Skip navigation

Tag Archives: George Megalogenis

More on Liberal Party preferencing strategy towards One Nation here.

The Liberal Party has decided to preference One Nation in the upcoming Western Australian State Election. This decision has endorsement from the national executive of the Liberal Party including the Prime Minister and is also endorsed by former Prime Minister John Howard whose regard within the Liberal Party is hagiographic, kind of like living royalty, the effulgence of an idealised Philosopher/Statesman.

John Howard, campaigning for the WA Liberals, wholeheartedly approved of the One Nation preference deal calling it very sensible and pragmatic.  Since John Howard is formally campaigning, and he is in his very person a living extension of the Liberal Party secretariat, his comments tell you that the Liberal Party at the highest levels endorse and approve preferencing One Nation in the WA Election. This is despite Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull expressing the formal autonomy of the State-level Liberals and distancing himself from any opinion or input into the decision.

WA Liberal Premier, Colin Barnett, has made no secrets about the rationale for the One Nation Preference deal – its a simple matter of maximizing his chances for re-election. There is no consideration of ethics or policy. His decision is completely unprincipled and designed simply on tactical considerations of how to retain power.

As Barnett said:

 (It’s) just a mathematical equation, the Liberals best chance of winning. (We) can’t sit back and let it all happen.”

As straight-forwardly stated by WA Today, The WA Liberals want to avoid a repeat of the 2001 election when Richard Court lost power after putting One Nation last.

Barnett, trying to avoid being tarnished by association with One Nation viewpoints, has claimed he doesn’t even know what their policies are. This is absurd and Barnett can not expect anyone to believe what he says. In fact, just like Labor and the Greens, One Nation is opposed to one of the Liberals’ signature economic policies. That is the privatisation of Western Power, mainly in order to reduce the state’s extremely high and worsening debt levels.

So Barnett’s central Budgetary policy will be likely scuppered by the outcome of the preference deal he has made with One Nation as a  probable result of that deal is that One Nation will hold Balance of Power in the Upper House.

Apart from this, of course, all of Australia, including Colin Barnett, knows what One Nation stand for. Barnett is trying to avoid guilt-by-association while forming a partnership with persons he knows both reject his major Budgetary policies and hold a range of reactionary, xenophobic, irrational and homophobic viewpoints and in fact are an entirely erratic, idiosyncratic collection of individuals loosely bound by broad agreement on certain themes.  Consigning Balance of Power to such a group is unbelievably irresponsible on the part of Barnett, Howard, Turnbull and the entirety of the Liberal Party executive and leadership.

Sophisticated And Nuanced

The Liberal Party have attempted to justify their preference deal with One Nation by claiming that One Nation is no longer reactionary, xenophobic or racist and that Pauline Hanson and One Nation themselves have become more nuanced and sophisticated.

This is simply untrue. One Nation is the same entity as it ever was. As the Western Australian newspaper WA Today reported, WA One Nation candidate Richard Eldridge once advocated killing Indonesian journalists and attacked “poofters”, Muslims and black people on his then-deactivated Twitter account.

Mr Eldridge, a real estate agent contesting an upper house seat in the South Metropolitan region of Perth, called Muslims “little sheet heads”, derided gay relationships as “poo games” and advocated taking up arms against “extreme Muslims”.

He recently revived his Twitter account, saying his 2014 comments did not represent his views today.

A second WA One Nation candidate, Michelle Myers, nominated for the newly-created seat of Bateman, said that the gay community uses Nazi-style mind control techniques in order to brainwash ordinary citizens into supporting policies of the alternative sexuality movement. WA Today quoted Myers as follows:

Are you wondering why even some Christians are being swayed by the gender industry’s pitch and push 4 same sex ‘marriage’ and acceptance of fake families?”, the One Nation candidate asked. It’s not by accident; it’s by a carefully contrived but disingenuous mind control program, melded together by two Norwegian homosexuals who graduated from Harvard – one of whom has since prematurely passed away.

