Anthony Albanese dumps Labor’s franking credits policy, attacks ‘fake’ PM ahead of federal election


Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has dumped Labor’s policy to overhaul franking credits while also launching an attack on Scott Morrison, in a renewed focus on the next election, which could be called later this year.

In a video conference address to Victorian Labor members this morning, Mr Albanese announced Labor would scrap the proposed changes to franking credits the party took to the 2019 election campaign.

The Opposition Leader said the policy had distracted voters from the party’s core messages.

He said that would not be the case at the next federal election, which could be called in late 2021 or early 2022.

The Coalition targeted the franking credits policy during that campaign, describing the measure as a “retiree tax”.

“I can confirm that Labor has heard that message clearly and that we will not be taking any changes to franking credits to the next election,” Mr Albanese said.

“I want the focus to be on Labor’s positive agenda for Australia’s future … a nation where people aspire to personal success, but also have aspirations for their family, their community and their nation.”

Bill Shorten (left) was widely tipped to win the 2019 election but lost to Scott Morrison (right).(AAP)

Labor’s 2019 election review identified former leader Bill Shorten’s unpopularity and a lack of political strategy as two of the causes of the party’s failure to take government.

The Coalition, which had changed its leader three times since coming to power in 2013, was widely tipped to lose the election, having fallen into minority government months out from the poll.

However, it regained majority government as Labor’s primary vote fell to 33 per cent, with sharp falls among blue-collar workers.

PM ‘lacks empathy, stands for nothing,’ Albanese says

Mr Albanese also used the video address to criticise the Prime Minister’s character, arguing Australians had judged Mr Morrison as a person who shifts blame and is a “showman who loves grand announcements, but never delivers”.

He also invoked the awkward interaction, in January 2020, between Mr Morrison and a bushfire survivor who refused to shake his hand, as evidence that Mr Morrison lacked empathy.

“As the nation burned and our cities were choked by smoke, Mr Morrison’s only focus was photo opportunities, where, understandably, many people saw straight through him and refused to shake his hand,” he said.

“That infamous visit said a lot about Scott Morrison and his lack of empathy with Australians who are doing it tough.

“When it comes to Scott Morrison, Australians have started to work him out anyway.

Albanese resorting to ‘personal attack’

Asked about Mr Albanese’s comments today, senior Liberal MP and Minister for Industry Karen Andrews said the Opposition Leader was resorting to personal attacks because he could not attack the Government’s policies.

“He can personalise his attacks as much as he wants,” Ms Andrews said.

“What that clearly demonstrates is our policies are sound [and] they are delivering for Australians.

“If you’re going to attack an individual, it’s because you can’t attack the policy.”

A woman with blonde hair and a blue business jacket in front of an electorate office.
Minister for Industry Karen Andrews said the Opposition Leader had resorted to a “personal attack”.(ABC News)

Mr Albanese also used the speech to criticise Mr Morrison’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis and his public criticisms of Labor premiers, including Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews during that state’s major coronavirus outbreak in October and November.

He said Labor state premiers had taken the right decisions, while the Prime Minister “campaigned” against them.

“The Liberals’ essential belief is that government should just get out of the way of markets but we know that markets have no conscience,” Mr Albanese said.

“Just as conservative values were useless during the pandemic, they also offer us little in the rebuilding phase.

“We should use the recovery to address some of the deficiencies in our society.”



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Coal is dead. It’s time for Labor’s denialists to accept it.


As Labor lays itself bare over coal, the industry itself is dying before our eyes and the biggest companies want out before they’re left with the bill.

Labor Member for Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon (Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

This week should have been a target-rich environment for Labor.

There was the government’s reluctance to say anything about Trump’s attempted coup.

There was Four Corners‘ exposure of Alan Tudge and Christian Porter, and David Crowe’s revelation of Rachelle Miller’s complaints about Tudge and Michaelia Cash.

Keep reading about the death of coal.

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David Crisafulli elected by party room to lead Queensland’s LNP as Labor’s new Cabinet officially sworn in


Gold Coast MP David Crisafulli has been elected unopposed to be the Liberal National Party’s new leader, with Toowoomba South MP David Janetzki to serve as his deputy.

The party room voted for the duo during a meeting at Parliament House today.

Former Opposition leader Deb Frecklington announced her intention to step aside following the party’s election loss on October 31.

Mr Crisafulli, a father of two, began his political career in north Queensland, well before he moved to the state’s south east.

He is a former journalist who grew up in Ingham and worked both there and in Townsville until he became the youngest person elected to Townsville City Council.

He moved into State Parliament as part of Campbell Newman’s landslide victory in 2012, then went on to serve as local government and community recovery minister.

Mr Crisafulli moved to the Gold Coast when he lost his seat in the LNP’s drubbing in 2015.

Ahead of the 2017 election, he trumped former MP Verity Barton for preselection in the seat of Broadwater, and won his second term in the seat in the October 31 poll, picking up a substantial first preference swing.

