Monday, September 09, 2013

The South Australian man who got more votes than the entire Labor party

Perceived as genuinely independent

INDEPENDENT Senator Nick Xenophon says he's humbled by the staggering support he received from voters at the weekend, but he still has one regret.

The South Australian stunt master has polled more senate votes than the entire Labor Party, a whopping 25.8 per cent, and took to Rundle Mall in his sandwich board to thank voters.

As sweet as the victory is, Senator Xenophon says he's disappointed that fellow independent and running mate Stirling Griff won't be joining him in Canberra.

He blamed a series of "bizarre and spiteful preference flows" for denying Mr Griff a spot, including the Greens' preferencing of the No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics.

"I don't get any advantage from anyone. I had to win basically two full quotas (a third of the total vote) in order for my running mate to get up," Senator Xenophon said.

The Xenophon phenomenon has caused pandemonium in the SA senate race, peeling votes off both the Labor and Liberal parties and contributing to several surprise results.

With Labor's vote down to 22.7 per cent and the Liberals' reduced to 26.6 per cent, the door has been opened for the likely election of both a Family First and Green candidates.

Senator Xenophon said he was prepared to mend fences with Greens Senator Hanson-Young, with whom he had a torrid campaign battle over preferences.

"The first thing is to unequivocally fight for South Australia," Senator Xenophon said. "I understand that an enormous vote like this brings enormous responsibility.

"If there's more of a target (on my head), that means I'm hitting the mark in terms of issues that resonate."

As the shape of the new Senate slowly emerges, it appears Senator Xenophon could again emerge as a powerful player in the corridors of Parliament House in Canberra.

With the Greens and Labor on track to lose their blocking majority from July 1, Senator Xenophon is likely to have a conga line of Liberal ministers at his door seeking support to pass key legislation, including repealing the carbon tax and expanded paid parental leave.

He says the reinstatement of $500 million in industry funding for Holden, which the Coalition plans to axe, and continued support for the River Murray will be his key issues.

The new Senate will take its seats on July 1 and appears likely to contain a ragtag group of independents who the new Coalition government will negotiate with to pass legislation.


Abbott to tackle rogue unions in Victoria

PREMIER Denis Napthine plans to team up with Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott to tackle the upswing in "union thuggery" on building sites as business leaders call for the speedy scrapping the carbon and mining taxes.

The return of the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner, abolished by Labor, to reduce problems on worksites was the only major promise made by Mr Abbott on industrial relations.

Union leaders yesterday vowed to fight the Coalition's plans for the ABCC, while defending existing penalty rates and battling to lift the minimum wage.

But Dr Napthine said the return of the ABCC would allow more competition and deliver lower costs.

"There has been an upsurge of union thuggery in a lot of our building sites," Dr Napthine said. "We will work with them on that."

Big business yesterday demanded the Abbott Government put repairing the Budget bottom line and cutting red tape at the centre of the Coalition's to-do list.

Business leaders said scrapping the carbon tax and mining tax were also key reforms that would boost productivity.

Business Council of Australia president Tony Shepherd yesterday admitted the Government faced a "tough task" to lift growth in the face of a volatile global economic and political outlook.

He called on Parliament and the Senate, in particular, to respect the clear mandate for reform, saying "The result demonstrates overwhelming support for policies to lift productivity and competitiveness."

Retail magnate Solomon Lew said the new government must be given the support it needed to pursue its mandate to reduce taxes and ease cost-of-living pressures.

"If these initiatives were to be blocked by the Senate, I think there would be a big impact on confidence," Mr Lew said.

Myer chief executive Bernie Brookes said the certainty of the clear election result should flow back into business confidence to drive investment and job creation.

But the union movement is adamant the Coalition's low-profile on industrial relations issues during the campaign meant there was no mandate to roll back the Fair Work Act or reduce penalty rates.

ACTU president Ged Kearney also warned the Coalition's $5.5 billion paid parental leave scheme might never come to fruition because of its high price tag.

The Coalition's planned inquiry into union financing was also branded as a "waste of time" by Ms Kearney.

