Thursday, 31 August 2017

Michelle Grattan on the "fractured and self-indulgent" Liberal Party

Grattan on Friday: If defeat comes, what then for the Liberals' succession?

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The conservatives’ strategy is to reap what victories they can while Malcolm Turnbull leads.
Dean Lewins/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

If the Turnbull government’s present agonies become death throes and the election is lost, coping with opposition will test to its very core a Liberal Party that in power has been fractured and self-indulgent.

For a start, would the conservatives, who at the moment have an ideological mortgage over the party despite moderates holding some key cabinet posts, be able to foreclose and, if so, with what consequences?

It’s almost two years since a widely hailed moderate prime minister overthrew a conservative one. Yet in many areas Malcolm Turnbull has not been able to assert his authority over the party. Instead, he has been forced to, or chosen to, accommodate the right’s demands and embrace senior conservatives as his closest ministerial confidants.

The conservatives’ very effective strategy – from their own point of view if not electorally – is to reap what victories they can while Turnbull leads. But their real moment could be in prospect if he loses (assuming he takes the party into the election).

It would depend on who emerged as leader – which in turn would be affected by the size of the defeat and the composition of the post-election party. But conservatives, already shaping the internal debates, would seem well placed in the field of successors.

Peter Dutton, their hardman, has gone from the minister Turnbull didn’t want on cabinet’s national security committee to the prime minister’s adviser and protector, recently rewarded with the creation of the proposed home affairs portfolio.

Dutton can afford to be a mainstay of Turnbull’s praetorian guard. His best chance of leadership lies in Turnbull losing and his pitching as the tough Tony Abbott-style headkicker the Liberals might think they need in opposition.

Meanwhile, the immigration minister burnishes his right-wing credentials by relentlessly milking the border protection issue, assiduously feeding friendly Murdoch tabloids, and maintaining a warm dialogue with 2GB shockjocks.

If not Dutton – who could conceivably lose his marginal Queensland seat – the Liberals would be looking at Scott Morrison, Abbott, Christian Porter (also vulnerable in his Western Australian seat), Josh Frydenberg and Julie Bishop.

Morrison is an ideological chameleon, so it would be hard to predict where the Liberals would head off to under him. While his stocks have receded, in opposition he might be viewed as a compromise.

Abbott would surely be seen as yesterday’s dog.

Porter, a former WA treasurer and attorney-general, arrived with much promise but so far has lacked the popular touch.

Frydenberg probably wouldn’t be regarded as ready.

Bishop doesn’t appear up to – or up for – years of opposition slog, and would likely quit parliament.

Of this list, only Bishop is (sort of) a moderate; Frydenberg is (sort of) centrist.

The lack of moderates in the succession list is notable, given Christopher Pyne’s ill-judged boast to that faction that it was in the “winners’ circle”. It’s not, if we are talking about future leaders. Nor is it articulating, in the sense of a broad manifesto, what the party stands for, according to moderate lights.

This failure to proselytise – something they did at times assiduously in the past – is one source of the moderates’ current weakness.

For the most part, Turnbull has failed to chart a philosophical path ahead for the Liberals. Buffeted by political circumstances, bad opinion polls and determined internal critics, he’s lacked the opportunity or will to do so. Or perhaps, as a primarily transactional politician, he doesn’t have the intellectual bent for that sort of task.

Turnbull’s much-talked-about July speech in London, in which he said the Liberal Party belonged in the “sensible centre” – a phrase he’d taken from Abbott, though each would identify the centre’s content differently – generated intra-party controversy without inspiring the followers.

In contrast, Abbott has the time, inclination and intellectual heft to set out directions, with numerous articles, speeches and radio interviews.

While Abbott has only a small band of loyalists in personal terms – because he’s seen as electorally unpopular and as someone undermining the government’s chance of surviving – he espouses positions supported by many other conservatives within the party and their commentariat sympathisers.

