Minor Parties declare war series of skirmishes

As we head towards an election Huffington Post reports that the Minor Party Alliance convened by “preference whisperer” Glenn Druery formulated a plan on the weekend to mount an assault in the lower house on marginal Coalition and Green seats.

Druery said it was a series of skirmishes rather than war, as they lack the resources for a full-scale assault. He said:

    the plan, which is aimed to “teach the government a lesson,” will see progressive minor parties run candidates and preference toward the Labor Party in seats including:

  • Melbourne — held by Greens MP Adam Bandt;
  • Barton — held by the Liberals with a tiny margin, and to be contested by star Labor recruit Linda Burney;
  • Grayndler — held by Labor’s Anthony Albanese, but targeted strongly by the Greens;
  • Richmond — held by Labor with a small margin.

Beyond that they will target “at least 10 marginal Coalition seats,” preferencing away from the Coalition in Petrie, La Trobe, Hindmarsh and Banks.

Interviewed on ABC RN’s PM Antony Green thinks Bandt is safe, but tre planned action may make it harder for the Greens to win other seats they might want to wrest from Labor. Antony Green doesn’t think it will affect the election result.

Druery agrees with that. They are just trying to make a nuisance of themselves.

Their limitation is finding enough people to hand out how to vote cards, which, even with cooperation between the 40 or so parties, will strictly limit the number of electorates they can target.

Meanwhile Phil Coorey at the AFR reckons Turnbull is considering bringing forward the budget by a week to May 3. That will allow him to pass supply bills and “make one last attempt to have the Senate debate the bill to reinstate the powers of the Australian Building and Construction Commission”. The current state of play is that the ABCC bill is awaiting a parliamentary inquiry with a reporting date of March 15. Coorey says the government feels it could already use the ABCC as a trigger for a double dissolution under a provision known as “failure to pass”, but it would be better to have it as a formal trigger.

The double dissolution election would then be called on May 11 for July 2, which would give him a chance of wiping out the senate crossbench.

Under this scenario, the Turnbull government, currently seeming to thrash around pointlessly, might suddenly release a burst of decisiveness. People like Sean Kelly at The Monthly, who see Turnbull as the Muddle Headed Wombat who hasn’t figured out yet how to do his job could then be shown to be wrong.

An alternative to a DD in July could be a normal election in August.

Meanwhile Michelle Grattan’s article Tony Abbott in a dark place; Turnbull government all over the place is recommended.

She says that Niki Savva’s book The Road to Ruin will not get rid of the Abbott problem:

    Those around Turnbull have hoped and believed the book will be a body blow against Abbott. It will be a further negative mark on the ledgers of Abbott and Credlin – but it will not take care of the “Abbott problem”.

    While Abbott continues to talk critically, whether explicitly or implicitly, and while the government appears disorganised, he will add to the perception of disruption and disorder.

The book has been criticized as containing gossip rather than analytical journalism. Some of the anecdotes are sourced but some are anonymous. Abbott and Credlin had no right of reply.

I’m reading Aaron Patrick’s Credlin & Co: How the Abbott Government Destroyed Itself. Go here for Late Night Live interview and here for excerpts.

Patrick sets the scene early. Credlin did everything for Abbott and he became dependent on her. She had an encyclopaedic knowledge of policy, far better than Abbott’s but lacked management skills. She controlled agendas, terms of reference of inquiries, staff appointments in ministerial offices. She prevented ministers from appointing their mates, but they often ended up hiring hers instead. When Credlin and Abbott were together she was the stronger, and he liked it that way.


Abbott, Credlin and the rest were unable to create a sense of direction, a plausible narrative for the government. So far Turnbull is struggling also, but he may yet surprise.

Update: I should have said that some of the commentary last night emphasised that the malaise goes far deeper than Credlin/Abbott, or Turnbull for that matter. The lack of talent and philosophical differences within the Coalition run deep.

37 thoughts on “Minor Parties declare war series of skirmishes”

  1. Brian: the minor parties don’t really have to wear themselves out through skirmishing – all they have to do is be there and simply publicize their existence – and the voters, sick-and-tired of all the big party shenanigans, will do the rest.

    Fiddling with the way the Senate is elected now looks like blatant political fraud, coming as it does on the eve of an election. I wouldn’t be surprised if a fifth of all Senate votes were informal; partly from sheer confusion, partly from disgust.