‘I’m hungry to win’: Crisafulli

Mr Crisafulli walked into the party room, flanked by former LNP leader Deb Frecklington.

He described himself as a “conviction politician” and said he wouldn’t knock government decisions just for opposition’s sake.

“So if I say that something is not right, all of you will know that I believe that in my heart — I won’t do it to get on the nightly news,” he said.

“There’s enough partisanship in politics … if something is good I will be the first one to say we support it and we will back that.

Queensland’s new LNP leader David Crisafulli is a father of two and former journalist who began his career in north Queensland.(AAP: Dan Peled)

“But by the same token, if something is wrong, I will be prepared to call it as such and will do it in a forceful manner.

“I am going to respect the mandate that the Premier sort to keep Queensland safe and strong and I will, in a respectful manner, ensure she is held accountable to that promise.”

Mr Crisafulli said the next four years were going to be a “tough ride” but he was determined to fight.

Mr Crisafulli said he was “humbled” to be elected leader, but was also “hurting” from the election loss.

“I’m hungry to win … because there are a generation of Queenslanders who know no different than Labor governments,” he said.

The Palaszczuk Government has drawn attention to the fact Mr Crisafulli served in the Newman government’s ministry but the newly-elected leader said he would not be fixated on the past.

“If they want to look in the rear vision mirror, good luck to them,” he said.

“My style will be one about holding them to account for their policies today, supporting the ones that Queensland need, and putting forward an alternate vision.”

He said there would be announcements about his shadow cabinet in coming days.

“I don’t owe it to factions, or any backroom support — they will be the best person for the job,” he said.

“There’ll be new faces and there’ll be a great mixture.

David Janetzki
David Janetzki is the LNP’s newly appointed deputy leader.(Facebook: David Janetzki – LNP Candidate for Toowoomba South)

David Janetzki said “Queensland had spoken” and the party would come back “bigger, stronger, faster”.

“We’re going to go back, we will review everything we took to the elections,” Mr Janetzki said.

“We’ve got the heart and we’ve got the people in the room to give this an almighty shake.

“Queensland is looking for economic leadership and we’ll be providing that from Opposition.”

Mr Janetzki fended off a challenge from three other MPs Christian Rowan, Steve Minnikin and Dale Last — for the role of deputy leader

Recounts ordered

The Electoral Commission Queensland (ECQ) agreed this morning to an LNP request to recount votes in two tight-race electorates: Nicklin on the Sunshine Coast and Bundaberg in southern Queensland.

Commissioner Pat Vidgen said while he had full confidence in the integrity of the count, the margins were very close and it was prudent to ensure the veracity of the outcome.

“In Bundaberg there is a difference of 11 votes and in Nicklin 79,” he said.

“Very, very tight.

“A federal automatic recount is triggered by less than 100 votes.

“I don’t have any concerns in what we’ve done but I think [it is important] for confidence and certainly for the candidates.”

Recounting of the tens of thousands of votes will begin today — with observers and scrutineers present — as is the usual practice.

Cabinet sworn in

Meanwhile, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and her Cabinet have been officially sworn in at a ceremony at Government House.

Ms Palaszczuk unveiled her full ministry yesterday with Shannon Fentiman appointed Attorney-General and the state’s youngest minister Meaghan Scanlan taking on environment and science.

A man takes a selfie with a group of people standing in front of a white building.
Deputy Premier Steven Miles takes a selfie at the official swearing in of the Queensland Government’s new Cabinet at Government House.(ABC News: Tim Swanston)

Several new assistant ministers were also sworn in, including, Maryborough MP Bruce Saunders, Aspley MP Bart Mellish, Bundamba MP Lance McCallum and Jordan MP Charis Mullen.

Cairns MP Michael Healy will also be an assistant minister but has not been sworn in as his seat is yet to be officially declared.

It takes the total number of assistant ministers to eight, up from five last term.

Ms Palaszczuk said she was proud of her cabinet.

“We’ve got a big job ahead of us.”

First-time frontbencher and Nudgee MP Leanne Linard said she was eager to start work within her portfolios of youth justice, children and multicultural affairs.

“To represent some of Queensland’s most vulnerable, I feel there is no greater word than it’s an absolute honour,” she said.

New assistant minister Lance McCallum will be working on hydrogen development, while Bruce Saunders will look at train manufacturing.

Member for Gladstone Glen Butcher, who has retained his position as minister for regional development and manufacturing, will be sworn in at a later time.



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Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon quits front bench over climate change policy divisions



Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon has quit the opposition front bench, saying his party is spending too much time on climate policy at the expense of regional issues. 

The Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Resources announced his sudden move to the back bench on Tuesday morning following a long-running division within the party over climate policy. 

Mr Fitzgibbon said he would step down immediately, but would continue advocating for regional voters from the back bench. 

