Monthly Archives: February 2015

Minority Government CAN Work Better

Minority Government* can improve decision-making.


Photo pinched from Paul Henderson’s Facebook profile

Then-Northern Territory Chief Minister Paul Henderson and I had a good chat – in early 2011 – about how his Government was working: his observations were acute, surprising and valuable.

In order to preserve the NT’s minority Labor Government, Paul and his team had entered into an agreement with Independent Member of the Legislative Assembly Gerry Wood: some of the agreement’s details are set out in the New South Wales Parliament’s paper, linked below.

The agreement with Wood, as well as support for his electorate and specific projects, focussed on parliamentary and constitutional reforms, innovatively the establishment of “a cross-party Council of Territory Cooperation, comprising 2 Government members, 2 Opposition members and at least one Independent. Among its objects would be to enhance inclusion and transparency in decision making.”

“The Government also agreed to reform parliamentary procedures, including reform of question time to allow more non-government questions.”

According to Paul, having Gerry Wood this close to the Government forced an additional dimension to major Government decisions – whether they would be supported by Gerry Wood or not – and this additional test significantly improved the quality, effectiveness, and viability of the decisions made.

Peter Wellington

Peter Wellington

Paul saw Gerry’s role as a positive for the community and the Territory, as well as for the Labor Government.

Now, that only works if the person offering support to a minority Government genuinely supports good governance, is of good character, committed to democracy, tolerant and respectful, and an honest negotiator**.  That is, if they are much like former policeman and solicitor, now Independent Member of Parliament, Peter Wellington in Queensland***.



*    Minority Governments are nothing new in Australia or Queensland:,ChartersandAgreements
The Borbidge government in Queensland:
**    If they are otherwise, Government must inevitably descend into ugly, tainted bargaining about the improper allocation of resources, and the making of bad decisions.
***    Former policeman and solicitor Mr Wellington has backed a minority Labor Government before, so is a known quantity, to some extent: and

New Queensland LNP Opposition Front Bench

Lawrence Springborg

Lawrence Springborg

Queensland Liberal National Party Leader Lawrence Springborg has announced the new Opposition front bench and leadership team, on Friday 20 February 2015.

  • Opposition Leader: Lawrence Springborg;
  • Shadow Treasurer and Shadow Minister for Commonwealth Games: John-Paul Langbroek;
  • Shadow Minister for Environment, Heritage Protection and National Parks: Stephen Bennett;
  • Shadow Minister for Police, Fire, Emergency Services and Corrective Services: Jarrod Bleijie;
  • Shadow Minister for Natural Resources and Mines, State Development and Northern Development: Andrew Cripps;
  • Shadow Minister for Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services: Tracy Davis;
  • Shadow Minister for Transport: Scott Emerson;
  • Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry: Deb Frecklington;
  • Shadow Minister for Education & Training: Tim Mander;
  • Shadow Minister for Health: Mark McArdle;
  • Shadow Minister for Science, Information Technology and Innovation: John McVeigh;
  • Shadow Minister for Housing and Public Works: Rob Molhoek;
  • Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Planning, Small Business, Employment and Trade: Tim Nicholls;
  • Shadow Minister for Energy and Water Supply: Andrew Powell;
  • Shadow Minister for Local Government and Main Roads, Community Recovery and Resilience: Fiona Simpson;
  • Shadow Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs: Tarnya Smith;
  • Shadow Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Sport and Racing: Jann Stuckey;
  • Shadow Attorney-General and Shadow Minister for Justice, Industrial Relations and Arts: Ian Walker;
  • Shadow Assistant Minister Assisting the Opposition Leader in North Queensland: Jason Costigan;
  • Leader of Opposition Business: Ray Stevens;
  • Chairman of the Parliamentary Policy Committee, Strategy and Coordination: Jeff Seeney;
  • Whip: Ian Rickuss; and
  • Deputy Whip: Steve Minnikin.

The Liberal National Party has chosen to not match the Ministerial portfolios in the new Palaszczuk Government, which is an uncommon tactic in Australian politics.  They say 14 Ministers is too few and some Ministers will be overloaded.  Unlike their previous Newman Government, and matching the Palaszczuk Government, they have appointed one Assistant Minister only.

