Come March 31, just two days before the start of this year’s season, the AFL’s anti-doping tribunal will hand down its verdicts on the 34 past and present Essendon players involved in the club’s supplements program.
Maybe that will bring the seemingly endless saga, which began with the possible use of prohibited supplements during the 2012 season, to an end. Or maybe not, because to date Essendon has written the book on how not to handle a scandal.
A column in The Age earlier this year pointed out the crux of the problem: “It is worth remembering,” the paper wrote, “that in 2013, when the story emerged, Essendon attempted to be proactive by commissioning former Telstra boss Ziggy Switkowski to review its management processes. As The Age reported at the time, he found a club that was poorly run and in need of repair. ‘The Essendon Football Club has been damaged, but not broken,’ he concluded; damaged enough to warrant such comments as ‘broke down, failed’, ‘poor internal processes’ and ‘failures in structure and accountability’.
“The Switkowski report was a good start, but the club then reversed direction, adopted the role of victim rather than perpetrator, fled to the bunker and bolted the doors.”
When in doubt, tell yourselves how unfair it all is and hope it will all go away: it’s a common enough attitude by organisations big and small – from governments to corporations to individuals (remember Tiger Woods’ pathetic attempts to, first, ignore his serial womanising, then to arrange for a choreographed media conference to deliver his mea culpa?).
And while rugby league has certainly has certainly had ample opportunity to learn from its myriad of previous crises, the manner in which the Gold Coast Titans – led by CEO Graham Annesley – has handled the latest footballing drugs problem should be used as a primer for all organisations.
The Titans have operated quickly and decisively, while Annesley has not only been available at all times to the media but has spoken in a forthright, honest manner, with a recognition that players have duties and obligations that accompany stardom.
Warren Buffett has pointed out that a crisis never improves with age. He has also noted that it “takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”
“If you think about that,” said the sage of Omaha, “you’ll do things differently.”
For the Titans, the recovery started with Annesley’s forthright honesty on the day the scandal broke in February. Essendon, more than three years down the track, has yet to reach that point.
Sam North, Media Director Ogilvy Public Relations
The election mathematics of the 2015 NSW state election defies belief. Despite an overwhelming majority, a popular Premier, and a general feeling that NSW is in a better place than it was four years ago, the election campaign has tightened as a result of Federal leadership tensions, and the impact of first term losses in Queensland and Victoria seeping across the border. The task is large for the Opposition – they require approximately a 15 per cent swing to pick up the 24 seats to form Government in its own right.
Two new faces sit at the helm of the major parties. Mike Baird has held the premiership for only 11 months after former-Premier Barry O’Farrell resigned after misleading the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) over a $4,000 bottle of Penfold’s Grange. Leader of the Opposition, Luke Foley has held the position for a little over two months. Both leaders have reinvigorated their parties – throwing a fresh enthusiasm into the mix however this campaign, and governing once the result is known, will put them to a new test.
The O’Farrell/Baird Governments face the electorate with significant ticks to their name. They came to office with a broad agenda to kick-start NSW and a significant list of priorities. Four years on, they are reaping the benefits of hard choices made in their first years of governing including cuts to government spending and government agencies, and a hard line on enterprise negotiations with a number of public services. As a result, and the former Treasurer and now Premier can take some of the credit, the economy in NSW has performed well, government debt has been reduced and the State Budget has all but made its way back to surplus. Trains and hospital services no longer make the front page of the Daily Telegraph once a week.
Despite this success, it appears that much of the campaign will refreshingly focus on the future, rather than the past. The Baird-led Coalition will put the partial privatisation of the state’s electricity distribution assets firmly at the heart of its campaign. It’s a bold move considering the poisonous affect privatisation had on the recent Queensland election result. However governments are increasingly having to realise their infrastructure priorities in the face of smaller revenues.
Hanging over the campaign like a fog on Sydney Harbour are the ICAC investigations. Neither side is keen to highlight them given the taint they have applied to both sides of politics however they have altered the prism through which this election campaign is fought. Electorally, the Coalition will struggle to hold onto seats on the Central Coast, while fundamentally it has decreased the level of trust of the electorate in its elected officials.
