A narrowing for Queensland

I’ll wait until the Senate results are officially finalised before commenting more fully on what the ramifications might be. There are a lot of votes still to be counted, and I think there is a reasonable chance in Victoria that the Greens will catch up with the Liberals to take the final Senate seat there – although if I had to bet on it, I’d still back the Libs. (If you want to follow the progress of that count, go to this post on The Poll Bludger’s site). There is also a remote chance the Greens could get the final Queensland seat instead of Labor, although I’d have to say that looks very unlikely.

The likely result will leave Queensland with all 12 Senate seats shared between Labor and the Coalition, with Barnaby Joyce being the closest thing to an independent voice – an outcome I’d foreshadowed throughout this year as quite possible in the event I didn’t retain my seat, and a situation that has not occurred in Queensland since 1981. This will also now be the situation in New South Wales, with 6 Labor and 6 Coalition Senators, the first time that state will have been without any Senate voice outside of the major parties since Democrat Colin Mason took up his Senate seat back in 1978.

It is understandable for people to focus on the Democrats’ pending disappearance from the Parliament, but I’m even more concerned about the absence of any voice at all from Queensland that will focus consistently on the environment, human rights, justice and Indigenous issues.

One of the reasons Labor is fairly weak on many of these issues – especially Indigenous issues – is because they can afford to be, as they are rarely subjected to any positive political pressure on them by the Coalition parties. As the Liberals and Nationals seek to reinvent themselves, there are worse things one or the other of them could do than become reasoned but passionate promoters of Indigenous rights.  This would certainly be consistent with a genuine liberal tradition, and the record of the Fraser-era Liberals in this area is sufficiently defensible to give them a credible base from which to work.

It’s not quite so consistent with the political traditions of the Nationals, but if someone like Barnaby Joyce decided to give some genuine priority to Indigenous issues, I think his reputation for saying what he genuinely believes might enable him to carry this off with some credibility – as long as he made the effort to take an informed approach to it.  He would not be able to do it honestly without saying some things that some of the old traditional Country Party base didn’t want to hear, but enabling economic and social equality to Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people would help revitalise many regional areas.

Not that I’m overly interested in how the Coalition go about politically repositioning themselves. I’m just concerned there’s going to be even less pressure on the new Labor government to do little more than take a minimalist approach on Indigenous issues.

I’m not suggesting there are no people in Labor genuinely committed to this issue- I know there are. I just fear that the narrow strait jacket which Kevin Rudd operated within during the past year will continue, and that will mean consolidating the conservative ideological base which Labor has partly taken from the Coalition and avoiding anything which might be seen as threatening that. Kevin Rudd’s approach during the recent election campaign of barely mentioning Indigenous Australians, apart from the occasional platitude, does not fill me with much hope that there is any great commitment to seriously tackling the grotesque inequalities faced by many Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people. As far as Queensland goes, there’s no serious political pressure in regards to this issue on the Labor Party at state government level, and unless the federal Coalition sees fit to give it some priority, there won’t be much at federal level either.

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  1. There could be an extra-parliamentary research and lobbying process that engages directly with all political parties. Not a protest group.

    ANTAR does this a bit, especially on health and stolen wages, but the issues are infinitely more complicated than that. The essence of their work on health and stolen wages has been proper research. They dont just go to politicians with opinion, but they had the details to back it up.

    Their health policy informed labour, Democrats and Green platforms in this election.

    However, ANTAR too often falls into regurgitating platitudes too, the whole reconciliation agenda is full of this. The main reason for ANTAR’s plattitudes is an absense of up to date, in depth facts and figures to comment on.

    Often, all the research has been done, but it sits on shelves ignored. The missing links are compiling existing research and applying it to the lobbying process.

    However, most research on Aboriginal issues is focused on identifying problems – quantifying disadvantage. The reports, at best, allude to principles for future policy in vague terms, but do not identify realistic solutions. Present funding and policy guidelines determine the nature of research – even if it is just measuring dysfunction. Ideas from “out of the box” are simply not properly investigated with any proper depth.

    A research/lobby process must also play the role of a think-tank, listening to the real solutions offered by Aboriginal people in their communities and helping them explore the viability of their solutions – and writing it up on paper and keeping all the politicians properly informed of it.

    There needs to be a conduit between Aboriginal leaders on the ground and the relevant politicians and bureacrats.

    Even if there was a Green senator, they would also need such a process to be able to pressure the govt.

    just a suggestion

  2. There has been quite a bit of talk since elected from Rudd about something being done about indigenous health outcomes. Hopefully this will steamroll into some action when parliament resumes.

  3. My commiserations. I for one am hoping you run again in the next Senate race. The people of Queensland need you in the Senate — they need your voice, they need your observations, they need your tenacity, and they need your compassion. Hopefully they’ll realized that next time.