Jeff Seeney - photo from Jeff's website

Jeff Seeney – from Jeff’s website

Former Minister for National Parks, Recreation, Sport and Racing Steve Dickson and former Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs Glen Elmes are no longer on the front bench; former Deputy Premier, and Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Jeff Seeney has been given the new role of chair of the LNP’s parliamentary policy committee, strategy and co-ordination.

Several former Newman Government ministers have kept the same portfolios they had as Ministers, which might be expected to give the Opposition a political edge, as new Labor Ministers work to get across their portfolios.  Several Assistant Ministers in the Newman Government are now Shadow Ministers in Opposition.

New faces in the Shadow Ministry:

  • Shadow Minister for Environment, Heritage Protection and National Parks: Stephen Bennett;
  • Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry: Deb Frecklington (previously an Assistant Minister);
  • Shadow Minister for Education & Training: Tim Mander (previously an Assistant Minister);
  • Shadow Minister for Housing and Public Works: Rob Molhoek (previously an Assistant Minister);
  • Shadow Minister for Local Government and Main Roads, Community Recovery and Resilience: Fiona Simpson (previously Speaker);
  • Shadow Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs: Tarnya Smith (previously an Assistant Minister); and
  • Shadow Assistant Minister Assisting the Opposition Leader in North Queensland: Jason Costigan.

You can compare the current team with Campbell Newman’s 2012 team, here, not forgetting there were a couple of mid-stream changes.

The Queensland Parliament has now restored Member of Parliament biographies, post-election, and you can find them here.


Lobbying Labor’s Queensland Government: How?

migraineFirst, don’t just do something, sit there – take a little time to research and plan your approach.

Know who they are, not who the Courier Mail says they are; the current Labor Ministry are not the same as the Beattie or Bligh Ministries, and very different from the Newman Ministry.  Many Ministers are new to Parliament, and most have had no Ministerial experience; although more of the Palaszczuk Ministry have past Ministerial experience than the fresh 2012 Liberal National Party in 2012, fewer have substantial Parliamentary experience.

Check their (brief) biographies here.  Deeper knowledge is better e.g. does the Minister have a past policy interest in this area?  Past experience?  What are their internal Party alliances and networks? Have they made a speech on the topic?  A media release, or blog or Facebook post?  There’s rarely value, in asking for something that’s already been rejected – you’ll need to modify your proposal.

Know what Labor have said and done previously about your issue: what did the Beattie and Bligh Governments say or do?  Did Labor release a policy impacting your issue, during the campaign?  Is it referenced in the Party’s new Platform?  What does the Premier think about the issue?  Other Ministers?

Understand who is responsible for what: there’s been a significant Ministerial restructure and portfolios aren’t structured the way they used to be.  Is the issue more appropriately handled by a Parliamentary Secretary rather than a Minister?  Here’s the list of the new administrative arrangements.

democracy_not_for_saleLabor has a different approach to transparency than had the previous Government: some of their intentions are highlighted in their “Our Democracy Not For Sale” policy, here, and some are outlined in this news report relating to the “Fitzgerald Principles”.

Appreciate that there is always lengthy and unexpected dislocation (hence delays) upon the accession of a new Government, even a re-elected Government, and Ministers won’t have a full complement of staff for weeks, so will struggle to deal with things quickly, initially.  As of 17 February, not all of them have appointed Chiefs of Staff.

Start early: the standard turnaround time for a reply to a Ministerial letter is four weeks, and complex issues can take longer.

Understand that some public servants and Ministers can be hard to find directly: the Newman Government took down the most useful website in the Queensland public sector – the directory of senior and executive staff – because they didn’t want the public going directly to anyone in the middle ranks of the public sector.

Understand that the person you need to speak with may well not be a Minister or a Ministerial advisor – it may be a public servant.  The public servants are still there and their continuity in their roles can speed things up.  Going unnecessarily to a Minister can slow things way down.

meetingOnce you’ve sorted all of that out, you need to work out how to persuade them most effectively: how to get the message to them, and the right message – remembering that the things that persuade you aren’t the things that persuade them!

