A failure of presidential sized proportions
Queensland could be forgiven for not knowing the identity of the Liberal National Party President Bruce McIver. He’s operated under the media radar for most of the tenure of the Newman Government, only popping up occasionally to offer sage advice.
It was McIver who brought forth Campbell Newman from the Brisbane Mayoral position to become its state party leader. Newman was parachuted into the Labor seat of Ashgrove where he won office & the Premiership from outside of parliament. In a 2011 piece, journalist Paul Barry described McIver as the “Christian cattle trucker” and “Queensland’s divisive LNP president and driving force behind ‘Can Do’ Campbell Newman”.
Years on, two of his biggest blunders were played out in the media this week. The first was the Moggill LNP branch rejecting the his chosen candidate, Dr Christian Rowan, over the incumbent Dr Bruce Flegg. The latter was banned by McIver from re-contesting the seat, with no official reason given.
The second was a rejection by Redlands LNP branch members in ousting Peter Dowling. Both Premier Campbell Newman and Bruce McIver had failed to deal with the rogue MP after a series of sexting scandals involving his mistress, red wine & a few international rendezvous.
The possibility of a third catastrophe remains high for McIver if the Newman Government is given a second term. His endorsement of the hapless Ros Bates to recontest her seat of Mudgeeraba could provide a renewed source for future scandals. Bates retired to the backbench after a short failed tenure as minister for arts. Forced to step down amid Crime and Corruption Commission investigations involving nepotism, Bates was later cleared of any wrongdoing. She also survived an interrogation at LNP headquarters, McIver deciding to accept her application for pre-selection ahead of the 2015 contest.
Investigations found no wrongdoing in any of the three MP’s cases.
A Moggill in the rough
Fearless Dr Bruce Flegg entered his Moggill LNP branch on Monday night to witness members issue a vote of no confidence in President Bruce McIver’s choice for the pre-selection candidacy, Dr Christian Rowan. Voting 56-48 against the only candidate Rowan, members now hoped for a better democratic process at the next pre-selection meeting.
“This time, hopefully, do it democratically,” commented one member to the media upon exiting.
Other party members, such as Dr Kate Sinclair, wife of recently deposed LNP MP for Stafford, Dr Chris Davis, attended the meeting to voice their concerns against Dr Rowan, the former Queensland boss of the Australian Medical Association who they felt had been too quick in siding with the Newman Government over the doctors contract scandal.
— Shane Doherty (@ShaneDoherty9) October 20, 2014
Two other members told of how they had resigned and the party was acting like Labor or the “Chinese Communist Party”.
However President Bruce McIver was quick to dismiss that democracy had not taken place.
“Our party is not like any other party, our party is run by the local membership of the party that’s why we chose to give them a vote,” he said, ignoring the fact that there had only been one candidate.
Fueling further premiership speculation, @7NewsBrisbane also reported that Rowan was backed by Health Minister Lawrence Springborg. With the very real possibility that Newman could lose his seat of Ashgrove in 2015, the old rival city and bush factions now appeared to be competing once again for leadership. The party continued to deny that numbers in Moggill were being assimilated to support Springborg in a post-election leadership challenge.
In 2009, prior to the party becoming one under the LNP banner, Flegg, the former Queensland Liberal Party leader and Springborg, the National Party leader, had famously choked on an election campaign question over which one would be Premier should the coalition win government. Premier Anna Bligh went on to with the election.
On Tuesday morning, a relieved Flegg described the outcome as ‘a win for democracy’ and said he was now free to nominate again for his seat of Moggill. Dr Christian Rowan also confirmed he would contest again for the candidacy.
The Courier Mail also reported that the Moggill pre-selection vote was stirring bad blood in the LNP.
“The Courier-Mail understands members involved in rallying their fellow branch members to vote no at the Monday night meeting, forcing the LNP to reopen pre-selections for the seat, are being pursued by the party for potentially breaching party rules,” it wrote.
With Dr Bruce Flegg being a very popular local member, Labor’s candidate for Moggill, Louisa Pink, may find it that much harder to campaign for the seat as constituents continue to rally behind him. Moggill will certainly be an interesting seat to watch for Queensland votes 2015.
Branch members reject sexting MP Peter Dowling
What made the LNP think MP for Redlands Peter “Plonker” Dowling could seriously be considered for re-election in his seat of Redlands is anyone’s guess. Married man Dowling had made international headlines when he sent a series of photos to his mistress, one displaying his penis dipped in red wine. The unnamed woman later revealed all to the media.
President McIver had a final chance to deal with Dowling in the weeks leading up to the pre-selection meeting when he summoned him to LNP HQ on the same day as Ros Bates and Bruce Flegg. Unlike Flegg, Dowling was allowed to run for pre-selection with no other candidates challenging. Campbell Newman’s wife Lisa had even endorsed Dowling to re-contest the seat as recently as August, 2014.
As The Courier Mail’s Steven Wardill summed up the entire saga this week, “So the rank-and-file Redlands branch members have done what the Government has been reluctant to do: deem Dowling’s position as a community leader to be unsustainable.”
Yet, the LNP still managed to hail it as a great day for democracy. With Campbell Newman staying well away from the meeting, acting spokesman for the Premier, Ian Walker was upbeat about the decision.
