Election 2013 Notebook: February

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2 February 2013

Canberra is burning? Rats are leaving sinking rubber dinghy?

The weekend announcement of the resignations and exit from politics of Senate Leader Chris Evans (ALP: WA), also Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs, Science and Research, and Attorney General Nicola Roxon (ALP: Gellibrand, VIC) is a traditional garbage day exercise – announcements designed to be buried in the trash of weekend distractions.

It seems, though, that these announcements are a little too big to bury under kitchen scraps and hangovers. It is an indication that Gillard’s ramshackle Labor minority is sickly and waning. Particularly if it is true the new Senate Leader will be the odiously ill-mannered, low-wattage bully, Steven Conroy.

Hopefully the reshuffle expected for tomorrow will not dissuade the Opposition and others from sinking more of Roxon’s Orwellian Anti-Discrimination Bill. Her departure is no loss to anyone, except her factional ally, Julia Gillard.

Is it remotely possible that the timing of dual resignations was designed to lessen an opportunity to ridicule Labor women as prone to leaving serious business as soon as maternal duties call? It’s not that this would be an unreasonable call for any parent to make, but the level of sophisticated debate in our House of representatives makes such an attack likely, whether there is a misogynism counter-attack or not.

The ensuing reshuffle appears to have forced Gillard to match two left faction losses in cabinet with Labor Unity’s Mark Dreyfus (ALP: Isaacs, VIC), her new Attorney General, and the NSW Right’s rising talent Jason Clare (ALP: Blaxland, NSW), who holds Paul Keating’s symbolically-laden former seat, and is now Cabinet Secretary as well as Home Affairs and Justice Minister.

Brendan O’Connor (ALP: Gorton, VIC), who will be the new Immigration Minister, and Chris Bowen (ALP: McMahon, NSW), who assumes Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research as well as Small Business, are both already Cabinet members. O’Connor is Victorian Left, and Bowen NSW Right. The other changes appear to have little impact on parliamentary factional composition, meaning that Gillard’s Left powerbase is slipping a little. Whether that will have any marked impact on policy or electioneering remains to be seen.

Whatever the case may be about the politicking, there’s no hiding the fact that this news, on top of former Attorney General Robert McClelland’s (ALP: Barton, NSW) resignation last week, is all bad for a minority government, and hints at a sense of dejection in the ranks, with options being evaluated left and right.

4 February 2013

New Ministers sworn in

Governor General Quentin Bryce swore in the new Ministers today.

  • Chris Bowen – Minister for Higher Education, Skills, Science and Research and Small Business (taking over from retiring Senator Evans).
  • Mark Butler – Minister for Housing and Homelessness, as well as Mental Health and Ageing.
  • Brendan O’Connor – Minister of Immigration (taking over from Minister Bowen), and retains Housing.
  • Mark Dreyfus – Attorney General.
  • Jason Clare – Cabinet Secretary, retaining Home Affairs and Justice.
  • Mike Kelly – Defence Materiel.
  • Yvette D’Ath – Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.
  • Melissa Parke – Parliamentary Secretary for Mental Health, Homelessness and Social Housing.
  • Kelvin Thompson – Parliamentary Secretary for Trade.

The ALP Caucus elected to replace Senator Evans as Leader of the Government in the Senate with Steven Conroy, and to make Penny Wong Deputy Senate Leader.

Back row from left: Clare, D’Ath, Parke, Thomson. Front row from left: Dreyfus, Butler, Gillard, Bryce, Bowen, O’Connor, and Kelly.

The complete list of the updated Ministry is on Labor’s web site.

The Shadow Ministry is listed on the Australian Government web site.

24 February 2013

NBN becomes election issue again

Even if you don’t take the same critical stance as Stan Beer in iTWire, which I think is entirely reasonable under the circumstances, Beer’s final line:

Eerily but not surprisingly silent has been the response of the Gillard Labor Government so far.

I think it IS surprising, and observers would be entitled to wonder whether we are about to see a policy backflip based on yet more cost and time over-runs we don’t yet know about, but that are already known to Quigley.

In other words, the NBN just became an election issue again.

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