The divisions among Liberals over some basic values were highlighted by the response to Pauline Hanson’s burqa stunt in the Senate. Attorney-General George Brandis tore strips off Hanson in a spontaneous and emotional speech, drawing a standing ovation from Labor and Greens. Education Minister senator Simon Birmingham – one consistently gutsy moderate voice – tweeted support. But positive reaction from the government benches in the Senate was more muted.

Brandis has subsequently come under attack from some conservatives for his speech. Peta Credlin, Abbott’s former chief-of-staff and a significant extra-parliamentary player in the “Liberal wars”, who advocates banning the burqa, wrote: “Rather than condemn Hanson to win the applause of Labor and the Greens, George Brandis should have shown leadership on an issue where women are denied their rightful place in our community.”

A Sky ReachTEL poll taken after Hanson’s action found 56% support for a burqa ban.

Brandis lost out in Dutton’s win on the planned home affairs department, but managed to retain responsibility for approving warrants for ASIO activities.

In the battle for the party’s soul Brandis may think he has little to lose by taking a stand. He’s under pressure to quit the parliament at the end of the year to open the way for Turnbull to reshuffle; it’s not clear whether he would or could seek to stay a while beyond that.

Given the conservatives’ present power in the Liberal firmament, it is worth revisiting Brandis’ 2009 Alfred Deakin lecture, in which he argued that the party’s much-heralded “two traditions” – conservative and liberal – theory “was a specific contribution of John Howard’s”, rather than a historical feature.

“This awkward blending of two different systems of values was very much a reflection of John Howard’s own personal values, shared by no other significant Liberal leader. Alfred Deakin, Robert Menzies, Harold Holt, John Gorton, Malcolm Fraser were all happy to describe themselves simply as liberals. Howard was the first who did not see himself, and was uncomfortable to be seen, purely in the liberal tradition,” Brandis said.

In that lecture Brandis also pointed to the contest, when a party goes into opposition, between those who want to be brutally honest about past failings and those seeking to defend the legacy.

Unless a lot changes fairly quickly – and admittedly the election isn’t due until 2019 – extolling a rather scattered Turnbull legacy might be a challenge.

In government, the Liberals’ own goals have given Labor many breaks. In opposition, the challenges in getting their act together would be considerable.

The broad right is already splintered, with Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and, toward the centre, the Nick Xenophon Team, all competing with the Liberals and Nationals.

If worse came to worst, the right could fragment further in opposition. There was muffled talk previously of those from the Queensland Liberal National Party wanting to sit as a separate group, although this isn’t considered practical.

If their vote held up better than that of the Liberals, the Nationals would likely be angry with their partners after a rout. They are already blaming Liberal ineptitude for the Coalition’s woes – although the citizenship crisis saw the exasperation suddenly flow the other way. A blame game would make harder the adjustment to the loss of power.

While unrelenting negativity can be an effective path for an opposition, as Abbott showed spectacularly, there is no guarantee it is enough. Bill Shorten has picked up a good deal from the Abbott playbook, but Labor under him also has a quite strong, and in parts daring, policy agenda.

The Liberals could not simply rely on a Shorten government being a shambles. They would need to develop over time a positive program – and one that connected with ordinary people, rather than being in an indulgent la-la land of the hard right.

Much would depend on leadership, in a party that turns on the axis of the person at the top. That takes us back to the apparent problems of succession.

The ConversationOf course, there might be nothing for the Liberals to worry about. Turnbull – with his device of covering uncertainty with the definitive declaration – assures us the government “will win the next election”. Many of his colleagues just wish they believed him.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Jacinda Ardern puts Tora Tora Tora Julie Bishop on notice following poll surge in NZ election race.


For the human headline - singalong to "Back in the USA"

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Everyone's a winner in Turnbull's power world. And if you believe that ...

"We believe, as many as two million Australian families, are paying more for their electricity than they ought to be paying ... so I'm very pleased to announce that today we've secured the agreement of the energy retailers to write to more of their customers to inform them that a better deal is available."
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at a press conference today 
The Turnbull aim was clear: to persuade people he was acting to reduce their electricity bills. And for some people that might be right. Prices might go down for those - and I'm one of them - who have not shopped around to find the lowest price available.
But there is one thing I am equally sure of. Those evil electricity retailers are not about to adjust prices in a way that lowers their profits. If someone pays less then someone else will be paying more. That's just the way of capitalism.

