Saturday, August 27, 2011

News Items and comments

SCREAMING EAGLES

Tim Blair – Saturday, August 27, 11 (02:33 pm)

Wild scenes at Brookvale Oval. Phil Rothfield reports:

You could hear every blow. Fists flying in all directions from half the players while the others tried to drag them away. Sledging, swearing, yelling, screaming – you’ve never heard anything like it.

Well, not unless you’ve recently been inside the mind of any Labor MP whose margin is less than 10 per cent. In other sports news, Michael Schumacher this weekend returns to Belgium and the track where he made his F1 debut – following a bicycle ride:

After two laps of the track under pedal power, Schumacher and his manager headed off for the evening. No accommodation had been provided for them so they stayed at a youth hostel just outside Spa.

That was 20 years and seven world titles ago. Schumacher these days can afford his own room.

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THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE

Tim Blair – Saturday, August 27, 11 (07:20 am)

A bunch of records have gone missing somehow:

Financial records for the period of Craig Thomson’s reign over the beleaguered Health Services Union are missing, a major impediment to investigations by authorities into the credit card scandal threatening Julia Gillard’s government.

Well-placed health union sources told The Saturday Age yesterday that industrial umpire Fair Work Australia and an external auditor of the union in 2008 had found in separate investigations that records for the period 2002 to 2007 had ‘’disappeared’’.

What a curious turn of events. Also, it now emerges that the member for Embattled earlier offered atotally solid alibi against union scamming claims:

Embattled Labor MP Craig Thomson claimed to have “travel documents and witness statements” to prove he was not the person using union money to pay for prostitutes.

Mr Thomson told lawyers investigating the allegations he used union funds to pay for prostitutes that he had “independent flight records” that would clear him and it was “impossible” he took $100,000 to bankroll his election campaign.

It is believed he used the same defence with ALP officials and Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who says she has full confidence in the marginal seat MP.

Some of Gillard’s colleagues seem to be wavering:

‘’I really hope the sex was good,’’ muttered one cabinet minister, as the government reeled from allegations that MP Craig Thomson had spent union money on prostitutes while national secretary of the Health Services Union …

Four months after the [2010] election, the Sydney Morning Herald published material its lawyers had uncovered during the defamation proceedings which directly challenged Thomson’s claims about someone else using his credit card at brothels.

Thomson continued to argue his innocence, and right up until April, when he dropped the defamation action, was telling colleagues and ministers he had won the case against Fairfax Media. “He looked me in the eye and told me he won,” one minister said …

For the Coalition, Thomson is the gift that keeps on giving.

Much like certain union credit cards. Shovel recipient Kathy Jackson, angered by her unwanted gardening gift, now seems to be channeling Paul Keating:

The union official at the centre of the week’s Craig Thomson affair - Kathy Jackson from the Health Services Union - has blasted ‘’faceless quislings, thugs and stand-over merchants’’ of the Victorian ALP for threatening retaliation …

‘’Who are these blokes? Spivs and stand-over merchants,’’ she told The Saturday Age …

Police are examining the shovel incident.

Video evidence is inconclusive, to say the least. Jennifer Hewett:

“This story has everything in it,” one senior Labor figure moans. Now complete with a shovel left overnight in the front yard of the present national secretary, Kathy Jackson, presumably as a symbolic threat. It’s the Kath and Kim version of The Godfather.

And the Prime Minister plays her sole remaining card:

Gillard herself is now regularly referring to the situation of Liberal senator Mary Jo Fisher, who faces court soon on shoplifting and assault charges …

Keep digging, Julia.

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WORLD’S LONELIEST HYBRID

Tim Blair – Saturday, August 27, 11 (06:38 am)

More new cars are sold in China each month than are sold in Australia every year. But there’s a certain type of car that the Chinese avoid:

Hopes that the country will also become a pioneer in the shift towards “clean car” technology have suffered a setback as the Chinese show little sign of interest in electric and hybrid vehicles despite ambitious government plans. Last year, Toyota managed to sell only one Prius – the world’s most commercially successful hybrid car – in the fastest-growing market. Sports utility vehicle sales, by contrast, are surging.

(Via Bill P.)