Ninety-three seats in the lower house are up for grabs
Four years on and the election pendulum and its 93 seats bares only a slim resemblance to the results of the 2011 NSW state election. The ICAC has torn apart the political landscape with a number of liberal parliamentarians falling foul of the Commission’s into illegal developer and lobbyist donations. Bi-elections and party resignations leave the Liberal and National Parties with 61 seats in the Legislative Assembly (down 8 seats from 2011), the ALP with 23 seats (up 3 seats from 2011). With the one seat of Balmain sitting with the Greens, 8 MPs now sit on the cross-bench.
If ICAC has altered the chess pieces – including the queen – then a significant redistribution is changing the board of play. New boundaries, some seats created and some seats abolished has produced significant political shifts, which won’t be fully understood until election night. In some cases (including Toongabbie, Macquarie Fields, Menai) the incumbent faces an uphill battle to be re-elected.
The Upper House has troubled the O’Farrell/Baird Governments throughout their first term – blocking legislation and holding them to policy ransom. With half of the 42 seats in the upper house to be contested, both parties will be campaigning hard to reduce the power and influencer of the crossbenches during the next parliamentary term.
Peta Lange, Director Parker & Partners
Treasurer, Joe Hockey, today released the Government’s 2015 Intergenerational Report (IGR) – the third of its kind since first handed down in 2002.
As the ink dries on the report, journalists and analysts alike will be pouring over the figures to assess what they really mean; are they accurate; and to locate the elephants in the room. One may query whether the IGR has outlived its usefulness and simply represents a means for the Government to find some much-needed evidence to support its politics.
The Treasurer has defined the IGR as the fuel to ignite community discussion, something that will make all Australians want to stand around the barbeque, tongs in hand, and discuss the changes coming. In doing so, Hockey will certainly be hoping that Australians conclude that the Government has been future-focussed and established policies that will frame the nation to prosper amidst those changes.
In some ways it all seems quite reminiscent of last years’ Commission of Audit which was used by the Government to provide evidence that strong measures were needed to save the country from financial ruin. This led to a 2014 Budget which Abbott and Hockey now agree “went too far”. One may feel that the IGR is giving us a sneak-peak at the main themes of the 2015 Budget. Certainly it’s confirmed that the Government will not back down on two of its major future-proofing plans – the establishment of a Medical Research Future Fund, and the reforms to higher education.
Despite the opportunities presented in today’s report to start discussions on participation, productivity, social services and our desired future for Australia – one wonders whether, as a result of recent politics, it may just be too much for the community to swallow? Will we take Joe’s advice and discuss the report around the barbeque, or will we just stick to talking about the football?
One suspects the only person who’ll really take notice of the projections within this IGR report will be Prince William. It seems that in 2055, as King William, he will be required to send some 40,000 letters to those Australians celebrating their 100th birthday!
The IRD in numbers:
By 2044-45, the IGR is projecting:*
- Australia’s population to climb to 39.7 million from 23.9 million.
- Participation rate will fall from 64.6% to 62.4%.
- Seniors’ participation (Australians aged over 65 years) will increase from 12.9% to 17.3%.
- Female participation will increase from 66% to 70%.
- Male life expectancy will increase from 91.5 years to 95.1 years.
- Female life expectancy will increase from 93.6 years to 96.6 years.
- For every person aged 65, there will be 2.7 people aged 15-64 years; down from 4.5 today.
- Economic growth to average 2.8 per cent annually.
- Spending to reach 31.2 per cent of GDP.
- Net debt to reach almost 60 per cent of GDP.
What does the IGR mean for the health portfolio?
We now have another report to add to the library of research projecting that health costs will continue to rise. While non-demographic factors (rising income, wage costs, change in disease rates and technological change) were responsible for much of the growth in health costs over the last 20 years, this report along with recent research, finds that the growth of spending is slower than previously projected and will keep pace with Australia’s growing and ageing population.