Let's Drop the Big One Now - A serious political singalong

With rockets flying, Randy Newman doesn't seem so amusing at the moment. But join in. Especially to the optimistic part:
We'll save Australia,
Don't want to hurt no kangaroo,
We'll build an all American amusement park there,
They've got surfing too.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Tony Abbott's Mystery Melbourne Mondays - Free wine for a solution

The Owl needs the wisdom of the crowd to answer this question and there's a bottle of Penfolds 389 from the cellar of his Adelaide correspondent for the best solution.

What was Sydney MP Tony Abbott doing on 11 Monday nights in Melbourne last year including six in a row during May and June while pocketing a $438 nightly allowance?

Melbourne's Herald Sun outlined the mysstery this morning.
Curiously, Mr Abbott spent 11 Monday nights in Melbourne last year, claiming the cost of flights as well the $438 nightly allowance. That included six Monday nights in a row during May and June.
To stimulate thinking here's today's political singalong.

Submit entries via the comments section below.

Monday, 28 August 2017

A political singalong for Bill Shorten's election challenger

The widow of gangland killer Carl Williams wants to run against Opposition Leader Bill Shorten at the next federal election. Roberta Williams has been chosen as the Australian People's Party candidate for Mr Shorten's seat of Maribyrnong in Melbourne - ABC News

Why Tony Abbott might have chosen Split? Surely not

From The Australian 28 August 2017
From The Australian 18 July 2017

Friday, 25 August 2017

Friday's political singalong is inspired by Tony Abbott's great parliamentary performance

The Australian's one sided view on the skills of federal MPs

Times are tough for political writers when parliament is not sitting. They have to invent their own drivel rather than being able to report on the drivel of members. And in The Australian this morning there was a classic example.

In a desperate search to fill the hold on page one The Oz came up with:
A shortage of “real-world” experience on Labor’s frontbench is fuelling concerns over a negative approach to small business and raising doubts about the party’s claim to represent the interests of its traditional “aspirational” bluecollar base.
Analysis by The Australian shows that only three Labor frontbenchers have listed experience working in small business, prompting an attack from Scott Morrison, who said Bill Shorten would treat the sector like a “giant ATM” if he won office at the next election.
And on the story went in similar terms without any attempt to compare the Labor team with that of the Coalition government.
Now readers of the Owl might remember the story last week How career politicians now dominate our Parliament.
Career politicians are now dominating political life. Back in 1966 when I came to Canberra trade union officials, political staffers, party officials and former MPs (state and federal) were less than a quarter of MHRs and Senators. At the start of this year they made up 54% of the total.
In my analysis I didn't notice much of a difference between the Coalition and Labor apart from Labor having more member with a trade union background and the Coalition having more lawyers.
When it comes to the front benchers of both sides the differences are slight.

The Turnbull Cabinet and previous employment:

Simon Birmingham Political staffer, lobbyist
Matthew Canavan Public servant, political staffer
Darren Chester Political staffer
Steven Ciobo Political staffer
Mathias Cormann Business manager, political staffer
Mitch Fifield Political staffer
Fiona Nash Farmer, political staffer
Kelly O'Dwyer Political staffer
Marise Payne Political staffer, lobbyist
Christopher Pyne Political staffer, solicitor
Arthur Sinodinos AO Public servant, political staffer, banker
Julie Bishop Lawyer
George Brandis QC Barrister
MichaeliaCash Solicitor
Christian Porter Lawyer, university lecturer, state MP
Malcolm Turnbull Barrister, merchant banker
Peter Dutton Businessman/policeman
Greg Hunt Business consultant/political staffer
Barnaby Joyce Accountant, former Senator
Scott Morrison Manager/party official
Nigel Scullion fisherman, businessman
Josh Frydenberg Businessman/political staffer