  2. Graham, I think we are in new territory and it’s hard to say how it is going to work out. I didn’t go into the senate situation because I didn’t have a good link. Lazarus and Lambie now have considerable recognition, and may have a show. Lazarus has been vocal about CSG and coal mining at Acland, and may pull a bit from the conservatives. But the effect of the minor parties has mainly been to elect conservative candidates at the expense of Labor. In WA for example only one Labor senator was elected in 2013.

    The Greens could lose a couple. In SA I think Xenophon got about 25% of the vote, so it’s a question as to how far he could go, and whether he would take one off the LNP.

    But the LNP looks pretty solid under the new arrangements, and Xenophon may have the balance of power.

  3. I should have said in the post that some of the commentary last night emphasised that the malaise goes far deeper than Credlin/Abbott, or Turnbull for that matter. The lack of talent and philosophical differences within the Coalition run deep.

  4. Brian: You are right about the lack of talent on the Coalition side. Wonder how many talented, visionary, energetic potential candidate were screwed up by the corrupt pre-selection process and so vowed never to waste their time like that again.

  5. The lack of talent and philosophical differences within the Coalition run deep.

    That’s could be said for all Political Parties, every one.

    As could;

    Wonder how many talented, visionary, energetic potential candidate were screwed up by the corrupt pre-selection process and so vowed never to waste their time like that again.

  6. As for Niki Savva, Laurie Oakes quotes her;

    “As a journalist I lied often, usually about my sources, but about other things, too. Journalists can and do get away with lying; politicians and staff can’t. Nor should they.”

  7. the changes to the Senate voting are good policy – they return power to the voters from the back room shenanigans. I think the threats of payback from the minor parties are just that threats. To shift votes in House of Reps seats you need people on the ground handing out how to vote cards to have any chance of having any impact at all. I do not believe they will be able to get very many.

  8. Graham Bell – hard to see where the disgust will come from when people can make clear quite easily where they want their vote to go. The system that is being replaced was totally non-transparent .

  9. Jumpy, I was going to ask for your source, but Googled it myself. You’ve been reading Catallaxy Files.

    The Oakes quote comes from a column in 2010 about Savva’s earlier book where she tips a bucket on journalists in general.

    I think I’ll stick with Aaron Patrick.

  10. Douglas H, yes it’s good policy, but they are promoting the idea that it’s an attack on democracy.

    There are two views about the plan. One is that it will be a “major thorn in the sides of the Coalition and the Greens”, the other that the logistics are beyond them and it will make no difference.

    They are only targetting 10 to 12 seats and there are 40 or so parties to share the load. Antony Green suggests it will make a bit of difference at the margin, if they get their act together. Personally I wouldn’t really know.

    A fair bit of the motivation is revenge.

    There was no mention in these articles of Labor’s preferencing intentions.

  11. Elsewhere Peter Brent says it’s entirely unpredictable as to how the senate voting system will work out.

    Anthony Albanese is alleging a preference deal between the Greens and the Liberals that could see him lose his seat.

    Mr Albanese says the Greens who traditionally preference Labor will run “open tickets” -in which no direction was given on preferences in six marginal Victorian seats, in addition to the northern NSW seat of Richmond and possibly Freemantle

    In exchange the Liberals will preference the Greens in the inner city seats of Grayndler, Sydney, Melbourne, Batman and Wills.

    This could see Labor lose the seats of Grayndler held by Anthony Albanese and Sydney held by Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek.

    Please note, no-one has any evidence of this because it’s secret.

    SMH reckons Di Natale is going to tell the Greens’ conference to prepare for government. He points to the strength of the Greens amongst the young so time is on their side.

    The idea is said to be to knock off some Labor seats and then go into coalition with them.

    Interesting times ahead!

  12. Brian

    Jumpy, I was going to ask for your source, but Googled it myself. You’ve been reading Catallaxy Files.

    Oh yes, of course I visit the Cat.
    But I first saw it at Tim Blairs blog.

    I find reading many different perspective helps me maintain a healthy cynicism of all politicians. ( and journalists/commentators for that matter ) and not become tribal.
    They all filter the facts ” their ” way.

  13. Agreement by the Greens to preference another party is not worth much to the other party – the evidence is that most Green voters preference Labour and that either open tickets or directions to preference Liberal only shift a small percentage of Green voters -Anthony Green will have the figures somewhere – my memory suggests only about 10% of the Green vote were influenced by the how to vote ticket.

  14. Douglas, yes I’ve heard that Green voters are very independent-minded. I think the key is to try to get ahead of Labor as second in the voting.

    That’s when Labor’s preferencing becomes important.

