GAME OVER: Craig Thomson cleared by NSW Police

CraigthomsonclearedLabor’s besieged federal MP Craig Thomson will not be charged by NSW Police.

Amazing, isn’t it? Given that Thomson had already been indicted, tried by ordeal, drawn, quartered, sentenced, electric-chaired, excoriated and lashed by the occasionally sickening thrill-kill culture of Lord of the Flies politics, you’d think the Police might have found some fire causing all that smoke.

MarkdavisThey didn’t, as today exclusively revealed by the Daily Telegraph which embraced and extended the original claims made in the Fairfax press against the Labor MP by a journalist Mark Davis now working for Labor’s Climate Change minister Greg Combet. A small world it can be in national politics. Worthy of a Yes Minister episode.

WHERE THERE WAS SMOKE THERE WAS NO FIRE
Craig Thomson has been thoroughly investigated, in the most adverse and prejudicial circumstances where Fairfax Radio shock-jocks and the best and bruising News Limited journalists had decreed the man to be Jimmy Hoffa meets Chris Skase.

It was a great story, it had everything: sex, crime, power, huge stakes (if Thomson fell so would the government went the theory, ignoring the fact that Slipper and Katter and Crook don’t go to Abbott if he’s forming a government). But the story lacked credibility.

Criminal law academics joined VEXNEWS at the time in questioning whether Thomson (even if the claims against him were true and they have been vigorously denied) had committed any crime at all despite the faux certitudes expressed by the Coalition’s supposedly erudite Oxford scholar George Brandis SC who over-reached by phoning the NSW Police Minister to lobby for a criminal investigation and appears to have got the law very substantially wrong despite holding himself out as a legal know-all. No wonder, Queensland conservatives think he’s no good. Fundamentally, expenses claims are not necessarily theft unless there’s a clear breach of guidelines and an intention to steal. If it were otherwise, we’d have plenty of empty ritzy restaurants and plenty of full jail-cells.

“Bottom line is a crime hasn’t been committed,” a senior police source told the Daily Tele.

Could a constantly-travelling union national secretary run up $100,000 unreceipted expenses over five years? Absolutely. Is it inconceivable people within the union – whoever they might be – could have stretched the concept of legitimate corporate hospitality to include hiring escorts? Sure. Is it necessarily a crime? That all depends on whether it was correctly approved. It doesn’t make it right, but that was never what this little fracas was about. It was about whether an MP had committed a crime and whether he’d therefore be ineligible to serve in Parliament and therefore his fragile minority government would break. That’s now clearly not going to happen.

While Thomson will be relieved, there’ll be little joy for the father-to-be. He’s taken the mother of all hidings. And all because of a letter sent by his successor’s lawyers which mysteriously found it’s way into Mark Davis’s hands.

There’s an emptiness left after dramas like these. A longing for justice even when there’s little chance that scores will ever be settled. Fires raged leaving ashes and in some cases a smouldering ruin.

CASUALTIES
His apparent nemesis successor Kathy Jackson – who was reportedly privately running Thomson and his allies down in the most sensational terms to many journalists during the furore – is a casualty of the affair too. After a nervous breakdown she is now in a psychiatric ward of a Melbourne hospital. Even writing that sentence gives us pause. Illness of whatever kind is a fate you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. We don’t know Thomson. But we know Jackson well. And miss her friendship from simpler times. We’re not game to do what we wanted to do which is send her the biggest bunch of flowers VEXNEWS could afford with a picture of my beloved, sanity-preserving kind-eyed pooch (named after a great union leader turned great president – Ronnie) she and other homies gave me six long years ago but we pray for her happiness if not her victory.

Kathy Jackson is one of the toughest, bravest, most resilient and self-assured people we know and for her time at the HSU to end this way will fill her friends and foes alike with great shock and surprise. If she can’t make it, what hope is there for the rest of us? We hear she’s on the mend and wish more than anything that this be true. Nothing would make us happier than to hear of a new burst of outrage from her about VEXNEWS, her alternately least favourite or most favoured online publication.

