Monday, May 14, 2018

Today by Paddy Manning

LNP dumps Prentice
The party’s lack of diversity will come back to bite it


The assistant minister for disability services, Jane Prentice, lost preselection for her safe Queensland seat of Ryan over the weekend. The dumping doesn’t just underline that the conservative side of politics has a problem maintaining, let alone increasing, representation of women in parliament. It also highlights that it has a problem with diversity more broadly. Combined, the Liberal and National parties are barely 16 per cent female, and apart from three MPs – the Indigenous member for Hasluck, Ken Wyatt, the Singapore-born Ian Goodenough, and recent recruit Senator Lucy Gichuhi, born in Kenya – the parties are predominantly white. Where are the people of colour? Where are the Muslims? The LNP is barely a reflection of Australia in the 20th century, let alone the 21st. In the end, that cannot be good politics.

On Saturday, Prentice was roundly beaten by her former staffer and protégé, Brisbane City councillor Julian Simmonds, who won by 256 votes to 103. Queensland LNP MP Michelle Landry yesterday described the ousting as “appalling”, but senior sources told [$] the AFR’s Phillip Coorey the sitting minister “was the author of her own defeat by having an arrangement to one day hand her safe seat of Ryan on to Simmonds”. Liberal grandee and former Brisbane Lord mayor, Sallyanne Atkinson, suggested there may have been an “it’s time” factor at play, given Prentice has had an eight-year stint as an MP.

All personal and local factors aside, the bigger problem is that diversity in the Liberal and National parties has gone backwards in the two decades since former prime minister John Howard came to office. Howard used to taunt Labor that the conservative side of politics had more women in parliament, and all without quotas.

Today on the ABC, outspoken backbencher Warren Entsch – a consistent voice of sanity within the LNP – described Prentice’s dumping as a “bloody disgrace”, given the Queensland party has only three female members of parliament out of 26. There have been calls for the prime minister to intervene to save his frontbencher, although these were dismissed this morning by Treasurer Scott Morrison. Speaking on the ABC’s Insiders yesterday, he said politics was a “contestable process”. As has been pointed out everywhere since, this is rank hypocrisy for Morrison, who only won preselection for his own safe seat of Cook after the Liberals’ head office intervened to impose him over Michael Towke, the choice of the local branches.

Refusing to intervene is not only hypocritical, in Morrison’s case. It is directly at odds with the current efforts to save Ian Goodenough, member for the Western Australian seat of Moore, who is apparently on narrow ground after branches within his electorate fell foul of rules about the timing of annual meetings, leaving an insufficient number of preselectors to decide his fate. The PM is also reportedly willing to intervene to save NSW member for Gilmore, Ann Sudmalis, and at-risk Victorian Liberal senator Jane Hume.

The lack of gender or racial or religious diversity is exacerbated by the problem that we are not even getting a good representation of straight white males. As Crikey’s Bernard Keane points out [$] today, Simmonds has spent his entire post-university life as a staffer or in politics, and is a perfect representation of our new “governing class”. Prentice, at least, had spent 20 years in tourism and events. “Politicians like Simmonds are part of the reason why the electorate is so disengaged with mainstream politics,” Keane writes. “They see a professionalised industry that serves its own interests and operates as a career entirely within and around access to power, rather than a genuine extension of the community will into the political process.”

since this morning

Opposition communications spokesperson Michelle Rowland has told [$] the people of the Queensland electorate of Longman that they will “get what [they] ask for” if they throw Labor MP Susan Lamb out of parliament in the upcoming by-election. This follows a ReachTel poll published in The Weekend Australian, which showed that the LNP was ahead of Labor 53 per cent to 47 per cent on a two-party-preferred basis.

Telstra shares have hit a six-year low after the telco warned [$] investors of turbulence ahead, particularly as a result of the impact of the NBN on earnings.

Victoria will tax [$] online gambling companies at half the rate of other states following a concerted lobbying effort by corporate bookmakers led by ALP factional heavyweight Stephen Conroy.

The new CBA chief executive, Matt Comyn, is now searching for six new executive team members, the AFR reports, after the resignation of chief financial officer Rob Jesudason.

in case you missed it

Post-budget polling was subject to opposing perspectives in this morning’s newspapers. The Fairfax/Ipsos poll was reported to show that the Turnbull government had “lost ground with voters after a bruising fight over sweeping income tax cuts, with the Coalition trailing Labor by 46 to 54 per cent in two party terms”. Meanwhile, The Australian reported that the prime minister’s “popularity has leapt to its highest levels since the 2016 election on the back of one of the most well-received budgets in a decade”, although it noted that the Coalition trailed Labor on a two-party-preferred vote of 51 to 49 for the second successive Newspoll.

In an interview to air on ABC’s 7.30 tonight, former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton warns Australia to be wary of Chinese interference in domestic political decision making. Meanwhile, a Digital Rights Watch report released today calls for a series of reforms to better protect Australians’ digital rights.

Qantas has hit back at aggressive Canberra Airport tactics. These tactics have reportedly included the airport operator parking an escort car behind a plane and asking for $18,000 in diversion charges before the plane, carrying almost 170 passengers, could take off again.

by Mungo MacCallum
What’s in a name?
From Pig Iron Bob to Unbelieva-Bill: the trouble with nicknames in politics

by Arnold Zable
The two Abrahams
Stories of South Sudan from Traralgon

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is also the author of three books, including a recently updated unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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