The Labor front bench and previous employment:

Anthony Albanese Political staffer
Chris Bowen Political staffer
Kim Carr Teacher, political staffer
Kate Ellis Political staffer
Katy Gallagher Community worker, union official, Territory MP
Tanya Plibersek Public servant, political staffer
Bill Shorten Trade union official
Penny Wong Union official, political staffer, lawyer
Tony Burke Trade union official
Mark Butler Trade union official
Jacinta Collins Trade union official
Don Farrell Shop assistant, trade union official
Richard Marles Solicitor, trade union official
Brendan O'Connor Trade union official
Michelle Rowland Lawyer
Mark Dreyfus Barrister
Shayne Neumann Lawyer
Jim Chalmers Public servant, political staffer
Jason Clare Businessman
Joel Fitzgibbon Businessman
Catherine King Social worker/consultant
Jenny Macklin Public servant


Thursday, 24 August 2017

Robbing Peter to pay Peter (after a sizeable deduction for Messrs Sue, Grabbitt and Run)

This has to be the weirdest story of the week.

Shareholders in the Commonwealth Bank are being invited to sue the bank for possible losses because of some kind of rort the bank engaged in without telling them there might be a hefty fine if the bank was caught. So let's imagine all the shareholder owners take part in this grand legal exercise and win the $200 million plus expenses. The value of what they own is $200 million less than before. Instead of being better off they are worse off because the lawyers and their financier hop in for their chop. A wonderful example of what Private Eye would call the actions of Messrs Sue, Grabbitt and Run.

Butch Katter and the Warringah Kid

So Bob Katter and Tony Abbott are going to have a little chat about the future of government.

"We rob Guvments"


Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Priests and ministers of religion held in low regard

There's one clue for opponents of same sex marriage in a just released survey published by the Australian National University: don't have priests spruiking your message. Ministers of religion are held in low regard. And their contribution to society is rated the lowest among the 16 professions rated.

The Australian Beliefs and Attitudes Towards Science Survey found that the top three professions that most Australians rate as contributing a lot to the wellbeing of society are scientists (80.9%), followed very closely by doctors (80.5%) and then farmers (78.5%).  The top three profession that most Australians rated as very prestigious were doctors (72.9%), followed by scientists (62.1%) and then engineers (55.2%)
Media executives might benefit from the topics people find of interest. Politics, which fills so much space and airtime, comes well down the list.

The New Zealand threat brings sleepless nights for Julie Bishop

Sleepless night ahead for Julie (Tora! Tora! Tora!) Bishop as "the unworkable" NZ Labour Party dramatically narrows gap in election race and pundits declare Jacinta Arden a very real chance after Sunday's charismatic party launch.
Could be much kiwi Tutti frutti if Jacinta turns up in Canberra as PM of New Zealand!
Talk about Star Wars....The Beginning...........which side will Barnaby choose? be continued.......

Bill Shorten can sing Happy Go Lucky Me

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten reads about his unbeatable opinion poll lead, finds his denouncement of British citizenship document and discovers George Formby all in the one day

Join in the Owl's other political singalongs HERE

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Nick Xenophon can't tell his English from his Irish

Media Nick (accused Pommie) shows his distaste after ordering a "warm English beer" while media stunting at British Hotel (get it) Adelaide! Has he gone totally Irish?

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Friday, 18 August 2017

A song for Malcolm Turnbull thanks to Mike Carlton

Go here for other political singalongs

Malcolm Turnbull's government has finally defied fiction

Grattan on Friday:

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With the eligibility of the Nationals’ leadership under question, Malcolm Turnbull has had a nightmarish week.
Mick Tsikas/AAP
Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

In a week belonging more appropriately to Shaun Micallef comedy than parliamentary reality, it’s arguable Pauline Hanson’s burqa stunt wasn’t the most extraordinary thing that happened in Canberra.

Hanson has extreme beliefs and therefore it mightn’t be so surprising – though it is appalling – that she’s willing to use the parliament as a stage for extremely bad behaviour.