There’ll be many victims of Jackson’s spectacular lashings who’ll be relieved she’s not around to crack the whip. News that she’s been replaced by an acting national secretary clearly closely aligned to Mike Williamson and the tone of the words used by Kathy’s partner suggests a new era beckons. Kathy has many foes. We spoke with many of them this week. We thought we’d find at least one person happy about the demise of their enemy. We haven’t yet. One person she really hates even cried when talking about old battles and the shock of hearing what happened. Hopefully this outbreak of decency can be infectious and can cause the “world peace” beauty contestants crave.

I remember mis-quoting to a barrister friend of mine the words of a philosophical Prussian called Friedrich who died of syphillis “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and he considered the proposition very carefully and said “you know, that’s complete bullshit.” What doesn’t kill you, in the big bad world he argued, can leave you hurt and bruised and broken. If you let it.

If it’s true Jackson entered into a coalition with the titan HSU NSW leader Mike Williamson at the time of the last contested union election and then betrayed him recently in what is apparently an internal power-play or some other unexplained act of aggression from her, it was inevitably going to end in tears.

The press has been keen to report that Jackson is the independent of the ALP person and Williamson the ALP insider. That’s not really true and I doubt their dispute had much if anything to do with the ALP at all. It seems to have been about control of the union itself.

From what we understand, Jackson was far more involved in day-to-day Victorian ALP matters than Williamson had ever been active within the NSW branch. Jackson’s lawyer and close mate – apparently on permanent retainer – barrister David Langmead regularly attends all Victorian ALP Disputes Tribunal matters involving members of what its foes argue is the extreme “Taliban” faction of the ALP which includes traditional foes the SDA and NUW. Some believe the union has even been paying Langmead to represent “Taliban” interests, although this is unconfirmed. Langmead’s involvement is a powerful indication of just how intimately involved in the internecine state Labor politics the HSU has been. Until recently, it’s been considered unusual to attend Disputes with legal counsel. Langmead is now a regular, defender of a varying roster of what their foes would describe as “branch-stackers,” “rorters” and “stand-over men.”

TITAN LEFT STANDING AND JUSTICE DONE
Within the union movement, Williamson is a highly regarded and serious figure, building up the NSW HSU into one of the most successful and quietly effective unions in the nation. By contrast, the Victorian HSU was without doubt Australia’s most dysfunctional union, for a time. Insiders say it’s stabilising now that Williamson’s steadying hand is on the wheel. The merger of the NSW and Victorian branches was a curious manoeuvre but will probably serve its members well if it can now move on from the error, the drama and self-indulgence of the past.

Some thought it odd we’d go out on a limb about the Craig Thomson matter. But we’re glad we did. Back your instincts. Stand by your principles. Quote Rumpole quoting Shakespeare. The quality of mercy and all that.

The truth is that in the eyes of the law, Craig Thomson did nothing wrong. He has now been cleared of a crime he did not commit. Justice has been done.

He had powerful enemies though. And perhaps unwisely got between punchy Tony Abbott and the shiny keys to the Lodge. A health hazard, indeed.

Did Thomson make mistakes? Sure, like Victorian Legislative Council Liberal government leader David Davis, he forgot to disclose a loan/gift from his party to help cover defamation-related legal bills. Not a hanging offence. All the other hysterical suggestions about him could all have an innocent explanation, one that it now appears the NSW Police have accepted.

Can he politically survive these mistakes? With such big swings against the government indicated in the current polls, he’ll struggle to hold his seat but will almost certainly be given another chance as the pre-selected ALP candidate.

SECOND CHANCES
A second chance. The Gillard government will be hoping for some of that second-chance love right now.

Like all of us, it has to earn it.

They have two years and a working majority in both houses to make a go of it.

They have a booming albeit two-speed economy, with the booming Aussie dollar booming so much it hurts. Unless you’re buying King-size sheets in a discount-outlet on the outskirts of Vegas.

They have the NBN. A nation-building project so vast, so important, that it’s almost enough reason on its own to keep feeding the ailing regime.

Mark our words, the next generations will look back at the fibre-to-the-premises infrastructure we’re building now and say “ah, OK, they spent some of that mining bubble’s proceeds on permanent communications infrastructure that helped keep this huge island continent competitive. Makes sense.”

