Monthly Archives: May 2011

NOT ONE OF US: Why the Liberal party room is going to slot the brilliant Abbott

abbottminchinThere has not been a more formidable Leader of the Opposition in Australian politics since Malcolm Fraser and Bob Menzies before him.

Tony Abbott has been awesome.

His aggression, his message discipline, his populism has been a case study for all those seeking to serve in the toughest job in modern politics.

He’s made a middling government look woeful, most of the time.

And yet, cracks are starting to appear.

Talk of disunity in the Liberals, evidence of silly own-goals and nonsensical spats have been the first sign of complacency in an otherwise hyper-charged, optimistic and excited Coalition.

For the simple truth, as VEXNEWS has previously reported, is that the Liberal party room, while awed by Abbott’s aggressive antics at the government, is not really a natural constituency for his views or, indeed, even a man like him.

Not to put too fine a point on it, he’s a Grouper.

He has the uniquely old-fashioned, lovably eccentric and sometimes very, very popular set of views that would once have been attributed to those of the National Civic Council. Socially conservative statists. Even on some things, quite left-wing. And certainly not in the slightest bit anti-union.

It’s a weird mix, more evident and obvious to VEXNEWS perhaps because ever since we first encountered them in the slime-pit of student politics, we’ve enjoyed the company of NCC types. They are mostly good people. And mostly pretty well-connected with what actually plays well in the burbs. Their most successful alumnus in modern times is obviously Abbott but there are quite a few around in senior levels of politics. To use the language of those who like to win elections, while a bit eccentric on some things, “they get it” (they know how to win).

And just as peering down the long, barren corridors of Melbourne Uni’s den of dogs in student politics taught us to be able to “spot a Trot” from miles away, we can also spot those with BA Santamaria in their heart. The latter causes much less concern than the ice-pick victim, of course.

And Abbott is definitely the real deal. He doesn’t really even deny it.

His views are old school. Sometimes even bizarrely so. This was one of his offerings before he was Leader that if taken at his word would suggest that women ought not have an absolute right not to consent to sex in marriage (as the law once provided):

Even this moderate house of wisdom blanches at his rather ugly expressions about women giving consent to sex in marriage.and this idea that sex is kind of a woman’s right to absolutely withhold, just as the idea that sex is a man’s right to demand I think they are both they both need to be moderated, so to speak.

That’s pretty outrageous by modern standards. No consent means rape, marriage or not, and it should sicken all those pondering it, in our view. And we don’t raise that to disparage him, and we’re not sure that’s still his view or was even a correctly expressed properly considered exposition of his views on rape, but to make the point that many in his own party room, on which his own leadership depends, regard him as something of a rock-ape on these kinds of social issues and more ominously perhaps on economic matters.

He’s no economic reformer. Costello’s various writings on the subject are scathing.

Abbott has no interest in economics. He’s a values politician, who wants Australian national decision-making to stay connected with middle Australia not a hard-charging zealot for change. Disrupting families for the sake of the current account is anathema.

And again that’s just not where the Liberal party room, for the most part, is at. They are free traders. Limited government is what floats their boat, even if it’s not always what they do when in office. Even among the so-called Liberal Right, who strongly supported him, they think that on economic matters, Abbott cannot really be trusted. His instincts are all wrong, his interest in reform and taking heat for it hovers around nil.

Just this past weekend, the Liberal Right titan who nearly single-handedly made him Leader, Senator Nick Minchin warned Abbott of the perils of populism. We think it only ran in the Adelaide papers but the retiring Senator went to the trouble of opining on this subject in a farewell newsletter to party members:

“Success really lies in getting the balance right between principle and pragmatism, between the pursuit of good policy and the need to retain popular support.”

With WorkChoices, he said, the party had erred “too far in the direction of principle”.

“There is no doubt, an inadequate filter was applied to that policy prior to its introduction,” he said. “(But) that experience must not be allowed to be the catalyst for a reversion to populism now that we are in opposition.