In donning the burqa purchased on eBay and entering the Senate chamber, she was as attention-seeking as the streaker who races naked across the football ground, though her motive was darker. Let’s call out her action, but not play into her cynical pursuit of mega publicity.

Entirely beyond imagination was the week being bookended by the Nationals leader, Barnaby Joyce, and his deputy, senator Fiona Nash, standing up in their respective houses to announce they were dual citizens (he a Kiwi, she a Brit).

Joyce and Nash are remaining in cabinet – unlike their Nationals colleague Matt Canavan – and in their leadership roles while the High Court determines the fate of all three, among the batch of cases involving dual citizenship. At issue is their eligibility under the Constitution’s Section 44, which bans dual nationals standing for parliament.

Australian Conservatives’ senator Cory Bernardi, formerly a Liberal, suggested on Thursday that parliament should be prorogued – that is, suspended – until citizenship questions and any subsequent byelections are sorted.

Bernardi claims that Joyce is not the only House of Representatives MP whose citizenship is in doubt. He says staffers have told him “that they know their member of parliament is not eligible to be here”.

But suspending parliament would disrupt the normal course of government business, delaying legislation and, crucially in political terms, signalling panic.

Joyce continues to participate in parliamentary votes, so the government retains its one-seat majority in the House of Representatives. By its own lights, what credible story could it advance to put parliament on hold? It would look the ultimate in desperation.

There is no doubt the Joyce affair presented the government with a crisis. It then became a matter of management and this was seriously bungled.

Once it took the decision to keep Joyce in cabinet and in the deputy prime ministership, the government was always destined to be vulnerable to a ferocious Labor attack.

But its shock and awe response, with the absurd notion of a “treacherous” Bill Shorten and a Labor conspiracy across the Tasman with New Zealand Labour, was deluded from the start.

First, it was a try-on. Both Labor here and Labour in NZ were somewhat apologetic for their roles in the affair, understandable at least for NZ Labour which is facing an election. But what exactly was the wrongdoing by Labor here? Is there anything inherently “treacherous” about a Labor staffer using contacts to check in NZ who is eligible to be a citizen of that country?

Second the tactic, played in stereo, opened the government to ridicule. In particular, her exaggerated performance raised questions about the judgement of the usually astute Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, just days after a laudatory article had asked why she wasn’t mentioned more often as a possible future leader.

Although the circumstances are different, the hyperbolic accusation of “treachery” carries a remote echo from Turnbull’s book The Spy Catcher Trial, about the British government’s attempt to stop the Australian publication of a book by a former UK intelligence officer.

Turnbull, whose successful appearance in the high profile case gave an early boost to his reputation, wrote that then UK opposition leader Neil Kinnock – whom he pressed to “humiliate” the UK attorney-general in the British parliament – “was vigorously attacked in the House of Commons for ‘treacherous’ conduct”, in discussing the case with him.

If Turnbull were prone to bad dreams, his nightmares for the next few months would go something like this.

The government would lose the High Court case challenging the postal ballot on same-sex marriage, or win it and the ballot would return a “no” result.

It would lose Joyce’s citizenship case – and Nash and Canavan would be knocked out as well.

It would then lose the byelection in Joyce’s New England seat, with goodness knows what consequences in the resulting hung parliament.

Oh, and there would be a bruising battle within the government over energy policy, resulting in a much-criticised, wishy-washy outcome that gave no certainty for future investment.

But Turnbull is an optimist, or so he always tells us, and he’ll be looking at how things could all work out for the best in the best of worlds.

He’s predicted in the most unequivocal terms that Joyce will be vindicated in the High Court.

If things went well, the postal vote would sail through the legal challenge, and return a yes vote by a convincing margin with a substantial turnout, making the ballot beyond reasonable reproach, whatever the gripes of the losers. That would lead to parliament changing the law to deliver same-sex marriage by Christmas.

Energy policy would be hard fought within the government’s ranks, but the resulting compromise would be one that was seen as credible and welcomed by business.

The optimistic scenario – we might as well include in it at least one 50-50 Newspoll – would leave the government with a hope of regrouping, after an end-of-year ministerial reshuffle.