Whatever one thinks of the statements of Myers and Eldridge, it is obvious that One Nation has not changed one iota. They remain the same beast they were in 1998, utterly unnuanced and unsophisticated, as  when John Howard instructed the electorate to put One Nation last in every seat.

As the Australian Financial Review puts it

The suggestion Hanson has changed in some fundamental way is actually an indication of how much the rest of politics has changed

Consistently Unprincipled

The decision by The Liberal Party to preference One Nation continues its historical policy of dealing with One Nation purely on the basis of Unprincipled Self-Interest. This is the way that The Liberals have always dealt with One Nation and what they are doing now in the WA Election.

Here are the major milestones of the consistently unprincipled Liberal Party / One Nation preference deal journey:

March 1997 – One Nation Formed.

One Nation immediately attracts 9% of the national vote, most of which came from the Liberal/National coalition. George Megalogenis states that the LNP vote fell from 49% in March 1997 when One Nation was formed, to 40% one month later ‘and all of it went over to the One Nation column’.

Howard could not afford to antagonize One Nation as their support base was comprised mainly of disaffected Coalition voters. Howard needed to ensure that One Nation voters would preference him, so he played softly-softly with them.

Howard is not fundamentally opposed to the One Nation agenda and tells his party room that he would prefer to work with them rather than the Australian Democrats. Peter Costello and Amanda Vanstone disagree. Both of these made public comments that the Liberal Party should put One Nation last in the preference order on ethical grounds i.e. that One Nation were racist. Both received long and emphatic phone calls from John Howard they should retract their opinions, Vanstone commenting that Howard was so loud she was forced to hold the receiver away from her ear (‘The Howard Years’, Episode 1, ABC Television, broadcast 17 Nov. 2008)

Howard decides to preference One Nation above Labor. This, Howard hoped, would send a message to One Nation voters that he was not displeased with the One Nation message, particularly in the climate of general social condemnation of One Nation, and maximize the One Nation preference flow to the Coalition.

June 1998 – Queensland State Election

One Nation won an astonishing 23% of the primary vote and, aided by Coalition preferences won 11 seats, while the Coalition itself lost 5 seats in Brisbane as inner-city voters expressed their disgust at The Liberal’s preferencing of One Nation above Labor.

If these results were to be repeated at the upcoming Federal Election, Howard and the Coalition would be soundly defeated.

Immediately after Queensland election Howard flies to Queensland to meet with One Nation supporters and try to convince them that the Coalition understood their issues and would help them. In the meantime he commissions Tony Abbott to find a way to destroy One Nation. Abbott creates a slush fund to fund legal action against Hanson and One Nation. Abbott and Howard lie about their knowledge of and existence of the Fund. Abbott and Howard eventually get Hanson thrown in jail.

The strategy of the National and Liberal parties to preference One Nation paid off outside Brisbane, where it won five seats from Labor and failed only narrowly to secure the re-election of the Borbridge Government (Ward and Rae 2000, 114), in Brisbane the strategy badly back-fired: urban voters ‘punished’ the Liberals for directing preferences to One Nation (Reynolds 2001, 156).

So the overall effect of Coalition preferences was to assist One Nation to win seats, to win some seats for the LNP in rural and outer-metro areas, but to experience significant punishment in urban seats as relatively educated and progressive voters express disgust against associating with One Nation

1998 – Federal Election

Howard decides to put One Nation last to protect urban seats  (of which there are many) from backlash against inner-city voters, foregoes assistance in rural seats (of which there are few) and avoid loss of outer-metro seats to One Nation.

2001 – WA State Election

LNP again put One Nation last. One Nation responds by putting “all sitting Members last”, whether LNP or ALP. LNP lose power to ALP.

While some consider that the “One Nation last” strategy was germane to the LNP losing power as One Nation retaliated by putting sitting LNP members last, professional psephologists rate the effect of One Nation preferencing as relatively minor in this particular election.

