Home > Oz Politics > Shedding no tears

Shedding no tears

March 23rd, 2012

Barring a miracle, the Queensland Labor government will suffer a defeat tomorrow, comparable in its severity to the Joh-era election of the 1970s, when the caucus was reduced to the size of a cricket team. The great majority of Labor MPs are likely to lose their seats. While I regret the fact that matters have come to this, and like and respect quite a few of those MPs (including, for that matter, Anna Bligh[1]), I will be shedding no tears over this outcome.

Minor update I found a report listing Paul Hoolihan, Jo-Ann Millar, Amanda Johnstone Dean Wells and Lindy Nelson-Carr as members of caucus who opposed the sales. I have met and been impressed by the last two, and I’m sorry that most of this group seem likely to be swept away along with the rest.

Labor would probably have lost anyway, given the general tendency of governments to wear out their welcome, but the reason for the impending catastrophe is simple – the government went to the last election promising not to sell off public assets then turned around and announced they would sell after all. To the extent they had a pretext for this, it was that the likely impact of the GFC on Queensland looked worse in May 2009 than it had in March 2009. As the Rudd government’s stimulus took effect, this excuse evaporated. Nevertheless, the government pushed ahead, with scarcely a murmur of dissent from the backbench.

Voters rightly object to being tricked in this way, and it is entirely appropriate that all those responsible should pay the price.

I can’t say I’m looking forward to two or more terms of a Newman government, but in a two-party system, that is the price we pay when one side reneges on its oblgations. In reality, I doubt that the difference will be all that great, given the constraints on state governments, the lack of any obvious ideological differences, and the fact the Newman’s fondness for the kind of project that produces hard hat photo opportunities can scarcely exceed Bligh’s. My main regret relates to the civil partnerships bill passed late last year, which may be repealed. However, Newman made it clear that he would not repeal the bill if it had actually taken effect, so if the government had wanted to lock it in (rather than making it a hostage for the election) they could easily have done so.

For the record, I’ll be voting Green in Indooroopilly, and not allocating any further preferences. The local candidate, Charles Worringham(sp?) seems pretty good, and I suppose there is a tiny chance that he might get up on the preferences of the Labor candidate, whose name I don’t even know (that in itself tells you something about this election, in an electorate Labor held until quite recently).

fn1. Though certainly not Andrew Fraser, the prime architect of Labor’s defeat. While he will doubtless go on to a well-rewarded career (most probably in the financial sector) I’m hopeful that this is the last we will see of him in Australian politics.

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:
  1. Ikonoclast
    March 23rd, 2012 at 07:53 | #1

    The Greens are the only party which is economically realistic. They realise that without a relatively benign climate and renewable resources there will NO economy. The economy is 100% dependent on the environment.

  2. JB Cairns
    March 23rd, 2012 at 07:53 | #2

    the ALP were too long in power and so the inevitable change occurs.

    Instead of the narrow win at first and then landslide in the second election we get a landslide in the first NSW style.

    Not a lot will change as we found out in NSW.

  3. paul walter
    March 23rd, 2012 at 08:56 | #3

    John Quiggins’ thoughts are almost exactly mine, but the difference is that John Quiggin is an expert. It’s not a happy discovery, because of the political implications.
    I’d say the response of the ALP regaining government to retaining government last time was the more antagonising, for two reasons. Firstly, NSW Labor had already pushed the particular issue, mainly through the bombastic Costa, with disastrous results.
    Secondly, I at least thought Anna Bligh was better than that.
    Better than the jumped-up, out of touch NSW Right with its arguably corrupt elements.
    I thought she understood better, was an authentic Laborite; possessed exactly the consciousness and wherewithal so obviously lacking in the troglodyte NSW “leadership”or the Howardist morons and surely committed to a good faith consciousness so lacking elsewhere.
    For NSW Labor I felt contempt, but Anna Bligh’s betrayal was some thing else again. what’s more,I think it is some thing with tragic ramifications for Labor and Australians right across the country.
    Most Laborites regarded NSW as something of an aberration, left in the past in the new “reformed” era of Rudd and something “real” Labor was purging itself of.
    It was so crucial, not just for state, but national credibility, that perhaps the most trusted of its leaders hold the line on this most despised of issues of all amongst most Labor supporters and so critical as evidence in the perception that Labor had at least shedded its misguided adherence to the despised theology of neoliberalism. This was the doctrine of exploitation; the alibi of the NSW right, Costello and the Tories, particularly damaging for them in the wake of the failure of international Toryism, post Iraq and post Melt Down.
    In refusing the repudiation, Bligh and her government effectively severed itself from the one thing it had lacking with the discredited Tories, the trust of the people-some thing that offered a hope for the future and the rekindling of the light on the hill.
    Since we were a one party state after all, both in Queensland and nationally, the electorate reconsidered, given that the only choice was again the reconstituted old one between two factions of neoliberalism; one discredited and one not tried yet- Newman.
    The political ghost of John Howard rattled its chains and laughed, recalling the circumstances of its demise.

