent escalations of Islamist extremism at home and abroad.

As the Australian Coptic Movement prepares to rally in Sydney this weekend after the Mediterranean ocean ran with the blood of 21 Coptic Christians, the stakes for action on terrorism couldn’t be higher.

Meanwhile, a week after the arrests of Fairfield residents Omar al-Katobi and Mohammad Kiad on the verge of another lone-wolf style terrorist attack, Leader of the Greens Christine Milne has branded Prime Minister Tony Abbott ‘desperate’ and ‘divisive’ for his claim that Australians have been ‘taken for mugs’ by terrorists.

Ms Milne has called for Prime Minister Abbott to turn from his clamping-down rhetoric of ending the ‘benefit of the doubt’ within the immigration and welfare system and urged him instead to support her recently introduced ‘Social Cohesion Bill’ to quell the threat of terrorism.

If passed, the Social Cohesion Bill to which Milne refers would establish a taxpayer-funded Centre for Social Cohesion, complete with Director, Deputy-Director and research staff, whose role it would be to “foster dialogue”, “distribute emerging knowledge” and “coordinate programs”. The Bill pledges to bring together “government, law enforcement agencies, academics, researchers, and former extremists” in a national, centralised body to build “resilient communities”.

New Year, New Troubles for “National” “Union” of “Students”

by on 11 February, 2015

10866958_10152949917779275_2109341784_n

University of Western Australia Student Rebecca Lawrence writes a follow up to “’National’ Union of Students: A National Disgrace”.

After the National Union of Students (NUS) National Conference in December 2014, I wrote about the budget and unity issues faced by the unrepresentative and militant organisation. Two months later, before university students have even returned to class, all evidence points to the fact that the union’s position has only grown more desperate.

Firstly, nothing has been done to address the gaping $366,360 deficit that the NUS has managed to rack up in the last three years (numbers revealed in a leaked audit) – in fact, the NUS is facing a further reduction in funding as student unions across the country negotiate their 2015 budgets. Most recently, the University of Melbourne Student Union cut their budgetary allowance for NUS affiliation fees from $106,000 to $55,000 and added requirements for the Union to become more focused on issues immediately relevant to students – specifically, the NUS must demonstrate “what steps it will take to support Indigenous, environment, international and disabled students”.

The NUS has reportedly continued to splash money on their own “professional development” and “campaign skills” since the National Conference, despite the dire state of their finances. After attending the NUS President’s Summit in January, Queensland University of Technology Student Union President Jack McGuire says “The event is an uninformative waste of students’ money and is simply being used as a junket for National NUS Office Bearers and uninformed campus Presidents to have a good time. Notwithstanding the misappropriation of student money and hefty registration fee, NUS is still unable to break even financially on this event”. He added that he was disappointed in the standard of the conference, and asserted that his student union would “definitely not be paying the NUS affiliation fee in 2015”.

Secondly, it is increasingly evident to students and the wider political community that the NUS can no longer pretend to be non-partisan or independent whatsoever. Claire Chandler, former President of the Tasmanian NUS branch, says “Since the Abbott government was elected in 2013, NUS has turned from being anti-cuts and relatively left wing to being specifically anti-Liberal. Their agenda is clear – to return a Federal Labor government to power as soon as possible”.

In order to run from their own tainted reputation, the NUS has rebranded many of their campaigns by removing the “National Union of Students” tagline and logo while still running the campaigns from NUS offices, with NUS funding. Examples of this include the “CommunityRun” petition, which is promoted through the NUS Facebook page but does not include NUS branding on the actual petition page, and the organisation “A Brighter Future”, whose “spokespeople” include many of the NUS National Office Bearers.

Unarguably, the NUS is no longer “national”- only 20 of Australia’s 39 campuses affiliated in 2014. It is no longer “united”, as even the remaining affiliate bodies are demanding that the NUS changes its ways. It can no longer claim to represent the claims of “students”, as it is now widely recognized as no more than a front for the ALP.

The Union’s continued incompetence, combined with the increasing strength of competing national organisations, begs the question of how much longer the “National” “Union” of “Students” can continue before it follows the Australian Union of Students’ dissolution into bankruptcy and total irrelevance.

Rebecca Lawrence is a second year where she was a 2014 UWA Student Guild Councillor and is in her second term as an NUS Delegate. Rebecca also holds the National Publications portfolio for the Australian Liberal Students’ Federation. She is currently undertaking an internship at the Lithuanian Free Market Institute as part of the Mannkal Foundation’s 2015 Scholarship Program.