Which scenario, or what mixture of them, will come to pass is unforeseeable. But given how life goes for this government, some might regard the prospects for anything like the optimistic one as being in near-miracle territory.

Meanwhile, things are presently so grim they recall vividly some of the blackest times of the Gillard government.

Monday’s Joyce bombshell drove the same-sex marriage battle somewhat into the background, while both sides gear up for intense campaigns and questions remain about the postal ballot.

One of these is, I think, particularly interesting – that is, the argument that the result won’t be a true one because young people especially will be under-represented. The young are, collectively, more in favour of same-sex marriage than older people but less likely to be on the roll, to have a fixed address, or to be familiar with the post.

While this is a problem, I will be a bit contrarian. I think this both demeans the young and lets them off too lightly. They are supposed to enrol for elections anyway; if they have a view on the marriage issue there is both the incentive and opportunity to do so for this ballot.

A week is left – the rolls close August 24. The mobility challenge applies for general elections – it’s a hassle, but not insurmountable.

As for not using the post – well, that is like saying older people weren’t brought up with computers. Sorry, but one has to move with the times – even if, in this case, it’s moving backwards.

Young people are highly savvy with technology – I just don’t accept they can’t come to grips with posting a letter. If in doubt, they can always ask their grandmothers.

The ConversationThe nation is considering an important social issue – young Australians should get on the roll and vote.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

How career politicians now dominate our Parliament

I have been pottering along for a while now on my recollections of 50 plus years observing and playing politics. One day I might even end up with a flimsy document that people think worth reading. Whatever. One of the things that intrigues me is the way that the kind of people who have become federal politicians has changed since I came to Canberra in 1966 and today.
That's a subject that two former Prime Ministers - Bob Hawke and John Howard - touched on at an event at the old Parliament House this week. Both men, according to an ABC report, warned that these day career politicians without enough life experience are letting the public down.
Both men were asked to reflect on the state of Australian democracy in a discussion with Annabel Crabb on Wednesday night at the National Press Club, where they said both major parties were becoming less representative of the people who usually voted for them.
"My advice consistently to every young person who comes and asks me about [entering politics] is to make a life first," Mr Hawke said.
"I detest seeing a young bloke or lady go into a trade union office, or a politician's office, and spending a good deal of their time organising numbers in the branches."
Mr Howard said all political parties needed to do a better job "filtering" candidates to make sure they were from diverse backgrounds.
"We have too many people who enter Parliament now, particularly at state level, who have had no experience in life other than politics," he said.
"They've gone from school to university to the trade union, then to a politician's office.
"If you're on my side, they skip the trade union and they go to the politicians.
"We have too many now and I think it's part of the problem we face."
 The two old PM's have certainly got it right. The change in 50 years is considerable. Career politicians are now dominating political life. Back in 1966 when I came to Canberra trade union officials, political staffers, party officials and former MPs (state and federal) were less than a quarter of MHRs and Senators. At the start of this year they made up 54% of the total.

1966 2017
Union Officials 31 16% 31 14%
Political staffers/party officials 5 3% 74 33%
State/Federal MPs  10 5% 16 7%
Farmers 37 19% 8 4%
Lawyers 19 10% 22 10%
Business people 45 23% 42 19%
    journalists 7 4
    medical practitioners 4 4
    policemen 2 3
    public servants 7 6
    teachers 11 2
    university lecturers 2 4
    community service workers 2 4
    farmworker 1
    veterinarian 1 1
    clergyman 1
    dentist 1
    optometrist 1
    military officer 1 3
    pharmacist 1 1
    cyclist 1
    seaman 1
    pilot 1
    lobbyist 1
Others 45 23% 33 15%
192 226

Does this woman have the answer to the Section 44 problem?