As Antony Green. Australia’s premier psephologist, demonstrates in this paper for the Western Australian Parliamentary Library, Green preferences to the ALP were clearly decisive in delivering seats to the ALP  whereas the effect of One Nation preferences was much more limited. It was, actually the effect of the LNP losing Primary votes to One Nation which was the much bigger concern.

The 2001 WA election was conducted in the climate of a large general swing against the LNP which would have led them to lose power regardless of One Nation preferencing. In fact One Nation preferences split evenly between LNP and ALP, but flowed a little less strongly to the LNP than would otherwise have occurred in the absence of the “sitting members last” directive.

In the view of Bill Johnston, State Secretary of WA ALP in 2001, the orthodox view that One Nation’s preferencing against sitting MP’s delivered the 2001 State Election to Labor.. is.. a bit narrow. As evidence, Johnston shows that coming into the 2001 election, the ALP held five seats by narrow margins; four were held despite the “sitting members last” directive of One Nation causing a majority of One Nation preferences to go against the ALP. The one seat that an ALP sitting member lost, Kalgoorlie, had overwhelming local factors that dwarfed the One Nation preference effect.

Nevertheless, even though the actual One Nation preferencing effect was minor, WA Liberals decided that the party had suffered materially by putting One Nation last and hence resolved to avoid repudiation of One Nation on the future.

2002-2015 One Nation Ceases To Exist as a significant political force

2017 – WA State Election

Barnett, Turnbull and Howard fine-tune the preference strategy, swapping One Nation preferences in Lower House for Lib preferences in the Upper House. The deal is limited to selected seats. The Libs are trying to sandbag Lower House seats and so retain government whilst conceding Balance of Power in the Upper House. They are also avoiding assisting One Nation to win seats in the Lower House.

Like Howard did, Barnett and other Liberals are trying to mollify One Nation voters by saying they are good people, sophisticated and nuanced, and that their concerns are seriously addressed by the Libs.

Also, noting a reactionary shift in the political landscape toward populism, nationalism and anti-Immigration, the Libs judge that urban voters are less likely to punish them by association with One Nation

The Libs, including Malcolm Turnbull, are also trying to distance themselves from One Nation even while cuddling up to them, hence Barnett feigning ignorance of their policies. This is to mollify urban voters intended to reduce backlash.

I go into more detail about the early LNP / One Nation history here, drawing heavily on research by Margo Kingston.



Habits Of The Lesser-Spotted Office Serf

With my first cup of coffee at work I like to listen to Radio National’s AM program via Podcast. The episode for last Thursday 9th August included the story “PMs Power Poles and Wires Cost Argument a ‘Fabrication: Abbott” which at face value looked like it would be 5 more minutes of Abbott on his endless “Ju-Liar” meme.

But as the interview unfolded it seemed to me that Abbott sounded agitated, borderline hysterical. The rehearsed, clinical tone (geddit?) to his mud-slinging, so consistent over the past year was absent and, in its place, something that sounded like a whiff of panic (if whiffs could sound).

“Nah.” I thought, “He’s so far in front…”

Three Streams In Confluence

But then I read the latest polling on the Carbon Tax. On July 1, just prior to the introduction of the Carbon Tax Nielsen reported that 51% of respondents said they’d be worse off and 37% said they would be unaffected.

Just one month later under the lived experience of the Tax, 38% say they’re worse off, while 52% say their lives haven’t changed. That’s a massive change in just one month. And it amounts to a rejection of Abbott’s ‘the Carbon Tax will destroy us all’ stance which is and has been the single most identifiable plank of Abbott’s voter outreach for at least a year.

So that’s was encouraging, but could it change votes ? I believe that Abbott thinks it can. I now suspect that whiff of panic was indeed real. At least for that morning Tones was a tad worried.

Now Tones is right of course that people haven’t received their first Carbon Tax Power bill yet, and when they do they’ll be 10% higher. That could sink the government then and there in one overnight mail out. Julia better pray for a warm spring and a mild summer so people keep the air-con off.

