COAG Discussions Focus On Terrorism, Federation And Taxation

The Council of Australian Governments met in Canberra and discussed a range of issues, including terrorism, reform of the Federation and the taxation system.


The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, held a joint press conference following the meeting. He was accompanied by Premiers Baird, Napthine, Newman, Barnett, Weatherill and Hodgman, as well as the Territory Chief Ministers Gallagher and Giles. Felicity-Ann Lewis represented Local Government.

The State have agreed to introduce legislation to support federal laws covering the arrest, monitoring, investigation and prosecution of domestic extremists and returning foreign fighters.

COAG also agreed that the Federation and Tax Reform White Papers need to progress together. [Read more…]

ALP And Greens Back Palmer Motion For Select Committee Inquiry Into Queensland Government

The Senate has voted to establish a Select Committee to inquire into aspects of Queensland government administration.

The motion was moved by Palmer United Party senators and supported by the ALP and Greens. It was carried by 30 votes to 27.

The 5-member Select Committee on Certain Aspects of Queensland Government Administration will comprise 2 ALP, 1 Green, 1 PUP and 1 Coalition members. The PUP Senate leader, Glenn Lazarus, will chair the committee.

The Committee is required to report by March 27, 2015, around the time the Queensland state election is due.

The Committee is charged with inquiring into Commonwealth funds allocated to Queensland since March 26, 2012, when the LNP government led by Premier Campbell Newman took office. It will investigate judicial independence and the separation of powers, environmental law, the administration of prisons and detention without trial. The Committee will also examine Commonwealth oversight of coal seam gas projects in Queensland. [Read more…]

Islamic State Beheadings Plot Alleged Following Terrorist Raid Arrests In Sydney And Brisbane

Federal Police raids this morning have resulted in a 22-year old man, Omarjan Azari, appearing in a Sydney court charged with planning a terrorist act designed to “shock, horrify and terrify”.

Azari is accused of conspiring with Mohammad Baryalei, the man described as a “top terrorist recruiter” in Australia. The arrest is one of about 15 resulting from raids across western Sydney and Brisbane. The raids, involving 800 police and described as the largest in Australian history, took place as a result of information gleaned from an intercepted telephone conversation in recent days.

Media reports say the arrests related to a plot to capture and behead a random member of the public. Reports say the plan involved filming the beheading as a propaganda tool for the Islamic State movement (also known as ISIL or IS) in Iraq. The basis and veracity of these claims is uncertain. The Australian Federal Police have been guarded in their comments on the raids. Prime Minister Tony Abbott said: “This is not just suspicion, this is intent.”

Political leaders were quick to respond to the raids during the day.


Queensland Premier Campbell Newman held a press conference with Police Commissioner Ian Stewart. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten commented on the raids, as did the ALP’s Immigration spokesman, Richard Marles, and Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young. [Read more…]

ALP Wins Queensland Stafford By-Election With 18.6% Swing

The Queensland ALP has won the Stafford by-election with a swing of 18.6%, regaining a seat lost in the LNP landslide of 2012 and propelling a Royal Brisbane Hospital surgeon into parliament.


Dr. Anthony Lynham, a maxillofacial surgeon, will become the new member for Stafford, replacing Chris Davis, the LNP member who resigned after a series of disputes with the Newman government, which included his dismissal as Assistant Minister for Health. Davis was also a medical specialist before his election, working as the Director of Medicine at the Prince Charles Hospital.

Situated in the inner-north of Brisbane, Stafford is an electorate once-abolished and recreated in 2001. It was held by the ALP between 2001 and 2012. There was a 14.4% swing against the ALP in 2012.

The LNP’s primary vote has fallen 16.9% to 33.4%, whilst the ALP’s primary has risen 17.2% to 50.7%.

The ALP’s two-party-preferred vote is 61.5%, a swing of 18.6%. The LNP margin before the by-election was 7.1%. [Read more…]

Tony Fitzgerald Warns Of Abuse Of Power In Queensland

Tony Fitzgerald, the man who led the inquiry into corruption in Queensland’s Bjelke-Petersen government in the 1980s, has issued a statement warning against the abuse of power and describing Queensland today as “effectively a single-party State”.