As a nation, we are getting bigger and older, and our health system will cost more as a result. Health expenditure is projected to increase to 5.7 per cent of GDP in 2054-55 from 4.2 per cent today – that’s $260 billion in today’s dollars or $6,600 spending for every single Australian.
Over the next 13 years:
- Medicare will grow from $855 to $1,071 per person (in today’s dollars) and be the fastest growing component of health expenditure.
- Pharmaceuticals will grow from $420 to $474 per person (in today’s dollars).
- Public hospitals will grow from $647 to $680 per person (in today’s dollars).
- Private health insurance rebate will grow slightly from $280 to $283 per person (in today’s dollars).
While the report contained no alarmist statements for health, it will be used to underpin the Government’s motivation to structurally change the health portfolio and drive efficiencies, which will benefit the budget in the short and longer term.
It has taken a hit on the GP co-payment and read the community’s apathy towards further changes, however the Minister for Health, only three months into the job, is pushing for fiscal responsibility and ‘outcomes’ driven policy.
The projected growth of an ageing population (with some 40,000 centenarians in 2055, rising from 4,500 today), entwined with the rising rates of participation and longer working life, will also doubtlessly be used by the Government as continued justification for the establishment of a Medical Research Future Fund.
* Statistics based on “current situation” forecast
Peta Lange, Director Parker & Partners
When I saw the subject line, “Exciting Sydney Internship News” from my university advisor’s email, anticipation rushed over my body. Eagerly I opened the message, unprepared for what lay inside: “One of the world’s leading PR/Communications companies, Ogilvy, has an internship place for you at Pulse Communications… All you have to do is say ‘Yes’.”
I am a third-year student at Boston University on the Sydney Internship Program, an exchange program that consists of a seven-week internship in Australia followed by a semester studying at Sydney Uni. I am a Business major, a Film/TV Production student, and was a long way off from figuring out exactly what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be when I graduated—until Sydney.
I had admired Ogilvy in Manhattan ever since I figured out that all my mismatched interests from visual and applied arts to capital budgeting could be smashed together and used in one form or another under one industry; Marketing, Advertising, and PR. I have known Ogilvy to be one of the best in that field, and was amazed that I would be given the opportunity to see inside.
With all the perceptions and imaginings of what my experience would be like at Ogilvy in mind, I took off for Australia; what met me there—26 hours later— was something I never expected. The elevator doors opened to the second floor and I could not help but to smile. “This…” I said to myself, “is awesome.”
My experience working at Pulse has been simply amazing. I have had the opportunity to learn from the best, an experience that I am humbled by and will always be grateful for. Forging my way solo through impressive coverage trackers to engaging in a vibrant, interactive, and creative company culture, my time at Pulse has been comprehensive and full.
I am a Business major, a Film/TV Production student, and was a long way off from figuring out exactly what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be when I graduated—until now.
By – Arianna Mojdehbakhsh
This morning, 39 members of the Government’s Parliamentary team voted to spill the leadership – an effective vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister’s leadership of the Government. If, as suggested, the majority of the Cabinet team voted against the spill, then the Prime Minister has lost the support of an increasing number of his backbench, which may, as one journalist suggested this morning, spell a ‘death blow’ to his leadership.
This cloud will hang over the Prime Minister and the party as Parliament returns today and the Government moves on with its legislative agenda, with only five sitting weeks remaining before the next Federal Budget in May.
The Prime Minister faces a mammoth task to repair the party, his relationship with his Deputy, Julie Bishop, which has suffered during this leadership debate, and the Government’s fortunes. The Prime Minister gave an impassioned speech asked his party room for unity following the vote and subsequently stated to the public: “We think that when you elect a government, you elect a prime minister, you deserve to keen (them) until you change your mind.”
This is likely to inflame the backbench who will continue to push for change. In fact, the Prime Minister’s immediate challenge may be to survive the rest of the week as disgruntled back bench and a hungry media, who sense blood in the water, continue to whip up momentum. The New South Wales election in seven weeks’ time will be a defining moment for the Prime Minister if he can hang on.