“The federal Coalition has a responsibility not to pursue populism at the expense of the nation’s long-term interests.”

Senator Minchin winds up pledging support for Mr Abbott but also saying: “Victory in 2013 will come from sound policies based on strong principles, and not from cheap populism”.

Few in Canberra misunderstood who this anti-populist message was aimed at. It was Nick Minchin’s tough-love message to his own creation, Leader Tony Abbott.

Others wonder how – without the astute counsel and numbers-manipulations of his mentor Nick Minchin – Tony Abbott will be able to fend off what is almost certainly a non-Right majority in the party room should his personal numbers go from being not great as they currently are to being seen as a clear drag on the ticket. By early 2013, Abbott will be the longest-serving Opposition Leader since Beazley, we cannot imagine his personal numbers will have improved; it’s almost certain they’ll be lower, probably much lower.  Abbott’s relentless negativity might help the party’s numbers but it’s slowly killing his. Like Crean when he was deputy Opposition Leader and then Leader and Brumby in his first run as state leader, the more effective you are at punching the government, the more people are left with the idea that you might not be such a nice bloke.  That’s why Abbott’s numbers are bad and will get worse as 2013 nears. By then he’ll be vulnerable as hell to a challenge, in a party room that will probably sniff electoral victory and that has a natural predisposition not to like Abbott personally and not be very suspicious of his views.

The Press Gallery of course hate Abbott, hate his old world views and will cheer on anyone who has a crack.

A clear successor is not obvious. We’ve talked up Julie Bishop although few outside WA seem to think she’s a possibility (mind you she presents well and the WA bloc is big chunk of the party room). Joe Hockey seems to get fatter and yet smaller each passing day. Scott Morrison is whispered about occasionally especially by NSW colleagues. And then there’s Malcolm. The Turnbull option is still unpalatable for most – even one-time backers – after his appalling egomania and misconduct and misjudgment as Leader.

When it is said that being the federal Opposition Leader is the toughest job in politics, this is why. No-one else will call it at this stage but we think there’s not much doubt: as strong a political advocate as he’s been, it’s a question of when not if he’s replaced by a party room that never really wanted him in the first place.



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TICKET CLIPPER: Scott Ryan staffer Daniel Bevan shocked by Greg Hannan in Vic Lib Admin upset

greghannanAmbitious sunglasses wearer Daniel Bevan was elected a member of the Administrative Committee as a metropolitan male representative of the Victorian Liberals on the weekend. But he’s not happy.

The Senator Scott Ryan protégé and staffer was elected second behind young Higgins powerbroker former Stonnington mayor Tim Smith’s favoured candidate Greg Hannan. Indeed, Bevan was some sixty votes behind Hannan, in a showing that disappointed supporters.

It was an extraordinary result, Liberal insiders claim, because Bevan was #1 on both the Action Faction (former known as Kroger) ticket and also the Baillieu faction ticket. Both Bevan and Hannan hail from the anti-Baillieu grouping, so it was really just a bit of friendly internal jostling among the righteous.

danielbevanFriends of Daniel’s insist he’s quite relaxed about it although is puzzled why some delegates went “rogue.”

Backers of Hannan though say their man is the more popular and suave operator, unafraid to pick up a phone to sway a vote and generally a man to watch. They are less impressed with Bevan’s form.

The shrewd Senator Ryan now has a headache of trying to figure out how to rehabilitate his loyal lieutenant.

If the Baillieu-aligned Tim Wilson had run, as expected, some think he might even have won in these extraordinary circumstances.

More generally, some in the anti-Baillieu camp think Helen Kroger might be demonstrating more feisty fighting than her Senate preselection rival, Scott Ryan. Both are thought keen to avoid the #3 Senate death-seat. But some think Ryan’s slack staffer might portend ominously. Some are suspicious that Ted’s forces might insert glam-candidate 1TP staffer and lawyer John Pesutto into the Senate preselection process just to shock and terrify all. “He’s definitely running for something,” one observer noted as he strolled state council promenade.

