Aussie Election Wrap
No Syria this week! For the tiny number anxiously looking forward to my weekly article and disappointed it didn’t appear yesterday (!) I should explain that I try to write my article on Friday. I still have to do my day job however and if I am in court then my article will usually appear on Saturday. Yesterday was a mini-battle with a credit card company, which I am pleased to say ended in victory for my lay client.
Barristers don’t normally act directly for a client. We are a referral profession and usually act on the instructions of other professionals.
Why is the 2013 Australian Federal Election Important?
The Aussie elections are important, not just because of their regional impact, which will see a reduction in Chinese communist influence in Canberra, but because they explode the myth that conservative parties cannot win an election with a conservative leader and conservative policies. They were also a referendum on man-made global warming, with the warmist Labor Party being defeated by the more intelligent Liberal/National Coalition, whose leader Tony Abbott has sensibly described the man-made global warming theorem as “crap.”
The Aussie Electoral System
This needs some explaining, not least to the British media, who persistently refuse to understand it and won’t employ experts who do (yes, this is an advert!). Sky News, e.g., solemnly announced that Prime Minister Rudd’s concession speech was coming live from Sydney, even though his constituency, Griffith, is in south Brisbane, embracing suburbs such as Coorparoo and Woollongabba. Sydney is nearly 600 miles south.
They also kept spelling ‘Australian Labor Party’ the British way. In a silly attempt to appear modern the ALP adopted American spelling decades ago. Interestingly the breakaway Democratic Labour Party, one-time political home of Senator B. A. Santamaria, recently reverted to British spelling.
Like the United States Australia has a federal constitution, although unlike America it is impossible for a non-citizen to become Head of State. As Queen of Australia Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is automatically an Australian national.
Last Saturday’s election was for the federal Parliament in Canberra. Elections have to be held every three years, but are not fixed, as it is a Westminster system. The ALP minority government nearly fell on several occasions in the last parliament. The House of Representatives has 150 seats, whilst the Australian Senate has 76. Each state has 12 senators, with 6 retiring in rotation at each election. The newly elected senators will not take office until 1st July 2014, so there will be some drag from the outgoing parliament.
The remaining four senators are elected from the two territories. The Australian Capital Territory was created after New South Wales and Victoria could not agree where the capital should be, Sydney (the obvious choice), or Melbourne, so they dumped it in the middle of the bush, in Canberra. It is a rare example of a national capital without a mainline railroad station or international airport. Even today Canberra’s remoteness and poor transport links accentuate the gap between federal pollies and the people they govern. Kevin Rudd’s government was desperately out of touch.
The electoral system is proportional, with preferential voting for the lower house and a list system for the Senate, again with preferential votes. It is hugely complicated, so much so they are still counting the votes! The seat of McEwen, e.g., is still up for grabs. Senate voting papers are absurdly lengthy.
Combined with compulsory voting this has the bizarre result that the candidate first on the ballot paper gets the benefit of the ‘donkey vote.’ Weird preferential deals have encouraged the growth of micro-parties, such as the Australian Sports Party. They got a senator elected in Western Australia on the back of a primary vote of about 225. That’s right – enough voters to fill an average suburban street in Connolly have just elected a senator, who by the way holds the balance of power in the Senate. It’s going to be great three years for Aussie sports.
The losing party, the ALP, as its name suggests, is left-wing, although it has a powerful right-wing faction. Under Rudd it was pro-Chinese, seeing Australia as part of Asia rather than the West. It was strongly committed to a weak defence and an open borders policy, running into huge trouble with its mad policy of encouraging bogus asylum-seekers. Desperate to win the Ashes and thereby gain a popularity boost, they rushed through the citizenship papers of a failed Pakistani asylum-seeker, who happens to be a reasonable leg-spin bowler, although he’s no Clarrie Grimmett.