And, yes, they’re taxing carbon as a local fix to a supposedly global problem that the global conference in Copenhagen failed to tackle despite apparently compelling scientific evidence mandating action. It’s self-evidently stupid to act unilaterally on this and if imposed here but not among our competitors will export our jobs to them. But what might slightly exceed its stupidity is Tony Abbott’s proposal to repeal the carbon tax after it’s imposed (and compensation distributed), also scrapping the market-based cap-and-trade system designed to “price” carbon, being proposed by Tony Abbott. Chances are he’ll never do it, maybe even never pursue it, despite looking like being elected on that basis. The cost and buying back permits issued under the emissions trading scheme could be massive. Once implemented, it will never be repealed. We doubt the Coalition will want to talk about that much.

And the government is doing some good things. They are amazingly still on track to surplus. They’re banning scarcely-disclosed kickbacks for financial planners when they invest client monies. A national disability insurance scheme promises an end to the shamefully Dickensian situation facing too many people with disabilities and their carers. The Malaysian solution, no matter what the inconsistent Chief Justice French and his high-horse High Court says, is a good idea and should be actively pursued by the government even if Greens and the Coalition vote it down. Let the nay-sayers own the consequences of failing to stop the boats.

The government needs to win more arguments. It is always so agonisingly defensive and reactive. It needs to take more risks. Put a bit of stick about, as that ‘House of Cards’ government whip said to camera.

They all say they worship Keating. I even saw him mobbed recently at an electorate office opening where true believers shoved books and momentos in his direction for an autograph. But who among the caucus has his sense of daring, adventure, aggression, mischief-making and killer-instinct? Frankly, we see much more of it in Abbott.

Labor stares an enormous defeat in the face. Accepting that as a highly likely possibility can be liberating, even refreshing.

We suspect many voters – or certainly enough voters – have made up their mind about this federal Labor government. They have truncated the normal political cycle and will in 2013 be facing their 1975, 1983, 1996 or 2007 election, long ahead of time.

Vexnewsright

But it’s in the recognition of that likely scenario that there’s opportunity.

If we were in government service, thankfully an unlikely prospect, we’d dust off Ros Kelly’s whiteboard and start brainstorming on the chemical high from those whiteboard markers a whole bunch of crazy stuff that could pass the strangely configured cross-bencher-Greens-party-veto Parliament and that would drive Abbott into a state of high anxiety:

■ Commonwealth Anti-Corruption Commission with those looney sweeping powers and Star-Chamber style public-hearings. Fully-funded in time for the election of a new Abbott government, just in time for Clive Palmer to fly down with some friendly requests about being allowed to flog a coal-mine or two to the various arms of the Chinese state. A CACC would be a bad-taste gift as foul as leaving a shovel outside a foe’s door.

■ Statutory ban on the appointment of ex-politicians, staffers, and political donors from the diplomatic service. Oh, the LOLs. Hey, if it’s good enough that former electorate officers can be banned from the board of the ABC, then this is a perfectly valid move, by comparison. At least there’d be a swing to Labor among the DFAT lefty-toffs who think all those appointments belong to them anyway.

■ A reduction in the number of lower-house MPs, back to the 125 of the pre-Hawke era and the commensurate reduction in the Senate. That way Stroganoff portions in the Parliamentary dining facilities could be expanded to just terms.

■ Scrapping a number of popular lurks and perks of upper-middle-class life, including the tax deductibility of “negative gearing” or one’s losses in financing assets, especially residential property. It’d almost certainly cause a crash in property prices but for those not owning that’s a good thing. Some of the cross-benchers might go for it although they’d probably draw the line at scrapping first home buyer’s grants and other market-distorting gimmicks that achieve nothing except announcement value for politicians. This wouldn’t be popular – when Keating did it, it nearly caused riots – but it’s certainly sound policy.

■ The sale of the Lodge and Kirribilli House. Mrs Abbott has all but measured the premises for new curtains so I’d sell them to Gina Rinehart, Clive Palmer or perhaps most deviously to Therese Rein, who could afford to buy both.