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PEACE TRIKE

Tim Blair – Saturday, August 27, 11 (06:30 am)

Pointless activist Bryan Law, a noted winnar of the intarnets, continues his quest for peacely goodness. Hit that link for news video, which includes the startling phrase: “Carrying bolt cutters and riding a tricycle …”

Security at that base could do with an upgrade. In any case, our hero now faces a small helicopter damage bill.

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AN OFFER THEY COULD REFUSE

Tim Blair – Saturday, August 27, 11 (06:13 am)

Found not guilty of murder, a prominent Melbourne multicultural figure is nevertheless denied the chance to dine with a hairdresser:

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has banned Mick Gatto from lunch at The Lodge after he paid $10,000 for the privilege at a charity auction.

The snub came almost immediately after the colourful Carlton identity won an intimate meal with First Bloke Tim Mathieson at a charity auction …

The decision to cancel the offer came amid alarm at the political fallout from Mr Gatto being at the PM’s residence.

Not to mention the damage it would have done to Gatto’s popularity. He’s dodged a bullet, you might say.

UPDATE. “This could mark the start of Julia’s comeback,” comments reader Anthony. “Clearly she is now getting the tough political calls right.”

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Bill Breit

by DON BOUDREAUX on AUGUST 26, 2011

in CIVIL SOCIETY

Sad news came today from my friend down at UVA, Prof. Ken Elzinga: Bill Breit died this morning after a lengthy illness.

Bill and Ken together wrote wonderful economic mysteries under the noms de plume “Marshall Jevons.“ Reading these three novels is a splendid way to learn some economics.

But Bill was more than just a writer of mystery novels: he was a superb economist, scholar, and teacher who served for many years on the economics faculty at UVA and then, for the past nearly 30 years, on the econ faculty at Trinity University in San Antonio. Here’s Bill’s website.

Bill was also uproariously funny. He was one of those people who made you laugh – deeply, healthily, and never for cheap or childish reasons – every time you were in his company.

I’m honored to have been in Bill’s company on several occasions, usually for dinners at annual meetings of the Southern Economic Association (although, alas, not recently). I regret that wasn’t in his company even more frequently.

I’ll miss him.

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This report opens with a photo of the invisible hand rarin’ to go to work. (Perhaps it’s too much to note the symbolism of the invisible hand being detained, if only for a while, by agents of the state.) Note that Steve Horwitz (GMU ’88 or ’89 [Steve: remind me]) is quoted to good effect in this report. (HT Craig Kohtz, who correctly notes that “this has The Price of Everything written all over it.”)

All of which raises the question: when you and your neighbors are homeless, hungry, and thirsty following a natural disaster, would you prefer to rely upon the devotion to public service that allegedly motivates FEMA workers, or to rely upon the devotion to their own self-interests that undoubtedly motivates executives, workers, and suppliers of private companies such as Wal-Mart and Home Depot?

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Quotation of the Day…

by DON BOUDREAUX on AUGUST 26, 2011

in TRADE

… is from page 14 of my late, great teacher Fritz Machlup’s 1977 book A History of Thought on Economic Integration, where he is discussing trade’s role in more closely integrating people into a single economy:

[T]he economics of the matter is the same whether it is different provinces of a state that become ‘more integrated’, or different nations within a bloc, or different blocs in the world as a whole.

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Some Links

by DON BOUDREAUX on AUGUST 26, 2011

in CIVIL SOCIETY, HEALTH, NANNY STATE, POLITICS, STIMULUS, VIDEO

Last month, George Will wrote about Nick Gillespie’s and Matt Welch’s important new book, The Declaration of Independents.

In my latest column in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review I highlight public-choice economics.

Mark Perry points to yet another example of a public-good – in this case, mass-transit – that is being supplied well and inexpensively by the private sector.

David Henderson points to yet another example of the glories of Canada’s health-care system.

My son, Thomas, is learning a great deal about photography, still and video, and using green screens. (I simply point my iPhone and click at whatever happens to be in front of me.) Here Thomas (behind the camera) and his best buddy, Paddy (in front), do a first take at spoofing Uncle Sam’s stimulus.

Steve Landsburg is one of the most consequential thinkers of our time.

Cato’s Mark Calabria explains that forced mortgage refinancing doesn’t create wealth.

And Cato’s Chris Edwards offers insight on infrastructure.

Finally, we must ask: how would we survive if our betters were not so very vigilant in looking after our interests? (HT Fred Dent)

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And what role did Labor’s vice-president play?