FitzgeraldFitzgerald, a former judge of the Federal Court of Australia, said the first term of Campbell Newman’s government has seen attacks on the judiciary and judicial independence, emasculation of the anti-corruption commission, and interference with the electoral system.

The Liberal National Party government has “confirmed the critical importance of adequate checks and balances”, Fitzgerald says.

The Fitzgerald Inquiry of the 1980s contributed to the resignation of Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen, the jailing of Police Commissioner Terry Lewis, and the resignation and jailing of several Cabinet ministers.

Text of statement issued by Tony Fitzgerald.

Statement from Tony Fitzgerald

Queensland is extremely vulnerable to the misuse and abuse of power. There are almost no constitututional limits on the power of the State’s single house of parliament. Unless there is an effective parliamentary opposition to advocate alternative policies, criticise government errors, denounce excesses of power and reflect, inform and influence public opinion, the checks and balances needed for democracy are entirely missing. [Read more…]

Premiers Rebel Over Federal Budget Cuts; Demand COAG Meeting Before July 1

The States have rebelled over Federal Government Budget cuts, claiming that the impact will be felt on July 1, and demanding Prime Minister Tony Abbott convene a COAG meeting before then.


The State Premiers and Territory Chief Ministers met in Sydney today at a meeting called by the Queensland LNP Premier, Campbell Newman. The Western Australian Premier, Colin Barnett, was the only leader not to attend.

Newman said the meeting “firmly and unequivocally rejected” the Budget cuts. The political leaders demanded an urgent meeting of the Council of Australia Governments before July 1. Newman said: “Contrary to what the PM said today, there are immediate impacts to frontline services.”

He said the $180 million cut to hospitals would be felt immediately with about 1200 sub-acute beds being cut in hospitals. “There was a national partnership on preventative health – we all received letters saying that is terminated.” [Read more…]

Clive Palmer To Sue Campbell Newman Over Vote-Buying Claim

The leader of the Palmer United Party, Clive Palmer, says he will sue the Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman, over comments he made that Palmer was buying votes.


It was announced yesterday that three indigenous representatives of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly – Alison Anderson, Larisa Lee and Francis Xavier Kurrupuwuy – would join Palmer’s party. The three members resigned from the Country Liberal Party government a few weeks ago and now sit as independents. Anderson is also a former member of the ALP.

Campbell Newman yesterday said Palmer was “buying” votes. He said Palmer was on a “rampage around Australia” to “buy other people and buy other people’s votes”.

At a press conference today, Palmer said Newman was like “an angry fire ant” and said he “went up and down like a yo-yo”. Palmer said Newman should seek medical help.

Palmer also said the federal government’s rhetoric about the “financial mess” the economy was in was a “lie”. He said Australia is one of 13 countries in the world with a triple-A credit rating.

  • Listen to Palmer’s press conference (24m)

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Yvette D’Ath Wins Queensland Redcliffe By-Election For Labor With 16% Swing

Yvette D’Ath has reclaimed the Queensland Legislative Assembly district of Redcliffe for the Labor Party with a 16.1% swing in today’s by-election.

D'AthShe defeated the Liberal National candidate, Kerri-Anne Dooley, who stood in place of the former LNP member, Scott Driscoll.

D’Ath was the former Labor member for the federal electorate of Petrie for two terms from 2007 until her defeat last year.

The ALP’s primary vote rose 12.9% to 43.6% whilst the LNP’s fell 14.1% to 35.1%. The Greens vote fell 2.8% to 4.0%. An independent candidate polled 10.6%.

The ALP’s two-party-preferred vote is 56% to the LNP’s 44%.

Redcliffe is an electorate to the north and northeast of Brisbane. It includes the suburbs of Clontarf, Margate, Kippa-Ring, Redcliffe and Woody Point, as well as Moreton Island. Since its creation in 1960, it was held by the Liberal Party until the ALP won it in 1989 and retained it until 2005. The Liberals briefly held it again in 2005-06, before the ALP won it again.