“I will continue to be a very strong voice on their behalf. And I’ll call out policy, including Labor policy, which I don’t think is in their interest,” he said. 

“The Labor Party has been spending too much time in recent years talking about issues like climate change – which is a very important issue – and not enough time talking about the needs of our traditional base.”

Labor’s Ed Husic has been named to take over the agriculture and resources portfolios, returning the Western Sydney member to a position on the opposition front bench. 

Mr Fitzgibbon, an outspoken right-faction MP, has repeatedly urged his party to support gas and coal jobs while speaking out on climate change and energy policies over the past 18 months.  

He said he does not intend to contest the party’s leadership against opposition leader Anthony Albanese. 

“I have no intention of running for the leadership,” he said.

“I’d have to be drafted and in the current climate, I’m not confident of that occurring.” 

Mr Fitzgibbon has said he supports the opposition’s net-zero emissions target by 2050, but has warned against adopting ambitious medium-term targets that he thinks would deter voters in regional areas.

Speaking to reporters later on Tuesday, Mr Albanese downplayed tensions within the party when asked about internal division over a medium-term emissions reduction target.

“We have a net zero emissions target by 2050. It will all be there. You’ll have plenty of time before the election to transact exactly what it all means” he said. 

“What you should be doing is holding this government to account now, that does not have an energy policy in this country.”

Mr Fitzgibbon has previously called on his party to consider adopting a “sensible settlement” with the federal government, rather than overreaching on climate policy. 

“If you want to act on climate change, the first step is to become the government,” he said. 

“To become the government, you need to have a climate change and energy policy that can be embraced by a majority of the Australian people.”

Earlier this year, Labor committed to the net-zero emissions target by the middle of the century, following concerns being raised the party’s climate policy at the last election had deterred some voters in regional areas.

The Labor Party is still developing a medium-term target ahead of this goal, with Mr Albanese saying this will be “consistent” with reaching the target of net zero emissions by mid-century.

Some in Labor have put forward Joe Biden’s presidential election as evidence an ambitious climate change agenda can be successful at the polls, but Mr Fitzgibbon has sought to downplay these comparisons.

Mr Fitzgibbon said the pathway to net-zero emissions should be managed and not be consider a “linear” progression. 

“As technology kicks in, the effort will reduce. You don’t have to be halfway there at the halfway point. ” he said. 

“Let Scott Morrison govern it. Let’s hold him to account and let’s take some time to see whether he’s on track to meeting the commitment he makes.”

Under the Paris Agreement, Australia has committed to reducing its emissions by between 26 and 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

But the Australian government has resisted adopting a 2050 net-zero emissions target despite this being taken up by allies the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea and the European Union.



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Labor’s democratic experiment blows up


The state ALP’s new rank and file preselection ballot process has exploded in controversy, with the process under a legal cloud after party officials determined to downplay the influence of ordinary party members – and leader Peter Malinauskas conceding he is powerless to intervene.

InDaily reported last week that Labor was undergoing the first internal party ballot under new rules that came into play from 2018, intended to diminish the hegemony of the unions and sub-branch delegates in picking candidates.

Under rule changes driven by Malinauskas when he was party president and state secretary of the powerful shopworkers’ union, contested upper house and Senate ballots for SA Labor will be determined by a vote giving equal weight to the union blocs, sub-branch delegates and ordinary rank and file party members.

The same rule also now applies to contested lower house preselections, where ordinary sub-branch members previously accounted for 25 per cent of the total count.

The rule change was likely to give some hope to candidates Ben Browne, a regional councillor standing for the Legislative Council ticket against four factionally-backed candidates, and Brett Rankine, contesting the northern suburbs seat of King against the endorsed Left candidate Rhiannon Pearce.

However, InDaily understands party returning officer Jennifer Allison informed candidates’ scrutineers last night that while the union and sub-branch delegate votes would each account for one-third of the total, the rank and file component would be weighted as a proportion of the total number eligible to vote.

InDaily has been told it’s likely the ruling will be challenged, with one source saying their camp was “seeking some more clarification before the ballot’s counted” from tomorrow.

Adding to the confusion, Malinauskas told InDaily the interpretation was at odds with his intention when introducing the rule change.

“I can see what the PRO’s done, but it’s certainly not what the intent was,” he said.

“If the rules need to be amended so as to achieve the intended outcome, that’s something I’d support in the future.”

However, he said he could not intervene in the current process because party rules were subject to a majority vote at the state convention.

“If it’s been interpreted that way, then the rule needs to be re-written so as to be clear on how it should be applied – consistent with what most people in the party would understand the intent to be,” he said.

He denied the debacle was an embarrassment for the party after its much-lauded foray into a genuinely democratic ballot process, saying: “This is the first time individual branch members of the party have been able to vote for upper house candidates, and that’s something I’m proud to have led.”