Maybe that annoying TV woman who nearly fell off the chair could solve MP's dual nationality problems once and for all.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

No, it wasn’t a conspiracy that caused Barnaby’s problem – it was himself

File 20170815 18355 1qoxyfx

Barnaby Joyce has now renounced his New Zealand citizenship but his future is yet to be determined.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Let’s get one point straight. The crisis around Barnaby Joyce has been caused by one simple oversight by one person. Joyce was careless in not properly checking whether he complied with the citizenship requirement of the Australian Constitution.

He was not landed into this pickle by Bill Shorten, the New Zealand Labour Party, the media, or anyone or anything else. If he had acted years ago with abundant caution – or his party had – he wouldn’t have had a problem.

And the government’s over-the-top efforts on Tuesday to find a conspiracy begs the question: does it think an MP’s alleged breach of the Constitution, if suspected, should be just ignored?

At the extreme, wouldn’t there be a risk that, in such circumstances, an MP could be open to an attempt to compromise them?

A few weeks ago the Greens’ Scott Ludlam resigned when he found he was a citizen of New Zealand, which he left as a child. His dual citizenship came to his attention when a barrister started poking around. Ludlam accepted the situation with grace.

Of course much more is at stake politically with Joyce. It’s unsurprising and entirely appropriate that the government fights for him in the High Court – although it is another matter that he is not standing aside from the ministry.

But the government’s attempt to paint this as a “treacherous” Shorten executing a dark deed involving a foreign power is desperate distraction politics. After a bizarre attack by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on the New Zealand Labour Party, it morphed into a diplomatic own goal.

Joyce’s dual citizenship came to light after two lines of inquiry in New Zealand: questions from Fairfax Media, and a blogger, to the Department of Internal Affairs, and questions on notice from Labour MP Chris Hipkins, following his conversation with Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s chief-of-staff Marcus Ganley, who’s a Kiwi.

Bishop’s accusations and language at Tuesday’s news conference were extraordinary for a foreign minister, although they were just at the extreme end of the script used throughout the day by Malcolm Turnbull and others in the government.

“The New Zealand Labour leader, Jacinda Ardern has revealed that Bill Shorten sought to use the New Zealand parliament to undermine the Australian government,” Bishop claimed.

“Bill Shorten has sought to use a foreign political party to raise serious allegations in a foreign parliament designed to undermine confidence in the Australian government.

"This is highly unethical, at least, but more importantly, puts at risk the relationship between the Australian government and the New Zealand government,” she said.

According to the NZ minister for internal affairs, Peter Dunne, it wasn’t the Labour questions that set the ball rolling to the outing of Joyce’s NZ citizenship.

Dunne tweeted:

But when this was put to Bishop, she said dismissively: “I don’t accept that”. That is, she rejected the word of a minister in a fraternal government.

Further, “New Zealand is facing an election. Should there be a change of government, I would find it very hard to build trust with those involved in allegations designed to undermine the government of Australia,” Bishop said.

And again: “I would find it very difficult to build trust with members of a political party that had been used by the Australian Labor Party to seek to undermine the Australian government”.

Here’s Australia’s foreign minister, in a fit of collective government pique, saying before the NZ election she’d have problems with the possible winners.

This was egregious on several fronts. It is both harmful and offensive. The Australian and New Zealand governments, of whatever complexion, should and need to be close. Bishop’s sweeping claims go well beyond what seems to have happened. And her attack on NZ Labour buys right into the electoral contest – her accusation of foreign interference in our politics could be turned back and levelled at her.

Ardern met Australian High Commissioner Peter Woolcott – soon to take up the role of Turnbull’s chief-of-staff – to express her disappointment at Bishop’s remarks, but also to stress the importance she attached to the Australian relationship.

In very measured remarks, contrasting with Bishop’s tone, Ardern told a news conference she first knew of the situation when it broke in the media on Monday.

When she saw the reference to the NZ Labour Party she’d immediately inquired and learned Hipkins had asked two questions. Hipkins shouldn’t have done so, she said, a point she’d made that “absolutely clear” to him, and he’d acknowledged.

Hipkins had told her that when an ALP acquaintance had called him asking about citizenship “he had no context for who the question might relate to”.

Ardern said she would be happy to talk directly with Bishop (not that she had her phone number).