■ Draconian bans not just on big political donations but also caps on campaign spending to introduce some Scandanavian style sobriety to our polling processes. Once passed, the Coalition would have a dreadful time trying to repeal them too. If candidates over-spent, there’d be an AEC-led jihad against them, public inquiries, printers summoned, leaflets carefully assessed, TV ads valued and prosecutions galore. A delightful farce.

■ Private jet/helicopter tax. Pointless and possibly destructive of a perfectly valid industry, to be sure, but good politics. Call it $1 million a year per jet/chopper. Only Sol Lew would weep.

■ A constitutional amendment enshrining a whole bunch of ACTU-approved workplace rights that would cause former IR advisers Mary Jo Fisher, Jamie Briggs and Ian Hanke to head to the supermarket, pig out or shave their head respectively. The referendum could be conducted at the same time as the election, just for a lark.

■ The outlawing of non-cattle-class travel by any politician/public servant or any other person using public funds.

■ While we’re amending the constitution, perhaps we’d throw in proposed provisions mandating an “independent speaker” too. Abbott would dread it but would probably not like to be seen to oppose it. Lock it in, Eddie.

Just to be clear, the only thing we actually support on that list is the scrapping of negative gearing. But we put those out there to share what some midnight musings could create in terms of terrorising the hyper-aggressive Tony Abbott. When was the last time the government wedged him? Instead he is constantly giving them wedgies in what has been – so far – a tour de force.

Lateral thinking. Crazy ideas. Political hand-grenades. We suggest them not as vote-switchers but as examples of what could be done to do unto Abbott what he so regularly does to the government. He’s always on the attack. Appears not to play by the rules. The truth is he’s a lot more cautious than he appears. Latham, he aint.

Which is why we think he’s quite a bit vulnerable to counter-aggression. At least our whiteboard agenda would add some spice to the sometimes dreary predictable government ghoulash. On a good number of these issues, he’d struggle to deal with them.

If we can dream up a few and tack them on to an article about Craig Thomson in violation of several known laws of journalism then presumably the Cabinet and some of their staff could get out their whiteboard markers and have a crack too.

There’s no-one as dangerous as those with nothing to lose.

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NOT SAFE FOR WORK: Liberal staffer promotes "dildo-swallowing competitions" and "wet pussy shots"

A staffer to troubled and reputedly racy Victorian Liberal back-bencher Lorraine Wreford, Ben Clissold, has been denounced in state Parliament for leading a secret double-life where he runs a sedate suburban electorate office by day but by night transforms into a party-hard night-club sleaze promoter.

It is just the most recent debacle involving Ted Baillieu’s MPs along the “Frankston line.”

Hard-hitting Labor front-bencher Luke Donnellan described the scandal in remarks to Parliament that caused much gasping for air on the other side:

Cr Ben Clissold from the office of Lorraine Wreford, MP, has a little website, and it has links to the Young Liberals and encourages young Liberals to join and so forth. The best thing it does is promote places like Icon, The Loft and Spy Lounge — places which have lost their liquor licence. I do not know what messages we are sending there. It promotes cheap drink cards, short dress competitions, stripping competitions and dildo-swallowing competitions. I do not know whether they are the messages we should be sending to the youth, but maybe it is something the Young Liberals enjoy greatly. Maybe it is something that gets the young Liberals to come along and join, but I am not sure that they are appropriate messages. This is the same Cr Ben Clissold who was able to secure training facilities at the Narre Community Learning Centre for the Liberal Party before the last election. I would hope, given he was the chair of that organisation at the time, that an appropriate fee was paid for the use of that training centre.

ClissoldScandalously, VEXNEWS can reveal that Clissold has lied to his boss about curtailing his involvement in the website, which he occasionally claims is now owned by his brother.