The by-election was caused by the resignation of the former Liberal National member, Scott Driscoll. Elected in the LNP landslide of 2012, Driscoll was accused of misleading parliament over his business interests. He resigned last November.

With all polling booths reporting their results tonight, the two-party swing to the ALP is 16.1%. The ALP won 11 of the 14 polling booths. The swing to the ALP is roughly equivalent to the statewide swing against it in 2012.

D’Ath’s victory increases the ALP’s parliamentary representation to 8 members in Queensland’s 89-member Legislative Assembly. The party lost 44 seats in 2012 and its primary vote fell to 26.66%.

The ALP will portray the result as a vote against Premier Campbell Newman’s administration and its budget cuts. It will also say the result is a warning to the Abbott government ahead of its first Budget. Whilst a win is a win and the swing is substantial, in reality it is foolish to read too much into by-election results.

The next Queensland state election is due early next year, although Newman could opt to go towards the end of this year. The LNP won 78 seats in 2012 but defections and tonight’s loss means it now holds 74 seats. It can afford to lose up to 28 seats without losing government.

Terri Butler Wins Griffith By-Election For ALP; Status Quo Result Sees 0.68% Swing To Liberals

Terri Butler will become the new Labor member for Griffith, following her by-election victory in the Brisbane-based electorate vacated by former prime minister Kevin Rudd.


At the close of counting tonight, Butler had recorded a two-party-preferred vote of 52.33%. This is a swing against the ALP of 0.68% since the September 2013 general election.

The ALP’s primary vote fell 1.38% to 38.98%, the first time it has ever fallen below 40% since the electorate was created in 1934.

The Liberal National Party candidate, Dr. Bill Glasson, polled 43.57% of the primary vote, an increase of 1.35%. He received 47.67% of the two-party-preferred vote.

The Greens candidate, Geoff Ebbs, polled 10.19% of the primary vote, an increase of 0.01%.

The other eight candidates polled poorly, amassing a total of 7.25% between them.

Claiming victory, Terri Butler told supporters that the result “sent a strong message” to Tony Abbott to keep his “hands off our Medicare”. She said voters had also reacted to budget cuts by Queensland’s Newman government.


Accompanied by Attorney-General Senator George Brandis and Queensland Premier Campbell Newman, Bill Glasson told LNP supporters: “We’re not conceding tonight but it’s obviously going to be difficult to get across the line.” However, his long, rambling speech to campaign workers had concession and valedictory written all over it.

There are reportedly around 10,000 or more postal and pre-poll votes which will not be counted until next week. They may narrow the result further but are unlikely to change the outcome.

  • Listen to Senator George Brandis, Campbell Newman and Bill Glasson (22m)

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  • Listen to Terri Butler’s victory speech (15m)

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The Meaning Of The Griffith By-Election

by Malcolm Farnsworth

Liberal and Labor spokespeople were quick to “spin” the result of the by-election tonight.

The ALP claimed victory and said the result was a warning to the Abbott government. The new Labor member for Griffith, Terri Butler, told reporters that voters had told her the Abbott government wasn’t what they expected.

Liberals, on the other hand, said Abbott would be buoyed by the result which saw a further swing against the ALP in the aftermath of difficult decisions on the car industry and SPC Ardmona.

The truth is that in politics a win is a win is a win. Elections are about getting bums on seats and the ALP has ensured that it will still have 55 bums on the green leather when the House of Representatives meets next week for the first session of 2014.

We have been told ad nauseum in recent times that a government has only once taken a seat off the Opposition in the history of what is now 147 by-elections since 1901. That was in 1920 under highly unique circumstances. Oppositions have occasionally lost seats to independents and minor parties but overall it is absolutely true that a win for Glasson tonight would have been a big story indeed. Instead, memories of the by-election will fade quickly.

The swing against the ALP of 0.68% is statistically insignificant. The result is best viewed as a repeat of last year’s result. Both elections had 11 candidates, yet the two results are remarkably similar. Overall, it was a vote for the status quo.