While we await results from the Policy Assembly count, delegates speaking to VEXNEWS complained of a bizarrely lengthy Baillieu oration that ran for some 70 minutes.

“Several older delegates appeared in need of personal portable electric fans and defibrillators to survive the experience,” one observer explained.

We understand voting for the PA was extended to 2.30pm as a result of Baillieu’s unexpectedly long remarks.

Also notable during the weekend, party insiders say, was that the Nats Leader Peter Ryan got louder cheers than Baillieu did, as those many delegates who don’t rate Ted very highly at all were sending a very subversive message indeed.


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DIRTY OLD MAN: Billionaire Lew steals nature reserve to build pool with nudist beach view

sollewbigtimeIn an effort redefining chutzpah, Melbourne rip-off retailer Solomon Lew has been accused by local authorities in Melbourne’s ritzy beach suburb of Mt Eliza of stealing land belonging to a public nature reserve to build an “infinity” swimming pool. Ominously, the site over-looks a nudist beach.

In what must be the first good story appearing in the publication since the early 90s, The Sunday Age’s Cameron Houston has done a splendid job stitching up the rag-trader on this. Highlights that will warm the heart this morn:

■ Lew has been busted for building the pool – worth an estimated $80,000 – without a planning permit on public land that forms part of a nature reserve, starting as long as two years ago;

■ Infamously sleazy law firm Schetzer Giggle and Appel in the form of ex-basketball gimp Sam Bond lumbered in to Lew’s rescue, denying ownership of the property despite a clear paper-trail and confirming the general view in Melbourne that Lew lies;

â–  The pool over-looks “popular nude bathing beach Sunnyside North” (‘clothes optional’) providing significant voyeur opportunities for Lew – a virile old goat once tabbed up on his favoured cocktail Viagra and anal-leakage causing diet-pills – should he equip himself with binoculars, telescope or possibly a webcam to facilitate remote access to local nudes;

■ The Mornington Peninsula Shire Council has launched a formal investigation that could lead to prosecutions and orders that the illegal constructions be demolished and the land return to the public after being rehabilitated at Lew’s expense;

â–  Aside from the illegal nature of the works, its construction offends building regulations and could be dangerous due to soil erosion in that area, potentially representing a clear and present danger to the nudists below.

Naturally the classy Lew family were denying all knowledge of everything and blaming everyone else including the builders, a prospect regarded as most unlikely by those who know the neurotic control-freaks well. While Sol’s pugnacious daughter single-mum Jaki is thought to use the property as a weekender, Lew unmistakably owns the property through his complex series of trusts that have been previously investigated by the ATO and ASIC. Both Lews deny owning the property although the title search on the property 8 Osprey Avenue, Mount Eliza suggest otherwise.

The illegal pool over-looks “popular nude bathing beach Sunnyside North”

It will be interesting to hear what the builders, at this stage not disclosed, say to the Lews’ allegations that they knew nothing of the illegality of the pool construction and it was all the builders’ fault.

Contractors we’ve previously spoken with – including painters – have told VEXNEWS that the Lews are very hands-on in dealing with works on their property and are notoriously very slow or no-payers. Often Rosie Lew, Sol’s decrepit and vicious spouse, takes charge of these situations although Sol himself controls matters like authorising payments or, as is more often the case, choosing not to pay. Those who can afford to sue are pretty much the only service providers who get paid by the Lew family.

Lew owns two very large boats, both of which were engaged in significant multi-million dollar re-fits in recent years and both were “liberated” in the dead-of-night by mercenaries specifically hired for the task before the payments were made for the extensive works. As a result, one New Zealander ship-builder collapsed because Lew wouldn’t pay the $15 million bill. When he did the same thing in Hamburg, the word went out in the small world of millionaire boat-fixers not to deal with Lew. He really is a low-grade crook. Stealing a bit of protected nature reserve subject to soil erosion to ensure a good view of the nudists from one’s self-pleasure pool is really just a tiny blip on his moral radar.

