Occident Prone

Welcome to Australia’s wild West

Era of half-Nelson puns over

Posted by occidentprone on September 16, 2008

Malcolm Turnbull is humbled. Now that he’s top dog.

Turnbull is the new federal Liberal leader after Brendan Nelson called for a spill and wouldn’t you know got dumped. That’s why he was not good as leader, his capacity to read a situation / nation / party room / voters was notoriously off.

Mr Turnbull defeated Dr Nelson by a narrow margin of 45-41 at a partyroom meeting this morning.

Dr Nelson’s decision to call the leadership was designed to catch Mr Turnbull off balance after weeks of speculation and just days after the Member for Wentworth returned from Italy.

Julie Bishop remains as deputy leader.

Mr Turnbull lost the leadership ballot to Dr Nelson by just three votes on November 29 last year. 

But Dr Nelson polled poorly against Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and speculation had been continuing that either former treasurer Peter Costello would be drafted into the leadership or Mr Turnbull would make a move.

Mr Costello, who launches his memoirs today, effectively ruled himself out of leadership contention last week. (Source: The Australian

The West Australian reports:

Mr Turnbull, 54, said he was “honoured and humbled” to be elected as leader.

The Wentworth MHR said his job in power would be to allow the “dreams of Australians to be enabled”.

“We must, above all, have policies that reflect the values upon which our party is bound – freedom and fairness,” Mr Turnbull said.

“I didn’t get here from a life of privilege … I know what it’s like to be short of money,” said the millionaire and former merchant banker.

“We are a party of opportunity and … this is a land of opportunity.

“But we need to have confidence, we need to have leadership, we need above all to have the opportunities to do well.

“And that is the great difference between our side of politics and Labor, because we believe that government’s role is to enable each and every Australian to do their best, to exercise their freedom of choice to do their best.”

“Labor believes government knows best. We are not so vain as Mr Rudd.”

Ms Bishop refused to say who she supported in the party room vote, but said the party would be well served by Mr Turnbull’s “intellect and vision”.

Turnbull is obviously playing the little known “ironic card” of politics when he says “We are not so vain as Mr Rudd”.

Crikey‘s Bernard Keane says the outcome should faze the Government:

In ALP Caucus, Julia Gillard, filling in for an absent PM, declared that it didn’t matter who led the Liberal Party. Ah, but it will, Deputy Prime Minister, it will.


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Oh for the opposition life

Posted by occidentprone on September 15, 2008

This is one worry off Carps’ mind:

Four co-workers from Alan Carpenter’s electorate office are celebrating a $2 million lotto win, on the same weekend as Mr Carpenter resigned as labor leader.

The colleagues say the former Premier was thrilled to hear of the win, and timing could not have been better.

“I’ve never heard him so happy, he was thrilled for us.” said one of the group.

The electorate office syndicate has been running for about five years.

“This is a load off our minds, the timing couldn’t have been better,” said one. (Source: ABC)

Meantime, let’s do the guess-the-new-leader game.

Not sure she’d want the job but Alannah McTiernan would be fantastic. She’s got my vote.

But for stability until the run-up to the next election, Eric Ripper would probably get caucus support. Then a switcheroo in the lead-up to the next poll with a little more flash and profile.

Posted in Perth, Politics, West Australian politics | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

What a day

Posted by occidentprone on September 15, 2008

In the last 24 hours in WA:

• The Nationals have handed minority government to the Liberals by siding with them in a non-coalition coalition.

• Alan Carpenter has resigned as opposition leader-elect and Labor has yet to appoint a new leader.

• The seat of Kwinana has been wrenched from the hands of the former Labor, formerly gleeful independent Carol Adams and awarded to Labor’s Roger Cook.

• 1100 votes in the seat of Geraldton have been declared missing (possibly dead) and the snafu might cause a byelection.

• Political analyst Peter van Onselen was hospitalised for over-exposure after being cited an unhealthy number of times. He is under observation in the rent-a-quote ward for elevated opinion levels. He is not to blame for his condition, it is a systemic problem that we must all look at.

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Barnett’s glad bag

Posted by occidentprone on September 14, 2008

Now we get to the nitty gritty. What can we expect from a conservative government, the first such state government in Australia for some years?

PerthNow says:

Mr Barnett is determined to focus on “bread and butter” issues that affect people every day, according to friends and party sources who are close to him. 

As a priority in its first 100 days, a Liberal-National coalition would: 

* Finalise plans to deliver $250 million in tax cuts to WA families and small businesses. 
* Give courts more power to stop anti-social behaviour. 
* Toughen penalties against hoons. 
* Strike a new pay deal with teachers. 
* Legislate to save Royal Perth Hospital. 
* Inject $10 million to reduce surgery waiting times. 