"We will work with the new government to ensure our two million members are not left worse off," she said.

After each of the last five elections, the Australian dollar and share market climbed in the following three weeks.

"There are good reasons to expect a stronger Australian economy as the election uncertainty is resolved," CommSec chief economist Craig James said.


Campbell Newman welcomes Tony Abbott election victory as 'freeing him from shackles' of federal Labor

QUEENSLAND is set to get a $6.7 billion boost to the Bruce Highway and a "resurgence" in jobs under an Abbott Government, Premier Campbell Newman says.

The Premier - who spent the first 18 months in the top job feuding with federal Labor over major projects - has welcomed the return of a conservative government to Canberra, declaring he has been freed of the "shackles".

He immediately called on Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott to move quickly to scrap environmental controls to allow the state to expedite its own projects.

Mr Newman insisted the state would still protect the environment.   "We will protect the environment, I promise Queenslanders that, but we need to see the federal government's green tape removed so we can get on and take this state forward and create jobs and generate investment," Mr Newman said.

"(Mr Abbott's) made financial commitments as well, and I know he will honour those, commitments to things like the Bruce Highway and the Toowoomba Range crossing."

Mr Newman said the changes would lead to new jobs and opportunity.   "It's going to be a great state with great opportunity, we just need the federal shackles taken off, and if Tony Abbott delivers that as he's committed to do, then I promise Queenslanders the next six to nine months will see a real resurgence in business and jobs growth," he said.

But the Premier conceded the state would need to go it alone to deliver the unfunded Cross River Rail project.  The underground rail scheme was to be partly funded by federal Labor - a promise the Coalition never matched.

Before the election Mr Abbott made it clear his government would not fund "urban public transport projects", saying they were the responsibility of the states.

Despite Transport Minister Scott Emerson insisting he would continue to lobby the federal Coalition for funding, Mr Newman said yesterday it was now up to Queensland.

"Cross River Rail is something we're working on, it is our responsibility to come up with the revised project that minimises the capital expenditure and delivers the most benefits," he said. "At the moment we're still working on that. We're still totally committed."

However Mr Abbott has promised $300 million to get the inland freight line between Brisbane and Melbourne under way, including a new rail tunnel to the Port of Brisbane.  It would include 1800km of track.

The $5 billion project, which is due to be completed by 2026, includes updating existing train tracks and building three new rail tracks from Yelarbon to Oakey, Rosewood to Kagaru and Acacia Ridge to the Port of Brisbane.


As Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott will be true conservative in every sense

By Alexander Downer

It's over for another three years! Aren't you relieved? Well, maybe not because the State election is just six months away! But that, at least, will be a lower key affair with less at stake.

For the winners, the drama isn't over yet. For the next few days, Coalition MPs will have their mobile phones firmly at hand. Every time it rings they'll this Tony Abbott offering me a job? It isn't, its a message you've forgotten to collect the dry cleaning. The disappointment will hurt! Coalition MPs will constantly phone each other trying to get the tiniest hint of what may be happening to colleagues.

The day will come - around mid week - when the incoming prime minister rings those colleagues and offers them jobs. At the top of his list will be the fifteen or so MPs who will be offered Cabinet positions. For those who have never served in the Cabinet before, this will be one of the most exciting moments of their lives. To be a member of the country's most powerful boardroom is a privilege first and foremost. But it's also exhilarating. Add to that the huge responsibility of running a major portfolio of State and those lucky men and women can justifiably claim they've made it.

Then the junior ministers and parliamentary secretaries will get the good but less joyous news. But spare a thought for the third category of Coalition MPs. The ones who cling to their phones for two days but no one calls. The backbenchers for whom Saturday's joy has turned within a week to disappointment. That's politics.

My guess is there will be some surprises in the new ministry. But as prime minister, Tony Abbott will be a conventional conservative. He will be cautious and pragmatic not zealous and reckless.

This will manifest itself in a number of ways. For a start, Abbott will work very closely with the public service. He will listen to their advice, he will check things with them and new proposals will be considered and costed before announcements are made. So government will work more slowly and cautiously than the breathtaking initiative a day style of the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd government. Abbott will be in a phrase an administrative conservative. He'll even start meetings on time so if you go to see him, don't be late!