And, there’s so much more – these are just a few, quick, initial tips.


Queensland Labor Government: First Ministry

annastacia-election-nightThe new Labor Government in Queensland has chosen their first Ministry on Sunday, 15 February 2015.

You can download short biographies of the new Cabinet members here.

Ministers are:

  • Annastacia Palaszczuk, Premier and Minister for Arts;
  • Jackie Trad, Deputy Premier and Minister for Transport, Minister for Trade, Minister for Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning;
  • Curtis Pitt, Treasurer, Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations*,  and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships;
  • Jo-Ann Miller, Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Services, Minister for Corrective Services;
  • Yvette D’Ath, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Minister for Training and Skills;
  • Bill Byrne, Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Minister for Sport and Racing;
  • Anthony Lyneham, Minister for State Development, Minister for Natural Resources and Mines;
  • Shannon Fentiman, Minister for Communities, Women and Youth, Minister for Child Safety, Minister for Multicultural Affairs;
  • Steven Miles, Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection, Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef;
  • Cameron Dick, Minister for Health, Minister for Ambulance Services;
  • Kate Jones, Minister for Education, Minister for Tourism, Major Events and Small Business, Minister for the Commonwealth Games;
  • Coralee O’Rourke, Minister for Disability Services, Minister for Seniors, Minister Assisting the Premier on North Queensland;
  • Leeanne Enoch, Minister for Housing and Public Works, Minister for Science and Innovation; and
  • Mark Bailey, Minister for Main Roads, Road Safety and Ports, Minister for Energy and Water Supply.

Stirling Hinchliffe is not in Cabinet, but is Leader of the House and Assistant Minister of State Assisting the Premier.

Ministers will be sworn in tomorrow, Monday 16 February 2015 at 11.00 am.

The Cabinet will first meet on Monday 23 February, 2015; Parliamentary sitting dates have not yet been set.


* Updated: Early media reports omitted Employment and Industrial Relations from Curtis Pitt’s portfolio.

Queensland Labor Government: Big Agenda

annastacia-and-team-kateUpdate: as we get further away from the election, some of the links below to ALP campaign resources are becoming defunct.

Rumour had it Queensland Labor had no policies in the 2015 State Election, but there are plenty – 50 on their website here, and more, smaller, announcements amongst letters to stakeholder groups and media releases (here).  In addition, there’s the brand new Queensland Australian Labor Party platform (here) completely rewritten during 2014 in conformity with Annastacia Palaszczuk’s and the then-Shadow Ministers’, priorities.

But what’s important amongst all of that?  If you turn to Ms Palaszczuk’s Campaign Launch speech, and the balance of policies released, you’ll find a focus on

  • employment growth,
  • skills and industry,
  • respecting the electorate,
  • institutions of transparency and integrity,
  • a debt repayment schema that avoids asset sales, and
  • the winding back of cuts to environmental protections, services, and community facilities.
Photo by Andrew Kesper

Photo by Andrew Kesper

While implementation details are not always spelled out*, that’s a pretty big agenda – quite the reverse of what the media have reported – which adds up to reversing the social engineering experiment that was the Newman Government.

To the extent that details aren’t set out, and their discussions with non-Government MPs don’t constrain them, the Palaszczuk Labor Government** has an blank slate, for how they implement that ambitious package.


* They almost never are, during Australian election campaigns.
** Yes, I’m calling the election result, today, with absolutely no authority or insider perspective except overconfidence in my mathematical ability.


Queensland Labor Government? Yes? No?

palaszczuk_annastaciaDo we have an Australian Labor Party Government in Queensland, and for how long?

Now that Independent Member of Parliament Peter Wellington has declared his hand and will support Labor, it seems quite likely that Annastacia Palaszczuk will become Queensland’s Premier, and Labor become Queensland’s Government, next week.  Labor appears likely* to secure at least 44 seats in their own right, in the new Queensland Parliament: the support of Peter Wellington gives them a scant majority.