    I haven’t been following Bandt closely, but didn’t the Liberals preference Labor ahead of him last time? There could be a concerted push from the majors to keep the Greens out of the lower house. Albanese’s claim could just be a scare campaign.

    Also if the Greens preference the Libs ahead of Labor, it may induce resignations from the Greens.

    It’s all too much for me, so I just note what people like Antony Green say.

  15. After a full Senate election, when is the next half Senate one ?
    And which half stay ? Is that the top 6 quota fillers ?

  16. Decisions on preferencing by the Greens I understand is in the hands of the Greens at the local electorate level for the lower house anyway.

    On Bandt my memory is that the Liberals preferences Labour over the Greens last time and in the end it didn’t matter – Band had 42% of first preferences. Greens now hold a State seat that overlaps with Melbourne – and borders two state seats where the Greens are pressing Labour – I reckon the demographics make that likely to be a hard ask to toss Brandt

  17. Many people vote Labor or LNP because that is what the family has always done. Almost all people who vote Green would have had to make a decision to change from “what the family have always done”. It means they are more likely to want to make their own minds up about preferencing. (Most of my branch vote below the line for the Senate for this reason.)
    Having said this i was surprised last year how many Greens polling booth workers did not understand how optional preference voting works.

  18. The problem of educating booth workers is a serious one. Didn’t Palmer hire backpackers and such?

    I’ve been reading masses of stuff on Mark’s Facebook, and it seems almost certain that the notion that the Libs have done a deal with the Greens is misinformation invented by Labor.

    Seems also that the Fielding preference deal was a genuine attempt by Labor to win an extra seat, which they had a reasonable expectation of doing. But with Latham’s mishandling of the campaign Labor polled less well than expected and the strategy badly misfired.

    Douglas, Bandt looks well-established on those figures and must be doing a good job as a local member. When he ran the seat was vacant, Tanner having retired. It’s a very different dynamic to be knocking off the likes of Albo and Plibersek, and then looking forward to sharing a coalition with Labor.

    Way back some decades ago there was trouble in Queensland over three-cornered contests with the Libs and the Nats trying to knock off each other’s sitting members. The agreed in the end to only run against each other when the sitting member retired.

  19. The news today is that Natale did an interview and photo shoot for GQ magazine in which he said that he, and the party, take the view that if you put policy first and then the politics looks after itself.

    He then went on to say this:

    The senator said he would “never say never” about one day forming a coalition government with the Liberal Party, but stressed he thought an alliance with Labor was much more probable.

    “In my view it’s much more likely that the opportunity rests with Labor, but you should never rule out any possibility, though it’s unlikely,” he said. “‘Never say never’ is the quote I’d use about everything in politics.”

    Which is all fair enough, but possibly not a smart thing to say before an election, as the willingness to get into bed with the LNP will be taken out of context and quoted.

  20. Jumpy, going back to this comment, unless it’s changed in the last 10 years since I looked, it’s mindless one-line rubbish that pollutes the mind.

    Catallaxy is not a different perspective for you, I’d suggest, it’s your true spiritual home, populated largely by libertarians.

    Very strong on individual rights and responsibilities and small government.

    I don’t think the state is per se good, but I have a strong belief that we are social beings.

    Bronwyn Bishop once nominated that as the essential difference between Labor and the Tories, so it must be right!

  21. Brian, I think you’re being a bit harsh with Jumpy.
    Like him, I visit a spread of sites in an effort to avoid being tribal.
    Of course, in my case it’s Green Left Weekly and the Socialist Alliance – got to get that balance right 🙂

  22. Douglas Hynd. Good point but I suggest that a lot of voters are so fed up with manipulation and fraud that even if the proposed changes to the system of electing Senators was made in Heaven, written out on scrolls of hammered gold and wafted down to us poor mortals by several flights of angels, a lot of people would still regard it with deep suspicion …. such is the cynicism, the mistrust and the disgust at anything political.

    “If they are changing anything, we must be getting ripped off again”.

    Sorry but apart from a couple of decades of manifest political honesty, I cannot see any way of overcoming that well-deserved distrust.

  23. It would be a pity to lose Anthony Albanese; he is one of the very few on either side in Parliament who would make an excellent Prime Minister, (well, in my opinion anyway).

  24. Graham, if we had an MMP system like New Zealand, Germany and some other European states, high profile casualties can be picked up on the party list and still remain in parliament. Then you could contemplate such challenges with equanimity.