  4. hc
    March 23rd, 2012 at 09:04 | #4

    John, Is their evidence (e.g. opinion poll evidence) for your view that the privatisations were responsible for Labor’s lost popularity? It would seem to me a second-order issue to most people though it obviously isn’t for you.

    There will be no Labor Governments left in Australia in a few years and my impression is that, ideology aside, they cannot manage government. There is a fair bit of corruption and even uglier criminality in all Labor politics but basically the sort of people the ALP recruits are seen as incapable of governing.

  5. Hal9000
    March 23rd, 2012 at 09:15 | #5

    The ALP candidate in Indooroopilly is Oscar Schlamowitz. He claims to be finishing off his law degree, which I imagine doesn’t give him too much time for campaigning. I’m told his grandparents were Auschwitz survivors. He seems a nice enough chap.

    I think the explanation for the ALP’s catastrophic demise is more complex than just the privatisations. There’s the tax, charge and fare hikes (including the fuel subsidy) and all the while not much to show for it all but new tolled tunnels that few use – the expensive water grid (and redundant but very expensive desal plant) having been made irrelevant by high rainfall since the last election.

    There’s the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars wasted on buying up farmland and paying consultant engineers for a dam proposal – born of a Peter Beattie brain explosion following a bit of bad press about neglect of water infrastructure under his administration – that would have been an environmental disaster had it proceeded. That dam also permanently alienated voters in the once ALP-held seats of Noosa, Maryborough and Hervey Bay.

    There’s the cynical jettisoning of ministerial responsibility conventions in relation to Paul Lucas’s maladministration of the Health payroll system. I find this one egregious – public servants were scapegoated and sacked for carrying out decisions he had taken in full knowledge of the all-too-soon realised risks. On Lucas’s logic – ‘it’s happened on my watch so I have to stay and fix it’ – Capt. Schettino would now be in charge of the salvage job. It seems clear enough that Bligh was taking instructions from Lucas’s mentor Bill Ludwig, to whom she was beholden for her own job.

    Bligh’s blessing of the meteoric public service career of her partner was also to say the least ill-advised. It doesn’t help that said partner is loathed throughout the public service for, um, his unpleasant disposition, and that he had no previous experience in the chief topic his office administers – advice to government about climate change.

    In a way the charming Kate Jones also exemplifies the government’s problems: seats filled by people with no life experience other than their political career where advancement has been secured with loyalty rather than commitment or intellectual talent.

    Who’s to blame? IMO Fraser is a bit player – plaudits should go to Beattie, Bill Ludwig, Lucas, Bligh and Fraser in that order.

  6. Sam
    March 23rd, 2012 at 09:41 | #6

    I regret the likely repeal of civil partnerships, but I regard as tragic the repeal of “Wild Rivers”. For this reason, I will hold my nose and preference Bligh.

  7. Hal9000
    March 23rd, 2012 at 09:47 | #7

    I doubt they’ll actually repeal civil partnerships. There are too many who’ve already gone through the process – a fact Newman has acknowledged makes repeal nigh impossible.

  8. Fran Barlow
    March 23rd, 2012 at 09:47 | #8

    It’s hard to disagree with much of that has been written above.

    The primary cause of a substantial defeat (as opposed to the landslide) is the “it’s time” effect. After two terms in government, voters tend to start looking for a reason to change the government of the day rather than sustain it. Stuff that is trivial becomes important and if the opposition are not evidently in disarray, or there is not some other overarching issue (eg Tampa, 9/11, Workchoices and Debnam in the case of NSW 2007) running in the regime’s favour, governments struggle to hang on. That very perception within government ranks can produce the kind of conduct that predisposes a defeat in a rather ugly feeback loop.