Andrew Bolt – Saturday, August 27, 11 (11:37 am)

I suspect Labor won’t want Michael Williamson to be senior vice president of its national executive for much longer:


HEALTH Services Union national president Mike Williamson yesterday broke his silence on the Craig Thomson credit card scandal...

He also denied factional enemies’ claims he may face a conflict of interest by being shareholder and director of a company the HSU contracts and pays for services…

According to the website of the NSW ALP, of which he is senior vice-president, Mr Williamson “manages the finances of the union”. He would not comment on his role in the decision by the NSW ALP to provide Mr Thomson with a $90,000 financial bailout to cover an abortive attempt to sue the Fairfax Media group.

The Weekend Australian has established that as senior vice-president, Mr Williamson - the long-time mentor of Mr Thomson - participated in the decision.

While there is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Mr Williamson, his simultaneous roles in the union and the party raise questions of the potential for conflict of interest in the decision.

As revealed exclusively by The Australian yesterday, Mr Williamson attempted to have the HSU national executive meeting on Wednesday pass his version of a motion in which the HSU would not take the allegations against Mr Thomson to police, and would have gagged union officials from speaking on the matter....

Further allegations yesterday emerged as a result of the bitter fighting within and outside the union, including concerns there may be a conflict of interest over Mr Williamson’s role as general secretary of the union’s east (NSW-Victoria) branch and as a director of an IT company that provides software to the union.

Mr Williamson declined to address a number of pertinent questions from The Weekend Australian - including whether he signed off on Mr Thomson’s credit card transactions.

No one says Williamson has done anything wrong. But there are many questions I believe he should answer about potential conflicts of interest and his role in the Thomson affair.

UPDATE

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How strange. Williamson’s biography on the Labor website has now been altered. It used to disclose that he is director of United Edge, the company that provides IT services to his own union. Now it doesn’t.

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A tip on something that may force Gillard to resign

Andrew Bolt – Saturday, August 27, 11 (09:46 am)

On Monday, I’m tipping, a witness with a statutory declaration will come forward and implicate Julia Gillard directly in another scandal involving the misuse of union funds.

Gillard herself is not accused of any misbehaviour at all. I do not make that claim, and do not hold that belief. But her judgment - and that of at least one of her ministers - will come under severe question. She will seem compromised.

It could be the last straw for Gillard’s leadership.

At the moment I am not at liberty to reveal the contents of the stat dec before me. I suspect a friend of mine in the media will be authorised to release it first. I will let you know when and where.

UPDATE

Michael Smith of 2UE has read out from this statutory declaration, drawn up by Bob Kernohan, the former president of the Australian Workers Union, in August last year. To honor my deal with the author, who will speak to Smith on Monday’s show, I believe, I will publish only those parts which Michael has already read out or paraphrased:

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(in fact, Shorten was not an AWU official at the time, but was working with the union via the ACTU.)

There is more in this afadavit, and even more that is not in it. I have confirmed with other sources the credibility of Kernohan, and details of this case.

Gillard is on the record already having denied knowing anything about Wilson’s frauds, and no one I’ve spoken to doubts her word. Nor do I. Here is Gillard in 2007, for instance:


Ms Gillard, 46, who is poised to become Deputy Prime Minister if Labor wins office in two weeks, yesterday confirmed she was a union lawyer when she met the conman.

As a solicitor acting on instructions, she set up an association later used by her then lover, Bruce Morton Wilson, to defraud the Australian Workers Union.

But she has strenuously denied ever knowing how the association bank accounts were used…

“I was young and naive. I was in a relationship which I ended and obviously it was all very distressing.

“I am by no means the first person to find out that someone close turns out to be different to what you had believed them to be. It’s an ordinary human error.

I was obviously hurt when I was later falsely accused publicly of wrongdoing. I didn’t do anything wrong and to have false allegations in the media was distressing....”

A lawyer in her early 30s with the Melbourne Labor firm, Slater & Gordon at the time of the fraud, Ms Gillard acted for the AWU.

She met Wilson, who was then the West Australian AWU secretary, while representing the union in the Industrial Relations Commission.

Wilson later moved to Melbourne, to become Victorian secretary…

The con, used by Wilson to cream off possibly more than a million dollars of union funds, was simple and backed by standover tactics.

