Queensland heads to the polls tomorrow, four years and nine months after the historic defeat of Campbell Newman and the LNP Coalition. I thought it would be interesting and educational to revisit those restive times, when Campbell Newman became only the second sitting Premier since Federation to lose his seat.
Mr Newman’s seat of Ashgrove was taken by Kate Jones, who ironically is quitting politics in 2020 to pursue other interests. The Tourism Minister’s last hoorah this week was to attack Clive Palmer on national television, saying his claim about a Labor death tax is “bullshit”.
Even with Campbell Newman losing his seat in January 2015, it was a close-run thing. Incoming Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk formed government with the help of one independent, Peter Wellington. The Labor Party increased its majority by four seats in the November 2017 election, despite Mr Wellington deciding to quite politics. So tomorrow’s poll is a contest between two women – Annastacia Palaszczuk, who is attempting to win a third successive term, and Deb Frecklington, in her eighth year in politics, hoping for a promotion from her highest position in the Campbell Newman government (assistant Finance Minister). Whoever wins, we are stuck with them for four years, courtesy of Queensland’s second referendum on fixed terms, which was got a Yes vote in 2016 (after a No in 1991).
In researching this topic, I uncovered a FOMM written in early February 2015, a year which also saw Prime Minister Tony Abbott ousted by Malcolm Turnbull before the former completed his term.
My blog on the Friday after the 2015 Queensland election called for more compassion, in politics and in daily life. It was also an attempt to soothe the “bruised egos and wallets of those who backed the wrong team”.
We talked about compassion over the festive season, and how we could all try a bit harder. A few wise people wrote to me at the time and suggested that first you have to give yourself a break. But that week I felt an unlikely pang of compassion for Tony Abbott, under siege from his own party and the media. Just imagine how he might have felt going into the Press Club on the Monday after Queensland voters turned on the LNP.
The PM has a thick hide, obviously, but I imagine he might have had to do some meditation or yoga before he fronted the media pack. While it seems clear that the LNP’s narrow defeat in Queensland, with Premier Campbell Newman losing his seat, was all about that government’s arrogance and can-do-ism, inevitably Tony Abbott got the blame.
In typical style, the PM did not refer to the Queensland election in his prepared comments for the Press Club, although some of his detractors rode that particular elephant into the room. You could hear the knives being sharpened from up here in the mountains. A backbencher got a run on Radio National this week saying he had texted the PM to say he no longer had his support. Whether the inexplicable decision to bestow a knighthood on Prince Philip was the last straw or whether they’ve been keeping a list, we’ll never know. Whatever, I felt a bit sorry for the man. Being PM is an impossible 24/7 job that creates the kind of stress you and I would not want to know about.
“What did Tony Abbott ever do for us?” I hear you say. True, the Abbott government seems to care less about people who struggle financially; the ones to whom a $7 co-payment is a big deal. This (Federal) government scores low on Compassion, as did the former LNP (Queensland Government), which apparently thought it could do what it liked and no-one would take it personally, or be able to do anything about it.
The C-word I’d most like to introduce into contemporary politics is an old-fashioned one – Civility. ‘After you’, and ‘if it’s not too much trouble’, and ‘how has your day been?’. It costs nothing be civil with one another, but from my observations of political life here or in Canberra over the past 20 years or so, there is too much of the ‘us and them’ and ‘let’s get ‘em’. If you’re an Opposition Labor MP you have to vote along party lines, which means you disagree with everything the incumbent government has to say and ditto for the LNP when Labor is in power.
On that basis, the Queensland Parliament will be a shackled institution. The former Premier of Queensland would have us believe that hung parliaments are bad. But just why are they bad? Why not call it Consensus government? Imagine a Queensland parliament with 30 Labor members, 20 Libs, 10 Nats, 10 Greens, 14 independents and five ratbag parties to give us a bit of a giggle and keep the bastards honest. Select the most intelligent and fair-minded member as Speaker and we would indeed live in interesting times, when pollies would have to talk to one another to come up with policies they can all agree upon.
Meanwhile back in 2020
The other election preoccupying not only Australians, but the world in general, is the November 3 US presidential election. Sixty million Americans (about 40% of the expected turnout), have already voted – which may be portentious. Reactions to the polarising President, Donald Trump, have been extreme. Musician Bruce Springsteen, for example, says that if Trump wins, he is moving to Australia.
Bruce has any number of options to work his way through Australia’s migration red tape. As a business migrant he can just headquarter his music business here and tick all the boxes, especially the one that asks how much money he is bringing with him. He could also apply for an ‘exceptional talent’ visa. Above all. he has a very Australian name.
The numbers of American-born people living in Australia has almost doubled since 2001, when the Census identified 60,000. By the 2011 Census, this number had increased to 90,000. Five years later in 2016 it topped 106,000. On the annual growth rate, the numbers of US-born in Australia should now be around 120,000, the sixth-largest American population in the world.
As happens everywhere, people end up living somewhere they went to visit and then met someone (and stayed). But affairs of the heart and family ties is just one part of the puzzle. A 2015 investigation by the Sydney Morning Herald concluded there were economic factors at play. Australia, to a large degree, survived the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), which was an attraction for Americans looking to prosper somewhere else in the world that speaks English.
Post-covid and post-Trump, there is every reason to think Australia may again become the magnet for disenfranchised Americans that it was during the Cuban missile crisis (1962), the Vietnam war (1955-1975) and after 9/11 and the GFC.
The Trump factor is fairly obvious, as the ABC’s Lee Sales discovered when interviewing former US Secretary of State Richard Armitage (2001-2005), about next week’s election.
When the life-long Republican was asked what would happen if Donald Trump wins, he simply said: “Got any more room in Australia?”
FOMM back pages: Citizen Kang for President