What’s missing at the moment is a leadership contender. In the absence of a challenger, the backbench are voting against the Prime Minister rather than for any potential candidate (Julie Bishop, or Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull are names touted). The game will change should either go public with their leadership ambitions with Turnbull in particular a divisive figure who splits the party. This may slow down any push to move.
The Prime Minister is due to appear at a press conference before today’s Question Time.
Peta Lange, Associate Director Parker & Partners
A curious twist emerged in the early weeks of January with the release of new data related to the sales figures for books (you know, physical books, those hefty, page-ridden relics of yesterday which were heading the way of the dinosaurs).
Well, miracle of miracles, it seems that book sales are on the rise again.
Waterstones, the UK’s biggest bookseller, reported a five per cent sale rise in December over the previous December. Foyles, Waterstones’ rival had an eight per cent rise. Nielsen Book-Scan reports that the number of physical books sold in the US last year rose 2.2 per cent, the same rise that Nielsen Book-Scan reported for Australia.
And, according to the head of Waterstones, the demand for the Kindle e-reader has all but disappeared.
What this all means is anyone’s guess but the cautionary part is for marketers and those who feel that logic and reason are the only determinants of future behaviour.
There is no doubt that using an e-reader is easy: online books can be purchased cheaply, quickly and effortlessly. E-readers – and the physical books they replace – take up no space in your house. You never have to feel guilty about ripping a page or creasing a corner by turning down a page ear again.
Every logic points to books disappearing. Yet for some reason they hang on, and the reason is that people don’t always act rationally. Quite simply we have become emotionally connected to these wads of paper.
People can act with the herd – as witnessed in the massive swings in recent elections; they can act in defiance of valid information – climate change sceptics; or they can act for intangible (an often unpredictable) reasons such as liking the smell, touch and look of books or vinyl records. You can just see the marketers of e-readers pulling their hair out at the sheer behaviour of people “but e-readers are just better, why can’t you see that!?”.
We know people like choice, but we also know they are paralysed by too much choice. We know that habit is a determinant that can override logic and rationality. We also know that emotion is an essential component of decision making, which is why storytelling has become such an important facet of media training.
Facts are important, but without giving people some emotional content to go with it, facts alone just won’t fly.
Sam North, Media Director
Yesterday’s Queensland election results took everyone by surprise, even the Australian Labor Party (ALP). After suffering a slaughter at the last election (which left the ALP with a mere 9 seats) the Lazarus has risen and the ALP now seem certain to form Government, potentially with a majority.
The repercussions from this result will be significant, not only for Queensland, but also for the Federal Coalition, and serves as a poignant reminder that political leaders can quickly shift from being roosters to feather dusters, while one-term governments are becoming almost commonplace. In just three months, two first term governments have been thrown out – firstly Victoria, and now Queensland.
It is clear that State elections are not determined by state issues alone. While the Prime Minister physically kept his distance, his presence still loomed amidst the polling booths of Queensland. Stumbles, backtracks and bizarre Knighthoods may have had little to do with Queensland per se, but their impact echoed and became subliminally, if not directly, associated with the Newman Government. The Federal Government continued to lose popularity as 2014 came to a close, and the actions of the Prime Minister during January did little to restore confidence. The people vented their feelings at the Queensland polling booths, and the Liberal National Party (LNP) became the sacrificial lamb.
Certainly the LNP didn’t help themselves. This is now the second Queensland Government to fall with a platform of selling state assets. The sell was made harder as voters were reminded of the savage saving measures being promoted by the LNPs’ Federal colleagues. Bikie policies didn’t help either, and nor did Newman’s gung ho persona as an individual who didn’t seem to listen. Policies aside, the electorate just didn’t really warm to Newman – and he lost the premiership and his electorate all in the one day.
Meanwhile the ALP (as parties in opposition do) went to the election promising to do more with less, a notion which sounds good on paper but which may well prove a millstone around their necks.