For locals interested in taking a dip in a publicly owned swimming pool, it might be worth noting the address of the property and heading over when Melbourne’s weather improves from its current icy state. Chances are though for eighty grand, it is very ably heated and could house any number of local swim enthusiasts who didn’t want to brave the sea.

VEXNEWS understands that a complaint about this incident will be made to Victoria Police during the week by those concerned with the theft of environmentally-significant public property by one of Melbourne’s richest men.

The local council comprises a number of councillors elected with a  mandate to protect the Green Wedge and nature reserves in the area, like the property stolen by Lew.

Deputy Mayor Frank Martin has told ratepayers:

One of several priorities in council will be to ensure that the foreshore and coastal precincts are managed correctly. It is essential that only appropriate, sustainable development is allowed to proceed and that environmental issues are treated sensitively in these areas…I believe it is imperative that “green wedge” areas are protected and that the “rural amenity” unique to the Peninsula is retained for the future…

Other councillors express a passion for the environment and one is in the business of growing hydroponic herbs. If they have half a clue politically, they’ll through the book at Lew for this monstrous outrage. His vast wealth shouldn’t spare him from the criminal justice system and other remedies.

Central to that fortune amassed by Lew is outrageous retail margins that he has been able to charge for years.

A study released this week revealed that Australia has some of the highest retail mark-ups in the world, in Lew’s areas of clothing and shoes it averages at 142%.

This is what is behind Lew’s demand made over summer that the federal government shut-down internet shopping with red-tape and new taxes.


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ACTION WINS: Red Ted's candidates hit the fence they're sitting on

bucketAt today’s Victorian Liberal Party State Council, Premier Ted Baillieu endured a vote of ‘please stop dithering’ with none of this candidates winning roles in either the Party’s Administrative or Agenda Committees.

The once-called Kroger forces are morphing into the the ‘Faction for Action’ after the Baillieu’s underwhelming first six months in office. The Faction for Action gave a standing ovation to Manly’s man for endurance events and Federal Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott. In this speech, he compared Gillard’s carbon tax to Menzies’ battle against Chifley’s bank nationalisation. It hit the right chord for the right audience.

Comparisons between Abbott’s and Baillieu’s State Council addresses will inevitably be invited as delegates gather for tomorrow’s Policy Assembly ballot.

Many are also frustrated with the Premier of Australia’s second most populous state, spending too much of his valuable time on Party affairs, including attending Admin Committee meetings instead of delegating. The former party president finds it hard to let go but it’s not as if he’s interventions help his backers.

Supporters of Baillieu are irritated by the lack of respect given Red Ted. After all he unexpectedly won the State election by one seat and won the upper chamber, by one seat.

Nevertheless Red Ted’s supporters ignore the messages in today vote at their own peril, Liberal party insiders have told VEXNEWS.

Louise Staley, a Baillieu stalwart and Wannon MP wannabe, lost the vote of female Vice President overwhelmingly to Norma Wells. Traditionally the Country VP spots have been integral parts of ‘Kennett-Baillieu’ badlands.  After being texted the humiliating outcome, Staley exited State Council with great haste at an unfashionably early hour.  (VEXNEWS is unsure if someone drove her home as occurred after her loss at the 2000 Menzies preselection against Abbott talisman, Kevin Andrews. Staley lost her driving licence which was suspended for the usual reason … glug glug glug … then fibbed about it to Menzies’ preselectors, as you would.)

Victoria’s Policy Assembly’s results will determine the contentious Senate preselection for the next Federal election. Hard-charging Senators Ryan and Ronaldson have been active in securing their longer term futures of sitting on Club Fed red leather.