    Congratulations, however, on a well-run campaign. And keep on blogging!


  4. Senator Bartlett, I’m hoping the below the line votes to be counted strongly favour the Greens and Democrats such that a Green is elected before Pauline Hanson is excluded (as her votes will elect the third ALP candidate instead).

    I’ve got my fingers crossed for the ACT and Victoria where a Green is competing with a Liberal for a Senate seat. If Kerrie Tucker and Richard Di Natale can get across the line, Stephen Fielding won’t have a role to play in the next parliament and he and his party can fade back in to the patchwork quilt that is the right wing micro-party scene.

    I hope the Democrats don’t throw in the towel as the DLP managed to come back from the dead after so long.

  5. Let’s try to look on the bright side. At least Bruce Flegg is about to bite the dust as leader of the Liberal Party in Queensland. A drover’s dog could win an election with him as the main opponent.

    I think it would be good if there could be a complete abolition of political parties, with every MP and Senator elected according to his/her own merits and values.

    This wouldn’t prevent factions from forming over particular issues, but at least there would be no pressure to tow the party line.

  6. During the television coverage of the election, I noticed that the ACT appeared to have only 2 federal electorates.

    In those electorates, Labor had given Liberals a very sound thrashing – which leads me to wonder if Canberrans hated our former “illustrious” leader more than anyone else due to the closeness of his presence.

  7. Has Canberra returned Liberals often, if ever? I’m no expert, but I believe it to be pretty much always Labor-held. It was Red through and through in the 1970s, I remember. Ah, those were the days.

  8. Sam:

    Howard had to have been in Canberra for the sittings of Parliament – even though they had become shorter.

    Perhaps a drive past Parliament House every now and then might have been enough to make the voters nauseous.


    That’s a good question. To my knowledge, Canberra has quite a large number of well paid public servants, including some of my own family.

    If you walk around Lake Burleigh-Griffin, you will see plenty of young adults out jogging and biking.

    I’m told there are also quite a lot of elderly people – also dogs – but during my brief visits there, I don’t think I’ve ever seen too many of either.

    Maybe Andrew has the answer to your question.

    Are you a communist or what?

  9. Coral – the Division of ACT was first created in 1949. It was initially held by an independent for 3 years and then by the ALP for the next 33 years.

    In 1974 the Division was split into two seats, being Canberra and Fraser, which remain the current seats today. Of these Canberra has been held by the ALP 26 years and by the Liberal arty for 7 years. Fraser has been held by the ALP for the whole 33 years since then.

    So ACTian’s have had only the briefest flirtation with the Liberals. No doubt any number of reasons but public servants feel more comfortable with the ALP (public provision is an obvious reason) and less comfortable with “free marketers” theoretically who espouse reductions in the public service. (Not that the Coalition were much of that, quite the opposite)

    Public servants also are the only section of the economy left that are more unionised than not.

  10. Thanks for that, Ken.

    I’ve worked for both State and Federal governments – also a semi-autonomous body which received funding from both.

    In the 1970s, every State public servant I worked with belonged to a union. I think it was compulsory.

    When I worked for the Federal government in the 1980s, there weren’t all that many union members – membership must have become optional as the workplace became more competitive.

    I never thought about public provision by the ALP. I don’t know if others did.

    Big reductions in the public service happened under the Labor leadership of Bob Hawke, Champion of the Worker. All of the people with workplace injuries, including myself, went first.

    I must ask relatives down there if they know why the Liberals can’t get a foot in the door. There are both city and country people, on poor, average and excellent incomes.

    I know housing and rents are very expensive down there, but the same would apply in Sydney and Melbourne.

  11. Ken, when we went to Canberra in hte late 60s anyone who spoke about ALP leanings was called “a Red”. That’s why I said that during the mid-late 70s Canberra was Red through and through, or at least in the departments I worked in. The dead hand of all those years of Liberal rule (23 I think) was removed and we younger folk had a chance to contribute to a country we could be proud of, and part of. Lots of public servants like me were able to get study leave and qualify for professional positions where we could contribute to the country despite our socio-economic background. Women got equal pay, etc etc.

    We were there also at the end of 1975, when Fraser took over. I admire his philosophical views now, but the effect of the change of government in Canberra was devastating. People my age (56) would remember that still. We had to leave Canberra and took years to recover.

  12. Oh, and no, I’m not a communist – I’m a buddhist ALP voter, who is hoping for a more humane attitude toward refugges, aboriginal people and the environment.:-)

  13. Ken:

    Here is the response from my son in the ACT.

    He says very few public servants belong to unions, but as for the general public in other jobs, union membership is HUGE.

    He doesn’t think that Canberra has an excessive number of elderly or poor people.

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