The Politics    Friday, May 18, 2018

Pub test: Longman by-election

By Paddy Manning

Image of Valhalla Bar at Caboolture RSL

The Valhalla Bar at Caboolture RSL. Picture by Paddy Manning

On the ground in Caboolture it’s looking hard for Labor

Labor backbencher Susan Lamb has her work cut out retaining the outer Brisbane seat of Longman, going by a straw poll taken on a short stroll from the Caboolture mall, just opposite her office, to the RSL. Even when the locals say the Constitution’s prohibition on dual citizenship is ridiculous, they think it’s up to the politicians to sort it out, and they don’t show a lot of sympathy for anyone who has failed to do that. Lamb’s heartfelt story – refusing to request the paperwork from a mother who abandoned her as a child – doesn’t cut it here. The fallout from a Labor defeat in Longman, which is, of course, being seen as a test of Bill Shorten’s leadership, could be serious. So, as The Courier-Mail opines today [$], it’s “astounding” that the LNP is so unprepared.

Susan Lamb holds the working-class electorate by a narrow margin, less than 1 per cent. Longman was considered a safe LNP seat under former member Wyatt Roy, who took over from Mal Brough in 2010, had a comfortable margin of almost 7 per cent, and who easily outpolled Lamb on primaries in 2016. But Lamb snuck past Roy on crucial One Nation preferences, which flowed roughly 60:40 her way in the last round of counting.

That still rankles with at least one Hanson voter, a maroon-polo-clad drinker at the RSL, having lunch with a Maori mate and his 23-year-old daughter. The bloke in maroon spent 23 years in the Air Force, and after that was an AWU delegate at the nearby sawmill in Caboolture, but has drifted away from Labor (he says his father would be rolling in his grave). He voted One Nation last time but will vote LNP in the by-election. “I won’t vote for [Hanson] again, not because I don’t like her policies – I like her policies on immigration and all this … political correctness gone bloody stupid – but it was a waste, because she gave a lot of her preferences to the Labor Party. I’m definitely going to vote LNP this time around. I think the people who voted for Pauline Hanson in the last election regret it now, because young Wyatt, he would have got in.” He likes what the LNP has done with “boat people”, he doesn’t like Labor’s tree-clearing laws, and wants us to build coal-fired power stations. The young woman at the same table, however, who works in a warehouse, says the citizenship saga is “ridiculous” and is probably going to vote Labor: Susan Lamb has her sympathy, at least.

Another defence force veteran of 37 years voted for Lamb last time but admits he is “totally pissed off” about the citizenship saga and what he sees as duplicity from Labor. “Considering what happened at the start of the year with all the other ones … she knew from the start … there’s no excuse.” And at the general election? “I’ll say Liberal because, the way Labor’s acted in this whole debacle, they’ve lost my vote.”

There’s plenty more in this vein, including from the vice-president of the Caboolture sub-branch of the RSL, who christened the club’s “Valhalla Bar” and says Roy did a lot for the sizeable community of veterans in the electorate.

On Wednesday Graham Richardson wrote [$] that the Coalition, “behind closed doors and sotto voce, is beginning to express confidence in its chances of winning” in Longman. Despite the possibility of victory, the LNP has had to wait to confirm [$] that its preselected candidate, former state MP Trevor Ruthenberg, who was born in PNG, is himself is eligible to stand. Malcolm Turnbull, The Courier-Mail writes this morning, was

forced to perform faux campaigning just outside the seat yesterday while treading water around naming the date on which the by-election would be held. Mr Turnbull couldn’t really campaign in Longman because the LNP still haven’t selected someone to run in the seat. This is the political equivalent of not just shooting yourself in one foot, but managing to collect both feet with a single bullet.

Ouch! Compounding Turnbull’s woes, he was almost assaulted by a drinker at a politics in the pub event in Brisbane last night.

They’re not all so hostile to Labor in Caboolture. A young mum with tatts plans to vote for Lamb because of the dreaded Liberal cuts to welfare. A 70-year-old pensioner, who has met Lamb personally, vouches for her, and thinks the whole citizenship debacle is unfair. “I think the Liberals are more for the wealthy: the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer and it’s becoming more and more noticeable … and I don’t think the Liberals really care.” The woman, who doesn’t look 70, fell down one day in the mall, and says “it was people who were down and out who offered to help me, whereas people who were more wealthy just walked past, so that tells me something, that really these people should be helped.”

Listen to The Politics Podcast, with Rachel Withers

Episode 15: Corruption in the capital
Richard Denniss talks to Senator Kristina Keneally about ICAC’s impact on politicians’ and public servants’ behaviour in NSW, and whether a similar commission should be implemented federally.


since this morning

The Australian reports [$] that Labor has drawn up a hit list of 14 Coalition MPs and senators who it says fail the government’s test of possible dual citizenship.

Clive Palmer’s wealth has jumped to $2.8 billion after a decisive court win against his disaffected Chinese partner in the Sino Pilbara iron ore project, CITIC Pacific, making him Australia’s 20th-richest person, according [$] to the AFR’s 2018 Rich List, out next week.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young has won [$] preselection battle against former senator Robert Simms for the number one spot on the party’s Senate ticket in South Australia at the next federal election.

in case you missed it

The Guardian reports a Senate inquiry has found that climate change is a “current and existential national security risk” to Australia, which could inflame regional conflicts over food, water and land, and even imperil life on Earth.

Victorian construction union leader John Setka has called [$] on Bill Shorten to make it easier for workers to take strike action and to relax union right-of-entry laws, as the fallout from a botched blackmail case against the CFMEU escalates.

The new ASIC chair, James Shipton, has warned [$] corporate Australia that the watchdog will use “every inch” of new powers to crack down on bad behaviour in financial services.

Fairfax Media’s Peter Martin writes that the Coalition’s aim in 2013 to generate one million jobs over the next five years was never a big ask.

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Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Body Count: How Climate Change Is Killing Us, Inside the Greens and Born To Rule: The Unauthorised Biography of Malcolm Turnbull.

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