The Federal leadership
The Queensland election result has added a sense of credibility to the leadership speculation, rumour and innuendo that has dogged the Prime Minister throughout the January holidays. As the magnitude of the result sinks in, it is set to increase the sense of panic on the backbench and heighten destabilisation. Critically though, as one commentator put it last night, “So far the chatter has been among privates and corporals. It’s time for generals now,” as the leadership debate moves from the back bench to the front bench.
Leadership speculation is a notion that Australia became used to during the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd era, where it was almost seen to be par for the course. This remains one of the strongest balls in the Prime Minister’s defensive arsenal – the community’s frustration with parties who turf out their leader to save their own seats. It didn’t work for the ALP at a Federal level and it didn’t work more recently for the Liberal Party in Victoria.
Tony Abbott will stand firm (he’s already on the record in this morning telling reporters he is determined to stay on as PM). What is more significant is the signal from his peers that no Prime Minister can ever take their leadership form granted.
The Prime Minister’s “make or break” speech to the National Press Club tomorrow will be a landmark event and he will no doubt spend his Sunday drafting and redrafting, trying to pull something out of the hat that will win confidence, not only to the community but also his own backbench. It will contain policy changes – the dropping of his beloved Paid Parental Leave initiative has already been leaked.
Policy changes are only one element though. The government has been plagued by poor consultation, engagement and communication, which can be seen in almost all of its policy failures. This will be harder for the Prime Minister to change and will not magically disappear as a result of a change in leadership.
Where’s the PUP?
The Queensland election saw another high profile casualty with the Palmer United Party failing to win a seat. This too will send repercussions through elements of Canberra, signaling that Clive’s gang may not be regarded as the “keep ‘em honest” party that it was supposed to be a mere 16 months ago. Will Palmer and his team listen to the Queensland message and keep their heads down and try to restore some faith, or will they read this as writing on the wall and make the most of power while they have it?
Next up to the plate…New South Wales
Two states have fallen – Victoria and Queensland – both first term governments. This leaves Premier Mike Baird nervously leading the Government in New South Wales as it faces an election in two months time. Not only does he need to unshackle his party from ICAC investigations, he also needs to disassociate his government with the problems of his Federal comrades and not replicate the Queensland and Victorian results. He will be watching the backlash to asset sales very closely.
As we say, interesting times ahead.
By Michael Hartmann, Parker & Partners
Elizabeth Broderick, Sex Discrimination Commissioner and named as Westpac’s 2014 Woman of Influence, shared her belief in the power of sharing personal stories to effect change at Executive Women’s Australia’s lunch event late last month.
On the same day, two reports from the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce were tabled in Parliament, discussing historical abuses. As Commissioner Broderick reflected on the news of the day she shared some of her approach to the work she is doing in investigating the current situation and ensuing change in our armed forces – and the power of stories in moving the issue from the head to the heart. She said she could see the penny drop when she brought women who had endured abuse face-to-face with the leaders of our armed forces.
Commissioner Broderick spoke compellingly about enlisting men in positions of power to stand alongside women in order to commit to action as equals for the greater good.
“Gender equality is not a zero sum game. It is an issue of balance with good, fabulous, decent men working with us and standing beside us.”
She called upon both men and women to commit to activism by sharing information on domestic violence at the beginning of any talk they give, wherever they were and regardless of the topic they were there to discuss. She spoke of the importance of acknowledging White Ribbon Day and of the urgent need to take on an issue impacting more women across the world than malnutrition. She also spoke of the 1.2 million Australian women currently living in an intimate relationship characterised by violence.
Commissioner Broderick’s message was deceptively simple. Small actions can have a powerful impact. Sharing a story can change hearts, minds, and consequently, our culture for real improvement.
Commissioner Broderick’s speech was an inspiring reinforcement to me of the power of storytelling, which is one of Ogilvy PR’s underlying tenets. We can all play our part for social change.