InDaily has been told most of the eligible rank-and-file members in King cast their vote, which would limit the degree to which the PRO’s interpretation impacts the result – but it’s likely to see the outcome in both elections sent for a review.

Browne backer Ralph Clarke said there was “ambiguity in the rule as it’s written”.

“It was either badly drafted or drafted to achieve an objective,” he said.

“I know there’s strongly contested views as to the actual legality of it.”

He noted the new interpretation could actually see the rank and file component go backwards for lower house ballots – given fewer than the previous 25 per cent could end up being counted if enough members failed to vote.

“It’s pretty against the spirit and the intent of what Peter put forward at the state convention,” he said.

“Whether it was just dumb drafting or someone’s a bit too cheeky by half, only time will tell.”

Queries to Labor’s head office were ignored, with state secretary Reggie Martin unable to comment as he is one of the five candidates vying for four places on the Upper House ticket. The others are incumbents Kyam Maher, Ian Hunter and Tung Ngo.

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Six other Liberal leaders couldn’t do it. Will Elizabeth Lee be the one to end Labor’s reign in Canberra?


The Canberra Liberals — often attacked by Labor as the “most conservative Liberal branch in the country” — want you to believe that the appointment of Elizabeth Lee as leader is a change in direction for a party that has learned from a sixth straight election loss.

“This is a fresh new beginning,” the party declared shortly after she was picked by her colleagues on Tuesday.

It’s true there are some big changes afoot and her selection is a first on many fronts.

Lee and her new deputy Giulia Jones will be the first female pair to lead a party in ACT politics, and Lee is the first person of an Asian background to be at the helm of an ACT party.

Not since Kate Carnell was chief minister two decades ago has a woman led the Canberra Liberals.

The Liberals have not won an ACT election since Kate Carnell.(ABC News)

In the 19 years since, six other men have led the party — Gary Humphries, Brendan Smyth, Bill Stefaniak, Zed Seselja, Jeremy Hanson and now Alistair Coe. None have prevailed against Labor and the Greens.

Carnell, the only leader to ever win an election for the Liberals in the ACT, last year warned the party against pitching conservative policy to a progressive town, believing that a Liberal victory hinged on ideology.

So does the backing of Lee represent a genuine shift to the moderate wing of the party? Or is it a recognition by the conservatives of a need to recalibrate after consigning themselves to another four years in opposition?

Yesterday’s leadership ballot was a moderate against a moderate and that in itself is an indication of the party’s acknowledgement they need to change, or as one Liberal MLA put it: “drawing a line in the sand”.

Conservative former leader Alistair Coe didn’t even bother re-contesting his position.

And a vote for former leader Jeremy Hanson, however popular he may be, would have signalled a retreat of sorts, so instead it was out with the old and in with the new. The numbers favoured Lee overwhelmingly.

Two images side-by-side of Elizabeth Lee and Jeremy Hanson.
Yesterday’s leadership contest was moderate vs moderate.(ABC News)

Fronting the press for the first time as leader, Lee said that politics had been craving diversity, in both background and gender.

She admitted the party must change direction as it reviewed what went so wrong at the October 17 poll, when they suffered a 3 per cent swing away from the Liberals.

However, she wouldn’t say exactly what needed to change and she made it clear that the Canberra Liberals proudly enjoyed a “broad church” of views.

It appears the 41-year-old is keen to give an impression of change and a fresh voice and, as a moderate, she’ll be determined to shake the nagging perception that senior conservative figures continue to pull the strings behind the scenes.

As the party attempts to move forward Lee may have to make concessions in order to maintain her moderate agenda while also keeping the right of the party happy.

A moderate in the most progressive of assemblies

The course Lee chooses is important because the next Legislative Assembly will be as progressive as it has ever been, with a remarkable six Greens MLAs.

Greens Leader Shane Rattenbury suggests a group of moderate Liberals are seeking to wrest control of the party from key conservative forces who have controlled the party for several years.

Elizabeth Lee speaks to the media.
Elizabeth Lee is more progressive than her predecessor, but so is the new Legislative Assembly.(ABC News: Mark Moore)

“We’d love to have a more constructive, working relationship with the Liberal party,” Rattenbury said.

“If they actually start to take up policy positions that we have more in common, we’re always keen to work with them.”

It’s a sentiment shared by re-elected Chief Minister Andrew Barr.

“Under new leadership there may be more occasions where the Government and the Opposition can find common ground on policy matters,” he said after Lee’s appointment.

As Lee put it: “Canberra spoke very loudly and we must listen.”

It’s a basic but necessary point if the Liberals are ever to move out of the political wilderness.



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Big Labor’s Big Senate Plans


Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in February.



Photo:

Michael Brochstein/Zuma Press

With Joe Biden now favored to take the White House, how much of his agenda becomes law will depend on who runs the Senate. Democrats are close in enough races to win a majority, so the public should understand the radical change they’d be voting for. A good place to start is the pro-union agenda that would repeal much of the landmark Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 and impose union dominance in the workplace.

