And finally, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

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Come on down (to Canberra), Clive Palmer!

It’s been reported this afternoon that Clive Frederick Palmer, boating enthusiast, dinosaur fanatic and subject of far too many of my blog posts, has finally won the Queensland seat of Fairfax. Thumbs up.

The margin of Palmer’s win on first count was 36 votes, on a second mini-recount was seven votes and now it has been announced that he has triumphed by the still-ludicrously small margin of 53 votes. The official announcement by the Australian Electoral Commission will be made tomorrow morning, however the results are already raising questions – most notably by the voluminous man himself.

Clive has questioned how three recounts could have all returned different results … probably a fair thing to be wondering under the circumstances. Granted, the AEC had 89,000 votes to go through – but still. The consequences of any mistakes have the potential to be incredibly significant.

The Fairfax result has been announced alongside news reports revealing that 1,300 votes have gone missing from the recount of the contested WA Senate seat. The results of this will determine whether the final two upper house members will be ALP and PUP, or the Greens and some dude who likes sport. Again, there’s a fair bit at stake. Palmer’s deal with the dude who likes cars means that he’ll retain the balance of power in the new Senate regardless, but it will be a lot less certain.

Especially considering how bizarre the news coming out about Ricky Muir and his erstwhile Motoring Enthusiasts Party is proving to be:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-29/motoring-enthusiast-party-members-owed-thousands-after-election/5056236

Apparently he’s been doing his kangaroo poo-throwing in private recently.

Personally, I can’t wait for the resumption of Parliament. I’ll be setting up to watch Clive’s maiden speech in the chamber with popcorn and a frozen coke. Don’t interrupt me during it.

Green with Envy

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Christine Milne and Adam Bandt, the leader and deputy leader of the ‘third force’ in Australian politics, are learning that Kermit was right – it really isn’t easy being green. Especially when your primary vote has dropped by a third in the most recent federal election and six of your key staff have just quit.

Following a week of rumours and rumblings about the leadership of the party, Milne and Bandt held a joint press conference today to laugh off suggestions that the latter has challenged for the top job.

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Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young wasn’t laughing at the end of last week though when she announced to journalists that the party had just re-elected the leader who would march them to a slow death.

While Bandt’s recent success in the seat of Melbourne was truly stunning, the party’s performance as a whole was disappointing. There are many theories for this, one of the most obvious being that the party has suffered since the inimitable Bob Brown stepped down. There have also been plenty of suggestions that Milne’s leadership style has not been as inclusive or effective either. The Leadbeater’s possums think she’s pretty great though.

I believe that the most significant factor in the party’s demise has been the reality of the sort-of-pseudo-coalition with Labor following the election of a hung parliament in 2010.

One of the great strengths of minor political parties actually comes from their weakness. What I mean by this is that their policies can be incredibly grand and ideological, precisely because they will never be required to implement them. Protest parties use these policies as a platform from which to push for changes to legislation proposed by the two major parties.

Upsetting this delicate balance has led to all sorts of problems for the Greens. Expectations of what they could deliver were understandably high following the 2010 election. The clean energy scheme was the first indication that they were perhaps going to struggle to meet these expectations.

Milne herself has admitted that entering the deal with Labor hurt the party’s support, although she denies that it was a “fundamental strategic error”.

The Greens certainly have their work cut out for them to reshape the party in the post-Bob Brown and post-hung parliament era. Reshape they must though, because they will not be able to increase their primary vote as a protest party and that, at least according to Milne, is the goal. If the Greens do want to replace Labor as the major player on the left of the political spectrum, they will need to develop a series of policies that are both realistic (in terms of budget and implementation) while still being in line with the core values of the party and their supporters.

If Milne, Bandt and the green gang can pull this off – then perhaps Labor really will have something to worry about. Until then, it seems that they will have to compete for air time with the new Palmer United Party. And Clive’s certainly not someone who you would ever want to fight for space.

Clive for Canberra

Well, it’s happened.

The Australian Electoral Commission has confirmed that Clive Frederick Palmer has won the Queensland seat of Fairfax by 36 votes.

Palmer, the mining millionaire (not billionaire – according to Forbes magazine), is perhaps most famous in the minds of the Australian public for his penchant for dinosaurs and an ambitious (albeit well underway) plan to build a replica of the Titanic.

I have watched Clive’s increasingly bizarre foray into Australian politics with fascination. The Palmer United Party’s campaign did not disappoint, with countless double thumbs ups, yellow ties, hilariously unintelligible press conferences and threats of legal action against anyone who flitted across Clive’s mind (including Rupert Murdoch and the AEC). Not to mention songs about pies:

The question I continue to wonder is why?

Why would a man with countless millions of dollars and an already hefty amount of clout in Australian politics (remember that anti-mining tax campaign?) deign to run for a single seat in the House of Representatives?