As this blog went AWOL during the election campaign we’re playing catch-up now on Liberal policy and promises.

Let’s just pick up on the Save RPH thing. The Fiona Stanley Hospital, still years from opening, cannot find enough staff, including specialist doctors, to work there. How the blazes are they going to recruit if RPH stays open? Let alone the other costs of maintaining the two campuses. $10 million on cutting surgery waiting times isn’t going to go very far at all.

And tax cuts? If people voted against the Carpenter government because they squandered the proceeds of the boom with little to show then what are tax cuts going to do?

Between more sandwich-and-milkshake sweeteners and the Nationals’ deal to whisk $675 million into rural areas what is Barnett expecting to buy with the coins left over?

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What now for Labor?

Posted by occidentprone on September 14, 2008

Alan Carpenter and Labor have lost government but still have their principles sort of intact. True, they tried to do all sorts of deals with the Nationals in order to cling to government but in the end the Libs could sell out more.

And a minority government with a partner which says it will vote against the government without losing sleep has got to be a stressful proposition.

Carpenter’s tenure is surely fragile, given the blame heaped on him in the last week –  he’s a control freak who doesn’t consult, and so on. (Funnily Barnett – and even Rudd – are accused of the same thing but they’re winners so what does it matter?)

Labor must suck it up now and be a good opposition. We haven’t had one of those for some time on a state or federal level so some of you kids mightn’t know what an opposition is sposed to do. The Barnett-Birney-Omodei-Buswell-Barnett Liberals failed dismally to land any punches which is why they are not governing in their own right.

But Labor’s Carpenter, McGinty and McTiernan are among the aggressive performers who can bring every misstep into sharp relief. And this new government-by-committee is bound to trip up a lot.

Complaints of a minority government have been that they won’t be able to do much in power. The Libs had better not squander the state’s riches right now, they had better not be cowed into doing nothing for an entire term. 

And Labor had better bring them to account, and not just clock-watch until the next election.

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And the winner is … Colin Barnett

Posted by occidentprone on September 14, 2008

Finally, WA has a government. Fairy godmother Brendon Grylls has anointed Colin Barnett and the Liberals to run the State for the next little bit.

WA Today reports: 

Nationals leader Brendon Grylls announced he would form a coalition with the Liberals after the Nationals State Council meeting this morning.

The decision came after intense discussions between the Nationals state executive yesterday as to which of the major parties it would direct its balance of power to, enabling them to form government.

Mr Grylls said “The Nationals have agreed to negotiate combined power with the Liberal government.”

He drove a hard bargain with both of the major parties to ensure his ‘royalties for regions’ policy was implemented.

The policy will see more than $2 billion in royalties flow back to the regions in the form of infrastructure and services.

Mr Grylls’ announcement came after Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce an alliance with Labor would have ramifications for the Nationals. (Source: WA Today)

Now we know.

From The West Australian:

Colin Barnett’s stunning political comeback has been completed with the National Party today deciding to help the Liberals form a minority government. 

The Liberals won 24 seats in the September 6 election. They will be able to form government with 30 seats in the Lower House by using four seats won by the Nationals and two independent Liberal seats.

Mr Grylls told reporters the decision came after 25 hours of talk, and said the Nationals had two “very good” proposals from both Labor and the Liberals.

He said the Nationals weighed up the proposals and the numbers from last weekend’s vote count before arriving at their decision.

“I take my independent stance as the most important thing I have to officer regional WA,” Mr Grylls said.

Mr Grylls said he was not prepared to go into a traditional coalition with the Liberals, and said that National Party MPs would reserve the right to vote against the government.

The decision on who might lead is over but the details of what else the Libs had to compromise on to seal the deal is yet to emerge.

Any guesses?

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Party favours

Posted by occidentprone on September 13, 2008

From nail-bitingly exciting to teeth-grindingly outlandish, The Sunday Times is reporting that the Liberals are considering an unelected person for a cabinet post if they are in government.

All perfectly within the rules and with precedents in Australia. All above board, in theory.

The person they want to co-opt is Deidre Willmott. Ring any bells?

There are serious discussions about giving Deidre Willmott — the economist who missed out on the plum seat of Cottesloe when Mr Barnett was elevated to the leadership — a seat at the cabinet table. 

Technically, Ms Willmott cannot be called a minister, but she can play an equally important role.

The Commonwealth Constitution does not allow the American, presidential-style of hand-picking cabinet members in the Federal Government, but there is nothing to prevent it at state level. 

It is not unprecedented. 

South Australian Premier Mike Rann appointed two eminent people from outside parliament to his cabinet’s executive committee. 