 

The Queensland Election: No Appetite for Reform

by on 8 February, 2015

John SlaterJohn Slater shares his assessment of QLD’s election defeat. 

The decimation of Campbell Newman’s LNP government less than three years after it achieved the most resounding political victory in Australia’s history was an outcome few expected. Never far from controversy, there is no doubt Newman amassed an unsettling number of enemies during his short time in office. However, suffering swings in excess of 20% in some seats, the idea that Newman’s headstrong approach to governing was the sole cause of the government’s ills is unconvincing. Some commentators have attributed this to a new era of ‘volatility’ in modern politics, characterised by declining loyalty to the major parties and an electorate that feels increasingly alienated from the political class. Unfortunately, this volatility has not been defined by a more energised voting public holding the major parties to higher standards of scrutiny. Rather, as the Queensland election seems to confirm, the key feature of these unprecedented shifts in voter preference has been to reward parties engaging in the politics of populism and opportunism.

Despite notable distractions, Newman’s government was a rare example of an administration that secured an ambitious mandate to comprehensively overhaul the direction of the state government, and then fought tooth and nail at an enormous political cost to implement this vision into reality. In its first year in office, state government spending growth all but ground to a halt, dropping from an unsustainable 9.8% per year to just 0.2%, where it then remained. Crucially, restoring fiscal rectitude to the treasury did not come at the expense of key frontline services, with the state’s school maintenance backlog cleared after years of neglect, record investments made in health and more active police officer’s than ever before.

Moreover, when confronted with a larger-than-expected debt concealed by its predecessors, rather than taking an axe to government services Newman conducted perhaps the most comprehensive program of public consultation in Australian state political history in its ‘Strong Choices’ campaign. With Strong Choices, the government literally sought advice from over 55 000 Queenslander’s who took part in the survey about how they wanted to deal with the government’s unconscionably high $80 billion dollar public debt. Following this, the government then undertook the seemingly impossible task of heeding these views when devising policies to reduce the state’s debt while addressing the state’s infrastructure backlog to accommodate an expanding population, set to grow from 4.5million to 7 million over the coming decades. Even though these policies were the natural progression of the government’s 2012 platform, it still sought a fresh mandate at the 2015 election, offering the public full disclosure of exactly how it planned to tackle the state’s long-term debt and infrastructure challenges.

Whether or not you agree with the particular merits of the LNP’s plan, it cannot be criticised for a want of courage, or shirking the long-term structural problems Queensland faced. As the Government’s leadership understood (and as the polls have now confirmed), this strategy was never about political expediency. Stepping away from the hyperbole of the media cycle, the key fact is that Newman transparently brought before the public a debt reduction plan that was the result of public consultation, years of planning and were focused squarely upon longer term structural challenges. In this sense, it is not an exaggeration to say that Newman’s 2015 election platform set a high water mark for honesty and vision in Australian politics.

If the LNP staked its credibility on what it would do with the privilege of government, the Labor Party’s campaign strategy did the opposite. Running a small target campaign built around economically illiterate attacks on leasing state assets, misrepresenting the government’s record on front line services and the shamelessly hypocritical politicisation of the Great Barrier Reef, the Labor Party relied on defining itself as everything the LNP wasn’t.

The most striking feature of these attacks was their denial of the factual realities of the LNP’s record in government. Record per capita health spending, taking the nation’s surgery and ambulance waiting times from the worst to the best in the country and higher than ever employment of frontline health professionals were ignored in favour of emotionally fuelled rhetoric about the state’s health system had been brought to its knees. The spectre of a higher GST – a federal tax – was wheeled out as a puerile distraction, even though changes had been unequivocally ruled out at both the state and federal level. The rank opportunism of Annastacia Palazcuk raising the GST in the first place was exposed in an astonishing episode late in the campaign when the opposition leader failed to recall at what rate the GST was levied. All this only weeks after holding a press conference in an Inala shopping claiming with confected hysteria that local shoppers couldn’t afford to pay a cent more for their groceries.

The centrepiece of the Labor Party’s campaign of misinformation was the frequently repeated, but patently false assertion that leasing assets would result in higher electricity prices based on the outcomes of Victoria’s electricity privatisation. Clearly the fact that electricity prices are not just lower in Victoria than in Queensland, but have also increased at a slower rate since privatisation was an inconvenient distraction from Labor’s intellectually bankrupt narrative that asset leases were an assault on living standards.