***

Start with Mr. Biden’s endorsement of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which Nancy Pelosi’s House passed in February. The Pro Act would nullify all state right-to-work laws, which protect individuals from having to join a union or pay dues. Some 27 states have right-to-work laws, passed democratically, which have allowed them to attract employers such as auto makers that want more labor flexibility. Unions can still organize workers, but individuals can opt out if they choose. Mr. Biden would reverse 27 state laws in a single strike and force workers to join and pay.

The Pro Act also expands the universe of workers subject to unionism by adopting California’s so-called “ABC” test. That law narrows the definition of an “independent contractor” who is free from union coercion. A nationwide ABC test would destroy the growth and flexibility of the gig economy, dragging everyone from tech workers to freelance reporters to Uber drivers into union hands.

The Pro Act also tilts labor law against business targets. The bill requires employers to share their workers’ personal information (including emails and cell numbers) with union organizers, even without a worker’s consent. This opens workers to union harassment.

Mr. Biden wants to codify Barack Obama’s “ambush” election rule, shortening the notice for snap union elections and giving companies little time to tell workers what they might lose when a union organizes a workplace.

He’d also codify the Obama-era “joint-employer” and “micro-unit” standards, which make it easier for unions to organize subcontractors or portions of workforces. The Trump Labor Department and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) reined in these union-first standards.

The Pro Act would prohibit arbitration agreements, opening corporations to labor class-action lawsuits. It would forbid companies from permanently replacing striking employees, holding employers hostage to strikers’ demands. It would allow “secondary boycotts,” which are union actions against neutral companies that do business with a company targeted by union strikes. And it would allow the NLRB to levy huge civil penalties on companies found to violate provisions.

Collective bargaining is a time-honored principle, and workers should be able to freely choose to join a union. But the point of the Pro Act is putting coercive state power on the side of unions against individual workers and private employers. Thus Mr. Biden has also endorsed “card check,” which would eliminate secret ballots in union elections. Organizers could publicly bully workers into signing a union authorization card and, when enough cards are signed, the union is certified.

Some 30 states now require monopoly bargaining for state and local government workers—making unions the exclusive representative in deciding pay, benefits and work rules. Mr. Biden would mandate this monopoly bargaining regime for state and local government workers in all 50 states.

These new rules are also aimed at organizing hundreds of thousands of new “home- and community-based” care givers. Mr. Biden is proposing to spend $775 billion over 10 years to create these jobs. The Supreme Court in 2014 gave home workers the right to opt out of paying for union representation they don’t want, and the Trump Administration last year issued a rule barring states from “skimming” union dues from Medicaid money that flows to these workers. Mr. Biden would reverse all this and allow state governments to help unions organize these workers.

Also expect Mr. Biden to bow to pressure to bail out struggling multi-employer union pensions, as well as blue-state public-union pensions hit by the virus lockdowns. Mr. Biden has endorsed Speaker Pelosi’s latest virus relief bill, which contains the state pension bailout.

***

Taft-Hartley restored business-union balance after the pro-union excesses of the 1935 Wagner Act. U.S. labor law has since maintained a rough equilibrium, tilting here or there depending on the election. But the Senate’s filibuster rule has prevented a sharp change in either direction. If Democrats take the Senate, and eliminate the filibuster as they say they will, the Pro Act is likely to pass. Union power over workers, and leverage over employers, will expand more than it has in 85 years.

Wonder Land: Joe Biden’s campaign depends on enough people hating Trump to transfer national power to the Democratic left. Images: Getty Images/NY Post Composite: Mark Kelly

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Appeared in the October 22, 2020, print edition.



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SA Labor’s flirtation with democracy


For a low-key contest to decide four relatively low-profile parliamentary appointments, Labor’s internal Legislative Council ballot is generating a level of electioneering generally reserved for state election campaigns.

Party members are being spammed with exhortations to vote for one or other of the Left faction’s candidates, Kyam Maher and Ian Hunter, while the Right have laid out their case in a widely-distributed email.

Significantly, federal heavy-hitter Penny Wong has lent her credentials to her Left faction’s cause, authoring a plea to members to endorse Maher and Hunter, the latter of whom is seeking another eight-year term despite having departed the frontbench after Labor’s 2018 election defeat.

A message from Penny Wong.

State deputy leader Susan Close is also understood to have hit the phones urging support for her factional colleagues, who are running along with Right incumbent Tung Ngo and current long-serving state secretary Reggie Martin, who is looking to enter parliament for the first time.

And the reason for the frenzied activity is the nomination of a fifth candidate, without factional ties – Northern Areas Council veteran Ben Browne.

The factions are urging members to put Browne last.