Secondly, Tony Abbott is no economic radical. He will be an economic pragmatist unlike John Howard and his key Cabinet allies who could be described as economic liberals or rationalists. Abbott will gradually reduce the deficit and pay down debt but there will be no radical spending cuts - as Kevin Rudd claimed during the election campaign. Nor for that matter will there be radical reform of the industrial relations system. Work Choices won't be brought back. You may not know this, but the two members of the Howard Cabinet who were the least enthusiastic about Work Choices were Abbott and Kevin Andrews.

It's on economic issues that Abbott and Howard are most dissimilar: Howard was an economic rationalist, a neoliberal, whereas Abbott is an economic conservative. He wants the economy to evolve driven by the private sector. Howard wanted a Thatcherite revolution in taxation, privatisation and labour market reform.

So the Abbott government won't be the fifth Howard government. But Abbott will approach social issues in the way Howard did. He won't support gay marriage and while the Liberal Party probably will have a conscience vote on gay marriage, expect only about one-fifth of Liberals to favour "marriage equality". The republic, which doesn't have much public support these days anyway, will barely be discussed. Tony Abbott ran Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy for a while and he won't be changing his mind on that issue. Indeed, Tony Abbott is a traditionalist who values are existing national symbols and institutions. Don't be surprised if he does what the New Zealand prime minister did three or four years ago...brings back knighthoods.

Abbott will have to appoint a new Governor General early next year. It will be an interesting appointment which will reflect Abbott's conservative instincts. The current favourite is Peter Cosgrove...John Howard doesn't want the job!

An Abbott government will invest politically, intellectually and financially very heavily in indigenous affairs. For Abbott this is core business. He has a huge interest in indigenous affairs, has studied indigenous issues intensely and wants to introduce a totally new approach to lifting indigenous Australians out of relative poverty. Success will take time but my guess it will be much more a hallmark of the Abbott prime ministership than just abolishing the carbon tax and turning back the boats.

By the way, the boats will gradually stop, helped by the Papua New Guinea solution as it happens. And Abbott will say relatively little about fashionable issues like climate change. The CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology will brief him about climate science but this just won't be high on his agenda.

And finally, what about Tony Abbott and the world. Contrary to the rumblings of the Canberra Press Gallery, Abbott has a deep intellectual interest in foreign affairs. He's for the American alliance but Abbott is no neo-conservative. He has a deep affection for Great Britain and his cultural instincts are more British than American. So don't expect Abbott to be a slavish follower of Washington, just a reliable ally. But this week President Obama is planning to call Abbott. And he'll do two things. Ask for diplomatic support on Syria and support for Obama's free trade initiative, the Trans Pacific Partnership. Abbott will give him both those things.

As for Asia, Abbott will enjoy close relations with President Yudhiyono of Indonesia who he already knows and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan. He'll be pragmatic in his dealings with the new Chinese leadership and friendly with the New Zealand and PNG PMs. But don't expect Abbott to throw all his energy into multilateral institution like the UN. We may be on the Security Council but that won't be front and centre of our new prime minister's thinking.

And finally Tony Abbott will be a low profile PM. All that Twitter, Facebook, daily press conference stuff will go. Ministers will do most of the talking. The prime minister will think, read and plan.



Paul said...

The PNG solution was really Labor implementing Liberal policy under pressure of realizing just how hostile we were to their default policy of ignoring the wishes of those they represented.

If the boats do slow to a trickle or stop altogether, look to Labor to claim the credit.

Stefan v said...

Alex, a "man" that dresses in fishnets and lipstick, is not qualified to recognise or proclaim a real conservative; because he would be his kind's mortal enemy. Tony Abbott, a Jesuit schooled Rhodes scholar, is no conservative. Abbott's Arsenic might taste better on initial sampling than K.Rudd's Creosote & Crap Koolaid, but it will be deadlier because it will take longer for enough sheeple to wake up to it.