Blog Archives

Queensland Election 2017 – Sunday’s Status

Labor seems likely to secure 48 seats (out of 93) in Queensland’s Legislative Assembly, plus or minus one – which is a small but clear majority.

But, be cautious – there’s only 72.2% of the votes counted so far, and the notional two-candidate count in some seats has counted the wrong two candidates!

Ben Rau from the Tallyroom has an excellent summary of the current status of counting as at Sunday 26 November 2017, including seats likely won and lost for each of One Nation, the LNP, Katter Party and Greens.  You can access his summary here


Last Week in Queensland – 14 March 2016

last-week-logo-2Last week*, Labor’s minority Queensland Government became more of a minority, an early State Election became a stronger possibility, and the Government, labelled do-nothing, released their four-year Infrastructure Plan and five-year Women’s Strategy.  Horrific levels of child abuse were documented in remote communities.  Mixed signals about the state of the Queensland economy were received, as commentators started to acknowledge the infrastructure and Government spending needed far outstrip what’s available.  Chaos at Queensland Nickel means no-one yet knows whether it has a future, let alone what that future might be.



The Opposition






Economy and Infrastructure


Opening Parliament 2015Parliament

  • Queensland’s Parliament next sits this week, from Tuesday 15 March 2016 to Thursday 17 March, then not again until April 19.
  • The Parliament’s summary of what’s new, including newly-introduced and passed legislation, is here
  • The Federal Parliament next sits – both Houses – on Tuesday 15 March 2016 – see


Sleeper Issues?





* We’re not representing that this is a complete coverage of news in Queensland – it certainly isn’t, and it’s what we find interesting or important, and sometimes what’s unusual.  Some of the links will require subscriptions to read content.


Last Week in Queensland – 1 February 2016

last_week_in_qld_160125What happened in Queensland last week?

Ethical Consulting Services are each Monday publishing a short weekly summary drawn from major media sources, of major political and related news from the previous 7 days in Queensland.

You can access the second edition here – we hope you find it useful and we hope you will let us know what you think!

We’re not representing that this is a complete coverage of news in Queensland – it certainly isn’t; it’s what we find interesting or important, and sometimes what’s unusual.  Some of the mainstream media links will require subscriptions before you can read content.



Labor Party National Conference – Preview

Don’t believe what you read in the mainstream media (e.g. or what’s on Facebook.


The Australian Labor Party’s triennial National Conference* is in Melbourne in a month – 24 to 26 July – and most analysis you’ll see is desperately shallow, aspirational, malicious, and/or tainted by faction, politics, or Rupert Murdoch’s evil.

The real dynamics of the Conference are much more nuanced than commentators are so far acknowledging.

It is true that all but about 1.5% of the 397 voting delegates are lined up with either the Right or the Left factions, and on raw numbers no group has majority support.  Solid numbers for each of the Left and Right sit somewhere in the 190s, but each are below the magic 199, and unaligned numbers are around four to six.


BUT it’s also true that on many issues the numbers float, hence “somewhere in the 190s”, and on key issues there is often a leakage of votes: the factions are pretty rigid at National Conference, but there is plenty of scope for votes to fragment.  For example, there are two Right factions in Queensland,** but the smaller of the two pride themselves on some degree of autonomy, and might be attracted to vote with the Left on several issues.  And there are at least two Lefts and two Rights in Victoria.

When you add in the unions who sometimes split from their usual factional colleagues when they see an issue as being of particular interest to their members, and the restiveness of some unions who are increasingly attracted to autonomy, there is plenty of scope for votes to be determined other than along strict factional lines.

So what does that mean for the Conference, for the ALP, and for Australia?

Both factions will see the imperative of unity and discipline, to maximise their influence: this will be more important than at past Conferences because of the tighter numbers, and impose greater strains on both Left and Right, over specific policy and Party reform issues, as they try to craft positions that will keep “their” votes united.

Numerical uncertainty will force negotiation and compromise – no one wants to go to a vote if they don’t know what the outcome will be.  That’s likely to mean very few real debates or fights on the Conference floor – consensus around difficult compromises, and tense behind-the-scenes negotiation is probably the order of the day.  While these deals will often involve the non-aligned delegates, their rejection of caucusing or voting collectively makes it difficult to get enough of them on board any particular proposition, so it is much more likely that the Left and the Right will be the most frequent deal-makers.

Those passionate about heart-felt issues will do everything they can to win over the handful of votes that might secure success, and will be furiously lobbying anyone who can command a handful of votes – which is mostly union officials, as union members at the Conference often vote in a bloc with their union’s leadership.

The Right’s past dominance of Conference has meant they sometimes dump a controversial issue on the agenda with little notice and no negotiation, and claim the Left are party-wreckers if they oppose whatever it is.