Documents obtained by VEXNEWS reveal that the smut-master – as recently as May this year – was updated as the officially registered owner of the website maxmoose.com.au

This website in addition to publicly conducted dildo-swallowing, bikini and stripping contests prominently promotes offerings such as “wet pussy shots” which we are advised is a particularly refreshing beverage on offer in some of the nightclubs of ill-repute with which Clissold is knowingly concerned. In addition to the racy names for drinks, the maxmoose website shows what can only be described as remarkable public displays of affection with flavoured milk badged “Spitroast Sundays.” Sources familiar with Frankston nightclubs of the kind where Liberal MP Geoff Shaw once served as a bouncer and occasional criminal assault defendant were unable to explain the milky way but insisted it was all good clean fun.

Clissold, a former councillor on the notorious Casey council which is best-known for poisoning many hundreds of homes with its dodgy rubbish dump near the Brookland Greens estate, only narrowly missed out on preselection for state seats in the south-east in the past. He is believed to still be harbouring political ambitions.

The fellow is no stranger to controversy, previously insisting that Ernst Wanke Road be pronounced “Vonka” in the original German. Descendants of Ernst Wanke were appalled and insisted the street-name be pronounced correctly as “wankee” as has been the custom for hundreds of years, they said.

Maxmoose

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PHOENIX RISING: Labor surprises by living to fight another day in Wollongong council

GordonbradberyLabor insiders tell VEXNEWS they’ve been pleasantly surprised by the election results of the powerful Wollongong City Council, declaring that the only way is up for the party in an area so rife with corruption claims and trouble that a play was written about it, largely drawing on Independent Commission Against Corruption transcripts as the truth is stranger than even the most fanciful fiction at times. Some three councillors from the ALP and multiple council officers faced charges arising from these unfortunate circumstances.

The popular refrain on the ground and from the local press was to “keep the major parties” (or politics itself) out of council, yet fewer independents and more Liberal party members were elected.

The ALP stone appears to have stopped dropping too. Many expected a massacre, after the scandals, and the difficulties NSW Labor has had since they knifed Morris Iemma. But Labor’s Janice Kershaw did well against a fierce local campaign and another David Brown got the same vote as he achieved in previous elections. Labor had six on the past council and will have four on the new one, which is considered a very good result in the circumstances.

Insiders say they’ve been returned in much the same situation as caused many of the past difficulties: a weak Lord Mayor with no party support surrounded by very experienced councillors and some who put the ‘less’ in ‘clueless.’

Indeed, the newly elected mayor The Reverend Gordon Bradbery is regarded as an attention-seeking clean-skin who’ll struggle to cope with the tough politics of the ‘Gong. As a Uniting Church minister, naturally he supports the free supply of heroin to addicts because addiction is a medical problem. His views were too unconventional and lefty even for the Uniting Church authorities and he was sacked two years ago from that role. Hopefully for him, he’ll have more success dealing with the council congregation.

Reviewing Bradbery’s material, he seems very similar to Melbourne’s preachy pompous serial candidate and rent-a-quote rat-bag Les Twentyman, positioning himself as a moral force while accusing everyone else of being an evil, corrupt liar. Bradbery’s web-site has more references to “lies” than the Hong Kong phone book. His slogan was “Integrity you can trust” – big words he’ll need to be careful to match. Of course, he’ll be keen to avoid junkets, dodgy expenses claims, corporate hospitality, free stuff in general and even looking at a developer with anything less than a surly scowl for fear of being seen as a little hypocritical.

Those familiar with the situation say that the Labor and Liberal councillors could find common ground against the two Greens, in favour of growth and opportunity in the region. The Liberals don’t have much of an operation in Wollongong, with their council activities largely drawing on crusty old conservative independents, who have run before in that capacity. Despite that they managed to get four people elected for the first time ever and achieved over a quarter of the vote.

Labor insiders say that Young Labor patriots were mobilised very effectively, even selflessly declining to empty the bar at the campaign party although kicking on the Illawarra Hotel where takings vastly exceeded expectations.

The Wollongong council has been so on-the-nose that state and federal MPs shunned the local campaign for fear of catching some guilt-by-association.