    It’s clear though that some other things were also running against the regime — the privatisations being key amongst them. Hardly anyone on the ALP side thought the regime would do this and they rightly felt betrayed. It’s still a mystery to me why they went this way after the NSW example. Simple self-preservation, if not good policy sens, ought to have kicked in. That’s a signal to many that the regime has given up.

    The handling of the floods and Wivenhoe also played very badly. Again, it doesn’t matter how justified it is to blame the regime — but politically, it was dreadful in areas where the ALP had to do well to avoid a rout. The health system payroll mess and the years of agonising over Bundaberg again recommended a regime that was not handling matters well. Then there was the jailing of a minister for corruption. What we have is a regime that has been in place 14 years and looks to have just the kinds of issues many voters assume are the associated with such a long period of tenure.

    The campaign of smear against Newman was a disastrous miscalculation too, not because the questions weren’t in theory worth asking, but because it reinforced the idea that the regime had nothing. Most people are insulted at the idea of being blackmailed into voting for someone they want to kick to the kerb, and so they were looking for reasons to believe Newman rather than suspect Bligh had a point. Nothing but absolutely compelling evidence of serious wrongdoing would have sufficed. When that didn’t appear, the result was going to be savage.

    It’s probably worth noting that the malapportionment system in Queensland is going to exaggerate the roQueensland …

    Let me register my sorry that the main options for QLD are the ALP and LNP with the Katterites on the fringes …

  9. Chris Warren
    March 23rd, 2012 at 10:13 | #9

    @JB Cairns

    Not a lot will change as we found out in NSW.

    Huh? Do you read the Syd. Morning Herald. Barry O’Farrell is turning Sydney into a commercialised, carbon emitting, growth mania, megalopolis including savage attacks on Clover Moore. O’Farrell wants easier business visas to engorge Sydney with people living on top of people, and wants a greater share of other visa temporary residents.

    The high-capitalists represented by the Liberal’s are artificially using Sydney to fund the profits of Capital. As the SMH said plain as day (citing O’Farrell Minister Andrew Stoner) this had:

    a critical role in improving the state’s economy.

    [SMH, 21 March, front page]

    This is in clear distinction to the rightwing ALP approach which maintained that “Sydney was full” and supported Clover Moore’s initiatives.

    The same damage will now be rolled-out in Queensland, and it amuses me that some Queenslanders don’t appear to recognise how much they are about to lose.

    They will learn about shedding tears soon enough.

    An awful rightwing ALP government is always preferable to a detestable Tory regime.

  10. JB Cairns
    March 23rd, 2012 at 10:59 | #10

    Carr talked a lot about being full but never really did anything to stop the large scale immigration program under howard.

    A good thing too.

    Harry,

    The same thing was said about the government when they lost to the ALP in the various States.

    What comes round goes around.

    This time it is the Liberals turn.

  11. March 23rd, 2012 at 11:51 | #11

    Also CSG and Fluoride.

    Just like Traveston (which I suspect had more to do with CSG than water security) and the Desal plant, they were simply announced without much reasoned justification. Lots of silly brochures and weasel words but no cogent argument.

    I think all these things and the others mentioned above, have in common a kind of “none of your business” attitude to governance and the citizenry.

    Also, prosecuting a young woman for having an abortion. Silly. Also, Palm Island.

    I have a feeling that Newman will relish his next 4 years. It may sound odd, but in my opinion the ALP is to blame for whatever happens next.

  12. Michael
    March 23rd, 2012 at 11:53 | #12

    hc :
    There will be no Labor Governments left in Australia in a few years and my impression is that, ideology aside, they cannot manage government. There is a fair bit of corruption and even uglier criminality in all Labor politics but basically the sort of people the ALP recruits are seen as incapable of governing.

    That’s because you are blinded by your tribal loyalties. You are primed to see faults in the opposing team and ignore them in your own. An objective analysis would find that both parties are perfectly capable of governing in the interests of their sponsors and incapable of governing in the interests of their electorates.

  13. Tim Macknay
    March 23rd, 2012 at 11:56 | #13

    Barry O’Farrell is turning Sydney into a commercialised, carbon emitting, growth mania, megalopolis

    ‘cos Sydney was nothing like that before O’Farrell got hold of it. ;)

    But seriously, I don’t really disagree with you. The most disturbing thing for me about the new Liberal governments is their extraordinarily reactionary attitude to environmental matters. The Liberal governments of the 1990s were positively green in comparison.