This is not to say that negative politics isn’t a well-worn tactic of election campaigns, especially from the opposition benches. The difference is that besides the rancour, the Labor Party offered no serious contribution to the core issues most closely connected with the state’s future wellbeing; the $80 billion debt and growing infrastructure deficit. In dealing with these kinds of longer-term policy challenges, the key principle is that there are no silver bullet solutions, but only imperfect alternatives. In fact, bringing home to the public that there was no single cure for the debt, but rather a series of solutions, each with their own trade-offs, was one of key messages behind the strong choices campaign. What this means is that attacks against the Government’s planned leasing of state assets can only be properly evaluated when weighed against the alternatives; cutting services, or raising taxes. In contrast, Labor’s plan to use income generated by assets on paying down the debt blatantly disregarded that this income was already incorporated as part of the budget. By acting under the pretence that they could spend this money twice, the real nature of the debt issue – a choice between unpleasant, imperfect alternatives – was never brought home to the public. Thanks to Labor, voters entered election day under the misapprehension that they could reject Newman’s plan to lease assets and continue as they were, either ignorant or indifferent to the infrastructure and debt challenges facing the state.

It is far from true that the LNP, or any political party for that matter, has a monopoly on what policies constitute the public good. However, what can be said is that the Newman government made honest attempts to address these issue, prioritising the state’s long-term needs over the LNP’s short-term political prospects. The most troubling aspect is not so much that the government seems to have lost its majority after only one term, but that the opposition achieved this based on how little of substance they said. By rewarding this demagoguery with electoral success, voters are in effect encouraging the type of politics they claim to hate – sloganeering, negativity and repetition.

In some ways, the Queensland election result is reminiscent of John Hewson’s failure to win what had been dubbed an ‘unlosable’ election in 1993. Like Newman, Hewson took an ambitious policy manifesto to an election offering detailed plans addressing the nation’s fiscal challenges and was savaged by an intellectually dishonest scare campaign. For both leaders, their policy ambition became a political liability while campaigning. Of course, he key difference between the two figures is that Newman was buttressed by a parliamentary supermajority. Contrary to the predictions of countless pundits, it seems that the days of voters giving embattled first term governments the benefit of the doubt – a courtesy extended to the likes of John Howard, Jeff Kennett and Peter Beattie – are over.

This twin phenomenon of an electorate both untrusting of incumbents and growingly susceptible to policy-lite populism is a genuine cause for concern. The state’s most vexing public policy challenges; declining revenue, mounting debt, a growing population, changing demographics, an infrastructure backlog and ever increasing demands on the public provision of health and education – are not problems solvable by policies that fit neatly within three year electoral cycle. Government’s that seek to implement strategies making short term sacrifices in the interests of the longer term public good now must now contend not only with cravenly populist oppositions, but an impressionable public with a waning appetite for serious reform.

Unfortunately, Australia’s now endemic political apathy is only likely to reinforce this growing culture of base politics. As much as parties will continue to pay lip-service to values and ideas, the content of these ideas will be inevitably shaped by the most fundamental value of political parties – getting elected. If people want politician’s to act with greater loyalty to their role of serving the public rather than feathering their own nests, real change can only come externally. As the revered historian Alexis de Tocqueville observed after his travels throughout 19th century America, the voting public always gets the government they deserve. Until Queensland – and for that matter Australia – learn to demand a genuine contest of ideas from the major parties, the price will be a country unable to meet is future challenges and ultimately, national decline.

John Slater is the current President of the University of Queensland Liberal National Club and is in the third year of his Law/Arts degree. John’s main ambition is to lift the profile of classical liberal ideas in Australian political debate. In particular, he is interested in exposing the failings of left wing economic policy, fighting state paternalism and changing the perception of right-of-centre political thought. John has also been involved in grass roots campaigns against curfew laws limiting night time trading hours for pubs and clubs and the former Labor Government’s SSAF tax on students.

MEDIA RELEASE: No Matter Tuesday’s Result, Joe Hockey Has Got To Go

by on 7 February, 2015

No Matter Tuesday’s Result, Joe Hockey Has Got To Go

Click HERE to download as PDF

The Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance, a non-partisan activist body dedicated to protecting taxpayers’ rights, has called on Joe Hockey to be sacked as Treasurer irrespective of the results of Tuesday’s leadership spill.