Georgina Morris, Account Director Ogilvy PR Health
Yesterday’s Victorian election result was nearly 60 years in the making. For the first time since 1955, Victorians have removed a first term government with Daniel “Dan” Andrews and his Australian Labor Party (ALP) taking the helm of the nation’s second largest state economy.
A highly disciplined and targeted campaign with an ability to motivate grassroots supporters delivered a 3% swing to the ALP who appear to have secured a likely 48 seats to the Coalition’s 39 seats. The election of Green’s candidate, Ellen Sandell, in the seat of Melbourne has made history for the party (their first seat within the Victorian Parliament) and a second seat remains within reach.
While the result was considered a foregone conclusion for many; it’s the voting in the upper house that has put a smile on many political pundits’ faces. A wide range of minor parties including the Shooters, Fishers, Country Alliance and Greens are likely to hold the balance of power after the ALP fell short of a majority. This will add an additional level of complexity for the ALP to navigate in legislating its agenda.
First priorities for the Premier-Elect
Following the heady celebrations of last night, Premier-elect Andrews has woken up to reality and the sobering thought that it appears easier to win an election than to effectively govern in the current economic climate. Victoria owns the highest unemployment rate on the mainland and faces a tapering economy with thousands of jobs to go in the manufacturing industry alone. A growing population is placing additional pressure on infrastructure such as roads, public transport, schools and hospitals at a time when the budgetary pot looks empty.
Chaos is one word to describe the likely Upper House that the Premier-Elect must successfully navigate in order to meet the community’s expectation that things will change for the better.
Within the industry space, the Premier-elect Andrews has a number of commitments to meet including:
- Establish a $100 million fund to support the creation of 100,000 full time jobs by providing payroll tax relief to companies hiring unemployed Victorians.
- Create the Premier’s Jobs and Investment Panel of industry leaders to provide direct advice to the Premier on the expenditure of $500 million for jobs and investment.
- Establish a $200 million Future Industries Fund to support job-creating projects in six identified high-growth areas, including pharmaceuticals, new energy, food and fibre, and international education.
- Establish Infrastructure Victoria to identify and priortise infrastructure needs; and Projects Victoria to deliver them.
- Set up Start-Up Victoria, a $60 million body to bring the most promising and innovative ideas to life through business case development, investment attraction and intellectual property advice.
- Increase the funding and resources for Victoria’s leading research institutions.
- Commission a review by the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission to recommend new procurement guidelines for innovation, research and development.
The immediate focus for the Premier-elect will be:
- Ministerial responsibilities - Finalising his ministerial team with an announcement expected later this week.
- Public Service reshuffle - Changes are expected to the Victorian Public Service in the form of structural changes to agencies as well as their leadership.
- East West Link - Releasing the contract details for the East West Link with the aim to convince industry and the public at large that the road is not the number one infrastructure priority for Victoria.
- Back to Work Act – Finalise the policy ready for introduction into Parliament during the first sitting week, which is expected to be brought back before Christmas.
The Opposition must regroup
“It’s time for renewal, it is time for change.” With that, former-Premier Denis Napthine stepped down as the head of the Victorian Liberals – a position he only held for some 630 days. The result is a further example that removing a first-term Premier without explanation is likely to hurt you at the ballot box. More importantly, the result demonstrates that the electorate wants action and measured improvement, and is increasingly likely to dump governments who they see as unable to make a marked improvement – and do so quickly – no matter the leader’s popularity.
The majority of next generation of Coalition rising stars have managed to hold their seats resigning this election result to a potentially embarrassing road bump rather than longer-term damage. Former Treasurer, Michael O’Brien, and former Minister for Planning, Matthew Guy, appear to be in a two-horse race for the leadership. They must learn the lesson from this result that Opposition is more than holding the Government to account; you must present real policies to the electorate in order to be seen as a government-in-waiting.
The big question is whether the Liberal and National Parties will move forward as a Coalition, or as separate parties, following the news that the Nationals will review the agreement following the party’s ‘grim’ campaign performance, which has seen them lose at least one seat.