Any Ferny Grove by-election is almost certainly at least five or six months from conclusion, if it ever happens – after Labor’s first State budget – so Labor will have a lengthy opportunity to prove their credentials, and the LNP will have the same time to discredit them.

While the two Katter’s Australian Party MPs are yet to declare their support, if any, for anyone, it makes great sense for Labor to continue to pursue the support of both Rob Katter and Shane Knuth, the two KAP MPs.  If overt support isn’t forthcoming, there’s still sense in Labor looking to accommodate their views as far as they can be, and developing a good working relationship with them.

But don’t be surprised if KAP don’t back either side – if their votes don’t determine which of the big parties becomes the Government, then refusing to support either Labor or the LNP might make the best sense to the KAP’s supporters, and allows them to oppose and propose whatever they wish, and make deals issue by issue.



 * Unless there’s an error in the count by the ECQ – e.g. a bundle of 100 votes in the wrong candidate’s pile, which happens once in a while, but is always found and fixed – there are so few votes left to count (presuming 8% don’t vote) that it is almost certain the LNP will win Whitsunday, and that the ALP will win Maryborough and Ferny Grove.


Ferny Grove Election: No Uncertainty


Likely winner Mark Furner

What happens in Queensland’s Ferny Grove electorate from now is perfectly clear: the only confusion is being propagated by the ignorant, and by people who should know better*.

Yes, there’s a problem in the Ferny Grove electorate: one candidate is ineligible to run.  The law is clear: once the election is under way, unless a Court orders otherwise, the Electoral Commission of Queensland counts the ballot and declares a result.

The Liberal National Party has made clear that they will challenge that result – I imagine they won’t do that if their candidate wins.  The ECQ might also challenge the result – the equivalent was done in Western Australia over the disputed 2013 Senate election.

Whoever is declared elected by the ECQ is a Member of Parliament and takes their seat in Parliament, unless a court orders otherwise.

Incumbent MP Dale Shuttleworth

Incumbent MP Dale Shuttleworth

If Labor‘s Mark Furner is elected, as seems likely as of today, The LNP might ask the Court of Disputed Returns to suspend the declaration by the ECQ, but I don’t believe that has been done before in Australia in a case where there doubt exists about the outcome of the full trial.

The Court case would take perhaps four or  five months, as it did in the Mundingburra case in 1995/1996.

So, there is every reason to believe that Mark Furner will be the MP for Ferny Grove for at least four months, and possibly three years.

The only thing in doubt is whether Mr Justice Carmody can properly sit as a member of the Court of Disputed Returns.


* Update: There’s even less confusion now (16 February 2015) that both the LNP and the ECQ have decided against taking the result to a Court of Disputed Returns.



New Queensland Government: 9th Demand

fiona-simpsonThe two Katter Party Members of Queensland’s Parliament are preparing a list of eight demands* upon major Parties, as the price of their support for a minority Government, according to media reports.

There’s a ninth demand, unwritten and under-articulated: respect.  That’s thoroughgoing respect, in deed as well as in word.

This 9th Demand creates a huge problem for the Liberal National Party’s negotiators as they try to pull together a 45 seat majority to stay in power: the Newman Government managed to convince every smaller Party and Independent in the last Parliament that they had complete contempt (“We were treated like dirt, sent to the dungeons”) for everyone outside Government.

This went well beyond policy and personal differences, and is reflected in the proposition from Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) MPs and Peter Wellington, the Independent MP for Nicklin, that the LNP can’t get their support if led by Tim Nicholls or Jeff Seeney.

In the face of three years of poisoned relationships, the challenge for the LNP will be to prove to the KAP that they’ll treat them with respect.

Tim Nicholls’ push to lead the LNP, if successful, may prove to those three balance-of-power MPs that they can’t expect change, or respect.  His reported withdrawal from the race may indicate that leadership figures in the LNP understand how much they alienated outsiders, or may indicate merely that they will pay any price for power.


* Update: As of 10 February, media re reporting a list of 21 demands.