Julia Gillard Visits Tasmania To Inspect Bushfire Relief

Prime Minister Julia Gillard visited Tasmania today to inspect bushfire damage and the relief program.

Gillard inspected bushfire damage in Dunalley. Later she held a media conference with Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings. [Read more…]

Whatever Happened To The 45th President?

Ever since I installed Google Analytics on AustralianPolitics.com some 5 or 6 years ago, I’ve been addicted to studying the statistics in order to understand who’s using the site and how they’re doing it.

Last November, there was a spike in traffic in the week of the US presidential election. That’s a pattern with the site: major political events, especially elections, produce traffic spikes.

Because there’s quite a lot of material about American politics on the site, an apparent anomaly that I’ve long since stopped worrying about, it didn’t surprise me too much that the Obama-Romney contest would bring more traffic.

What I couldn’t work out, though, is what specifically caused the traffic spike. Tens of thousands of extra visitors came to the site that week. Google ad revenue rose accordingly and in fact it was this that alerted me to the spike.

A cursory check of the traffic stats didn’t provide any answers. The same patterns and proportions I see every month were also there in November.

I must have been asleep because I didn’t burrow into the figures to work out what had happened. Just before Christmas, I finally realised what had occurred. [Read more…]

Julia Gillard’s Place Amongst The List Of Australian Prime Ministers

It’s January, it’s the holiday season, but it’s also an election year, so let’s play with some historical data.

Don’t take it too seriously, but 2013 offers a number of interesting possibilities for Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Gillard is the 27th person to serve as prime minister in the 112 years of Australia’s federation. She is the 11th Labor prime minister.

Gillard is currently the 17th longest serving prime minister, having exceeded the terms of 10 prime ministers, 7 from the conservative side (Page, McEwen, Fadden, Reid, Cook, McMahon & Holt) and 3 from Labor (Forde, Watson & Scullin).

Of the ten PMs Gillard has already overtaken, only three ever won an election (Cook in 1913, Scullin in 1929 & Holt in 1966). None could be regarded as raging successes.

  • Joseph Cook called a double dissolution in 1914 and became one of the first casualties of the Great War. Andrew Fisher, the Labor PM Cook had defeated in 1913, returned to the post.
  • James Scullin’s government, elected one week before the Wall Street crash ushered in the Great Depression in 1929, split three ways and was demolished at at an early election by his former Treasurer, Joe Lyons, who had defected to the conservatives.
  • Harold Holt won a smashing victory against the ALP and Arthur Calwell in 1966. At the time of his death by drowning in 1967, his leadership was under threat from rivals within and from without by a rampant Gough Whitlam.

Three of the prime ministers Gillard has overtaken (Page, Forde & McEwen) assumed the office on a temporary basis following the death of the incumbent.

  • The Country Party leader Earle Page served for 20 days after Lyons died in 1939. Despite a vicious verbal assault by Page, the United Australia Party elected Menzies as their new leader.
  • Frank Forde was prime minister for 8 days after John Curtin died in 1945. He continued serving as the ALP’s deputy leader after Ben Chifley became leader but lost his seat at the 1946 election.
  • Like Page, John McEwen was leader of the Country Party when he became prime minister after the death of Harold Holt. His major achievement in this time was to threaten to bring down the government if the Liberals chose McMahon to replace Holt. He succeeded in delaying McMahon’s accession to the position for another three years.

Two of the prime ministers Gillard has surpassed (Watson & Reid) served briefly after upheaval in the House of Representatives.

  • John Christian (Chris) Watson became the first Labor PM after the House amended Alfred Deakin’s Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. Deakin handed the job to Watson who lasted nearly four months until the House passed another amendment to the same bill. The Governor-General refused to grant Watson an election and Reid took over.
  • George Reid lasted for 10 months until the House amended the Address-in-Reply and the Governor-General again refused to grant an election. Deakin returned for the second of his three terms as prime minister.

The 10th prime minister Gillard has overtaken (Fadden) would appreciate the position she has faced for the past two years.

  • Arthur Fadden was Country Party leader when a joint meeting of the United Australia Party and the Country Party made him prime minister in 1940 after Robert Menzies resigned. Even though the UAP had elected the 77-year-old Billy Hughes as their leader, it wasn’t thought he was sufficiently able-bodied to return to the post he had last held in 1922. Fadden lasted for 40 days until the two independents who held the balance of power in the hung parliament tossed him out in favour of Labor’s John Curtin.

