tip off

ANDREW BARTLETT | October 05, 2009 | AUSTRALIAN POLITICS | 4 |

Libs’ low hopes displayed in Dutton pre-selection tangle

The failure of current Liberal frontbencher Peter Dutton to win Liberal National Party (LNP) pre-selection for the seat of McPherson has reportedly led to calls from Malcolm Turnbull for the party in Queensland to do “whatever it takes” or “everything it can” to ensure Mr Dutton is not lost to federal parliament.

Queensland has caused grief for the ‘Coalition’ parties at national level before, and I suspect Malcolm Turnbull should be careful trying to publicly tell the Queensland party what to do, especially when in this state it is now a nominally National Party dominated hybrid.

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ANDREW BARTLETT | October 03, 2009 | AUSTRALIAN POLITICS | 3 |

Death of Democrat co-founder Jack Evans

News has come through that Jack Evans, a pivotal person in the founding and development of the Australian Democrats, has died at the age of 80.

It is always dangerous to single individuals out, but Jack Evans and Sid Spindler, alongside Don Chipp, were amongst the most crucial people in getting the Democrats established and functional.  Sadly all three have now passed on. Certainly when it comes to Western Australia, there is no other person who played a more fundamental role in the Democrats in that state, from the frantic early days, slowly building the party to a significant political force, in some very difficult days rebuilding the party in the west after some major infighting in the early 1990s – with the party ultimately reaching its strongest ever point in 1998 – and again in the even harder, distressing period where the party was struggling unsuccessfully for parliamentary and political survival.

Jack Evans not only hosted the huge town hall meeting in Perth in 1977 when Don Chipp was barnstorming the country setting up what to date has been the most successful minor party in Australian political history. He was a strong promoter of a ‘centre-line’ party and served as National President and in a number of other positions in those early years of the Democrats when the new party had lots of momentum and many wildy diverse and fervent members, but very little money or political experience. 

Jack Evans only served in the Senate for a single, shortened term, from March 1983 to June 1985.  There is a lot of hard, unglamorous work involved in party politics, and Jack was over represented in that category, but there is also a lot of luck, and he drew some short straws in that department. 

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ANDREW BARTLETT | October 02, 2009 | HUMAN RIGHTS | 5 |

Refugee priorities

The slow increase in the number of asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australian waters is creating a slowly increasing number of  antagonistic public comments and complaints.  Immigration Minister Chris Evans understandably points to the deteriorating position in parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan as a factor, as well as noting a “second supply chain” from [...]

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ANDREW BARTLETT | September 30, 2009 | AUSTRALIAN POLITICS | 1 |

The Clerks speak out

The Clerk of the Senate, Harry Evans, has caused plenty of http://www.theage.com.au/national/senates-sentinel-20090529-bqbf.html heartburn to governments of both persuasions during his tenure.  He has made a habit of publicly and plainly pointing out the dangers of unfettered executive power being provided to any government, no matter what their colour.  Perhaps the record length of his time [...]

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ANDREW BARTLETT | September 25, 2009 | CHILD SAFETY | 2 |

Putting the safety of children first

There is no surer way to get an argument than to start a debate about Dennis Ferguson and people who sexually abuse children.  The two recent items that Crikey has published on the topic quickly moved to the top of the most discussed list. Before I mention a bit more about that, I wanted to [...]

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ANDREW BARTLETT | September 24, 2009 | AUSTRALIAN POLITICS | 1 |

Telstra move shows value of strong divestiture provisions

The federal government’s decision to push for the structural separation of Telstra has generally be welcomed by those who feel it will enhance competition / reduce monopolisation in the telecommunications sector, whilst receiving a less than positive response from some large Telstra investors who fear it will harm the value of their assets. Debates around [...]