Some ALP folk say there are some lessons others could draw from in their campaign:

1. Left off ALP. They lost ethnic votes in Wollongong because voters whose english was poor and did not see ALP or the ALP logo. The ALP used Community Labor but every other team was also labelled “community”

2. Ignored Local Knowledge on polling booths. In areas with strong ALP support and the booth workers did not clearly identify themselves as ALP. In conservative areas they failed to use the candidate name especially for Janice Kershaw and David Brown who have respect above party affiliation.

3. Labor Mayoral Candidate campaigned as The Man with the Plan. But no body had any idea what that plan was….poor advertising of it , no access to it via internet etc

4. Campaign manager not a local….made some basic mistakes.

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CAMPAIGN SECRETS: Campus Liberal power-house's battle-plan revealed

FreshOne of the nation’s most impressive student political machines will be strutting its stuff at the University of Queensland elections. Many believe that “FRESH” is the most successful campus Liberal political machine in Australian history.

A secret campaign strategy document obtained by VEXNEWS from their successful 2009 bid reveals the highly professional, some might think manipulative, techniques used by the conservatives to maintain power at what has mostly been a left-leaning campus.

Some of the guidance for their campaign workers includes gems like:

– “Girls – hot clothing is a guaranteed vote-winner if you’re comfortable in it. A bit of midriff, leg, all good…If you think it’ll work, flirt,”.

If you’ve got it, flaunt it. Although if you’re up to no good, best to be discreet, urges the FRESH campaign plan:

“Don’t do dodgies in your team shirt. Ripping down lefty posters is tempting, ditto with stealing all their leaflets, putting their car up on bricks, whatever. However, it looks very bad if the team’s associated with this. Take your shirt off first.”

Presumably the shirt-removal applies mainly to the blokes or to the most adventurous of the young ladies.

Their advice to the Liberal lads is to dress down lest they be seen as a bit uppity:

know what the ordinary voting student goes for… this is our market. Guys – go casual bogan: no tie, suits or beige pants.

You don’t have to watch the Gruen Transfer to know sex sells. FRESH knows this too:

If you think it’ll work, flirt. Girls, you’re on an almost universal winner here. Guys will have to pick their battles wisely – don’t be a sleaze.

A little bit of deception goes a long way too, it seems. FRESH campaign workers are told to instruct international students that it is “compulsory” they vote. It isn’t:

International Students… Tell them they have received the wrong ballot paper and need to vote this particular. Tell them that it is compulsory they vote and need to vote this way. Do WHATEVER IT TAKES to ensure they vote…

It also encourages them to tell reluctant voters to “Just do it and stop being a queer.” A line which probably wouldn’t go over too well with gays and lesbians.

But the truth is the document is actually full of very good campaigning advice that shows just how slick and carefully organised the UQ Liberals are.

It wisely urges them to avoid:

Lefty campaigners, lunatic staff members, QUT students, bearded freaks, etc. Don’t waste your time on them.

That’s almost a life-lesson.

Those embarked on student elections this month would do well peruse this document and learn from the great success FRESH has had.

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THE LEW SPRUNG: People power to stop Sol Lew's rude moves

FcuklewBillionaire Sol Lew is causing a big stink around Melbourne, critics say.

His refusal to face the inevitable and demolish his spoiled daughter’s illegally constructed $300,000 horizon pool that supposedly overlooks a nudist beach threatens to cause a local uprising according the local Leader newspaper. They report:

Mt Eliza Action Group secretary June Horner says there will be protests if Solomon Lew is allowed to buy Crown land presently occupied by an illegally built pool.

Local Liberal MP David Morris is also outraged by the idea that people could illegally build a pool on public land then when busted for the crime be allowed to buy their way out of it:

Mornington state Liberal MP David Morris said he also opposed the public land being sold or leased to Mr Lew.

“It’s public land and it should remain so,’’ he said.

As one of few south-eastern Melbourne Liberal MPs not involved in street-assaults, the family drug business, porn production or questionable fund-raising, Morris clearly represents a beacon light of freedom in the heights of Mt Eliza.

Local council patriot Leigh Eustace is also on the record opposing any “sale” of public land to help avoid Lew demolishing his illegal pool arguing it would set a dangerous precedent that could see the widespread arrogation of public land for private use.