As union secretary, he would go to construction sites and tell bosses they “needed” an industrial agreement that he would negotiate.

But there was a price: They would have to buy hundreds of AWU membership tickets in exchange for the industrial peace guaranteed by the “agreement”.

But when the employers made out the cheques—sometimes for more than $50,000 at a time—the money would go into phoney AWU accounts that actually belonged to Wilson.

Gillard has also strenuously and consistently denied another matter raised in the affadavit regarding renovations done on her house during her time with Wilson.

After having been contacted by the AWU’s new state secretary, Bob Smith, about demands by a builder for payment for that work, Gillard presented a handwritten receipt to confrm she’d paid for it entirely with her own money.

No one I know doubts that Gillard has paid for that work herself. I am certain that she did. That is not the issue at all.

Rather, the issues are:

- her judgment in choosing Bruce Wilson as a partner, given his reputation now.

- her judgment in doing work as a Slater and Gordon solicitor for her lover, Bruce Wilson, given the perception of a possible conflict of interest.

- her judgment in arranging a loan through Slater and Gordon, her employer, for Wilson to buy a property which then (unknown to Gillard, I understand) had its rents paid for by his union.

- what efforts she made later to ensure the Australian Workers Union took proper action to recover money from Wilson.

- what efforts she made later to ensure investigations into a fraud involving more than $1 million, according to AWU lawyers in the Federal Industrial Relations Court, were pursued to a conclusion.

- what efforts her Assistant Treasurer, Bill Shorten, made on becoming the AWU’s national secretary to recover any missing money or have Wilson investigated fully.

- what, if anything, she knows of the more than $11,000 spent by the AWU under Wilson at Town Mode, a women’s fashion house - as alleged in the Victorian Parliament.

These are important issues of public interest. There is no suggestion at all that Julia Gillard has done anything illegal or condoned any illegaility by anyone. Frankly, I would not believe any such allegation.

The issues go entirely to her judgment, and, more widely, to a union culture that helps better to explain the Craig Thomson affair.

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Labor faces wipeout in Queensland

Andrew Bolt – Saturday, August 27, 11 (09:10 am)

Queensland’s Labor Government faces almost total annihilation at next year’s election:

A new Galaxy Poll, conducted exclusively for The Courier-Mail, has revealed ... Labor’s primary vote had slipped back to 28 per cent, a repeat of what it achieved in November which was a record low at the time…

The LNP remain on 52 per cent of the primary vote while the Greens hold 10 per cent. Voters backing other parties and Independents rose to 10 per cent, an increase that could be linked to Bob Katter’s new Australian Party.

On a two-party-preferred basis, the ... LNP’s 63 per cent to 37 per cent lead would leave Labor with just 10 seats, less than what One Nation snared at the 1998 state election.

(Thanks to reader Rosemary.)

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Voters would divorce Labor over same-sex marriage

Andrew Bolt – Saturday, August 27, 11 (08:14 am)

Paul Kelly warns Labor against falling for the glib assurances that the public will thank it for backing same-sex marriage:

The past year has seen a succession of journalists and celebrities telling Labor as a “no-brainer” to back same-sex marriage. Indeed, a number of state ALP conferences have called for the ALP at the national level to change its policy. It is now obvious, however, that same-sex marriage is a flammable issue for a weakened Labor government…

The first risk for Labor is that it will be seen, yet again, as following the Greens agenda, a perception now poison in the electorate. The second risk is that Labor would elevate an issue on which the party is irrevocably divided. How smart is that? If the ALP national conference backed same-sex marriage, as many want, the Labor Party would split because a significant number of MPs would not accept such direction on their vote. In addition, this policy switch would constitute such a repudiation of Gillard’s declared personal opposition to same-sex marriage that it would shake her leadership. The idea is political madness....

Those who spoke against same-sex marriage [in reporting back to Parliament their electorate consultation] included Paul Neville (Nationals), who said his feedback was 595 to 14 against. He rejected as “ridiculous” the idea that support for traditional marriage was discriminatory. Chris Hayes (Labor) said his feedback was “overwhelming” against same-sex marriage and thus was his position...Shayne Neumann (Labor) said his feedback was “overwhelming” for marriage staying between a man and a woman. Mike Symon (Labor) did not support same-sex marriage and reported 93 per cent of feedback to this effect. Deb O’Neill (Labor) said 70 per cent of her feedback was for the status quo and the “depth of belief” of marriage as a man-woman union could not be overturned....