However, on the morning of that ‘power poles’ interview Tones may have also been aware through internal polling that the ALP’s Primary vote was about to leap by 5% in the latest Newspoll, edging in the 2PP to 54-46.

It seems to me to be absolutely reasonable that as fear about the Carbon Tax subsides so should the ALP vote incline.

And then there was George Megalogenis’s comments on Insiders today 12 August. Mega noted that a key turning point in the Hewson-Keating rivalry leading up to the 1993 Keating Federal victory was that the arrogant Kennett Liberal government was elected in Victoria. Within a few weeks of Kennett’s confrontational budget-slashing start to its term voters turned on Hewson fearing the duplication and amplification of Kennett’s style and policies by Hewson at the Federal level.

Personally, watching Newman in action in the first months of his term, I am myself thinking: “This is Abbott Jr. in action”, including the mean-spirited and petty elimination of the Qld ‘Premiers Literary Awards’ and the gob-smacking arrogance of the removal of the paltry $6.50 allowance paid to Taxi Drivers for picking up and attending to disabled persons.

Mega said:

“[the fear of the combination of] Campbell Newman and Tony Abbott are starting to flip Queenslanders out”

And Queensland is currently the key Federal battleground with the ALP facing a wipeout and consequently having the most and quickest gains to be made from any turn-around in voting intentions. If anyone has a handle of emerging polling trends, its Mega.

By the way great to see Mega get the gloves off on Insiders when discussing the barbarian know-nothings currently offering themselves as Australia’s next government.

So, those three streams of confluence, namely reduced antipathy to the Carbon Tax, the perhaps-related ALP poll bounce and the gestational horror in Queensland at a Campbell-Abbott axis providing their governance may have in part or combination produced that whiff of panic enervating Mr. Abbott’s interview performance on AM last Thursday.

To which I say: GO CAMPBELL!!

One Million Unemployed

The Liberal/National Party Coalition in Australia has two great indictments on the former ALP Treasurer and Prime Minister, Paul Keating. The first is ‘17% Interest Rates’ and the second is ‘One Million Unemployed’. Here’s Peter Costello long-term Lib. Treasurer in 2007 stringing the insults together into his party-preferred summary of Keating’s anti-achievements

I love seeing Paul Keating out on the media. And I would say: Paul, keep it going, remind people of what it is like under a Labor Government. And you saw all of the old vitriol coming out and it reminds people of a million unemployed, 17 per cent interest rates, a budget deficit of $10 billion, Commonwealth debt at $96 billion

Interview with Virginia Trioli 702 ABC, Sydney Friday, 26 October 2007

Was Keating clueless on Employment ? Could he have done better ? What do he do wrong ?

Keating The Chiropractor

The high profile Blogger and academic John Quiggin scores Keating low on Employment, claiming Keating had no focussed Employment Policy apart from a brief period following the 1993 election with the program Working Nation and even that ran for only a short time before being overtaken by other priorities.

See Quiggin in his article from 2000 ‘Unemployment: Still Hoping For A Miracle ?’

The main reason for pessimism is the fact that unemployment is at the bottom of the policy agenda, just as it has been for all but a few years in the past two decades. In the absence of a serious policy response, we are reduced to ‘hoping for a miracle’. (p.3)

The Working Nation program, […] was introduced by the Labor government
in 1994, cut back in 1995, and slashed by the incoming Liberal–National coalition
government in 1996…(p.19)

Quiggin regards Keating as a technocratic, neo-liberal economist, who aimed merely to calibrate the economy so that it would function efficiently, thereby producing Employment as a natural by-product of health. If true that would make Keating’s approach to the economy rather like that of a Chiropractor, attempting to maximize the efficiency of the body’s nervous system and waiting for natural feedbacks to produce a vigorous equilibrium.

Mega An’ Me

I decided to find out more about what Keating did on Employment and started by borrowing ‘The Longest Decade’ by George Megalogenis from the local library. Lo and Behold, Chapter 1 summarized Keating’s Economic Project as Treasurer/Prime Minister and gave me an outline of what Keating did and its effects on the broad economy.