(Perhaps a well-funded Senate campaign to lift the appalling primary vote for Victoria’s Liberal Senate candidates would be a smarter pathway.)

Here are the results:


President: TONY SNELL – unopposed

Treasurer: ANDREW ABERCROMBIE    – unopposed

Male Metro Vice-President: ROB FOX   – unopposed

Female Metro Vice-President: Dr SANDRA MERCER MOORE   – unopposed

Male Country Vice-President:  PETER McWILLIAM (def ANGELO KAKOUROS)

Female Country Vice-President: NORMA WELLS (def LOUISE STALEY on first preferences)

Metro Male Admin:    DANIEL BEVAN(Scott Ryan staffer)

                               GREG HANNAN (Stonnington Councillor)

Country Male Admin: CHRISTOPHER EARLE (Ronno staffer)

                               JOHN GAULT

Metro Female:          JANE HUME (unopposed)

                       CAROLINE ELLIOTT (unopposed)

Country Female Admin: SAMANTHA McINTOSH

                                   ROBIN COX


Metro Male: NICHOLAS DEMERIS (Andrews’ staffer)

Country Male: ROD NOCKLES 

Metro Female: KAYE FARROW



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POLL-DANCING: VEXNEWS obtains leaked anti-cigarette militants’ survey that fails to ask the big questions

triadVEXNEWS can exclusively reveal that it’s not just the dreaded “Big Tobacco” (not sure if there’s a small tobacco unless that counts cigar shops or the Chinese Triad who sell untaxed ‘chop chop’) that are playing tricky games.

This coming Sunday, we understand the taxpayer funded Cancer Council Australia has given the ‘exclusive’ drop for a Newspoll survey that – surprise, surprise – shows a majority of Australians support the government’s plain-packaging proposals for nasty cigarettes.

59% support and 24% oppose, the Sunday Age will exclusively reveal days after we already have. (Aren’t we dreadful?) But market research industry insiders say the poll smells dreadfully like a push-poll because it asked a lot of questions out of context and failed to ask some pretty important ones.

The most important and obvious question is do they think the measure – conceived by health bureaucrats as part of their half-hearted War on Smoking – will be effective in reducing the number of smokers.

An exclusive VEXNEWS survey conducted in the frequently robbed pokies-den the Cross-Keys hotel of Melbourne’s Strathmore region, close to the scene of the Moran shooting, indicates that 0% of sober respondents thought it would make anyone less likely to smoke. It was too late at night for us to take an accurate record of the number of survey participants.

Most (75%) thought that getting rid of colourful branding created huge advantages for the Chinese triad and al-Qaeda linked ‘chop chop’ tobacco-smuggling industry because the packets will be much easier to copy.

The packets are no longer allowed to displayed anyway in shops, they are all now hidden behind mini roller-doors, if you hadn’t noticed.

Nor did it ask whether the government should just ban smoking outright, as many think the Commonwealth is eventually headed. Having gone hard with a carbon tax it promised we’d never get, a complete ban on cigs would certainly play its role in turning 10% swings against the government in outer suburban seats into 20%+ NSW ones. Surfing tsunamis seems to be Federal Labor’s strongest desire these days.

Recently of course, drinking alcohol has recently been linked with cancer too.

Banning that does seem a bridge too far, perhaps, even for this government.

Backbenchers from both sides of politics have told VEXNEWS that if the Commonwealth was serious about cutting smoking that it would be much better off with targeted education campaigns, aimed at parts of the community where smoking remains stubbornly high.

With the prevailing chop-chop price per packet being around $3 around Melbourne and an official pack costing $17, there is clearly an out-of-control problem that no amount of plain-packaging and tax increases can solve.

Chop-chop purchases are particularly prevalent in the most disadvantaged and excluded parts of society.

And while the Cancer Council probably means well and would like to ban smokes, paying for research that tells you what you want to hear doesn’t have a great deal of credibility and doesn’t advance the debate very far.