Generally speaking, such a candidacy would be doomed before it begins – but this particular low-key contest to decide four relatively low-profile parliamentary appointments is, in its own way, historic.

It’s the first internal Labor ballot under new rules that came into play from 2018, diminishing the hegemony of the unions and sub-branch delegates in picking candidates.

From this ballot forth , contested upper house and senate ballots for the SA ALP will be determined by a vote giving equal weight to the union blocs, sub-branch delegates and ordinary rank and file party members.

Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

“I think there’s a large number of ordinary branch members who are [factionally] unaligned – some people will tell you even the majority of branch members,” one party insider noted.

“Branch members like it because they’re having more of a say than they would ordinarily – but some people feel that it’s largely a waste of time, given we all know what the result’s going to be.

“It’s not something I’d seen before, but there’s not been an election like this before.”

A text message to party members

Ironically, the change was pushed through by Peter Malinauskas when he headed the shop workers’ union, before he had entered parliament.

By the time it came into effect, he had become leader of the parliamentary Labor Party.

“I think it’s really good that there are a number of Upper House candidates who are out there engaging with people in the community, particularly party members,” he told InDaily.

“For the first time ever, rank and file members have a say in who represents the Labor Party in the Upper House – that’s only a positive thing.

“Democracy is a good thing – we’re testing people’s candidacy in the context of democratic debate.”

He denied the process – which is usually decided in secret by a few senior factional officials, himself included – was “a distraction”.

“There’s no anxiety from my perspective,” he said.

“We have five good quality candidates in the mix to be preselected for the legislative council – that’s a good thing… I don’t think there’s anything to be concerned about – I welcome it, I’m grateful for it [and] I think history will judge this process well.”

He said that process “ensures the people running for the Upper House have the skills to engage with people on the frontline”.

“And if you can’t do that, you probably should think twice about your candidacy,” he noted.

But not everybody is happy. Critics argue that because the party is at this stage only running a ballot for the top four spots on a ticket that will ultimately run to at least six candidates, the quota required by each candidate is higher.

“They deliberately only did four positions to make [the quota] higher,” said one.

“The Left and Right are effectively running a joint ticket.”

As such, Browne remains a notable long-shot, but his presence in the contest is prompting serious campaigning from the four other hopefuls.

His profile submitted to party members says he’s “been a member of the Labor Party for nearly 30 years, having previously stood for the party in the electorate of Custance in 1993, Stuart in ’97 and the federal seat of Grey in 2013”.

“In 1997, I came within 1.1 per cent of winning the sea of Stuart for Labor [but] I lost preselection to run in Stuart at the 2002 state election due to a factional deal and Labor has never won Stuart at any subsequent election,” he said.

Browne’s support comes in part from a coterie of friends, whom factional insiders regard as the remnants of the now defunct Centre Left, including the likes of former senator Chris Schacht, former Attorney-General Chris Sumner and former deputy leader Ralph Clarke, who was rolled in a factional coup and subsequently ran against Labor in his former seat in 2002.

A message from Browne’s campaign.

They and others frequent the monthly luncheons of a group informally known as the ‘Hagar’ society – named after cartoon character Hagar the Horrible – of which Browne is also understood to be an occasional attendee.

Browne is being described colloquially as the ‘Hagar candidate’.

“I’ve contacted a few people I know personally just to encourage people to vote for him,” Clarke says, noting he is “not a [party] member sadly, but that’s how it goes”.

He said the Hagar group was “a fun group set up 18 years ago, where a few of us get together to have a monthly lunch and raise money for marginal seat candidates in state and federal elections”.

He denies Browne’s candidacy is backed by the Centre Left, largely because the faction “doesn’t exist any more”.

“That disappeared up its own orifice around 1997,” he said, arguing the Right and the Left were invoking its memory “because they’re pissed off that they’ve actually got a contest – that’s the reality”.

“It’ll be a tough fight – the truth of the matter is the rank and file, ordinary members only count for a third, so even if you win 100 per cent of individual members of the party, it will only count a third and still fall short of a quota,” he said.

“It will be tough, and I think Ben expects it to be tough – no-one expects it to be other than that.

“But it does for the first time ever give ordinary members of the party a say on who they want for the Legislative Council and their senate candidates – and it’s a pleasure for most members that they’ll get Legislative Council candidates phoning them up, seeking their vote… whereas before it was just two or three factional heavies on both sides sorting out which side would support who, and it would be a lay-down misère.”

He said the process “might encourage future Legislative Councillors and senators to actually get out and visit the sub-branches and local members and hear their concerns and complaints, if they expect their votes”.

“I think it’s a bloody good thing,” he said.

