Friday, March 29, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Nationals disgrace
Playing footsies with One Nation in Queensland will backfire

AAP Image / Dan Peled

By allowing Nationals MPs to preference One Nation over Labor, the party’s unloved leader, Michael McCormack, has shown himself to be a poor shadow of Nationals past, such as former leader Tim Fischer, who shone on the ABC’s 7.30 this week, or former Senate leader Ron Boswell, who counted the defeat of One Nation as his proudest achievement in politics. The electoral implications of this week’s almighty brawling in the Coalition will not be clear until polls reveal how much impact Al Jazeera’s How To Sell a Massacre has had on One Nation’s primary vote … but it can’t be good.

The latest episode revealed [$] that Steve Dickson, the One Nation’s hapless Senate candidate for Queensland, wanted to use a prospective NRA donation to hire “one of those drug-dealing mansions on the beach” and shoot “the shit out of everything in the water” with “machine guns and everything”. In Queensland, Labor sources believe the scandal will certainly take some bark off One Nation’s primary support, and any electoral pain from preference deals the Nationals do with One Nation will be far outweighed by the backlash in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy yesterday revealed the cabinet wrangling over the preference decision, showing Morrison caught in the headlights. Pauline Hanson claimed that by putting One Nation last Morrison had given Bill Shorten the “keys to the Lodge”. McCormack said the Nationals’ preferences would be determined at the local level, “so local members will be able to work their preferences out seat by seat through their state executives”, which the Queensland LNP confirmed last night.

A senior Queensland Labor source told me that Morrison was “making a meal of it” and would pay the price for playing footsies with One Nation, as previous Liberal leaders have done recently, including then Opposition leader Tim Nicholls in the 2017 Queensland state election and former premier Colin Barnett in Western Australia. “Because they’re going down the gurgler, it’s every man for themselves … That’s why these LNP members up here think they can save themselves by doing a deal with One Nation, so they’re not actually thinking for the team.” He added that “Morrison’s incapable of asserting his authority on it, so he’s gone for a half-arsed approach that’s only going to make things worse, and will enable us to continue to target him over it”.

He compares the stand taken by Morrison and McCormack unfavourably with that taken by John Howard and Ron Boswell. “Boswell was a leading advocate to put One Nation last back in those days, because he understood it was either him or them … The role Howard played has been a bit of a myth because he was a reluctant convert. He got there in the end, but Boswell was the significant influencer.”

In his valedictory speech in the Senate, Boswell recalled how in 1988 he took on the far-right anti-Semitic League of Rights: “... to be taken seriously, you have to stand for something. In the fight of my life, against Pauline Hanson, I risked everything to stand up against her aggressive, narrow view of Australia. Defeating Pauline Hanson and One Nation in 2001 has been my greatest political achievement.” Contrast this to McCormack, who cannot even take a view on aviation safety and is therefore facing a billboard campaign against him by Dick Smith.

One Nation was already on the slide, and, as Alex McKinnon wrote this week, likely to lose Senate seats in New South Wales and Western Australia in the May half-Senate election, when the quota will jump back up to 14 per cent. Hanson herself, a continuing senator, is not on the ticket and her candidate, Steve Dickson, has just turned toxic. One Nation desperately needs preference flows from the LNP in the Senate, and can offer in return lower-house preferences to LNP candidates in marginal seats, where it polls most highly.

At the last election, One Nation polled over 15 per cent in six Queensland seats: Wide Bay (15 per cent), Wright (21 per cent), Hinkler (19 per cent), Maranoa (18 per cent), Flynn (17 per cent) and Blair (16 per cent). In none of those seats did it place second. Of those six seats, four are held by Nationals, one by the Liberal Party, and Blair is held by Labor’s Shayne Neumann on a comfortable margin of 8 per cent. One Nation has tended to issue split-tickets in the past, and their preference flows in Queensland lower-house seats were quite even in 2016, mostly (but not always) skewed to the LNP over Labor, but never by more than 55:45.

If the One Nation primary vote falls this time around, as might be expected, it is going to hurt the LNP more than Labor. If One Nation polls around 15 per cent, says the Labor source, “then generally it’s coming more from the LNP; if they’re getting closer to 20 per cent they’re taking some of our vote as well”. Sacrificing the whole government to save Michelle Landry in Capricornia, or Ken O’Dowd in Flynn? The Queensland LNP is showing the same strategic nous it showed when it backed Peter Dutton for prime minister.


“[Trish Worth] had offended some in the party two months earlier by describing Tony Abbott as a ‘spoiler’ and calling for unity. The conservatives wanted to send a message that the slightest criticism of the former leader could lead to retribution. This petty vendetta was against the party’s own interests.”

Chief political correspondent for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald David Crowe explains how Teena McQueen, who debuted on Q&A this week, got elected as vice-president of the federal Liberal Party.

“I am … frustrated that NSW rural communities suffer because water is sent to South Australia to keep a lake artificially fresh, that our speed limits remain stuck in the 1960s despite vast advances in car and road safety, that we cannot seek help to end our own lives, and that we consign women and vulnerable people to victimhood by denying them the legal right to carry anything that might protect them from thugs.”

“A manifesto for a crossbencher” by newly elected NSW MLC and former senator David Leyonhjelm.

The Number

The volume of environmental water the Opposition plans to recover under the Murray–Darling Basin Plan by restoring the original socioeconomic definition for delivering water.

The Policy

“We have a plan to return defence spending to long-term trend levels by reducing the size and speed of planned procurement programs, and ensuring that Australia has a light, readily deployable and highly mobile force that is commensurate with our size and location.”

The list

“America’s independent filmmakers have been relocating to streaming services to make television series for several years now, making welcome use of guaranteed distribution, better budgets, and a larger storytelling canvas ... No one has made better use of the medium’s possibilities or furthered their artistic vision more than long-time collaborators Brit Marling and Zal Batmaglij. The duo’s mystery-box series, The OA, delivers what their earlier movies hinted at: knotty explorations of personal faith, digital subcultures and metaphysical wonder. The show is serenely wild, and this month’s second season amplifies the weirdness.” 


“The secretary of the Northern Territory branch of the Maritime Union of Australia, his recent history is entwined in that of the Uluru Statement from the Heart ... From August 2017 until the following winter, Mayor was rarely seen without a cardboard cylinder under his arm, the Uluru statement rolled inside. The MUA covered his salary, travel and accommodation as he travelled to bush meetings, cities and community halls across Australia, to help to build the people’s movement needed to prompt a fresh flow of constitutional ink.” 


“In the 1980s, there was a big push for more teaching of Chinese and other Asian languages, but that has petered out, for interconnected reasons of funding and will. In 2015, only 0.1% of Year 12 students finished with Chinese language part of their graduation. Many of these were native speakers. The Labor Party has pledged to change this. We’ll see. But without China literacy, we will always be in the position of knowing only a translated China, a China explained, and increasingly by partisan explainers.”

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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