The focus now shifts to the ALP national conference, when Labor must determine its stand. The party is deeply divided but knows that letting same-sex marriage dominate its agenda would be seen as proof of its irresponsibility. It would expose Labor as obsessed about itself, not the issues facing the nation. Beyond this is the danger that dares not speak its name: that Labor’s identification with same-sex marriage is actually an electoral negative, not the plus usually assumed....

This step will constitute the starkest repudiation by the Labor Party of its long ties with the Christian tradition. Its abandonment of the traditional idea of marriage will disturb religious and non-religious people, many who have kept their heads down in the present climate of intimidation. More significantly, it will herald Labor’s belief in a new social creed, that neither marriage nor child-rearing should be preferenced by a man-woman union...

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No charity in these prizes

Andrew Bolt – Saturday, August 27, 11 (08:02 am)

IT’S always a mistake to make heroes of villains, and chic out of sick, but it’s never more so than now.

Never in my lifetime have we seemed more in danger of fracturing into tribes ethnic, religious and social.

Never have we more needed to have examples set and moral codes affirmed so people are inspired to join, not divide.

But still our intelligentsia plays as being transgressive, like children fooling with a loaded gun.

Some examples, from just this month.

The Craig Thomson affair, of course, is the most toxic. What destructive message does Labor send when it plays down the use of a union credit card to pay for prostitutes and rip off workers?

But also look at the salons of this country, where the privileged toy with what would destroy us.

As Australia lost another soldier, killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards shortlisted the memoirs of David Hicks, who trained with the Taliban.

The soldier wins an early grave. Hicks may win $15,000, extracted from taxpayers by Premier Anna Bligh.

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This cover up kills Labor

Andrew Bolt – Saturday, August 27, 11 (07:49 am)

HOW can Labor MPs let Julia Gillard trash their brand like this? Surely she cannot last much longer.

The Prime Minister’s handling of the Craig Thomson scandal is not merely as inept as her handling of everything else.

It is so shameful that Labor will pay for it for as long as Gillard remains leader - and longer.

Take her retort in Parliament on Thursday to an Opposition attack on Thomson, the backbencher whose alleged use of a union credit card while secretary of the Health Services Union has now been referred to the police:

“Can I remind the Leader of the Opposition there is only one member of the federal Parliament who has been charged with a criminal offence?” jeered Gillard.

“That is a Liberal Party senator ... “

This reference to Liberal Senator Mary-Jo Fisher is no accident.

Earlier this week, Labor gave all its MPs notes on how to respond to questions about Thomson and the use of his card to pay for prostitutes.

They tell MPs to say: “There is only one party with an MP currently facing criminal charges and it’s not the Labor Party.”

But let’s now compare.

Fisher is being treated for depression, something she sought help for last year.

Last December she was allegedly caught shoplifting food worth $92.92. Police also charged her with slapping a security guard.

She is pleading not guilty, and will go to court on September 1.

The case does not suggest anything about the Liberal Party culture. It is not the tip of a bigger scandal.

Indeed, most people will react as did independent senator Nick Xenophon: “If depression is involved then we should all look at these events through this prism.”

Now for Thomson.

He had a union-supplied credit card that was used to withdraw $100,000 over five years in cash payments for which no proper records or authorisation can be found.

The card was also used to buy the services of prostitutes, and on one occasion for probably more than one man, to judge from the $2475 bill.

Thomson says some other HSU official used his card and paid back $15,000, but it seems he was referring to former Victorian state secretary Jeff Jackson, who did repay $15,000, but not for having used Thomson’s card or prostitutes.

What’s more, Jackson’s repayment went not to the national union, whose card Thomson had, but the state branch.

The scale and duration of the alleged wrongdoing, which Thomson denies, is vastly greater than Fisher’s.

Then there’s the political involvement. Thomson was this year given at least $90,000 by NSW Labor to help pay his legal bills after he dropped the defamation case he launched to stop a newspaper reporting on the issue.

Why this gift? Was it just to stop Thomson from going broke and, thus having to quit his seat, costing the Gillard Government power?

Or was it also to get him to shut up?