If you tax the hell out of a legal product, make it harder and harder to get, make it easily copied, then it is inevitable the illegal product, if the law is only very casually enforced as it is, will prosper.

Driving smoking underground (or behind closed doors if you prefer) won’t work any more than banning booze worked in 1920’s America. That’s clear enough.

And, of course, the profits on ‘chop-chop’ don’t go to the well-salaried, well-fed folk in Big Tobacco but to serious bad guys who want to blow us up and kill us in between importing sex-slaves and heroin on the side. That’s what’s at stake by making life easier for the illegal part of the industry.

We don’t much like cigarettes. And we particularly loathe passive smoking, feeling that we have enough vices already without ingesting someone else’s. But we also have little time for propagandists’ tricks and hidden agendas and turning a blind-eye to a surging problem in the illegal tobacco market.

Smoking rates, particularly in the affluent parts of the country, are falling fast. But among the most disadvantaged, they remain stubbornly high. Until federal Labor really addresses that, many will be left thinking it’s still indulging in Rudd-style Hollowmen stunts of 2008 rather than getting serious about an important public health and law and order issue.

While the Gallery cheer-leads loudly for Minister Roxon on this issue, there is still every chance the legislation will fails in the Reps, which many Coalition MPs hope would be a major humiliation for the government which has had a pretty easy run on this issue to date.

Date: Thu, 26 May 2011 15:05:35 +1000
Subject: Embargoed media release: Plain tobacco packaging a winner with Australians: new poll

Embargoed to 00:01am Sunday, 29 May 2011

Plain tobacco packaging a winner with Australians: new poll

New research shows plain packaging of cigarettes is supported by the majority of Australians, despite the tobacco industry’s continued attempts to undermine the groundbreaking health initiative.

A 2011 Newspoll telephone survey of 1200 adults, commissioned by Cancer Council Australia, has found while just over two in ten people (24%) disapprove of cigarettes being sold in plain packaging, almost six out of ten (59%) adults approve of the policy.

Chair of Cancer Council Australia’s Tobacco Issues Committee, Caroline Miller, said the survey results reflected the Australian community’s longstanding support for policies that put public health interests before tobacco industry profits.

“Despite desperate and contradictory arguments against plain packaging from the tobacco industry, the majority of Australians support the initiative,” Ms Miller said.

“Restrictions to other forms of tobacco advertising, such as broadcast ad bans, have long been socially accepted – which is why old footage of television ads for tobacco products looks so strange to contemporary eyes.

“If the Australian community’s support for plain packaging translates to the passage of legislation in Federal Parliament as it should, in years to come the concept of glossy, stylised cigarette packaging will seem equally anachronistic.”

Ms Miller said the evidence to support plain packaging, including a recent review of 20 years’ of targeted studies released by Cancer Council Australia last week*, was compelling.

“So it’s very encouraging to see that plain packaging is supported by the community, as well as by the science,” she said.

“From what we know now, there is no valid reason to oppose plain packaging.

“The evidence is there, the community support is there and the desperate campaign being waged by the tobacco industry is further indication that it should work.

“It’s no wonder almost three times as many Australians support plain packaging as those who oppose it.

“The Parliament has a unique opportunity to translate the evidence and the publi
c support into groundbreaking policy with great potential to further reduce tobacco consumption in Australia, which remains by far the nation’s major preventable cause of cancer death.”

*Review of evidence here:

Media contact:   Kate Dorrell 0404 691 8XX or

Follow us on twitter – @cancercounciloz

A media event will be held in Melbourne at 10:30am Sunday. A media alert will be distributed via AAP. For more details contact Jessica Longbottom at Quit Victoria on 0421 155 028

SUNDAY UPDATE: And sure enough, it appeared in the Sunday Age, just as we said it would.