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Labor’s undignified attack on Premier shows lack of respect


situation. Berejiklian has served this state well in spite of the carnage that is the Coalition. Maggie Kirkpatrick, Brunswick Heads

Illustration: John ShakespeareCredit:

The recent spectacle of Berejiklian in Parliament attempting unsuccessfully to answer questions from opposition members was reminiscent of heckling crowds in Life of Brian, ironically men dressed as women. As a GP often helping those dealing with the mental health aftermath of such bullying I felt great compassion for her and admiration for her in managing to stay composed. Most of us despite not always supporting her political decisions could not help but admire her service during the bushfires and dealing with COVID. Some compassion is called for until the truth of this modern day tragedy unfolding before our eyes is revealed. Louise Dolan, Birchgrove

I don’t necessarily barrack for either side but the persistent interjections, nay hectoring, by the Member for Swansea and especially the Leader of the Opposition during question time in Parliament on Tuesday did little to endear them or enhance their cause or party. Juvenile delinquents are better mannered. Madam deputy Speaker’s countless warnings and calls for order were both inept and futile. What a deplorable display by all involved. Berejiklian is the Premier and a human being. On either count, let alone both, she is entitled to respect. Edward Loong, Milsons Point

Give the lady some slack! George Fishman, Vaucluse

A private personal life is one thing, a secret one another

There is a key difference between keeping your personal life private and keeping it secret (Letters, October 14). Many people in the public eye manage quite successfully to keep their partner and children out of the public glare. Julie Bishop has walked this tightrope skilfully over many years, choosing when and where to let the media into her life. But attempting to maintain a secret personal life is always fraught with danger as the Premier has found out. This is where her lack of judgment surfaces. When she sacked Daryl Maguire in 2018, she should have immediately made their relationship public. As Premier, it was a duty she owed to her colleagues, her party, the Parliament and the people of NSW. There was a clear potential for a conflict of interest, if not a real one, at that point. Richard Horsburgh, Ashfield

If the Premier had disclosed her relationship with Maguire to either the NSW Governor and/or the deputy leader of the Liberal Party, she would have gone a long way to mitigating perceptions of conflict of interest. She would also have provided herself with a person with whom she could seek advice if she was unsure about a specific situation. Deborah Evans, Marrickville

Does the Premier’s behaviour pass the pub test (“Premier’s lover fixed pub meeting ministers refused“, October 14)? Peter Mahoney, Oatley

Many communities will remember Berejiklian for her arrogance. Communities whose only crime has been to seek to preserve their heritage. Indigenous, colonial and natural heritage are routinely disregarded and destroyed. Community assets such as pools, parks, bushland are arbitrarily given over to stadiums, toll roads or high-rise. Community consultation is a one-way conversation. Adverse findings from parliamentary inquiries count for nothing. Much permanent damage has been done, much of it for corporate gain. I don’t see this government’s attitude changing any time soon. Bob Edgar, Westmead

Illustration: John Shakespeare

Illustration: John ShakespeareCredit:

The woman who has successfully steered us through this health and economic crisis has fallen in love with the wrong bloke. As a result, governance of NSW is being held hostage by two men, one a discredited former Labor leader, the other a man who enjoys shooting elephants for fun (”Leadership in balance as Maguire faces ICAC”, October 14). Ain’t love – and democracy – grand? Peter Skinner, Beecroft

Steve Smith was suspended for 12 months over the ball-tampering scandal and told he could not be considered for leadership for two years for essentially saying the same thing as Gladys Berejiklian. That is: ”I don’t want to know.” While I know the job of Australian cricket captain is more important than leading the state of NSW, surely the same standards should apply? Andrew Cronin, Robertson

Half-baked energy policy makes everyone a loser

For years we have been hearing that we have been losing billions in renewable energy investment in this country because we lack an energy policy (“Renewables held back by arbitrary government policy“, October 14). Now, on top off this lack of leadership, this government is granting millions in taxpayers’ money to prop up an ageing power station that will close in 2029. It was bought for $1 million from the government and subsequently valued at $720 million. What happened to not backing winners? ​Peggy Fisher, Killara

The heart of the matter is that to be on the road to a renewable energy economy we will need to make inroads at the next elections and invest in renewable politicians. Steve Dillon, Thirroul

So it seems coal is dead and gas is dying (“Old king coal dethroned by solar power“, October 14). Yet our federal government seems wedded to outdated fossil fuel technology, while doing everything it can to stave off the future green alternatives. This stubborn resistance to reality is a legacy of Tony Abbott’s disastrous leadership and the continued flow of donations from the fossil fuel industry into party coffers. Time for them to move on, or move out. Neil Ormerod Kingsgrove

Save our ferries

I live in Manly. When the east coast lows come in, the South Steyne ferry holds up against horrific conditions despite waves coming over the bow and hitting the fly bridge. As a regular commuter to the Quay, I feel safe, if not a tad squeamish. These Queens hold 1100 passengers and the proposed new line only 400.

