Friday, April 11, 2014

Old-style Laborite under fire

Joe Bullock, the controversial Labor Senate candidate at the centre of a row about his political future, has defied calls to stand aside and says it is not his current intention to go anywhere.

The left-wing union which helped parachute Mr Bullock into Labor's number one spot on the West Australian Senate ticket is now calling on the controversial union leader to quit, saying he is unfit to represent the party.

United Voice says it regrets helping to get Mr Bullock onto the ballot, after details emerged of a speech he gave in November last year.

Mr Bullock has since apologised for the address, in which he praised Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott, criticised some Labor members as "mad", and took aim at some of the party’s more progressive policies.

The speech was made public on the Friday before the re-run election, the same day he emailed members to say sorry for commenting on his running mate Senator Louise Pratt’s sexuality and her advocacy of same sex-marriage.

"If we had had the information we have know, if we'd known the comments and his views on party members, if we'd known the sort of comments he'd made about Louise Pratt, we would not have supported him," the union's Carolyn Smith said.
Audio: United Voice has called on Joe Bullock to stand aside days after he was elected to the Senate (PM)

"I don't want people to believe that just because United Voice endorsed Joe Bullock in the Senate election that we endorse the comments he made, I think they are inexcusable.

Mr Bullock is likely to be the only Senator elected for Labor out of Saturday's re-run election, and has told the ABC he plans to "continue serving the working people of Western Australia".

"It's not my current intention to go anywhere," Mr Bullock told ABC News Online.

"I have been and will continue to be a good representative for the working people of Western Australia, it's my intention to continue doing that in another venue."

Mr Bullock says he is still hopeful that Senator Pratt will also be elected when the final votes and preferences are counted and allocated.

A spokesperson for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten backed Mr Bullock.

"Joe Bullock was pre-selected by the WA branch and was voted into the Senate by Western Australians on 5 April," the spokesperson said in a statement.

"Joe Bullock has spent the last 30 years of his life standing up for low paid workers and he’ll stand up for them and Western Australian as a Senator."


Abbott now in China -- building ties

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has declared "Team Australia" is in China to "help build the Asian century" in his address to the Boao Forum.

The gathering, on the island of Hainan, rivals Europe's Davos forum in showcasing the Asia-Pacific region.

Mr Abbott told the gathering he was being accompanied on his trip to China by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Trade Minister Andrew Robb, five of Australia's state premiers, and 30 of the country's senior business executives.

"It's one of the most important delegations ever to leave Australia," the Prime Minister said.

He said Australia's resources had played a part in lifting Chinese living standards.  "The rest of the world is rightly in awe of the way these countries have lifted hundreds of millions of people into the middle class in just a generation," he said.  "This is the greatest and the quickest advance in human welfare of all time.

"It's happened because governments have allowed individuals and families to take more control of their own futures.

"I am proud that Australian coal, iron ore, gas and services exports have helped to drive this prosperity."

Mr Abbott said Australia's size meant it had the potential to be a "valuable" partner to China but "not a dominant one".

He highlighted the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which Australia was leading, as an example of what the countries of the region could achieve when they worked together rather than apart.

Mr Abbott is hopeful of progressing Australian-Chinese talks on a free trade agreement, after signing one in South Korea and negotiating one with Japan this week.

But he said Australia was motivated by more than just dollars.

"Australia is not in China to do a deal, but to be a friend," he said. "We don't just visit because we need to, but because we want to."


Surprise unemployment drop as 18,000 jobs added in March

Unemployment has surprisingly fallen from 6.1 per cent to 5.8 per cent, as an estimated 18,100 jobs were added last month.

The move caught most economists off guard, as the average prediction was for unemployment to be at 6.1 per cent in March.

In further good news, the amount of hours Australians work also rose by 0.5 per cent last month to 1.62 billion.

That has caused the Australian dollar to jump through 94 US cents on expectations that interest rate rises might soon be on the agenda - it was fetching 94.35 US cents at 11:35am (AEST).

However, the figures were not as good as they looked at first glance, with all the jobs added being part-time - estimated at 40,200 - while an estimated 22,100 full-time jobs were lost.

The proportion of people in work or looking for it - the participation rate - also fell from 64.9 to 64.7 per cent in another sign of continued labour market weakness.

The more stable trend unemployment rate, smoothing out the monthly volatility, also continued to grind slightly higher to 6 per cent.

CommSec economist Savanth Sebastian has gone out on a limb and is among the first economists to say that unemployment may have reached its zenith at 6.1 per cent in February.

He points out that, if the estimates were accurate, 88,000 jobs have been created since the start of the year.

"The job market is showing signs of stabilising with unemployment having peaked or pretty close to it," Mr Sebastian wrote in his note on the data.