  14. Tim Macknay
    March 23rd, 2012 at 12:01 | #14

    Just like Traveston (which I suspect had more to do with CSG than water security) and the Desal plant, they were simply announced without much reasoned justification

    You reckon the long drought, empty dams, and major water restrictions weren’t “reasoned justifications” for establishing alternative water supplies? A couple of flood years, and everyone’s forgotten there was a drought at all. Amazing.

  15. March 23rd, 2012 at 12:45 | #15

    I have no problem in principle with the water restrictions and water grid pipeline as far as water security goes. That’s why I didn’t mention them.

    Traveston was going to be too shallow to be useful for flood mitigation (one of the justifications Beattie used) unless it was kept virtually empty prior to each major flow down the Mary (in which case it would have been pretty useless for the other justification: water security). The desal was an expensive white elephant like the sewage recycling plant at Bundamba.

    What I think irks Joe Queensland about them is the reliance on spin to justify a “done deal”.

    I’m positive that Newman will do exactly the same. He did when he ran Brisbane.

  16. paul walter
    March 23rd, 2012 at 15:03 | #16

    It seems, from Hal 9000′s comment in particular, that when they got back in they (or at least that bloated plutocrat Ludwig) had a choice.
    They could attempt dinkum Labor government, or just give up, feather their own nests in the last term that would thus then be available to them- do their own version of “socialise debt, privatise wealth” and leave the public to carry the can, later.
    Which they will do, in a thousand nasty little ways, when the overt reactionaries replace the reactionaries-by-stealth.
    Sam’s comment reminds me of the predicament facing rational Queenslanders. I deeply sympathise with those whose politics can rise above Murdoch, ACA and TDT.
    This is indeed a bad time in Aussie politics.
    In SA an already mangled Labor government displaying too many of the same traits described by others here as to Queensland, will eventually have to face the polls in a couple of years.
    Once again, the stench of the clueless, grasping right wing factions emanates from the mess.

  17. Sam
    March 23rd, 2012 at 19:53 | #17

    @paul walter
    Thanks for saying so Paul. I should make clear that I will only be preferencing Labor; as always I will vote 1 Green. I will choose not to take advantage of optional preferencing either, I want to have the satisfaction of putting Mr Katter last.

  18. March 23rd, 2012 at 21:13 | #18

    I certainly haven’t heard our mono-media ask (maybe someone else has?) of Anna Bligh:

    “If you lose the election but retain your seat, will you stay on as leader of the opposition?”

    As an amusing aside, I remember a long time ago Russell Cooper (I think) on TV after an election forcefully telling the media: “The people of Queensland have elected us as the Queensland Opposition…”

  19. TerjeP
    March 23rd, 2012 at 22:12 | #19

    John Quiggins’ thoughts are almost exactly mine, but the difference is that John Quiggin is an expert.

    I seem to recall him making a strident prediction just a few years ago that the Liberals would never again form government anywhere in Australia. That does not suggest an above average capacity for political insight. Let alone expert status. Maybe he is just reading the tea leaves and having a guess, much like the rest of us.

  20. SJ
    March 23rd, 2012 at 22:52 | #20

    I seem to recall him making a strident prediction just a few years ago that the Liberals would never again form government anywhere in Australia…Maybe he is just reading the tea leaves and having a guess, much like the rest of us.

    You’re sort of correct here, Terje, that both you and John are both a bit naive to about the extent of the corruption in our political system.

    When John made that comment, it was obvious that the Liberals were corrupt, and working against the interests of the majority of the people of Australia.

    Some time after that, Labor sold itself out, for no readily apparent reason. Some kickbacks were obvious, like Paul Keating and Bob Carr getting paid to advocate privatisation of electricity in NSW, but there was no real reason for the NSW party to commit suicide by following them.

    You, Terje, on the other hand are are some kind of naive Randian / Koch brothers bullshit artist. Your predictions and and opinions are worthless. They might make some sense if you were getting paid to make them, but you and your ilk are so stupid and confused that you advocate on behalf of those who would happily steal your property and lock you in jail.