“A difficult day for Peter, he’s a colleague who spent a lot of time in council and in the parliament but, you know, today is Saturday Redlands democracy day and that’s what’s happened here,” he said.
Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said, “With the LNP, as we’ve seen in recent weeks, the membership have the primacy of say and that’s what we saw in Redlands.”
President McIver danced around the red wine issue and tried to concentrate on the members.
“Acknowledging Mr Dowling’s past, the members…, and his good work in the past in the electorate… the members voted to move on and look for an alternative candidate for the electorate,” he said.
Specifically on the sexting scandal, he added, “I think the local members wanted a say in that issue and they’ve had their say.”
Despite her husband having quit the party prior to the vote, local LNP Redlands member Anne McAllister felt encouraged by the outcome.
“The LNP philosophies and values were upheld today for me. My husband resigned from the LNP as soon as Mr Dowling went through [for pre-selection nomination],” she said.
The final word was left to Dowling, who almost gaffed on what he was going to do next.
“I’ve just been declined so how about I go home and have a no comment and enjoy a quiet… actually I’ve got a function tonight so I’ll go out and attend a business awards as the LNP member for Redlands,” he said.
No dount, no matter what his future holds, Dowling will always be remembered as The Member for Redlands.
— Katherine Feeney (@katherinefeeney) October 25, 2014
Meeting clearing out quickly now that it is all over. Branch members who voted no said common sense prevailed pic.twitter.com/eL1JC6hMtw
— Amy Remeikis (@AmyRemeikis) October 25, 2014
ReachTEL asset leasing
A ReachTEL poll on the Newman Government’s asset leasing plan has shown 41.6 percent of respondents disapprove, 32.1pc approve and 26.4pc remain undecided. The trick for the pro and con asset sales/leasing campaigners will to be grab that undecided middle ground in the lead up to Queensland votes 2015.
Waiting to get on the hospital waiting list
Premier Campbell Newman and Health Minister Lawrence Springborg attempted to convince Queensland that waiting lists for surgery in hospitals had been significantly reduced during their tenure to just twenty-eight days. However, just as they had done with the recent crime statistics, the Newman Government had excluded critical pieces of the puzzle.
The first was the existence of a waiting list to get on the actual waiting list. The second, the statistics didn’t include any data of waiting times from any Queensland hospitals, saying it was up to individual health boards to release that information.
The Queensland Health Ombudsman is scheduled to perform a critical review of hospital waiting times but with 250,000 people waiting to get on the waiting list it’s unlikely the findings will result in anything other than a glowing reference for the government.
Miraculously, the number of patients who have waited longer than the recommended period has fallen from 6,485 in 2012 to 531 in September 2014. There was no real explanation for this phenomenon given other than re-runs of double page FIGJAM ads in The Courier Mail.
.@ShaneDoherty9 sums up today’s Queensland Health ads in the paper as ‘Figjam’ in a presser with the health minister. About right.
— Amy Remeikis (@AmyRemeikis) October 22, 2014
RTI details $4 billion cuts to Queensland Education
What is the cost of Queensland not signing up to the Gillard-Rudd Government’s “Gonski” education reform? A right to information request by ABC News Queensland has shown the answer to be $4 billion. Funding cuts in the Abbott Government’s first federal budget will see the state fall short in government schools by $1.664 billion and another $2.284 billion to the private school sector according to a briefing supplied by the Education Department to Minister John-Paul Langbroek. It equates to a $4,000 loss per student for the period 2014/15 to 2024/25.
The Abbott Government has also cut $10 million per year for the ten indigenous child and family centres in Queensland. The briefing note warned Minister Langbroek that indigenous communities would see this as “…another example of funding removed from a successful program at a critical stage.”
Langbroek, once a supporter of the Gonski review in opposition, only offered a statement of bravado.
“We’ll make sure that we put up our hand for the share that Queensland schools deserve,” he said.
Unlike their conservative counterparts, New South Wales and Victorian Governments signed on for the full six year Gonski funding, Premier Newman and Minister Langbroek obfuscated and dodged all attempts at negotiation by both former Prime Ministers Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd until the federal election occurred, pushing the offer beyond reach.
The Abbott Government plan to scale back education funding for the states and territories in the fifth and sixth years would dishonour the existing Gonski funding contract with NSW and other entities, and will also leave Queensland short changed. It leaves the Queensland Government of the day with a few choices; borrow money through its bonds program, close more schools or raise taxes. The latter is likely to take the form of an unpopular campaign to raise the level of Australia’s Goods and Services Tax (GST), the sum total of which is divided amongst the states and territories.
All ready talks on “Federation reform” have begun with Prime Minister Tony Abbott sounding the bugle and Campbell Newman responding with a “bring it on” catchcry.
“I welcome Prime Minister Abbott’s commitment to working with state governments to review the federation,” he said.
“We need to clearly define which levels of government should deliver education in schools and universities and health services in hospitals, as well as who should provide the roads, rail, ports, electricity and water supplies that are essential to our future prosperity. There are far too many areas where federal and state responsibilities overlap and create waste, duplication and confusion.”
Having the same political party at federal and state level doesn’t always guarantee smooth funding sailing.