Why Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon doesn’t think she should resign: you decide.

I’ve just been democratically preselected and elected by the people of New South Wales, so I’ve got a job to do, and I’ll continue to do that. What we saw from Bob was really single out New South Wales for attack for the results that we’ve received in this election, which doesn’t really have logic when you consider that there was lower votes in other states. Now, what I’ve called for is that we need to have a respectful discussion and dialogue about how we do improve our results here. Bob did join us in New South Wales on the election campaign, but hasn’t raised any of these criticisms with us directly. Last weekend, there was a national council meeting in New South Wales of everybody from around the country. The co-conveners have put out a statement commending the campaign, how it was our biggest ever with the cooperation and collaboration that delivered that biggest campaign. Why single out New South Wales?  Oh look, I think it is very significant, and I appreciate the opportunity to speak. But for me, it’s actually not the first time. Bob told me not to stand in the 2007 preselection for the New South Wales Parliament. He said the same thing when I went for preselection for the Senate. He flew to Sydney to tell me that. Now, that was very disappointing. I’m now saying that publicly. But up until now, I’ve endeavoured and have – I thought worked very constructively with Bob. But he’s now ramping it up. I don’t think that that’s good. It’s certainly confusing for members in New South Wales. We have 47 seats, 47 campaigns, people working incredibly hard. And what’s significant is yes, our vote is down, but our vote in 2013 was about the same. At that time, Bob supported that Senate candidate – no criticism then. Now he’s poll piling on this criticism.: Yes, that’s true, but in 2013, it was 7 per cent so a bit over what we’ve got in this election. So, not significantly different. Yes, yes, that’s true. That’s true. But it’s slid around the country. I think the question you missed out on asking Bob was why was he just saying this about New South Wales, when you’ve seen other trends around the country? Yes, but this is where you need to look at elections. There’s not one factor that delivers election results. In an election, there’s everything from the position on the ballot paper to one’s messaging, and then there’s the attacks from Labor. Now the attacks from Labor, and I think we need to do a better job in answering those – they’re all factors that you need to consider. So I’m certainly not denying that we need to look at our results, but again, look at the agenda that Bob is running here. He’s used to getting his candidate up for preselection, and when that doesn’t work, he gives us a hard time. And that’s happened years ago when the late John Kaye and myself – we’ve really copped it from Bob. We’ve just kept mum about that. We’ve done our best to work in a unified way. And that’s why I am disappointed that it’s got to this point, that Bob is now pushing such a dissive approach to an election when it’s only a few weeks ago, I was on a ferry with him to Manly where we worked together. Not a word of criticism. And now these attacks, and they are attacks. I was there for one term and a bit. I was there for 10 years. I abided by the rules of the Greens. And so I was only there for one – Yes, and I’ve been there for five years. Yes, and Bob was there – Bob says to follow his example. Bob left when he was 68. I’m proud of my age. I’m 65. Bob was there for 26 years. I’ve been there for 16 years. I’ll see what life delivers. At the moment, I would run rings around many other people with my energy levels, and I’m happy to continue my work. Look, I think Bob needs to be honest about his own role here. Bob has made a huge contribution in Australia. Everything from how he stood up for refugees on the Tampa to the Franklin. But when it comes to democracy, internal democracy, that’s not his strongpoint. I’m not denying it’s happening. There’s certainly different tendencieses, people have different opinions about things, and in a preselection, it does become very competitive. I acknowledge that. My job is to work with people, and I’ve always endeavoured like I’ve worked with Bob Brown, to work in a constructive way in the campaign.



If Kevin Rudd would not have made a good Secretary General, what made Joe Hockey such a great US ambassador?

When explaining his refusal to nominate ex-PM Kevin Rudd for the position of Secretary-General of United Nations, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said:

” but the threshold point here is when the Australian government nominates a person for a job . . . is do we believe the person, the nominee, the would-be nominee is well suited for that position?”


 Malcolm was not keen on Kevin, but then nobody really was

Now just recently, well actually it seems about when the animals were going into the ark and Malcolm Turnbull had replaced Tony Abbott as prime minister, Joe Hockey resigned as Treasurer and was appointed as Australian Ambassador to the US.

Now Joe was generally known as “Your average” Joe, not really very good at anything much, certainly not being Treasurer. He never had a major role in any portfolio that had a strong Foreign Affairs focus that would have prepared him for our major diplomatic appointment.


 US ambassador, ooh, that would be nice

So what was his major qualification for the appointment? Perhaps Malcolm could enlighten us.

The major arguments being mounted against Rudd’s nomination by the likes of Barnaby Joyce are that the Prime Minister was justified in rejecting nominating Kevin Rudd because his Labor Party colleagues didn’t like him.