A shudder will be felt in Canberra . . . and Sydney and Queensland
The reverberations from last night’s result will be felt all the way up the Hume Highway into Canberra as well as within the two Coalition-governing states of Queensland and New South Wales who both face the electorate next year for the first time since coming to power. The size of the buffer in these states means that a change in government is unlikely, but a comparable voter backlash would provide both governments with a fright, and a difficult second term.
While state issues dominated the campaign, there can be no doubt that voters have struggled to isolate their concerns and hostility towards the Federal Government, its Budget, and its recent political performances, which will strike fear into the concerns of an already-fretting backbench.
Parliamentary Secretary, Josh Frydenberg called the result a ‘wake up call’ and stated that there are ‘some very serious lessons’ with the party set to ‘go back to the drawing board’. At first glance, the Federal Government may just wish to survive the last sitting week of the year this week, and then take a deep breath when they consider that the next Federal Election remains two years away.
Peta Lange – Associate Director Parker & Partners
The cracks have turned to chasms as Palmers’ not-quite-so United Party succumbs to its own inner turmoil. Somewhat spectacularly, Party Leader Clive Palmer this morning suspended Jacqui Lambie’s rights to attend future party meetings (noting that she’d already missed the past three). At the same time he also demoted her as the Party’s Deputy Leader and Deputy Whip.
The tensions started to emerge publicly back in August when Senator Lazarus attempted to quell any suggestions of a rift when he told reporters “It’s just a load of rubbish …Jacqui and I are tighter than ever….We love each other deeply.” Astute political observers could not help but see such words as evidence that there was trouble in paradise.
The tension within the Party has clearly been brewing for some time, and finally came to a head last week when Senator Lambie criticised her PUP colleagues on ABC 730. That same evening Lambie’s chief of staff Rob Messenger was expelled from the party for what Clive Palmer calls his “disruptive influence” and for making “false and misleading statements” about PUP Senators, while Palmer himself dismissed Lambie as “a drama queen”. Lambie removed the PUP logo from her website, leading to speculation that she may choose to resign from the Party and follow the lead of Senator Madigan who in September resigned from the Democratic Labour Party to operate as an Independent. Such a move has today become the odds-on favorite.
If (as looks increasingly likely) Lambie defects and becomes an independent, what will be the repercussions?
Firstly, there is some legal issues to be considered. Senate practice suggests that should a vacancy arise within a Party, that position must be replaced by another member of that same Party. Senator Madigan was able to work around this point, and there will certainly be discussions and investigations underway both in Lambie and Palmer’s offices to work out logistics as far as PUP is concerned.
More significant will be the impact on the Senate vote as the Coalition attempts to have its legislative changes passed through the Upper House.
The Senate comprises 76 positions. The Coalition hold 33 of those seats, Labor hold 25, and the Greens have 10. That leaves 8 seats in the infamous “cross bench”. Assuming The Greens continue their practice of voting with Labor, the Coalition will require 6 of the 8 crossbenchers to vote with them to pass legislation, while Labor will require only 4 of the 8 to block.
The crossbench had been considered as comprising three separate voting “blocks” where Bob Day (Family First) and David Leyonhjelm (Liberal Democrats) vote together; John Madigan (Independent) and Nick Xenophon (Independent) vote together, and Ricky Muir (Motoring Enthusiasts) votes in a block with the three PUP Senators. The PUP block has already broken as Ricky Muir proves his capacity to think for himself and, with Lambie, pulled away from the PUP position and added their names to the disallowance motion which is likely to unwind the Coalition’s changes to Labor’s Future of Financial Advice reforms.
If/when Lambie splits from PUP she will be confirmed as a free radical who will be unlikely to vote in a set block but will bounce toward any position where she feels her vote will win a better deal for her state of Tasmania. Her statement that “I just want to do something that is positive for Tasmania,” will surely to ring loud in the ears of the likes of Minister Christopher Pyne who will be doing all he can do woo her vote, PUP or no PUP, in his quest to see his higher education reforms passed into law.
By Michael Hartmann, Parker & Partners