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Gillard must go

Andrew Bolt – Saturday, August 27, 11 (07:08 am)

Peter van Onselen now tentatively suggests the blindlingly obvious - that Julia Gillard must go:

LABOR has to decide whether it is prepared to risk dying on its feet or is content to survive (only just) on its knees. That may require a radical move.

If it chooses the latter, Julia Gillard survives as prime minister with the increasingly unlikely hope that once the carbon tax is legislated her political fortunes turn around. If, however, Labor wishes to give itself a positive chance of improving its polling quagmire and exploiting the greatest weakness on the Coalition side - Tony Abbott’s unpopularity - it must seriously consider replacing the deeply unpopular Gillard… (Her) compact with the public is toxically nonexistent.

The trouble is that van Onselen recommends Stephen Smith, not Simon Crean. And he wants the carbon dioxide tax put to a plebiscite, not put off until a binding international agreement. This would only leave Labor with a colorless and potentially erratic leader, and many months more of argung for its toxic tax.

Dennis Shanahan says Labor is dead meat:

THERE’S a fanciful notion going around in the so-called insiders’ circles of politics that the Labor government’s problems are no worse than John Howard’s problems at his worst in early 2001 and that, similar to our second longest serving prime minister, Julia Gillard can almost expect to just recover by 2013 and be re-elected.

This is nonsense, naive at best, and ignores all the realities of the moment. It also underlines the disconnect between the depth of feeling in the electorate, derided by some, but ignored at their peril, and the feeling that everything will right itself in Labor’s favour.,,

We know from the recent Newspoll two-weekly surveys that modern-day Labor has sunk to a record low in primary support of just 27 per cent… The ALP’s primary vote is literally off the charts of accepted political polling for a main party and threatens to dip to the dire levels of the NSW Labor Party before it it was wiped out at this year’s state election.

Even the fiercely Labor Peter Hartcher, who can still think of seven great things this government has done (true!), now thinks Gillard may have to go… although check how he can’t actually bring himself to say so clearly:

It may be that Gillard herself is unsalvageable as an election-winning prime minister… Until now, Gillard’s greatest consolation was time. It’s two years until an election is due. In that time, she had hoped to be able to demonstrate steady purpose and serious achievement, recovering some public trust…

But the consoling prospect of time has now come under serious threat for the first time since Gillard formed her minority government.

The government’s Craig Thomson problem, like a well-placed jolt of lightning in a Back to the Future movie, could realign time.... Still, the lightning strike is only a possibility, and several preconditions have not been met. The police would need to charge him. A court would need to convict him. He would have to be found guilty of a crime that carries the penalty of at least a year in jail. Only then would he be forced by the constitution to leave Parliament. Only then is the Speaker required to call a by-election within three months. And only then might Labor lose the seat of Dobell. And only then would the government lose its one-seat majority.

Even if all this goes wrong for the government, so long as it stonewalls, it still has, perhaps, a year, perhaps longer, before all of this can reasonably be expected to come to pass.

But this could still cost Labor a year in power. It could whip away Gillard’s greatest source of consolation, and Labor’s best hope for electoral redemption… This prospect must accelerate the Labor caucus thinking about a Plan B. It will now start turning its mind to its options.

I’ll stick with what I wrote nearly six weeks ago:

I’m not yet confident enough to make this a firm prediction. But the odds are rapidly shortening on Julia Gillard being out by late September.

UPDATE

The worst government in Australian history is collapsing around him, but Laurie Oakes keeps his eyes on the prize:

It is time, however, for Abbott and his team to come under greater scrutiny.

UPDATE

SportsBet has stopped taking bets on the next Labor leader.

(Thanks to readers Tim and Michael.)

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Stevens wants Gillard’s workplace laws reviewed

Andrew Bolt – Saturday, August 27, 11 (07:03 am)

We’ve gone backwards on productivity under Labor:

RESERVE Bank governor Glenn Stevens has called for a review of Julia Gillard’s industrial relations laws, warning that Australia’s prosperity is making the country lazy about productivity reform. ...

Mr Stevens said the government had a ready source of advice on what to do from the Productivity Commission. Its agenda included the efficient pricing of utilities and infrastructure, improving competition, reducing inefficient regulation and reforming zoning and planning rules…

Mr Stevens said the business people he spoke to believed that the government’s industrial relations reforms, imposed to replace the Howard government’s Work Choices regime, had reduced the flexibility of the workforce.