Senior lecturer in constitutional law at Edith Cowan University, Ainslie van Onselen, said such a move would be unconventional under the Westminster system of government, but was legally sound. 

“There is nothing in the WA constitution that would prevent a premier from appointing non-parliamentarians on the executive committee of cabinet or even sitting in cabinet,” Ms van Onselen said. 

“By convention, members of the cabinet normally come from the legislature, but that is an unwritten convention.” (Source: PerthNow)

Interesting development. If this is true (and we are talking The Sunday Times here so it remains to be seen) where does Colin Barnett get off telling the Nationals they should not side with Labor because the people had voted with their, um, votes to be rid of the ALP. And yet, he doesn’t need to bow to the will of the people when it comes to who he puts in cabinet. 

I’m all for bringing in experts for a talented cabinet – MP or not. And Willmott is by all accounts a talented individual with a proven track record. But this smacks of cronyism and untoward rewards.

Really, does Barnett think the voters cannot see through this?

First he shafts Willmott by reneging on a promise to quit and hand his plum seat to her, then he shafts the electorate by using cabinet posts as trinkets for favours.

Maybe it’s mischievous muckraking, but it’s just so crazy …

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More poll dancing

Posted by occidentprone on September 13, 2008

The runes are pointing to a conservative coalition taking the helm in WA.

The ABC reports concern among National MPs about an unholy alliance with the ALP. And then there’s pressure from Colin Barnett and the Liberals who claim the voters sent an anti-Labor mandate and therefore there’s nothing the Nats can do but side with Barnett for a conservative coalition. 

Barnett would do well to remember that the voters might have swung AGAINST Labor, but they didn’t swing FOR the Liberals enough for them to govern outright. If that’s what they wanted, that’s what they would have done.

The voters, in Barnett’s mind are apparently some amorphous mass tilting in the same direction like a school of minnows,  had enough concerns about the Liberal rabble not to hand command of the whole state over to them.

Now, we wait until tomorrow to find out what direction we’ll all be swimming in for the next few years.


Incidentally, reading election results booth by booth on the Electoral Commission makes for interesting time-wasting if you really have nothing better to do and you have an active imagination. For example, in the seat of Eyre, in the booth of the Dalyup Progress Association Hall, there were 109 votes cast and 1 vote for the Greens candidate. And they call themselves a progress association!

Some earnest writers festival workshop somewhere could probably even make an exercise of it: Imagine that one voter. An out-of-towner? A short-stay tree planter? Was he run out of town?

Like court gags to prevent juveniles and victims being identified in small communities, so too should the Electoral Commission merge the results of a few booths to prevent weirdo greenies being hunted down and shot (or rabid communities being embarrassed for that matter).

Posted in Perth, Politics, West Australian politics | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

The last popstar National – where is he now?

Posted by occidentprone on September 12, 2008

Whatever happened to Bill O’Chee, the last young National with a national profile, the last lightning rod for rural youth?

Bill O’Cheesecake (as Helen Razer used to call him) was a member of the Senate from 1990 to 1999. But now the www shows him as an avid Amazon reviewer of such tomes as Never Give In: The Best of Winston Churchill’s Speeches and Lost Camels of Tartary.

No doubt Brendan Grylls can beat O’Chee’s Amazon rank of 19,826 and 157 helpful votes if this horse-trading caper goes awry.

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You call that a black hole?

Posted by occidentprone on September 12, 2008

The big news around the world at the moment is the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, which is taking us all into the unknown with experiments in smashing particles. It aimed to re-enact the conditions which brought the Big Bang about.  The scaredy cats feared it would end (or begin) with a black hole, sucking away life as we know it.

Which brings us to election results in Western Australia.

Talk about our universe collapsing in on itself. (Apologies to real physicists for borrowing the terminology without a nano of understanding.) 

Voters and other uninterested parties are waiting till Sunday when we might know who which party (or parties or rabble of inependents) will be leading the state until the next election (which might not be that far away so steel yourselves).

WA’s own ball of kinetic energy, Brendan Grylls, is defying the laws of physics, and democracy, by holding the big boys by the dark matter until they concede to his demands – the main one being that WA apportion a quarter of its resources riches to country areas.

Fair enough.

But does he mean all of WA outside Perth? Does he mean just the poorly neglected pockets of the state? Does he mean just the man-on-the-land constituency of the Nationals? 

Will he demand adequate treatment and resources and infrastructure so badly required in Aboriginal communities so that they might have lower mortality and infant mortality, improved health, justice and education just to close the disgusting gap with their white counterparts?

Grylls showed promise in his maiden speech in Parliament that he shared these concerns so let’s hope he comes through if the big boys (currently sooking behind the drinking fountain) come through on a Nationals deal.

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