Indeed, VEXNEWS, in those circumstances, would give careful consideration to constructing our own residence in the Botanical Gardens, perhaps at a site near one of our favourite breakfast-providers The Botanical. (A venue from which – it is believed – Sol Lew has been banned after repeatedly bringing his own tea-bag to the venue and declining to pay for hot water)

We would – after a certain amount of outcry – then offer to buy the land underneath our illegal dwelling and perhaps an acre or so for appropriately sized private grounds for my hounds.

It is, of course, a laughable and outrageous idea.

And it should come as no surprise that it comes from Lew and his infamous lawyer Sam Bond, a failed former basketballer whose knees still give him grief, who does his best to help Lew escape justice.

RobertdoyleMeanwhile, the Sunday Herald Sun and Melbourne’s plain-living Lord Mayor Robert Doyle have joined forces to oppose the unsightly FCUK sign that greets visitors to Melbourne driving in over the Bolte Bridge.

Who is responsible for this?

You guessed it, Solomon Lew.

He owns the FCUK business in Australia.

Doyle has called on “people power” to encourage the company to remove the sign.

An excellent idea.

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STOP THE BOASTS: Those celebrating the end of Malaysian solution ought hang their heads in shame

ChrisbowenThe federal government’s generally occurring agony reached a new level of wincing yesterday after an outrageous High Court decision that took unto the court the power to decide who comes to Australia and the circumstances in which they come.

Essentially, while acknowledging Malaysia is a perfectly safe place to process asylum seekers, the Court ruled that because it hadn’t signed a treaty (the signatories of which aren’t always safe places to send anyone) that the Minister Chris Bowen wasn’t legally able to send them there.

It is an example of silly judicial over-reach of a kind that will no doubt be celebrated in the salons of Canberra and dinner parties of across the inner-cities of our land.

But the majority judgments appeared to be a desperate search to nobble the policy, using a pretty silly technicality to do so that ignored the prevailing facts of circumstances in Malaysia.

Meanwhile, the government is left looking inept on an area of policy that concerns many Australians.

Some of us worry about the plight of those who take such a big risk to come here in unauthorised fashion, exploited by people smuggling gangsters who are also involved in other high-risk high-profit opportunities like prostitution, arms smuggling and drugs.

Some of us worry about the apparent inability of the Commonwealth – which is meant to defend us from foreign invasion and an increasing number of other ills – to control the borders. This is not just the concern of rednecks and angry Fairfax radio hosts formerly of One Nation. It’s a legitimate worry even if we do keep it in perspective.

The government ought be congratulated not condemned for the “Malaysian solution.” It was lateral and bold thinking from a generally very cautious and sometimes uninspiring lot. Putting our unauthorised arrivals at the back of a pre-existing Malaysian queue of some quite deserving refugees there in return for increasing our humanitarian intake made good sense. It was and remains – as Chris Bowen described it – “elegant” policy and in our view a classic modern Labor solution that showed compassion, decency but addressed the political issue of the federal government needing to stay firmly in control of our national borders.

It’s a terrible shame for the government that it ran into a meddling Court full of formerly prosperous barristers who don’t share the concerns of many Australians on border security or much else. (The government would do well to consider that the dissenting judge in this case Justice Heydon would be extremely unlikely to be appointed to any court by this government. He seems to be the sole voice of reason on the court at the moment.)

But much more troubling is the fact that more people will die as a result of the High Court’s erroneous majority decisions.

More people smugglers will get richer.

More kids will drown. Or be thrown overboard.

More Australians will be whipped up into a frenzy against immigration and immigrants by seeing worrying images on the front-pages of our tabloids and leading the news bulletins of asylum seekers entering our territory without permission, facilitated by gangsters.

It’s a worry.

The Greens party’s cynical and sinister approach to the issue is to actually be firmly opposed to immigration because we’re running out of land and water while saying they really want more asylum seekers. It is a classic example of how they get away with the most extraordinary and egregious self-contradictions without proper scrutiny. They are as we once liked to pen in our predecessor publication truly lying liars who lie.

And the Coalition’s approach on the issue is not much better.

It’s true that their policy on Nauru was effective. Not pretty. But pretty effective.