That may well be the case. But Rudd is a well-qualified diplomat with many years experience, much more experience in diplomacy than Hockey.  And probably more experience for being Secretary General then Joyce has for being Deputy Prime Minister

The whole sorry misadventure is yet another example of Malcolm Turnbull’s almost limitless ability to stuff things up.


Welcome to the brave new world of federal parliament.

Labor takes seat of Herbert, leaving Malcolm Turnbull with majority of just one seat

The result leaves the Turnbull government with 76 of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives. Labor and the crossbenchers will hold 74 seats together.

Once the Coalition provides a Speaker, it will have 75 votes. The Coalition will therefore still be able to govern in its own right but with the barest possible majority of one.

So now it will only take one rogue  Coalition MP (think Geoff Shaw in Victoria) for Malcolm Turnbull to be reliant upon the cross bench for his mandate. The events of the past week, where the nomination of ex-PM Kevin Rudd for the top UN job exposed some deep divisions in the government, have shown that the Coalition is anything but united behind the Prime Minister.

Malcolm Turnbull has now formed government without formal support from the cross bench. Should he lose his parliamentary majority, he will need to negotiate cross bench support. Unfortunately, it is likely that the conditions under which she would lose his parliamentary majority are likely to be conditions under which he may find it extremely difficult to negotiate that crossbench support.


 The strain is clearly showing on Malcolm Turnbull.

 With his parliamentary majority balanced on a knife edge, Malcolm Turnbull will be at the mercy of any coalition of MPs that threatened to cross the floor on any given piece of legislation. Given that there is a fairly significant number within his own party who would like to see him gone, it is likely that these coalitions will come and go fairly frequently, further destabilising the government.

 The bigger picture is hardly any rosier. The situation in Australia now is that the Coalition can command roughly 42% of the primary vote and Labor roughly 33%, the other 25% will go to the minor parties (predominately the Greens) and independents.  This means that the major parties will be reliant on second preferences to form government and it is now likely that federal election results are going to be very similar to 2016 given that the 25% vote for minor parties and independents is likely to grow.

 This means that increasingly the balance of power will move towards a relatively small group of politicians, many of whom will come from single issue  or narrow focus parties and almost all of whom will be plagued by the ill discipline of Palmer United Party. And that’s just in the lower house.

 The situation in the Senate is that the balance of power is already in the hands of what could best be described as a group of mavericks.

 The tragedy for Australian politics is the two major parties who still command 75% of the primary vote are not able to arrange a stable governing coalition.

Letter to my Grandson (xxii)

Dear Winton

Your swimming is coming on in leaps and bounds. I come along as backup and cheer squad every Sunday morning but swimming is your time with your dad, I’m really just a spectator and photographer.

This is  “She’ll becoming round the mountain”. You get much better value out of this than any of the other kids, given that you’ve got the biggest dad in the class.  I look at some of the other fathers in the swimming pool and quite a number of them wear their glasses in the pool.

One of the things about learning to swim with a dad is that it’s good to learn to swim with a dad who is a swimmer and your dad is an amazing swimmer. I watch him in the pool after your lessons and he’s like a huge powerful freight train ploughing up and down the pool. I told him we need to let you see him swimming more often so that you can see where all this is going.

You are beginning to be quite a fearless underwater swimmer although we had a small misadventure last weekend when you swallowed quite a large amount of water and threw up. It set you back for about three seconds and you were off again.

But the real highlight last week was on the noodle. You were riding on it the same way as you do in “She’ll becoming round the mountain” but this time it was “Gowaypapa. gowaypapa.”  and pushing me away. To my surprise, you are able to balance on the noodle without holding on to it and bounce along the bottom of the pool. I’ve never seen you do that before. You are quite adamant you didn’t want any help from either me or your dad and you were off on your own adventures.

You also love dancing in the pool and are quite happy to do it on your own.


But last Sunday I saw what I thought was quite remarkable. There little girl standing by the side of the pool and you went up and stood next to her. She put her hands up above her head and turned around and you did exactly the same and then you copied her next movements as well. Then you sat down at the edge of the pool and kicked your feet in the water and she copied you. This went on for about five minutes. Absolutely priceless.

Now that I’ve got a decent camera I am getting much better photographs of you. I know it’s just your grandfather talking but I do think you are a strikingly beautiful child.


There is a young Somalian girl who is a little bit older than you but seems to have taken quite a fancy to you.


We always finish the swimming session with a special treat .. “chocca”. It is normally the bribe that gets you out of the water and into the shower. You and I go to the front desk and buy a couple of chocolate bars normally Tom and Emma’s which are innocuous enough but recently you opted for a rather larger chocolate protein bar.


It wasn’t one of my best moves for a number of reasons. The first being that, despite the labelling, bar is full of caffeine and chocolate so you went right off that afternoon.