“They might be wrong in their assessment of the system, but I think there are people who feel that,” Mr Stevens said. “If they are wrong, then it would be good to get the heads together and show how the system is actually very flexible, because I think there are people whose instinct is that it has gone back the other way...”

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Julia says no to Tim’s Lodge lunch with Mick

Andrew Bolt – Saturday, August 27, 11 (06:50 am)

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And so Tim’s bright idea comes to a dark end, as Gillard puts down her foot at having an underworld figure dine at the Lodge:

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has banned Mick Gatto from lunch at The Lodge after he paid $10,000 for the privilege at a charity auction.

The snub came almost immediately after the colourful Carlton identity won an intimate meal with First Bloke Tim Mathieson at a charity auction.

Mr Gatto outbid his challengers at the Miss World pageant businessman’s lunch at city nightclub CQ, putting up $10,000 for four people to dine with Ms Gillard’s partner.

How did Kevin Rudd describe the Lodge these days? That’s right...

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The Thomson Affair: Labor tears itself apart

Andrew Bolt – Saturday, August 27, 11 (06:24 am)

A good backgrounder on the seeds of the Craig Thomson scandal here. It reveals that using the money of Health Services Union members to pay for prostitutes may not even be a crime in union-world:

Early indications from within the fraud squad suggest he may never be charged with anything. Since the HSU apparently issued Thomson with a credit card but no instruction on its use, it’s possible no crime has been committed.

(Thomson denies using the credit card for prostitutes.)

Meanwhile Ministers Steven Conroy and Bill Shorten send the message that they don’t approve of their factional soldiers threatening the HSU with reprisals for going to the police:

HSU national secretary Kathy Jackson lashed out at Victorian factional leaders and demanded two senior ministers, Stephen Conroy and Bill Shorten, denounce moves from across the party to punish her union over the Thomson affair…

Ms Jackson was woken early yesterday to find a shovel at her front door in what Labor insiders believe was a clear message that she was digging her own political grave by calling police in over alleged fraud at the HSU.

Ms Jackson demanded Senator Conroy and Mr Shorten publicly reject moves within Victoria’s dominant Right-Left alliance to sanction the HSU over the scandal, which is crippling the Gillard government.

Some factional members are trying to have the HSU investigated by the party over its membership numbers, which if shown to be lower than current estimates could reduce the union’s influence in preselections and party decision-making.

Mr Shorten declined to comment yesterday and Senator Conroy said through a spokesman he did not comment on internal party matters.

But the two Victorians did do some no-names briefing of reporters:

Senior federal MPs from Victoria said they had intervened to bring “junior, demented underlings” to heel over attacks on the HSU and stressed there would be no retribution against the union.

Ahead of the (Victorian Labor) administrative committee meeting last night, which did not take any action, sources said those threatening reprisals were “junior idiots mouthing off” and that “strong messages” had been sent to lower level operatives to ensure the situation did not worsen. It was bizarre, one said, to suggest the party would punish a union for taking serious allegations to police.

That sounds nice, but try telling Labor Senator David Feeney there will be no retribution:

Ms Jackson’s decision to refer the matter to police has won the support of Victorian senator David Feeney, who is backed by the union, and who warned his party not to lose sight of its “civic responsibility” to co-operate with authorities.

Other senior figures expressed anger at Senator Feeney’s failure to “keep his people in line”, questioning whether he would be able to gather support for his plan to move from the Senate to a safe lower house seat. The senator is seeking to make the move because of fears he will not win re-election from the No 3 slot on Labor’s Senate ticket on current polling.

What bad luck for Thomson that these records disappeared. Think of all the receipts and authorisations he could have produced to justify the use of his credit card to withdraw $100,000 in cash and even spend on hookers:

FINANCIAL records for the period of Craig Thomson’s reign over the beleaguered Health Services Union are missing, a major impediment to investigations by authorities into the credit card scandal threatening Julia Gillard’s government.

Well-placed health union sources told The Saturday Age yesterday that industrial umpire Fair Work Australia and an external auditor of the union in 2008 had found in separate investigations that records for the period 2002 to 2007 had ‘’disappeared’’.

Thomson has sworn the records were there when he left. How cross he must be that no one can find them.