Andrew Constance is the member for Bega. What personal knowledge does he have of harbour crossings, notwithstanding that he is a fine politician? The ferries are built like Fort Knox. Years ago, the hydrofoil and jet cat were cancelled regularly but not these Clydesdales . They are the work horses of the ages. Why not refit these icons at Garden Island or Nowra and provide many jobs at a time when jobs are at a premium? I implore the state government to rescind this decision. John Partridge, Manly

It’s really sad to read about the South Steyne, unloved and rotting away. She was a mighty ship built in Scotland during the Great Depression and sailed to her home port of Sydney under her own steam. This meant that on the first day of her long service plying the harbour she already had 22,000 kilometres on the clock. Stewart Smith, Tea Gardens

Sub-standard conduct

It is no wonder that the voting public has lost trust in politicians and no longer listens to them. The revelation that the public were told our new submarines would cost $50 billion when it was known by the Finance Department that the real figure was much higher is truly shocking (“Defence ‘lied’ over true cost of submarines”, October 14). Just think how many schools, hospitals, disability services, university places, aged-care services and medical procedures could have been provided with this known cost overrun of billions. This from a government that says it should be trusted to run the economy efficiently and do a better job than the Opposition. Anne Parkes, Balmain

Snail mail

Despite all the advances in the modern world, it appears that, except for encrypted electronic communication, the most secure method of conveying information is a letter in a sealed envelope (“Australia Post could be forced back to daily delivery“, October 14). As a doctor, I decline to fax or email referrals of a confidential nature and ask that those who may send them to me do not. One incorrectly entered letter or number can have someone’s private details ending up at the local hairdresser. Limiting postal deliveries has increased the time it takes for me to receive important information, and for my patients to obtain things such as scripts or results in the mail. With Australia Post’s current profits having “soared” I can see no justification for the cost-cutting step of limiting deliveries to every second day. Ruth Ratner, Northbridge

Truth in numbers

In his analysis of Australian governments’ dealing with the pandemic, Chris Uhlmann describes as “ridiculous” the fact that European Union countries keep their borders open while Australian states close theirs (“The harsh lessons the pandemic has taught us”, October 14). He glosses over an important fact: European union countries suffer thousands of infections and many deaths a day. Australian states do not. I would consider this a wise, not ridiculous, management decision. Naomi Roseth, Mosman

Group testing

I can see how Julie Power and others may be conflicted by their need for multiple medical assessment of the disease (“Am I weird or wasting resources to get a COVID test?”, October 14). I would think given the infection rate of coronavirus, one can never be too cautious – particularly when testing capacity in NSW has not been a limiting factor. It is interesting to note that countries experiencing high rates of the virus with limited resources have started using a strategy that was first proposed in World War II – group testing. Testing samples from many people at once has shown to save time, chemical reagents and money. Jack Dikian, Mosman

No merci

In the 1950s our Form 1 French teacher, a religious brother who seemed to be about one page ahead of us in the text book, would hold periodic “clean-up sessions” – his term for vocabulary tests (Letters, October 14). At the conclusion of a test he would administer one cut of the cane for each mistake. Strangely, his style of teaching did not engender a love for the French language at the time. Sacré bleu! Gerry Foley, South Turramurra

Teachers sometimes gave the cane for seriously bad behaviour and sometimes for trivial indiscretions. Once, for the latter, I was targeted for a caning in front of my class. Feeling somewhat unjustly judged, I invited the punisher to “give it your best shot” to the cheers of my classmates. He did and quite brutally. Afterwards I looked the punisher in his eyes and told him his efforts were “pathetic”, he could “do better than that” and he should “have another go”. To even more cheers from my classmates I held up my now injured hand in invitation and anticipation, however, the punisher, looking confused and demoralised, scratched his head and exclaimed: “Moffat I’ll never understand you,” and then he stormed out of the room to the wild cheers of my classmates. I was never caned again. Phil Moffat, Allawah

ICAC cracked

One has heard of documents falling off the back of a truck but electronic devices destroyed by a tractor is a new one for me. A mobile and a tablet, one under each front wheel (“MP’s devices destroyed by tractor: ICAC”, October 14)? Leo Schofield, Potts Point

Is this a rural MP’s equivalent of “the dog ate my homework”? Philip Cooney, Wentworth Falls

A Guy is a Guy

There’s a song for every occasion. Doris Day nailed this one with “my secret love’s no secret any more”, when she sang Secret Love in Calamity Jane. Eerily prescient? Vivienne Mackenzie, Port Hacking

Party people

I wonder if Scott Morrison would be so forgiving of a Labor premier who maintained an ongoing relationship with a partner who was subject to a corruption inquiry (“Key questions emerging from Berejiklian’s scandal”, October 14)? Greg Thompson, Bega

Consider how Julia Gillard would have been treated if she had been in Berejiklian’s circumstances. Trevor Taylor, Port Macquarie

Office romance

Rule No.1 of all workplaces. Never have a relationship with a fellow colleague. It pretty much always has a messy ending. John Swanton, Coogee

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