The second was that the next week when we went to the front desk to buy our Chocca, you dived straight for the caffeine enriched protein bar. I managed to negotiate the purchase of the protein bar and two of the anaemic looking Tom and Emma’s bars but you were having none of it and screamed blue murder when I wouldn’t let you have the protein bar. Eventually, your dad and I wrestled you into the pusher with no chocca.  Usually, you make your displeasure loudly and vehemently clear.

But today you just sat in the pusher and looked straight ahead without moving as you realised that a part of your world come to an end, that despite having been a very good boy there was no chocca at the end of swimming. I think I will always remember the expression on your face that day.

I didn’t get a goodbye kiss when you left.


The George Pell defence: “It’s a Police and ABC conspiracy.”

Suddenly George Pell was full of indignation because he is not being treated fairly. And then he destroyed the last remnants of his credibility by claiming that the Victorian Police and the ABC were in league and conspiring against him.


It was obvious from the ABC 7.30 program that the allegations that George Pell had sexually molested young boys were being made by the boys (who are now adults) themselves. Real-life people standing up and making real live accusations. Not leaks from the police to the ABC as the 7.30 reporter made quite clear.

Cardinal Pell now has a massive credibility problem.

The Victorian Police Commissioner has confirmed there is an ongoing investigation into complaints about the Cardinal and that there is a possibility that charges will be laid. If charges are laid, there will be renewed calls for George Pell to return to Australia.  There is no doubt he will refuse on the grounds of ill-health and this will only confirm the public perception of his guilt.

People are entitled to the presumption of innocence. The problem for Cardinal Pell is that the allegations, however baseless, confirm a widely held narrative. And that narrative is that his defence and protection of the paedophile priests was done out of sympathy for and understanding of them. There might even have been a niggling suspicion that he was one of the offenders. This latest incident will only have confirmed this in the public mind, however unfairly.

His  continued refusal to return to Australia, for whatever reason, will only serve to confirm public perceptions of his guilt.

Things weren’t helped by his friend and colleague Archbishop Dennis Hart saying he had known Cardinal Pell for more than 55 years, and the 7.30 allegations did not reflect the man he knew or the behaviour which he had observed over the years he has known him.


But then Dennis Hart was not at the Eureka swimming pool where the alleged sexual assaults took place.




An independent Royal Commission: pull the other one, Malcolm, it has bells on it

Malcolm Turnbull’s independent Royal Commission has not started well with:

  1.  The Northern Territory government which will be the subject of the enquiry, having joint oversight of the commission.
  2.  The Northern Territory government setting the terms of reference for the commission.
  3.  Brian Ross Martin, who was the  chief justice in the Northern Territory from 2004 to 2010, heading up the commission.


 Royal Commissioner Martin flanked by Brandis and Turnbull

 Now if it was really going to be independent, the following would have happened:

  1.  Oversight would have rested with the Federal government.
  2.  Terms and conditions would have been set by the Attorney General’s office.
  3.  The royal commissioner would have been someone who had not served in the Northern Territory legal system.

So on the independent scout, Malcolm Turnbull’s Royal Commission gets a zero score out of three.

The whole point of the Royal Commission is to inquire into way the Northern Territory government has administered justice in the Territory. How content will possibly have imagined that it would be appropriate for the government to have any say in the administration or control of the commission? It beggars belief. Government officials will need to appear before the commission so the government needs to be at arms length.

Commissioner Martin will need to interview people who have been his colleagues and possibly even his friends. There will be a lot of bluster and hot air about impartiality, as there was with the Royal commission into the trade unions. It is easy to avoid all this kind of problem by appointing someone who won’t create that kind of problem.

What is it with Malcolm Turnbull? He seems to have such a remarkable talent for missing things up. Calling the federal election was an unmitigated disaster. He could have made this commission far more successful but he has made all the wrong calls.

Appointing Martin is already attracting criticism.

According to Chris Graham, the editor of news website New MatildaMr Martin is already “infamous” to Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. Mr Graham cited a case in 2010, where five white men were given “light sentences” by Mr Martin after the death of a 33-year-old Aboriginal man.


What can be done about Don Dale detention centre?

The Northern Territory  election will be called in August. There will be an opportunity for the voters of the Territory to pass judgement on the conditions in Don Dale.


 The Northern Territory legislature: when change can be brought about

Let us all hope that the opposition Labor Party has the guts to stand up with set of policies that provide a humane alternative to the current repressive penal regime.

The election could give the Northern Territory electorate a clear choice and demonstrate that in a democracy it is possible for voters to make a difference in situations like Don Dale. It is a golden opportunity because the conditions in the detention centre have been exposed just before an election and the conditions will be fresh and the voters minds.