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Some history

Andrew Bolt – Friday, August 26, 11 (09:35 pm)

This is not the first time Julia Gillard has been embarrassed by a unionist allegedly misusing union funds. From 2007:

JULIA Gillard has revealed she fell in love with a former union official and fraudster who broke her heart and threatened to destroy her political career.

Ms Gillard, 46, who is poised to become Deputy Prime Minister if Labor wins office in two weeks, yesterday confirmed she was a union lawyer when she met the conman.

As a solicitor acting on instructions, she set up an association later used by her then lover, Bruce Morton Wilson, to defraud the Australian Workers Union.

But she has strenuously denied ever knowing how the association bank accounts were used.

“These matters happened between 12 and 15 years ago,” Ms Gillard told the Sunday Herald Sun yesterday.

“I was young and naive. I was in a relationship which I ended and obviously it was all very distressing.

“I am by no means the first person to find out that someone close turns out to be different to what you had believed them to be. It’s an ordinary human error.

“I was obviously hurt when I was later falsely accused publicly of wrongdoing. I didn’t do anything wrong and to have false allegations in the media was distressing....”

A lawyer in her early 30s with the Melbourne Labor firm, Slater & Gordon at the time of the fraud, Ms Gillard acted for the AWU.

She met Wilson, who was then the West Australian AWU secretary, while representing the union in the Industrial Relations Commission.

Wilson later moved to Melbourne, to become Victorian secretary…

Now hundreds of pages of new documents have been leaked, detailing the extent of Wilson’s fraud.

The con, used by Wilson to cream off possibly more than a million dollars of union funds, was simple and backed by standover tactics.

Biographer Jacqueline Kent:

Only once did I feel I had slipped below the surface: when I asked her about her relationship with Bruce Wilson. She shrugged it off with, “Oh well, these things happen”. When I pushed a bit, quoting some of the more unpleasant tabloid headlines and saying, that must have impressed you, she flashed “Not so much”. And for a second I saw how that squalid scandal-mongering had hurt her.

(No comments. Gillard repeatedly insisted on her innocence, and I’ve seen no evidence at all to the contrary. I note this to remark yet again on her poor judgement and the Labor/union culture.)

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UN building bombed

Andrew Bolt – Friday, August 26, 11 (09:20 pm)

image

Uh oh:

A large explosion struck a United Nations building in Nigeria’s capital Abuja today, with one complete wing of the building levelled by the blast, witnesses said.

A UN official in Geneva called it a bomb attack.

Witnesses told AP that the blast happened just before 11am in the same neighbourhood as the US Embassy and other diplomatic posts in Nigeria’s capital. They say many are feared dead.

UPDATE


The blast at a United Nations building in Abuja was caused by a car bomb, according to security forces.

UPDATE

There are indications that the blast, for which no group has claimed responsibility, might have claimed up to a dozen lives.

UPDATE

The building houses about 400 employees of the U.N. in Nigeria, including the majority of its offices.

UPDATE

image

Nigeria’s Leadership newspaper gives no evidence or source for the claim:

The United Nations Headquarters in Abuja has been bombed by terrorists suspected to be members of the Boko Haram sect.

BBC:

Nigeria’s militant Islamist group Boko Haram ... is fighting to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state.
Its followers are said to be influenced by the Koranic phrase which says: “Anyone who is not governed by what Allah has revealed is among the transgressors”.

Boko Haram promotes a version of Islam which makes it “haram”, or forbidden, for Muslims to take part in any political or social activity associated with western society.

This includes voting in elections, wearing shirts and trousers or receiving a secular education. ...

The group’s official name is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, which in Arabic means “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad.”

But residents in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri, where the group had its headquarters, dubbed it Boko Haram.

Loosely translated from the local Hausa language, this means Western education is forbidden.

CBS News:

Earlier this month, the commander for U.S. military operations in Africa said Boko Haram may be trying to link with two al Qaeda-linked groups in other African countries to mount joint attacks in Nigeria.

Gen. Carter Ham told AP on Aug. 17 during a visit to Nigeria that “multiple sources” indicate Boko Haram made contacts with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which operates in northwest Africa, and with al-Shabab in Somalia....

“This is very likely the work of Boko Haram and, or, AQIM and is a serious escalation in the security situation in Nigeria,” the unnamed security official told Reuters.

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