I enjoyed the chapter so much I have decided to blog The Longest Decade as a series of posts called ‘Mega An’ Me’…maybe.

Mega Loves Paul

From Chapter 1, I would say Mega loves Paul (Keating). He makes it pretty clear that he regards Keating as having done the hard work of reform and that Howard was the beneficiary of Keating’s brave reforms. Mega says:

“[Keating’s] interest rates begat another recession…[but Keating] wanted praise for ending the speculative orgy of the 1980’s. At first we thought he was crazy […] but history has validated […] Keating […] The decade that followed his recession (which began in November 1990) expired on 24 November 2007 [with the defeat of the Howard Government]”

The catch for Keating is that the longest decade still belongs to Howard.
– The Longest Decade, pp.9-10

Mega claims, I feel a little blithely, that most people did not feel any pain in Keating’s recession.

Neither number [17% interest rates or one million unemployed] happens to be mainstream.[…] In NSW only one out of 24 workers were retrenched… Three out of four households were on a fixed interest rate of 13.5%, the ceiling that applied before April 1986…Also the banks shielded the remainder by extending the term of the loan, so repayments did not rise…

Longest Decade, pp.12-13

…but there has to be some reason for that ALP vote in 1996 shrinking to post-Great Depression lows. People were feeling it. Pretty much only the rusted-ons stayed attached to the ALP in 1996.

As it is, Keating and Mega are supported in their views by Ian McFarlane, Reserve Bank Governor from 1996. Mega quotes McFarlane addressing the Australian Business Economists Annual Conference in 2005 as Governor Of The Reserve Bank, where McFarlane stated Keating’s recession should be regarded as a ‘policy triumph’ as it delivered Australia ‘a low-inflation, stable growth eceonomy’.

Is VIC There ?

Mega traces the pain of Keating’s recession squarely to Victoria. He notes that three-quarters of the job losses of the recession were sufferred in that State due to the reduction of tariffs on the automotive and other manufacturing industries. In Mega’s view those job losses were the price that Victoria had to pay for being ‘dragged into the global economy’ pp.18-19

One might also apply those comments to South Australia, another state that had Manufacturing Industry job losses at that time.

Mega supports his case (only VIC and SA suffered) by presenting results from the 1996 election that show the ALP losing 9 seats in Victoria, but picking up 5 seats in NSW and Qld combined. He could also have mentioned that the ALP was almost obliterated in SA, being reduced to only 2 seats out of 12.

Keating’s Interest Rates

Keating portrays his 17% interest rates as necessary evil required to finally conquer the inflation monster that had risen in the middle of every boom. Wage inflation was being controlled through the Accord, but Asset inflation notably house prices but running at 15% with the help of the newly deregulated financial sector. Keating pumped interest rates until they trumped asset inflation (Longest Decade pp.13-15)

Keating’s interest rates deepened the recession but they were the tool employed to kill inflation which allowed The Longest Decade of stable growth and therefore deserve to be lauded as a policy triumph.

So Was Keating Clueless On Employment ?

I’ll go with ‘Probably Not’. Mega and Keating spin a very plausible yarn on tariffs and the task of destroying inflation but Quiggin speaks in other articles of ‘paths not taken’ on employment policy. I would like to hear some of those other voices.

Mega also makes the point that the international economy was not vibrant in the early 1990’s which gives PJK some further excuses.

But the Coalition are shameless to criticise Keating for his reforms, since they voted for all of them. Have they ever explained what magic wand they would have waved over Victoria to prevent job losses in a manufacturing sector denied its tarrif barriers ?

Note to self: I do not really understand why it is necessary to destroy asset inflation unless maybe to forestall wage demands to cover said inflation.

Loose Ends

There are some other strands of this story to be covered such as Keating’s ‘jobless recovery’ inlcuding the changing technological profile of work and jobs which meant that lost blue-collar jobs could not be immediately replaced. Having peeked ahead I know these topics will be covered in due course.