The result is also not surprising because the electorate has basically been a Labor seat since Ben Humphreys won it in 1977. The ALP has now won Griffith at 14 of the past 15 elections, losing it just once in 1996 when the Keating government was defeated.

However, the ALP has little to crow about. There was a swing to the Coalition. On current figures, the ALP’s primary vote has fallen 14.11% since 2007. Its two-party-preferred vote has fallen 9.99% in the same period.

For the first time ever in Griffith, the party recorded a primary vote of less than 40%. At the close of counting, it was 38.98%. This is the third successive decline in the ALP’s primary vote since Kevin Rudd won the seat with 53.09% in 2007. It fell to 44.08% in 2010 and then to 40.36% last year.

The ALP’s national primary vote last year was 33.38%, its lowest since the 1930s. The Griffith result is not as bad as that but the the trend is in the same direction. And this comes after a federal election in which the ALP managed to win just 7 seats on the primary vote, compared to 51 seats for the Coalition. The existential issue for the ALP remains the question of its declining base vote.

It’s intriguing to note that the Greens vote fell 5.21% last year to 10.18%. Tonight, it sits on 10.19%, whilst the ALP shed a further 1.38%. The electorate seems to have confirmed its general election decision in the case of both parties.

The government is correct to point out that it is unusual for an opposition to go backwards in a by-election. Given recent polls show the Coalition struggling, it’s worth asking why the ALP slipped back further tonight, albeit whilst still winning.

The reasons are unclear. It may be the result of losing Kevin Rudd’s personal vote – a mere 1%? It may be annoyance at being forced back to the polls by a member who resigned just nine weeks after being re-elected. On the other hand, a defeated prime minister is likely to be forgiven for departing the political scene.

The swing may be related to the decreased turnout. Whilst we don’t have an accurate figure as yet, it appears that the voter turnout rate may be around 75-80%, compared to the average 93-95%.

The ALP will claim its win is a warning to Abbott but this is nonsense. When it had every reason to expect a swing against it, the government has improved its position.

But a victory is always better than a defeat. If Butler turns out to be a diligent local member she may be able to lift the primary vote in future elections. Better to be an incumbent in these circumstances.

The Labor strategist Bruce Hawker repeatedly pointed out tonight that Griffith is now in the top 20 of the highest income electorates in the country. He said the electorate is gentrifying. That may be so but it simply highlights the difficulty Labor faces with voters across the nation. This by-election provides no evidence that the ALP knows how to stem the tide.

The Labor supporters who have sought comfort in the “one-term Tony” slogan and portray the Abbott government as struggling and at risk are, at the very least, utterly premature. The electorate cast its judgment on the Rudd-Gillard years five months ago and there’s no sign in this by-election that they regret their decision. It’s reasonable to assume that voters will continue for some time to cut the government some slack as it goes about its business.

The ALP will return to parliament next week with 55 members and a new face. They won.

The Coalition will not see Bill Glasson sitting on the government backbench. They lost.

But the ALP will still be confronted by a government with a floor majority of 29. And long after the Griffith by-election has been forgotten, the real electoral battle for this year will be shaped by what Treasurer Joe Hockey produces in his May budget.

Swan Continues Attacks On Campbell Newman Cuts

For the second day running, Treasurer Wayne Swan has focussed on Queensland government budget cuts and their effect on unemployment and the national economy.


At a Brisbane media conference, Swan quoted from Queensland Budget papers which itemised $3 billion worth of cuts to health funding and 2,754 full-time job losses.

  • Listen to Swan’s media conference – transcript below (14m)

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  • Listen to Swan’s media conference yesterday on the CPI figures (19m)

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Transcript of Treasurer Wayne Swan’s Brisbane media conference.


I wanted to say a few things about the World Economic Outlook which has been released by the IMF overnight. They have expressed cautious optimism about future growth in the global economy and certainly cautious optimism is justified if policy makers get the big decisions right over the next 12 months. And in particular, policy makers in the United States when it comes to the conclusion of the negotiations surrounding the debt cap there and the other issues associated with the fiscal cliff. [Read more…]