Gillard’s achievement in rising to 17th place in the list of longest serving prime ministers doesn’t look overly impressive when you consider the circumstances of the 10 men she has overtaken.

In terms of prime ministerial longevity, what does 2013 hold in store for Gillard? [Read more…]

Queensland Government Electoral Reform Discussion Paper

The Queensland government has released a discussion paper on electoral reform.

Media attention has focussed on the issue of compulsory voting. Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Treasurer Wayne Swan have attacked the Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman, over compulsory voting.

In fact, it is more likely that the government is keen to make changes to the political donations and public funding rules. [Read more…]

U.S. Congress Passes Fiscal Cliff Legislation; Obama Says It’s Just First Step

The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation which prevents income tax increases on the bulk of Americans and also prevents large cuts in government programs.

The fiscal cliff crisis was resolved for now when the House approved legislation passed late on New Year’s Eve by the Senate. The House vote was 257 to 167, with 85 Republicans voting with 172 Democrats to allow incomes taxes to increase for the first time in 20 years. The No vote consisted of 151 Republicans and 16 Democrats.

The legislation passed the Senate at 2am on New Year’s Day by 89 votes to 8.

The legislation increases taxes on household incomes over $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples. It makes permanent tax cuts for incomes below that level. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 also delays the budget sequestration by two months. The tax increases are expected to raise $600 billion over ten years, about one-fifth of the revenue that would have resulted from no action. It was widely believed that a failure to act could have led to a recession in the U.S.

Following the House vote, President Barack Obama held a media briefing just before midnight. Whilst praising the passage of the legislation, he said there was more to be done on reducing the nation’s budget deficit.

Post from Colleen Curtis on the White House blog.

What You Need to Know About the Bipartisan Tax Agreement

UPDATE: The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 was also passed by a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives on January 1, 2013.

President Obama has repeatedly called this a make-or-break moment for the middle class. That’s why we worked with Republicans and Democrats in Congress to reach an agreement that keeps income taxes low for the middle class and helps to grow the economy. And as the President promised, millionaires and billionaires will also begin doing more to help pay down the deficit through a combination of permanent tax rate increases and reduced tax benefits. [Read more…]

When Will The 2013 Federal Election Be Held?

What do we definitely know about this year’s election?

  • A House of Representatives election can be called at any time. Provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act require a minimum of 33 days notice. A January election is now impossible. No federal election has ever been held in January or February. Given the holiday period underway now, an early March election is probably the earliest possible date.
  • A double dissolution is now constitutionally impossible. No legislation has been twice rejected by the Senate with the requisite three-month interval. The option formally expires on March 27.
  • A half-Senate election cannot be called until after July 1. See Section 13 of the Constitution. A House-only election held between February-June 2013 would require a separate half-Senate election sometime before June 30, 2014. A Gillard or Abbott government would be forced back to the polls within a year of any House election held before June 2013.
  • The earliest possible date for a joint House of Representatives and half-Senate election is August 3.
  • A House election can be held as late as November 30, if every requirement of the Constitution and Electoral Act is stretched to the maximum allowable time.
  • The House of Representatives will expire on September 27 if it hasn’t already been dissolved. This is because the three year term of the House dates from the first day the parliament met – September 28, 2010. If the House expired on September 27, the writs for the election would have to be issued within 10 days.
  • Antony Green has written a couple of informative pieces about the historical timing of elections and the constitutional and legislative requirements. See here and here.

Is an election in March, April, May or June entirely out of the question?

  • No. An upturn in the government’s fortunes could encourage Gillard to go early to capitalise on favourable conditions. In this event, the half-Senate problem would probably be lost in the general melee of an election. Besides, the Opposition has been demanding an early poll for most of the past two years.
  • There have been suggestions the government might go early to avoid bringing down a May budget. This seems less likely since Wayne Swan announced that the government has all but abandoned its budget surplus promise. It is just as likely that the government will aim to use the Budget to establish its priorities for the election campaign and to engage in some electorally strategic spending initiatives.

Is a March-June election likely?