“No matter the result of Tuesday’s leadership spill, one thing is certain: Joe Hockey’s legacy is one of consistent, abject failure, and his position as Treasurer is untenable” said Tim Andrews, Executive Director of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance.

“Mr Hockey’s repeated and consistent failures are at the core of the Abbott Government’s problems. He has failed to communicate the need for budget reform to the Australian people, and his inability to sell the Government’s reform agenda is inexcusable and embarrassing.

“Despite his “tough” rhetoric significantly damaging the Government’s popularity, Mr Hockey has failed to take any concrete action to reign in Commonwealth overspending.  The 2014-15MYEFO shows overspending set to skyrocket with more and more new cash-splash schemes announced, while the cuts that Mr Hockey did make were poorly thought out and disproportionate. This is the worst of all worlds – all the political pain, for none of the economic gain; public support for reform is strained and yet there is no benefit for the taxpayer.

“As well as failing to reform expenditures, Mr Hockey has failed in his core promise to relieve the tax burden, with the 2014-15 budget increasing the tax burden by a staggering $100 billion, slugging every Aussie family with multiple tax hikes. Yesterday’s shambolic announcement of a progressive company tax stifling Australian businesses with more red tape, when Australia’s company tax is already one of the highest in the world,  was just the latest in a long string of bizarre announcements that make no economic or political sense.

“There can be no doubt about it: For the sake of the country, Joe Hockey has got to go” concluded Mr Andrews.

“Treasurer Joe Hockey has failed to stamp his authority on economic management” added Professor Sinclair Davidson, Professor of Institutional Economics at RMIT University and Academic Fellow of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance. “A government that lacks fiscal discipline cannot govern Australia. If Tony Abbott does survive the Tuesday ballot, he needs to get serious about the economy.  That means a new team in Treasury.”

Media Contact: Tim Andrews, Executive Director, Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance.  Email: tandrews@taxpayers.org.au

Goodbye, Newman

by on 3 February, 2015

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.

Queensland 2015. What happened?

by on 3 February, 2015

Michael Smyth presents 10 thought provocative points that seek to explain what exactly went wrong for the Liberal National Party at the weekend’s Queensland State Election. 

What happened? There are many people asking themselves and others what happened on Saturday, but the fact is that there are several factors that contributed to the upset that occurred:

1) The people voted for the LNP in 2012, because they were angry with Labor’s lies on asset sales and fuel subsidies (not to mention increased taxation burden on businesses); the people voted *against* the LNP in 2015 because of the hubris and pride of the parliamentary wing of the party.

While it is obvious that governments eventually become drunk with power, becoming unduly proud is not something that one might normally associate with a first-term government. Unfortunately, the people have a pattern of being less forgiving to the Centre-Right compared to those on the Left. Just look at how many chances Labor has been given both federally and in the States.

2) The sheer volume of disinformation and outright lies perpetrated by the ALP, the Greens, and their allies in GetUp and the unions, was virtually impossible to cut through; No matter how good the LNP’s PR machine was, they were never going to cut through; Oscar Wilde once said “A lie makes it halfway around the world before the truth ties up its shoelaces”, and sadly he was correct.

Dictators and democratic politicians alike are aware of the maxim, “People will more readily fall for a big lie than a small one”, but when there is a big lie surrounded by several smaller lies, and the media are saturated with them, nobody’s PR machine is going to be able to cut through.

3) Related to point two, the amount of money spent by the LNP was dwarfed by the money that Unions, GetUp, the Greens and the ALP pooled together to ensure that the LNP was defeated.

GetUp and the Unions’ advertisements were all authorised by members of the ALP or the Greens. Even the address of the other advertisements was the same as an ALP office just up from the TLC building! Money talks, and because of the electoral funding laws loophole, unions are able to spend almost limitless amounts of money peddling their lies and propaganda. Yell louder than everyone else, and people who don’t know better will hear only what is yelled the loudest.

4) Quite a few of the rank-and-file members (myself included) left the LNP because they were not happy about some of the things that were happening at Headquarters; the dishonourable way that Headquarters treated Bruce Flegg is the most obvious example, but screwing over more committed and sound candidates at preselection (e.g. Redcliffe and Stafford) did significant damage to the LNP while they were in power.