Malcolm in the middle again: having a bit each way

Malcolm Turnbull has called a Royal Commission into juvenile detention in the Northern Territory and while there is already legislative power to move quickly on this issue, he has done the right thing.

don dale

 Don Dale detention centre

 But let us not forget that, on the other hand, the Department of Immigration and the Minister, Peter Dutton, is fighting doctors who wish to have the right to expose conditions in detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island.


Manus Island detention centre

 The Australian government needs to be transparent about the treatment of people in detention. At present, it  it looks as if the effort is only half hearted.

Teenage detainee Dylan Voller and Chief Minister Adam Giles are both sides of the same coin

NT Chief Minister Adam Giles defends comments about putting criminals in a hole. It was a comment he made in 2010 and he now realises it was a pretty stupid thing to say but he stands by the sentiments behind the statement. He is a  “tough on crime” politician.

And  Dylan Voller is a serial offender.  he was one of the children who was featured in the 4 Corners  program on the Don Dale detention centre. He’s been in and out of detention since he was a young boy and his list of offences would be pretty appalling.

But we have to realise that politicians like Adam Giles are a result of the existence of people like Dylan Voller.  Giles gets elected because people want to see strong action taken against people like Dylan Voller who steal their cars, assault their children and destroy their property. People think that Giles has the answers.

Dylan Voller is a product, in part, of the punitive system that “tough on crime” politicians like Adam Giles  legislate and design. The brutal treatment that Dylan Voller and many like him have received since they were young is likely to turn them into hardened, lifelong criminals.

These two men are two sides of the same coin. Neither good nor bad, just tragic.



We don’t need a Royal Commission into Don Dale. It’s obvious what’s wrong

Disturbing footage has emerged of a 17-year-old boy, Dylan Voller, who was one of six boys tear gassed at a juvenile detention centre near Darwin, being strapped to a mechanical restraint chair. The appalling treatment that he is suffering in the program is the culmination of nearly a decade of systemic neglect and abuse.


The incident sparked a damning report by the Northern Territory’s then Children’s Commissioner Howard Bath. In response to the report, Colleen Gwynne, the former commissioner for corrections, Ken Middlebook, defended the officers’ actions, saying the report was inaccurate, “shallow” and “one-sided”.

NT Attorney-General and Corrections Minister John Elferink who will stand condemned for his response on the program, has now lost his portfolio and should be facing more serious charges for role in this sorry affair.  he didn’t seem to think it was anything wrong with what was going on in Don Dale.


Senator for Northern Territory and Federal Minister for Community Services Nigel Scullion used a press conference to declare he had not known nor asked about systemic abuse in his home  state’s jurisdiction’s youth detention system – in which some 97 per cent of inmates are indigenous boys.

He was out to dinner when the program was aired and said he wasn’t particularly interested in the plight of indigenous juveniles in Don Dale, “didn’t pique” my interest was his comment.


You can imagine that the Prime Minister must have piqued Scullion this morning

Much of the footage that was shown in the program was of a boy endeavouring to break out of this prison cell using a light fitting. It’s grim viewing and will clearly divide people who watch it.  Some will see an out-of-control juvenile delinquent destroying government property. Others will see a young child driven to extremes by systemic physical abuse.

And this is exactly the problem. What was seen in the 4 Corners program was the end result of a deep-rooted social, cultural and economic problem. The problem of the incarceration of juvenile indigenous children is only one aspect of the appalling treatment that indigenous people have received, particularly in the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia in recent years.

Fixing the problems in Don Dale should be an immediate priority. But fixing the problems in Don Dale will not make the wider societal problems facing indigenous people  go away. In the immediate sense, the problem is what you do with repeat juvenile offenders who have been failed by the social and correctional systems of the Northern Territory. These children did not suddenly end up in Don Dale. They are there because the system has failed at every stage.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has forced to set up a Royal Commission into the Don Dale Detention Centre. But is this really necessary? There must be hundreds, in fact thousands of people who know exactly what is going on, and has gone on in this facility. It won’t take a Royal Commission to find out.

“None of this was new at all,” said the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency’s chief executive, Priscilla Collins, on Tuesday. “Before the children’s commissioner’s report, the Vita report was also done. There’s been two investigations and those investigations have the full transcript of that video footage that everyone saw last night.”

What is needed is some corrective action and it needs corrective action quickly. A Royal Commission will take too long.

The other problem with what Turnbull is proposing is that it will only focus on Don Dale, not on a what is going on in the Northern Territory nor on what happens in other states.

While all this is going is worth remembering that in 2014 the then Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, was Minister for Indigenous Affairs. He also visited the Northern Territory in some highly publicised and televised media events. According to the 4 Corners program, this abuse was going on while Abbott was parading around the Northern Territory proclaiming himself to be the champion of the indigenous people.


  Minister for Indigenous AffairsTony Abbott, champion of indigenous youth, but only the ones that aren’t in jail

I hope he is hanging his head in shame today.