They were lashed by Labor on it, including by PM Gillard, for its supposed cruelty and viciousness.

Now they are engaged in a form of payback by opposing rather than embracing the government’s proposed Malaysian solution and insisting that it reinstate their Nauruan one.

It’s petty.

Their position on this important area of public policy is totally governed by a desire to use PM Gillard’s own quotes condemning the Pacific solution against her should she adopt it herself. Or even worse by an unstated desire to have the boats keep coming on her watch, regardless of the potential loss of life.

It’s politics at its worst and most depressing.

The Opposition is almost certain to win the next election.

At the heart of that is a brave decision made by conservatives in the Liberal Party room in the aftermath of the dismal Copenhagen climate conference to oppose taxes on carbon emissions and to put up a then most improbable leader to implement their will when his predecessor stubbornly refused.

They don’t need the boats to keep coming to win. Their political damage is done anyway. Labor is variously seen as too soft, too hard or just totally inept on this issue despite the elegance of what Bowen has crafted.

That’s why the Coalition should support it and any other reasonable measure that will “break the business model” of the gangsters who smuggle people on dangerous craft across treacherous seas for as much as ten grand a head. Oscar Schindler they aint.

The Coalition’s support is necessary for changes to the Migration Act to prevent the High Court from continuing to meddle in what are clearly political questions best resolved by those willing to subject themselves to the vulgarities of democratic contest.

It won’t happen, of course. Extracting the government from a political mess is not considered a desirable pursuit for any Opposition and Labor’s frenemies in the Greens.

And because of all these political games, some very desperate men and women, girls and boys, will die at sea, spend years in captivity, be separated from loved ones because they craved a better, safer life.

The debacle that will almost certainly follow this decision should haunt the judges responsible for it and the politicians so irresponsible that they’ll gladly trade on misery for votes.

The false piety of Hanson-Young, the arrogant presumption of six High Court posers and the horrid opportunism of the Coalition on this issue makes the battered and bowed Chris Bowen look pretty good by comparison.

We hope he doesn’t wave the white flag to political pirates.

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DEPARTURE LOUNGE: At least 6 Club Fed Labor MPs to pull the pin

ComcarsA growing number of federal Labor MPs are contemplating retirements according to Club Fed sources, VEXNEWS can exclusively reveal.

Hard-working Federal MP for Chisholm Anna Burke, popular lefty Bendigo MP Steve Gibbons, painful and Ruddite Daryl Melham, grumpy teddy bear Laurie Ferguson, NSW Right patriot John Murphy, and former Minister and Left factional titan Alan Griffin have all decided not to re-contest their seats.

Chisholm, while built up to a 6.1% margin by Anna Burke, is seen as highly vulnerable to a strong Liberal campaign without her personal following. The feisty and dynamic Burke has long had a gripe that others elected at the same time as she – and with no more capacity – were promoted over the top of her, so she’s believed to be openly talking about her imminent departure without formally announcing anything just yet.

Bendigo is safer again on 9% with Gibbons seen as having a fair following too. Some in Labor circles hope Gibbons will be able to be persuaded to stay on.

Griffin’s seat of Bruce has been assiduously worked over by him too but most Labor people think it could be held even with the unpopular carbon tax looming large at the next campaign, as Liberals hope.

Both Melham and Ferguson achieved their 15 minutes of fame by angrily denying the veracity of ABC reports of a leadership spill against Kevin Rudd which turned out to be rather well-informed. They are in safe seats, to the extent they exist for Labor in NSW these days.

John Murphy – a good man who has vigorously fought the good fight against over-zealous portion-control at “The Trough” and other Parliament House eateries – is in the now marginal seat of Reid which was strangely mostly the re-badged seat of Lowe.

With NSW Labor’s stocks what they are, it seems likely to be a struggle to hold it too.

Labor insiders tell VEXNEWS there could be even more voluntary departures given how bad the polls are for the federal government at the moment. Political analysts continue to express surprise that Victoria “the Massachusetts of the South” and South Australia still show the ALP is relatively strong compared with rather dire numbers elsewhere.

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