This point might not be taken well by erstwhile associates of mine, but the fact is that the LNP cannot claim to be a democratic or representative party if it permits Executive members to turn up and override the preference of the Branches and SECs. How can one give ALP hacks grief about their lack of direct preselection if the LNP is also engaging in backroom deals and throwing weight around to roll candidates that have grassroots support? As for the less obvious examples cited, it would be prudent for the LNP administrative wing to start vetting members of its party more scrupulously in order to avoid a repeat of the Scott Driscoll fiasco, or the Chris Davis dummy spit.

5) While the LNP didn’t technically lie, they did breach faith by proposing a lease of assets (especially when they had rightly slammed the ALP for selling them off); to their credit they did run on the platform of leasing the assets, but the damage was already done

The LNP sought election to seek a mandate to sell off the assets, but the people emphatically rejected the idea of selling the assets prior to the election. Instead of noting what the people wanted, they proposed asset leasing, believing that it was the only way to reduce debt. While it is true that the leasing would have significantly reduced debt (and thus interest repayments on the debt), Queenslanders are not as fond of neoliberalism as the outgoing Treasurer would like.

6) As per point one, people voted against the LNP rather than for the ALP; the ALP had no policies other than “we’re not them”.

While people claim that Abbott and the Coalition did that federally, the difference is that Abbott and the Coalition actually had policies; Palaszczuk has repeatedly refused to guarantee job growth, couldn’t even tell a radio station and the listeners what the GST was when asked, has consistently exaggerated the number of jobs lost through public service rationalisation (see below), and has failed to acknowledge the mistakes made under her predecessor Anna Bligh.

7) Related to points two and three; if you repeat a lie long enough, people will believe it, and that is what happened with the numerous lies; first of all it was 14,000 jobs cut from the public service, then 20,000, then 24,000, because the higher the number the greater the outrage.

The reality is that out of the 14,000 positions lost, 8,000 of them were contractors and 6,000 were actual jobs, the latter who were then able to seamlessly move into the private sector or be re-employed where they were actually needed, rather than as administrative staff hired to appease the unions’ insatiable desire for members’ fees and superannuation. Yes, those industry super funds are controlled by the unions, who treat them as piggy banks for their own personal and corporate use.

8) The media gave much airtime to disinformation, and while I’m not going to make a ridiculous claim about a media conspiracy (after all, I’m not a Greens voter or an intellectually crippled socialist); the media should have been more vigourous in calling out or challenging the disinformation.

Due to the saturation of the media by anti-LNP parties and groups, there was barely any airtime left for the LNP to get its message out there and refute the deliberate disinformation. The LNP was emailing its members asking for additional support due to the relentless media blitz by Labor and the Unions, but given the media’s half-arsed attention to detail (the word exists in Hansard and has been ruled as Parliamentary, so I’m entitled to use it here) it wouldn’t have made a difference even if LNP Headquarters had received as much money to spend as the ALP and their collective forces spent.

9) The ALP co-opted their allies in GetUp, the Greens and the Unions to hand out paraphernalia that encouraged a vote to put the LNP last, which was successful given the severity of the swing against the LNP; there was quite a bit of intimidation felt by some voters going in and being harassed by stooges from GetUp and the Unions (one of which was in his work uniform and lying outright about bus privatisation)

Some “volunteers” from the Labor Party and the Greens are lovely, but then there are some who are utterly uncouth and do whatever they can to get people to vote their way, especially lying, the Union heavies love their lies. At the Redcliffe and Stafford by-elections, there were reports made to the ECQ about intimidation by anti-LNP groups against LNP volunteers, and at Saturday’s election it happened as well. I’m not going to say that LNP volunteers are saintly, but they generally don’t lie to get votes just before people cast their ballots.

10) People felt aggrieved at the LNP State government for things that the Coalition was doing at the Federal level, and so more than usual voted against the LNP; such a vote however is akin to cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face, and as such Queensland is going to reap the consequences of what it has sown.

I was tempted to write an article after the Liberal Party lost in Victoria, explaining why people might be deserting the Liberal Party, and why members are leaving in not insignificant numbers. However, now is a better time to write an article, given that those who influence or control the party might finally be receptive enough to read it; humility is crucial in politics, and even moreso in government. I should clarify that my reasons for leaving the LNP were to do with decisions made at the Federal level rather than the State level, and I am bitterly disappointed that Queenslanders were much quicker to forgive Labor than they were prepared to be patient with the LNP.

Michael Smyth was Treasurer of the Queensland Branch of the Australian Monarchist League from 2011-2014, and previously Secretary of the Griffith University Liberal Club from 2009-2012. His opinions are his own, and do not reflect the position of any of the aforementioned organisations.