    Otherwise cooperating when there is blood on the carpet is a big ask. We know that politics is a rough game, but…

  25. Catallaxy is not a different perspective for you, I’d suggest, it’s your true spiritual home, populated largely by libertarians.

    I would suggest I don’t have a spiritual home and Catallaxy is most certainly not majority libertarian even though the Owner is.
    Libertarians believe in open borders and the free movement of anyone anywhere they choose, most there disagree fiercely.
    SSM is the same, libertarians are about freedom and liberty.

    Very strong on individual rights and responsibilities and small government.

    As were the lefties when they were young, guilt free, brave and optimistic.
    Railing against The Man and Big Brother.
    Mocking the authoritarians,
    *”Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
    Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
    Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?”*
    They had a healthy libertarian streak in em.

    Now those same folk are old, guilt ridden, scared and pessimistic

    My hope is that, as happens naturally, the rebelious teenage youth of today will reject what their elders have become and find that spirit of freedom, on mass, and demand it back.

  26. To be honest I’ve seen so little of Catallaxy recently I shouldn’t have said anything. When I go there I don’t like what I see, but the sample is small.

    Jumpy, I’m interested in your philosophy, but the last time youth did something ‘on mass’ was probably back in the late 1960s. They’re too busy texting now!

  27. For the record, from Kevin Bonham:

    There was a report that a union-commissioned Essential had “found” that Greens voters opposed the reform, but Essential advises me this was actually a ReachTEL. The question wording from the former poll has not been published, which is generally a bad sign for the credibility of a commissioned poll question.

  28. In honour of the other Tony, the best of the Windsors, and prompted by a journalist writing that it’s not often a 65-year-old is seen as the forward-looking candidate.

    And did those boots in recent times
    Stride on New England’s mountains green:
    And were the woolly lambs of old
    New England’s pleasant farmers’ dreams?

    And did that Countenance resign,
    Leaving bereft our clouded minds?
    And was Methuselah bidded here,
    To fight these dark Satanic mines?

    Bring us our Bows of burning gold;
    Bring us our Arrows of desire:
    Bring us our Spear: O clouds unfold!
    Bring us our Internet of fire!

    We will not cease from Mental Fight,
    Nor shall our Pens sleep in our hands:
    Till we elect Methuselah,
    New England’s keen and pleasant man.

    thank you William Blake; ‘Methuselah’ is meant with the utmost respect, Mr Windsor.

  29. Brian: We are so obsessed with the delusions that (i) Ours is the best political system in the world, and (ii) The only possible alternative one is the American federal system, that we fail to bother looking for better ways of doing things.

  30. They’re too busy texting now!

    Then why save the World for them ?
    What is your personal motivation ?

  31. Then why save the World for them ?

    Because they are of intrinsic worth and deserve to be treated so.

    What is your personal motivation ?

    I’d always look for a society based on the values of the French Revolution – liberty, equality, fraternity, the latter including the sisters, in a just and democratic state. Then throw in something about being in balance with a sustainable environment.

    Coming to think of it I’m not sure teenagers ever acted en masse. The ‘teenage’ concept hasn’t been around forever, and in the 1960s it was more young people in their 20s and early 30s.

  32. In a scrappy interview on Lateline with Emma Alberici (her fault), Richard Di Natale definitively ruled out entering a coalition with the current LNP.


    Labor senator Sam Dastyari has branded the Greens a “cancer” on progressive politics, accusing leader Richard Di Natale of sacrificing his principles for power and hopping into bed with the far right.

    I’m not warming to Dastyari, he seems full of histrionics and politics.

    From the article:

    The [Parliamentary Library] analysis of voting patterns from July 2014 to last month shows the Greens have only voted with the government 6 per cent of the time. Labor, on the other hand, voted with the Coalition 38 per cent of the time.


    According to the voting pattern research, Family First senator Bob Day votes alongside the government more than anyone else – 75 per cent of the time. Senator David Leyonhjelm comes second, with 65 per cent.

    Crossbenchers Ricky Muir and Dio Wang have voted with the Coalition about half the time, John Madigan 42 per cent of the time and Nick Xenophon – the only crossbencher likely to survive the reforms – 29 per cent of the time.

    Dastyari, however, claims it’s the big ones that matter.

  33. I’d be wary of the vote pattern thing.
    Is it on legislative divisions only or all divisions that include ” member no longer heard ” etc, and some of the truly ridiculous green amendments that are split down green/everyone else lines?

  34. Jumpy, you are right to be wary. When I listen to the senate a lot of stuff is passed “on the voices” ie. no division happens.

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