  • No. As is well known, the government is not travelling well in the polls. In these circumstances governments do not go early. They hang in until the last possible moment in the hope that the Opposition will stumble or that something else turns up to rescue them. John Howard did this in 2007. Members facing defeat don’t want to go any earlier than they absolutely have to for political and possibly financial reasons.

[Read more…]

Comments And AustralianPolitics.com

It’s been an interesting couple of days moderating comments submitted to AustralianPolitics.com.

Recently I posted the text of an article that the Minister for Trade, Craig Emerson, circulated on Twitter. It dealt with media bias and media treatment of the Gillard-AWU matter and the Slipper-Ashby sexual harassment case.

Over recent days, I have approved a couple of comments on this post but deleted dozens of others.

I’ve been struck by the viciousness of the comments about Emerson. Many comments retailed salacious stories. The meaning of some comments was hard to discern. Many just attacked Emerson and the government in general terms. I won’t reproduce the most scurrilous and personal but here are some examples, as submitted:

“Before Dr Emmerson starts slagging off about media bias perhaps he should come clean about his adultery…” [etc, etc, snip, snip and many more like so, only more explicit]

“Reads more like a love letter than a critique. At a loose end over the Xmas break, are we! What the NBN hasn’t passed your way yet? Are downloads are so slow your getting fidgety? Try a satellite connection. Half the price and fast enough to put a “smile on your face”, until your back in Canberra, that is.”

“Emerson is a complete and utter fool. He has proven that repeatedly by his ridiculous utterances. As for Gillard, her misogyny speech was probably the most disgraceful speech I have heard from a leader of this country. For that alone, she deserves to lose the next election. Thankfully, it is not that far to go before this disgraceful, incompetent pack of losers are tossed out.”

“So Mr Emerson when you refer to “Some editors and a few journalists are blatantly biased.” are you referring to Oakes, Grattan, Harcher, Coorey and just about every journalist on the Fairfax payroll whose primary interest is to be the Gillard cheer squad! If, as you say “That has always been the case.” perhaps this is why The Age and SMH are dying mastheads. Then in your final statement, the punch line, you state “But the real problem is the abandonment of professional standards to give effect to that bias. All subtlety is lost.” I guess this is referring to the loss subtlety and one-side argument for climate change, or whatever term the Labor Government chooses to introduce re;clean energy, dirty power etc; and reference to those that challenge the idea as climate skeptics or deniers”

“I just wish Craig Emerson would go away for a long time. He hyperventilates, interrupts, claims high ground which he is not standing on. If it meant we would not hear from him again, it might almost be worth reigning in the press!!!”

“How can anyone take Emerson seriously after his childish “Whyalla Wipeout” performance. Its clear his intellect hasn’t passed the pre-school level. In any case he is certainly not we should be able to expect from senior government minister.”

“he should look to his own actions .. he should also make the party’s followers aware of how their policies are part of the big jigsaw puzzle which has a very red centre and should watch this video to make everyone aware of what they are dealing with here and in the USA…

“Is emerson serious? Hell the media, with the exceptions of a few, were bought and paid for, to the tune of $1 billion plus, by Kevin Rudd. The Lame Stream Media is a joke in this country, Labor suck ups, that should hang their heads in shame, for their fawning attitude, and refusal to hold the ALP to account. Hey Craig, if you wanna criticise something, why dont you take a good hard look at your past indiscretions… [snip, snip]

Along with the anti-Emerson abuse came a number of conspiracy theorists. The one quoted above wanted to post a link to a nutty American video about left-wing destruction of Western society. Another wrote about a long list of suspicious coincidences, of which my favourite was the claim that Lionel Murphy used to be Julia Gillard’s boss at Slater & Gordon before he was given a seat on the High Court. All nonsense, of course.

A number of things bother me about these comments. There’s the abuse. There’s the shabby allegations of personal impropriety. There’s the poor expression and inadequate punctuation. There’s the factual ignorance. There’s the lack of awareness of what constitutes debate and discussion.

At one level the comments are not particularly offensive but I don’t want them on my website. To me, they’re junk. They add nothing to the issues raised by Emerson.

I suppose it’s a subjective judgment on my part. These examples don’t do justice to the full range I’ve received but overall they strike me as ill-informed, angry, illogical and occasionally nutty. [Read more…]