  21. paul walter
    March 24th, 2012 at 00:36 | #21

    I’d say his EQ is better adjusted than some, tho.
    Following the thread, you will have realised, Terje, that the major complaint here is the lack of variation between lib and lab, two factions of the same monolith of conservatism and neoliberalism.
    One reason the libnats will get up is that they are even more denialist, rapacious and contrarianist “cowboy” than Labor. Even lip-service to enviro and social justice will now be trashed.

  22. John Quiggin
    March 24th, 2012 at 07:29 | #22

    @TerjeP You seem to recall wrongly. Check it out, then come back and admit you’ve made a fool of yourself here.

    My prediction ( made with respect to the federal government, but driven by events in Queensland) has been exactly confirmed in this case. The Liberals had to merge with the Nats to win, which is exactly what I said they needed to do. Whether I’m right or wrong about the federal case remains to be seen.

  23. Chris Warren
    March 24th, 2012 at 07:35 | #23

    @TerjeP

    At least he doesn’t have to traipse up Mt Kosciusko, unlike another ‘predicting economist’.

  24. Chris Warren
    March 24th, 2012 at 07:38 | #24

    @Chris Warren

    Assuming Terje is right. John has now clarified.

  25. Hal9000
    March 24th, 2012 at 09:15 | #25

    @Megan
    ‘The desal was an expensive white elephant like the sewage recycling plant at Bundamba.’

    I don’t agree that the recycling plant is a white elephant. The plant has been supplying the Swanbank power station with all its massive water needs since it became operational. It hasn’t needed to be used for extending the life of the Wivenhoe storage, obviously. But there will be another severe drought, and SEQ’s water needs are increasing as the population and economic activity continues to grow. It’s highly efficient compared to desal – especially if the water were to be used directly in the grid rather than added to Wivenhoe and then re-treated. This, of course, won’t happen.

    The desal plant is however a, more expensive, elephant of immaculate whiteness. The French operators get paid (by consumers, in the end) whether or not they supply any actual water. It consumes, when running, vast amounts of coal-generated electricity with the emissions profile you’d expect.

  26. Peter T
    March 24th, 2012 at 12:48 | #26

    Broadening the outlook a bit – what accounts for the zeitgeist? Why would Menzies (or Macmillan or Eisenhower) look “socialist” now, and why do Labor governments feel compelled to follow economically right -wing agendas? There’s some sort of underlying dynamic of mass feeling or opinion at work here, but damned if know how it operates – we can only see the results.

  27. John Nightingale
    March 24th, 2012 at 13:37 | #27

    To go back to the great privatisation betrayal: the Fraser/Bligh decision has done Campbell’s work for him, he’d have privatised in a heartbeat on 25 March if they hadn’t got in before him. Reactionaries in Queensland Treasury are probably the original villains in the privatisation saga. They appear to regard public finance as equivalent to private finance, where non-financial, usually external, costs and benefits are ignored, and where balance sheets are seen as the only true measure of soundness, and a high internal rate of return shortens time horizons. Their hold over slack-brained politicians will probably remain strong. Expect LNP spending on infrastructure to be as minimal as politically possible.

    There is, however, one quite major unintended consequence of the privatisation debacle, the splitting of the old QR, and the potential revitalisation of Citytrain, if only Translink (which has been hobbled by cash-flow, ignore externalities, Treasury) would allow it. No longer do senior execs refer to passengers as self-loading freight. No longer do investment decisions within QR include the much more profitable coal carrying business, with urban passenger services offered as politically necessary and starved of investment.

    Privatisation wasn’t required to split the businesses, but it may never have happened without it.

  28. Peter Whiteford
    March 25th, 2012 at 07:57 | #28

    @Chris Warren
    “Huh? Do you read the Syd. Morning Herald. Barry O’Farrell is turning Sydney into a commercialised, carbon emitting, growth mania, megalopolis including savage attacks on Clover Moore. O’Farrell wants easier business visas to engorge Sydney with people living on top of people, and wants a greater share of other visa temporary residents.”

    As far as I am aware none of this has actually happened – or even been started – and I speak as a Sydneysider. Rumours of Clover Moore’s demise seem exaggerated at best. As far as I can see Barry O’ Farrell is committed to keeping the lowest possible profile imaginable.

    “An awful rightwing ALP government is always preferable to a detestable Tory regime.”

    Certainly agree with that!

Comments are closed.