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WYATT LOVE TRIANGLE: Coming-of-age MP faces pool-party love-tryst couch claims

wyattroyFederal LNP MP for Longman Wyatt Roy turned twenty-one yesterday. An unusual job for a twenty-one year-old to be in.

The VEXNEWS Investigations Unit – populated as it is by party-poopers – can reveal for the first time that the youthful MP enjoys all of the delightful entanglements of youth, albeit with a political twist.

One episode centres on young Queensland political dynamo Laney McLaren. Laney is an uber-numbers-cruncher for the brilliantly successful Fresh political faction at the University of Queensland. The group has enjoyed tremendous success in recent years in their once militant-left controlled student union and she and her boyfriend Ben Riley are considered the leading lights of the show.

However, gossips report to VEXNEWS that Laney has strayed – at least once – from the loving embrace of her long-time beau with none other than coming-of-age MP Wyatt Roy.

Enemies of Laney – and she has quite a few if recent communications to VEX are any guide – say she’s been up to all sorts of no good, including over-claiming salary and entitlements from the UQ Student Union while “working under” Mr Roy as one of his electorate staff.

Using the old excuse of the taxpayer-funded student union scoundrel, Laney, the free-marketeer, claims it was time-in-lieu or back-pay or some other highly creative accounting of the kind most frequently practised on the state’s Gold Coast. The scam on the union lasted for as long as ten weeks, we hear.

Tsk. Tsk. (Although we make no suggestion that Mr Roy was aware of this situation)

But the incident that has absorbed the attention of Queensland gossips occurred on the abused couch in a quiet room at a UQ activist’s parent’s estate. A pool party was held, to celebrate freedom, Fresh’s latest triumph and the glorious weather of the great state of Queensland.

It is alleged that – at the pool party in question – that Laney and Wyatt enjoyed an intense moment of passion while the unwitting Ben Riley (Laney’s steady boyfriend forever) was outside in the pool area, oblivious to what was going down on the tainted couch of shame. Our status as a family values news outlet prevents us from providing further details about steam-cleaning the couch and such. Some accounts refer to mere nuzzling, that the MP went “face first into (Laney’s) neck with steamy, gentle back and forward movement.” As you do.

There were a number of witnesses to the couch-kanoodling. Those witnesses have only told two hundred of their closest personal friends. Some think there might even have been a grainy pic doing the rounds, although we have not been supplied with evidence of this kind.

The passion didn’t work out for very long it seems. Roy boned her, and not in the way you’re thinking, relieving her of her duties as an electorate officer, some time later. And for reasons that are probably unrelated.

Foes have explained to VEXNEWS that McLaren is a feared operator in her little pond at UQ although is considered by foes a self-important laughing stock in the Australian Liberal Students’ Federation and in the salubrious confines of the Young LNP. Her strident views have previously extended to southern conservative cousins, where she is believed to have much denigrated the all-powerful Melbourne Uni Liberal Club operatives as “pricks” and “useless crumbs.”

Student politics being the nasty blood-sport that it is, her foes counter these claims, even making nasty remarks about her family’s business dealings in Cairns, which are no doubt fancifully thought to involve the informal aspects of the herbal industry.


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CLAYTON’S: Quiet Vic ALP conference divides "Taliban" Right over gay marriage

gillardmarriageThe Victorian ALP Conference held in the grey place that is Monash University in Clayton was a pedestrian and mostly friendly affair, gaining national attention only because there were so few people there at the end that the conference couldn’t proceed for lack of quorum (sufficient numbers of delegates present for the Conference to proceed validly).

That’s mostly because everyone had voted already for the party’s various policy committees which were up at the Conference and because the stars of the show, new Leader of the Opposition Daniel Andrews and the PM Julia Gillard had already shone and gone.

Andrews, in particular, impressed the delegates, writing his own remarks and delivering some good lines with the excellent comedic timing some thought modelled on Elliott Goblet. Gillard’s home branch loves her still but generally thought her a little flat and with a speech that seemed to be written by Sussex Street (there’s no greater insult in Victorian ALP circles).