Despite all appearances, Clive is not an idiot. He studied Law at the University of Queensland (before dropping out) and served as the National Party’s campaign director during the 1983 state election and as media spokesman during its 1986 election campaign. Both were successful. He was also involved in the ‘Joh for Canberra’ campaign to get former Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Peterson elected as Prime Minister.

With this intimate knowledge of both politics and the media, surely Clive knows that he can have far more impact on the political debate in this country from outside Parliament.

For a similar example, let’s take a look at another colourful, divisive and occasionally incoherent conservative in the Australian media and political landscape – Andrew Bolt. Bolt originally sought a career within politics, but was unsuccessful in his application to work for Jeff Kennett in the 1980s. Nobody could now dispute the fact that Bolt is incredibly powerful, with a column in the Herald Sun (Australia’s highest selling newspaper), a television show on Channel Ten and multiple fake Twitter accounts (the surest sign that you’re a big deal). I would argue that this makes him far more influential than any state or federal backbencher. It’s unlikely that he would trade places, that’s for sure.

There’s no doubt that Palmer could have his pick of media commentary jobs if he wanted one. He certainly would not be required to make the same pesky declarations regarding conflicts of interest as he will have to as an MP. Also, the prospect of him battling it out on Insiders as a belated replacement for Bolt is strangely appealing.

I suppose that it is not entirely out of the question that Clive may harbour real desires to better Australian society. Or, far more likely, he may believe that the best position from which to lobby his own personal and business interests is from within Parliament.

Whether or not Clive will actually show up and take his place with the cross-benchers remains to be seen. I can’t wait to see what he says with the benefit of Parliamentary Privilege.

But first, an AEC recount. Bring it on.

Career in politics? Not for the undecided.

Well I must have a work project due soon – because I’m sitting at my laptop, surrounded by stacks of printed out documents and a succession of slowly dying highlighters, studiously avoiding the task at hand. Procrastination extraordinaire.

Hence, a new blog. An outlet for all of the bizarre and occasionally inane thoughts that fill my head 99% of the time and inevitably peak when I have something else really quite important to attend to. Enjoy.

A new blog should start with a bang. Which makes my first subject something of a strange choice. No one could possibly claim that there was anything ‘bang’-like about the most recent federal election. The only remotely startling moment was the dawning realisation that Clive Palmer may ACTUALLY be elected to represent the people of Australia in the House of Representatives. I’m sure he’ll feature in my musings again, so I’ll leave that one for the moment. I’m also concerned that he’ll sue me or accuse me of being a Chinese spy.

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It’s all good Clive.

I must confess that I am a political junkie. I can’t get enough of it. Unlike most political tragics though (and probably much to most of their disgust and disapproval) I am far more interested in the personalities, media strategies, spin doctoring than the actual policies. I know, it’s sick. But I can’t help it. That isn’t to say that I don’t take a keen interest in some policies, it’s just that I much prefer to watch a brawl on the subject of negative political advertising than different types of fibre optic cable.

I’ve always toyed with the idea of trying to manoeuvre myself into a position whereby I could actually make a living out of this fascination. I already work in a vaguely related area – media monitoring for government clients – however I think that the real volatility and excitement lies within the political parties themselves. The main issue I have is trying to decide which side of politics to target.

It may sound strange, but I genuinely do not know which party I’d be best suited to. I have always maintained a ‘policies for policies’ approach (also known as political, as opposed to sexual, ambiguity). My ABC Vote Compass results were all over the shop.

I remember one piece of advice I received years ago from a former Labor adviser and journalist turned communications consultant. He told me that, while the Labor Party will only really consider people who live and breathe the party values, the Liberals are much more likely to take anyone with talent. I guess this explains Malcolm Turnbull, although I’m not sure how Kevin Rudd fits in. I’m not a union member, I can’t classify myself as coming from a truly blue collar / working class family and therefore I probably do not possess the necessary traditional Labor credentials. On the other hand, I’m also unconvinced that I possess any relevant talent that would be attractive to the Liberal Party either. Dilemma.

I guess I could target Clive or Katter, however I’m not a fan of humidity (sorry Bob – that rules out FNQ) and, despite the fact that I think Clive is far smarter and more politically adept than most people give him credit for, there’s no escaping the fact that he’s a raving, egomaniacal lunatic whose grasp on the English language is tenuous, at best. I’m surely not progressive enough for the Greens. I like to think that I’m relatively socially aware, however I’d rather shoot myself in the face than spend five minutes in a room full of Catherine Deveneys.

So yes, apparently I’ve ruled myself out of all of the parties. Which puts me right back to where I started. Hmm. I’ve wasted 20 minutes though – so that’s something.

And now for a political montage – one of my favourite things ever:

http://www.abc.net.au/insiders/content/2012/s3843847.htm