“The relationship between the New Zealand Labour Party and the Australian government is too important for politics to get in the way,” Ardern said. “Australian domestic politics is for them, not for us. We should not be involved.”

Later, Wong said her staffer had “informal discussions with New Zealand friends” about the Section 44 debate.

“At no point did he make any request to raise the issue of dual citizenship in parliament … In fact, neither I, nor my staff member, had any knowledge the question had even been asked until after the story broke.”

It was a day in which the Turnbull government looked more than a little unhinged. It caused a lot of angst across the ditch, got into an absurd barney with New Zealand Labour, and even had the New Zealand conservative government correct it.

In its attempt to throw mud at Shorten, the Turnbull government managed to do itself more harm.

The ConversationAnd at the end of it all Joyce, who has now renounced his New Zealand citizenship, still must have his future determined. It was announced that his case will come up on August 24 for a directions hearing, together with the two senators and two former senators also caught on the sticky paper of Section 44 (i).

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Kevin and Tony the cycling mates - not married but ...

Kevin Andrews MP :
I have a relationship with my cycling mates, but the law has no place in that relationship

Kevin Andrews and Tony Abbott keeping their affectionate relationship on the road.

Could it be Footrot Flats for Barnaby with a dark moon shining over his horizon?

A singalong for today.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

A song for a strong political leader

So here we have it. Malcolm Turnbull on the way to decide whether same sex marriage should be legal:
PRIME MINISTER: Strong leaders carry out their promises. Weak leaders break them.
I'm a strong leader.
 So Singalong as Malcolm leads the way.

Click HERE to go to YouTube for a musical accopaniment 

Following the leader, the leader, the leader
We're following the leader
Wherever he may go
Tee dum, tee dee, a teedle ee do tee day
Tee dum, tee dee it's part of the game we play
Tee dum, tee dee, the words are easy to say
Just a teedle ee dum a teedle ee do tee day
Tee dum, tee dee, a teedle ee do tee dum
We're one for all, and all of us out for fun
We march in line and follow the other one
With a teedle ee do a teedle ee do tee dum
Following the leader, the leader, the leader
We're following the leader
Wherever he may go
We're out to fight the injuns, the injuns, the injuns
We're out to fight the injuns
Because he told us so
Tee dum, tee dee a teedle ee do tee day
We march along and these are the words we say
Tee dum, tee dee, a teedle teedle ee
Oh, a teedle ee dum a teedl ee dum tee day
Oh, a teedle ee dum a teedl ee dum tee day

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Let's hope Senator Malcolm Roberts can represent himself in the High Court because that surely would be fun

The prospect of the Senate sending Senator Malcolm Roberts' election to the High Court must be thrilling legal scholars. A previous legal effort by the good Senator showed a unique grasp of juriprudence.
See for yourself at this earlier post by the Owl :
The wily legal wits of One Nation's Malcolm Roberts shown in a previous encounter

Some political marriage music

Malcolm pines while watching the same sex marriage debate being driven into an uncertain political eternity......

Listen to other political singalong choices HERE

Monday, 7 August 2017

The great shrinking of the vote for Australia's major political parties

Not much joy for the Liberal-National coalition and the Labor Party in today's political research news. In The Australian Newspoll had the two parties share of the vote at just 72%. That's five percentage points down on the share at the last election. And in The Sydney Morning Herald a report on what focus groups have found about the current feeling of voters towards the big two had this to say:
The distaste for both major parties did seem to create an opportunity for the minor parties; One Nation leader Pauline Hanson and independent senator Derryn Hinch were praised for speaking their minds. Some voters named the Greens as a potential alternative yet none could name the party leader, Richard Di Natale, nor his predecessor.
No hint there of a change in the long-term trend that has seen a steady shrinking of the support for Australia's major parties.

Major party first preference votes
(House of Representatives)
PeriodNumber of electionsAverage major party vote

The decline is even more pronounced in Senate voting figures.

Major party first preference votes
PeriodNumber of electionsAverage major party vote