The sensible parties are the Liberal Party, which is not liberal, although it has a centrist wing led by a rather rude man named Malcolm Turnbull (no offense mate, but you need to write more polite e-mails, especially to other barristers!), and the National Party. They used to be called the Country Party, but changed their name so that no one would know any longer what they stood for. Absurdly, these coalition parties occasionally have a stoush and stand candidates against each other, leading last week to the loss of Indi, which should be a safe Coalition seat.
A pretty stupid decision not to offer a safe seat to the nice mining magnate Clive Palmer, who is building a replica of RMS Titanic, led to him setting up his own party, the Palmer United Party. He’s probably won Fairfax, on the lovely Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane. The PUP have picked up a Senate seat as well, so the Liberals are going to have to talk to Clive now. There’s also the Katter Australian Party, which consists of Bob Katter, Bob Katter, his son, also called Bob and a state MLA, his missus and a couple of kangaroos. He’s a great character, who wears a hat, hates pooftahs and ought to be in the Country Party, only they changed their name and then got into a row with him. He has the interests of his Kennedy constituents at heart.
The Aussie Greens are the usual assortment of sandal-wearing, nut-eating, motorist-hating climate change cranks. Their ideological obsession with so-called man-made global warming has seen their support drain away.
Tony Abbott won by a country mile. Latest ABC projection is 92 seats to 54, a majority of 38. The PUP, Greens and KAP picked up a seat each. There is one confirmed independent, Andrew Wilkie (Denison, Tasmania), a former intelligence officer with really odd views about the Iraq War (he was opposed to it). My calculation is that the Liberals have stuffed up Indi and the independent, Cathy McGowan, will win, thanks in part to good organisation in Baraduda, Beechworth, Tangambalanga, Wandiligong and Wodonga.
I mis-underestimated the rise of the PUP in Queensland. There was an LNP landslide last year (the Coalition parties are one party in Qld), but the new state government, led by Campbell Newman, has so far been a failure. Campbell’s a nice chap, and a former Army officer, but he’s not terribly bright with respect. He was never going to make general. He has allowed the state bureaucracy to run rings around him and his ministers are mostly house-trained idiots, a bit like the pointless Coalition Government in Britain in fact. Clive Palmer’s got a brain and his boys picked up a lot of votes.
The Senate is where it gets really interesting. The Coalition are only likely to end up with 34 seats. In order to get their headline policies through, including abolishing the silly climate tax, Tony, a nice chap I gather, is going to have to cut deals with the libertarian Liberal Democrats, who won the ballot to be first on the ballot and got the important New South Wales donkey vote, Family First, Clive Palmer and the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party. That’s right – the motorists got their man in, in Victoria.
This could lead to sensible state-level policies on gun control, abortion and increasing speed limits. The daft post Port Arthur Massacre gun control legislation looks doomed, there should be fewer dead babies, thanks to Family First, and state speed limits will probably be going up. Great. Current Australian policy on speed limits is to kill as many motorists as possible by lengthening journey times as much as possible, so that they fall asleep at the wheel and drive off the road, or into a road train coming the other way.
A few years ago in West Australia, an exhausted and bored police officer, tragically managed to kill his entire family whilst driving that long stretch of mostly straight road from Kalgoorlie to Perth. The speed limit is maniacally low, mostly 110 klicks on a road where 150 would be a natural cruising speed for a Holden and you could do 200 in safety. Visibility sometimes goes as far as the horizon, what a pilot would call unlimited. Think I-70 in Kansas, but with less traffic and more kangaroos.
The Shooting of Monroe Isidore
I’ve finally found a police force more brutal and stupid than Thames Valley! This unwanted prize goes to the Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Police Department, who this week shot dead Monroe Isidore, aged 107. I don’t care what he’s done or what he’s doing, you don’t shoot a man aged 107. You find a way to arrest him, you take his gun off him, you have a quiet word with him and send for his family.
Michael Shrimpton was a barrister from his call to the Bar in London in 1983 until being disbarred in 2019 over a fraudulently obtained conviction. He is a specialist in National Security and Constitutional Law, Strategic Intelligence, and Counter-terrorism. He is a former Adjunct Professor of Intelligence Studies at the American Military University.