"The labour market is the lagging indicator in the economy and it is now showing signs of reflecting the recent solid lift in economic activity."


Labor MPs accuse Bob Carr of narcissism, self-indulgence and bigotry after memoir release

Carr has always been an oddball but he did lots of good as NSW Premier  -- on tort reform, for instance.  He seems to have been overcome by hubris, however

Labor MPs are rounding on Bob Carr, accusing the former foreign minister of "narcissism", "immaturity", "self-indulgence", and even "bigotry" following the publication of his memoirs.

The former Labor senator has launched his book Diary of a Foreign Minister, which details his life as Australia's top diplomat between 2012 and 2013.

Mr Carr says his account is a glimpse into how public policy is formed and details text exchanges between him and the former prime minister Julia Gillard as well as a Cabinet discussion on granting Palestine observer status at the United Nations.

Mr Carr supported the vote but Ms Gillard opposed it. She was rolled by her Cabinet on the decision and it was used against her by Labor MPs agitating for the return of Kevin Rudd.

Mr Carr also details his complaints about having to fly business instead of first class, airline food, and, in one instance, the lack of English subtitles on a German opera being screened during a flight.

He says it is all in the public interest and all the profits will go to charity.  "I make no apologies for providing people with a darn good story about how Australian foreign policy is made, about the pressures on a foreign minister," he told reporters in Sydney.  "I think the Australian people deserve to know these things."

But Labor MP Anthony Byrne says Mr Carr's book is a symbol of the worst of the Rudd-Gillard era.  "If you ever wanted an example of the narcissism, self indulgence and immaturity that ran through the Labor party during its six years in government, Bob Carr is it," he said.

Victorian Jewish Labor MP Michael Danby says Mr Carr's comments claiming the pro-Israel lobby enjoyed a disproportionate influence on foreign policy through the former prime minister’s office are "bigoted".  "No lobby in Australia I understand has that kind of influence. It’s laughable," Mr Danby told AM.  "But I suppose in the current climate, as George Brandis says, it's okay to be a bigot."

Mr Carr says the suggestion that he is a bigot is "appalling".  "I've got an open door to the Israel lobby anytime... but I did resent them using influence with the then prime minister’s office to tell me that even expressing concern about Israeli settlements could not be permitted," he said.

Labor MP David Feeney says it is "unfortunate" that Mr Carr has decided to publish his 500-page diary.  "I have a view that the memoirs of politicians can often be an indulgence and I think on this occasion it probably falls into that category," Mr Feeney told the ABC's Capital Hill.

"I think Cabinet documents should remain confidential. I think that's the protocol. Bob has said that in his view there is a public interest issue here, that's obviously a view that he holds. I suppose I don't share it."

Ms Gillard chose Mr Carr to fill the Senate vacancy left by Mark Arbib when he retired from politics in 2012.

Mr Danby says the memoirs are a poor way for the former New South Wales premier to repay the Labor Party.  "Here's a bloke plucked from obscurity who was not working as a current politician, a former provincial premier, who dumps on Gillard and the former Labor government," he said.  "The Labor Party supported him all of his political life. How about a bit of decency? It’s a bit of ingratitude in my view."

He says it was a mistake to recruit Mr Carr back into politics, but Mr Feeney says he does not think it was Ms Gillard's "biggest mistake".  "I certainly wouldn't say it was her biggest mistake, no," he said.

But he says Mr Carr entered the federal parliament with expectations.  "Bob Carr was a person who came into this parliament with enormous momentum and we were all very very optimistic about what he would bring to us," he said.

When asked if Mr Carr lived up to expectations during his time as foreign minister, Mr Feeney said there had been "disappointment in some quarters".

Mr Carr's complaints about flying business and his boast of having more energy than "16 gladiators" have prompted newspaper headlines calling him a "wanker and a tosser".

He says he wears the labels as a "badge of honour" and takes them in good humour.

"And if it adds to sales of a splendid book, tells Australians how government works and raises money for my favourite charity, then I'll wear that as a badge of honour," he said.

"You're not going to get into any position of political leadership if you're a shy person, and I was amazed by what I could do, travelling the world with so little sleep."

Liberal MP Josh Frydenberg says Mr Carr is a "dilettante" who has become the "laughing stock" of the Labor Party and risks damaging Australia’s relationships abroad.


1 comment:

Paul said...

I don't know, I just think that if guys like Danby and Dreyfus were in the Prime Minister's ear more than the Foreign Minister on the subject of Israel/Palestine, then there is a problem of members of our Government acting as agents of influence on behalf of a foreign power. I think that's more important than whether Carr likes first class pj's, but clearly the word has gone out to deal with Carr at all costs now. Too much information for some.