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ANDREW BARTLETT | September 14, 2009 | AUSTRALIAN POLITICS | 4 |

December double dissolution threat a joke

Judging from what I’ve read, it seems I am more open than most in thinking there is a credible possibility that the Prime Minister might call an early double dissolution election – assuming the political environment at the time suits it (and assuming he gets a trigger).  A chance to strengthen their Lower House majority while immediately reducing the difficulty in getting measures through the Senate would be tempting.
However, the http://www.smh.com.au/national/poll-pressure-builds-as-labor-considers-recall-for-health-bill-20090913-fm9g.html latest speculation that the government is considering recalling the Senate on or after December 10th so they can get a double dissolution trigger from a second rejection of the private health insurance legislation is ludicrous.  It is hard to believe anyone would treat this story as credible.
Firstly, they would have to get the Senate to agree to the extra sittings, which is http://www.theage.com.au/national/senate-vote-unlikely-in-december-20090913-fm7e.html highly doubtful. Secondly, it is unlikely the redistribution in New South Wales would have concluded by then, which would mean some unnecessarily messy issues surrounding pre-selections and interim boundaries.
And thirdly, whilst I think the government could call a double dissolution election if the circumstances were right, it is inconceivable that this could ever involve calling an election in December, which would run through Christmas and New Year; or anytime in January while the school holidays were still on.
Given Parliament normally resumes early in February, there is no reason why the government couldn’t wait until then, and put the private health insurance legislation up for debate first. An early election would only work for the government if they were able to convince the electorate it was justified. This could be possible in some circumstances, but not in a situation where the government takes unprecedented steps in an effort to speed up the process.

Judging from what I’ve read, it seems I am more open than most in thinking there is a credible possibility that the Prime Minister might call an early double dissolution election – assuming the political environment at the time suits it (and assuming he gets a trigger).  A chance to strengthen their Lower House majority while immediately reducing the difficulty in getting measures through the Senate would be tempting.

However, the latest speculation that the government is considering recalling the Senate on or after December 10th so they can get a double dissolution trigger from a second rejection of the private health insurance legislation is ludicrous.  It is hard to believe anyone would treat this story as credible.

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ANDREW BARTLETT | September 09, 2009 | AUSTRALIAN POLITICS | 3 |

Major, welcome changes to Parliamentarian’s printing allowances

When John Faulkner was shifted from the Special Minister of State portfolio to become Defence Minister, some fears were voiced that his drive for improving accountability and transparency in the activities of government and politicians would be dissipated.

However, Queensland Senator Joe Ludwig, who took on the Special Minister of State role, appears to be doing a good job of continuing with positive, sensible changes in this area.

In response to issues identified through the Auditor-General’s inquiry into the printing allowances of parliamentarians, Senator Ludwig has announced a number of worthwhile, immediate changes, namely:

• a further 25% cut to the current printing entitlement, from $100,000 to $75,000 per annum for Members and $16,667 to $12,500 for Senators (this is in addition to the 33% cut by the Rudd Government when elected to office);
• ending the use of printing entitlements for electioneering such as printing how to vote cards;
• capping, for the first time, expenditure by MPs on office consumables such as toner and paper;
• combining the current printing and communications allowance entitlements into a single entitlement;
• establishing a rigorous vetting and checking system within the Department of Finance to ensure the material Members and Senators print is within entitlement;
• reforming the current newspapers and periodicals allowance; and
• expanding the current reporting system to publish all expenditure of Senators, Members, former Parliamentarians, family members and employees, of entitlements administered by the Department of Finance and Deregulation.

Contrary to some of the impressions being given about the Auditor-General’s report, while it did identify major problems with the current system of allowances, it didn’t find widespread rorting.  This isn’t to say that there was no misuse identified. The Auditor-General also found problems with the way the entitlements framework was administered.

But in my view, the major problem – also identified by the Auditor-General – is that the framework around the printing entitlement is complex, outdated and imprecise. The very fact that the Auditor-General stated that many usages that were examined were “at risk of being outside entitlement” indicates the ambiguity inherent in the current guidelines.  I know a couple of my previous usages of the printing allowance that the Auditor-General scrutinised came within this category.

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ANDREW BARTLETT | September 08, 2009 | IMMIGRATION | 3 |

Debates on refugees – then and now

In December last year, a report from the federal Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Migration unanimously recommended that “as a priority, the Australian Government introduce legislation to repeal the liability of immigration detention costs.”   That is, the law which raises a debt against people in immigration detention to cover the cost of their detention.  Legislation [...]

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ANDREW BARTLETT | August 25, 2009 | HEALTH | 7 |

Queensland Parliament has no choice but to act on abortion laws

The Queensland government has tried their best for a quite a few years to ignore the calls to change the state’s laws on abortion. However, whatever your views are on abortion, the issue in Queensland can no longer be avoided by the Queensland Parliament. The situation for individual women seeking an abortion and for doctors [...]

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