While that might be tried at this Conference, it’s already been discussed within the Left that no such manipulation should be accommodated, regardless of the proponent – that bad behaviour should not be rewarded, but punished.  On the other side of the ledger, Right faction leaders have been discussing how they ensure Conference isn’t seen as moving the Party leftwards.

This Conference is the last before the next Federal Election, so delegates will be aware that it needs to positively position Labor and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten for the campaign – so taking procedural or policy risks may prove unwise.

Every delegate will have their favourite issues and passions, but the imperative to negotiate, and to demonstrate unity in the run-up to the next election, might well mean that very few of those passions and issues-based divisions are paraded publicly.  There will be at least one issue, and often more, in every chapter of the draft Platform where the differences between and within Left and Right will make it very hard for agreement to be struck.

Mark Butler, Shadow Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Water is the newly elected National President, in a ballot that confirmed the Left’s appeal to the Party’s rank-and-file membership – Left candidates secured 67% of the vote.  He’ll be chairing the Conference, and can influence the agenda and process – his strength as a factional leader means he can to some degree force the factions to behave.

The draft Platform was considered by Labor’s National Executive on 19 June 2015 and should be released the week that this is published, and while the Rules report is likewise close to completion, many key participants are barely ready to list the key and potentially divisive Party reform or policy issues, let alone working out what can be done with them.

Of the ballots to be conducted at the Conference, the Left seems likely to increase their representation on the powerful National Executive, from nine out of twenty, to ten.



* This is the supreme governing body of the Australian Labor Party, and the decisions of the conference are binding on all members.  It elects the National Executive, and determines Rules and Platform.
** Some members of the “soft” Right, the smaller Labor Unity faction, will vigorously dispute this description, but historically they have been part of the Right in Labor’s Federal Parliamentary caucus and at National Conference.  Labor Unity, though, has developed a positive and stabilising relationship with The Left in Queensland, and recent history – a loooooong story – is likely to make them less comfortable siding with the national Right caucus on some issues.



More? Women. Now?

7/8 of the women in the 2015 Queensland Cabinet - Coralee O'Rourke isn't in this shot

7/8 of the women in the 2015 Queensland Cabinet – Coralee O’Rourke isn’t in this shot

Very few people will disagree that politics needs to be more representative of the community – if we were truly choosing candidates on merit we would see more women politicians, more indigenous Australians, more migrants and their descendants, and proportionately fewer middle-aged, heterosexual, anglo men*.

After the 2015 Queensland State election, the Labor side of the Queensland Parliament is 37% women.  Overall the Queensland Parliament is 28% women.

Plus, Queensland has a woman Premier, a woman Deputy Premier, and eight out of 14 Cabinet members are women.  Overall, this is a world record: as far as I can find, never before in the history of Parliamentary democracy have elections thrown up a Government in which women are so strongly represented.

Never. Before.**

When Finland formed its 73rd Government eight months before the Palaszczuk Government took office, they had a majority of women in Cabinet.  I’m claiming a win for Queensland and Australia on the strength of women holding the two most senior positions*** while in Finland the Prime Minister and Deputy are men.

(The Bolivian Legislative Assembly is 49% women, Rwanda has 64%, Andorra has 50.0 %, Cuba 49% and Seychelles 44%:

So why isn’t the Queensland Government, at least, championing the current extraordinary crew of women role models in State Parliament, to encourage more diverse involvement in civic issues?


* Such as me.  We need less of me.  I’m over-represented in politics.
** If I’m wrong, tell me now, OK – my research resources are good, but not unlimited.
*** Finnophiles might argue that theirs is a national Government and Queensland’s is but a state, but my point is about the capacity of the democratic system to elect women leaders.


Resigned To It

heart-brain-smallThere’s too many opportunities for the Queensland media to suggest a conflict of interest exists, in having a lobbyist on the Australian Labor Party’s Administrative Committee, so I resigned last Monday*.

There isn’t inevitably a conflict of interest, and any potential for conflict is quite manageable, but that wouldn’t necessarily be how the media would paint it.

Too many might revel in the opportunity to confect and manipulate a story about, for example, how corporate interests can intervene in debate to take revenge on uncooperative Ministers, or how lobbyists in such roles can transfer sensitive information to clients**.

With the Palaszczuk Government lacking a majority, and lobbyists always an easy, available, and vulnerable target, it seems unwise to leave open an avenue of attack.

The New South Wales Branch of the Australian Labor Party, and the Liberal Party nationally, have banned lobbyists’ membership of their Administrative Committee equivalents, and in the Liberal Party’s case their national equivalent, too.

My strongest interest as an Administrative Committee member has been reforming the culturegovernance and communications of the Australian Labor Party: I am sure this agenda will be continued by others, including new State Secretary Evan Moorhead, but I’ll have to pursue these issues in other forums.

Mike Smith


* Effective in a couple of weeks.
** No such proposition would reflect the truly bureaucratic tedium that is the Administrative Committee agenda.

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.