One of the highlights of the Conference was Noah Carroll’s tough remarks putting the “parasitic” Greens on notice that the days of Labor fighting them with one hand tied behind their back are over. The state Melbourne MP Bronwyn Pike is known to be particularly ferocious about what must be done about the Greens party menace and is putting steel in the spine of the Left on the issue. She has had a gutful of their lies, hypocrisy and double-standards. She cites, as one of many examples, how quietly they’ve gone on the issue of Baillieu keeping open the Hazelwood coal-fuelled power-station. Labor people say, and few could question this, that if Labor had done this they would have gone feral about it.

The “Taliban” Right (as they are referred to by opponents) had something of a split over gay marriage.


A NUW power-broker from the Hotham FEA Councillor Steve Staikos loudly and publicly attacked SDA-aligned delegates for pulling quorum (instructing their delegates to leave ahead of requesting a quorum count) ahead of the debate on gay marriage.

He followed up with a Tweet:

The truth is conf was shut down cos 147 delegates supported us, 10 were against. Disgraceful and intolerable

SDA-aligned delegates told VEXNEWS they thought Staikos was disgraceful and intolerable for attacking them in public and will be pushing for Staikos to no longer be part of the State Conference going forward. That will prove rather difficult as Staikos runs a substantial bloc of votes in Hotham and won’t be pushed around by the SDA, his supporters say.

The Victorian secretary of the SDA, Michael Donovan, commented to VEXNEWS after this story was published that those – as Staikos did publicly – who claimed it was the SDA’s fault the Conference didn’t debate gay marriage were not telling the whole story.

He said:

“The ALP Conference was abandoned because 459 delegates out of 606 did not return after lunch. SDA delegates were gone by 12.30 because there is a major Coles EBA rollout occurring at over 200 sites which started 10 May. We (were) visit(ing) weekend workers. Because of the rollout we were never intending to be there after lunch – a decision made well before urgency motions were even put in to (the) ALP. The SDA could not have a spat with anyone after lunch as it was not there. No person from the SDA has made any comment about Steve Staikos.”

Michael Donovan is honest and true in all respects but of course there were very many SDA-aligned delegates present even if the SDA’s own union delegates were not and had what sounds like perfectly good reason not to be there. As is the case with many trade unions who participate in the ALP, they nurture a support-base in branches. Nothing wrong with it, but there’s not much point in denying they exist either.

Whatever happened, Staikos made it very clear what he thought in full public view, at the conference and later on Twitter.

Some think the issue highlights a serious fault-line between the more socially liberal parts of the NUW bloc and their current allies at the SDA.

The federal government, it was thought by many delegates, could probably do without the guidance of the Victorian branch on the issue, gay marriage is thought likely to be debated at the next ALP National Conference where there’ll be strong division between those who passionately support it, those who passionately oppose it and those who think it’s a tenth-order issue that can only boost Labor’s enemies in the Greens and conservative parties. Because both supporters and opponents think it’s an idea for which their side has overwhelming moral and popular support, and because it is a non-partisan issue, we think a national plebiscite could resolve the issue, once and for all. Wouldn’t it be fun?

Meanwhile, a looming tussle between the Victorian moderate faction Labor Unity and what they say are their extremist “Taliban” rivals over the national assistant secretary position was worked out reasonably amicably in recent days.

Two Victorian moderates will be heading up to Canberra to help run the national ALP secretariat, former ALP Victorian Head Office campaigns officer George Droutsas and his mate current Victorian assistant secretary Nathan Lambert will serve in a senior campaign co-ordination role and as assistant secretary respectively. These positions are to be newly created. While Droutsas is from the moderate faction Labor Unity and Lambert is supported by the SDA, neither are seen as particularly enthusiastic factional spear-chuckers and they are thought to be keen on ensuring those hostilities don’t spill over nationally.


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