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Fortress Groom and the election of doom

Today, Webdiarist Hugh Wilson reports from the very safe Liberal regional seat of Groom, as he did for us at the 2001 federal election. I invite Webdiarists to add their reports of the election vibe where they live in the comments box.

Fortress Groom and the election of doom

by Hugh Wilson

Where to start in a tale, hopefully of hope, where the end is already known with no change expected on the horizon? Here, in blue corner of Fortress Groom, lurks MLA Ian Macfarlane, Liberal minister, chainsaw impersonator, and generally unseen-unheard of between elections.

His only real challenger is a solicitor from the ALP, Chris Meibusch. Meibusch is standing for the first time and has been making a real effort to campaign throughout 2007.

With no National Party candidate standing the next in line is the Family First mob. One independent is running on a 'drink no sewage' platform, and there is a Green, no doubt standing as a last minute fill-in. Are there more? Yes, but they've made such little impact this writer has not heard anything about them.

The problem in Groom is that it is a safe seat, with Macfarlane enjoying a 19% head start. Even if Meibusch does well, he cannot seriously expect to claw much away from the incumbent. The ALP consistently scrapes together about 30% of the vote, so if that rises Meibusch has probably exceeded expectations and it would be, I think, a clear expression of anger directed at WorkChoices, rather than an expressions of hope in Rudd and the ALP.

The local Trades and Labour Council has made a very real effort throughout the year to run a strong, visible and well coordinated campaign against Macfarlane and WorkChoices. It seems that nearly every power pole here has an anti WorkChoices corflute nailed to it, tantalisingly too high to reach unless you work for the power company from a cherrypicker.

Thanks must go to the ETU I suspect. And why not? Toowoomba is a town that has always been happy to exploit young people and the generally unaware when it comes to dodgy wages. The overall mood here of 'never challenge authority' ensures the same wage and condition abusers get away with murder. The arrival of WorkChoices merely legitimised the already doubtful practices.

This writer has been contacted by numerous Liberals who will not be voting for Macfarlane this time, as well as a few old Nat' voters who have been forced onto AWAs and deeply resent losing their work conditions. So incensed was one fellow he even conceded the unions were 'OK' when it came to wages and conditions but he just didn't like what they believed in.

Yes, this is Queensland after all. But with all the angst about, maybe Meibusch can tap into a local anger directed against Howard, WorkChoices and Macfarlane and free Fortress Groom from our current 'gated community' status.

I live in hope, but expect very little to change here.

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Litterboxing still

Thanks, Malcolm. I doubt I will proceed with telling the stuffers to get stuffed or trying to get Nick nicked - it will all be over soon. But now I won't waste time looking for laws which don't exist either.

It's too bad the candidates in Kingston don't try to make me laugh, not that it would influence my propensity to vote for them very much. However, I did find some of these videos entertaining today.

Can I rip into the stuffers?

Maybe it's me who's dumb, Malcolm. I found the mixing of the messages puzzling (as I transferred them straight into the recycling). I took it to mean that they had been delivered not by party volunteers but by the local contractors who pound our streets regularly, providing households with extra insulation material.

Which made me wonder ... and with your knowledge of the law regarding electricity poles and such, perhaps you can advise me ... whether they are legally permitted to place such things in receptacles provided for Australia Post deliveries when there are instructions not to do so?

And while you're at it, have you any idea how Nick Xenophon got my email address?!

I hate this

Robyn Clothier, you've got me stumped. I don't know how the Xylophone got your email but I also can't find anything concrete that stops the bastards stuffing your letterbox. If the material had been posted you might have cause to complain to the Postal Ombudsman but, given that I do it myself, I don't think it's an offence. You might have a civil action for nuisance.

I hate letterboxing - I'm getting old and there are fewer and fewer pubs on every corner but it does get votes. The approach I take when thrusting leaflets into letterboxes with "Addressed mail only" stickers is to write at the top of the leaflet "To the housholder". With "No junk mail" signs, I take the sensible approach that any leaflet advising a voter to vote for me couldn't possibly be junk. Oh, and my leaflets are always funny so I regard it as a bonus for the voter.

Eliot, it is the house prices

Here is one reason to get rid of Howard and send decent aid to Iraq.

And Eliot, wages might have gone up 4% in the private sector but only in the mining industry, everyone else has gone down. Especially women, whose pay had dropped by another 4% or 83% of men's wages.

And house prices in many places have risen by 30% while interest rates have gone up 1.25%. People in SA are now paying 45% of their income on their mortgages.

Weighing up policies: the view from my letterbox

Margo: ".... How about a day by day description of the politics in your letterbox, and media, till election day?"

It would be an interesting exercise just to compare the letterbox materials by party and weight in kilograms in my very marginal electorate in Kingston. It seems to have been coming in all year but the frequency is now daily, despite the "no junk mail" sticker on the box.

The sitting (Liberal) member would have won hands down, of course - or lost depending on whether one was examining policies on deforestation. I am pleased to report that the one piece so far from the Greens contained this sentence: "Please pass this leaflet to your family and friends before recycling."

Also that the delivery people appear to have no compunction about slipping one lot's guff inside the folds of the others' to make a neater bundle!


How dumb are they Robyn Clothier?  Standard letterboxing technique is to remove the opponent's electoral material while substituting your candidate's.   Maybe they order these things differently in South Australia.

MLA Really?

I hope he's an MHR because if he's an MLA, s 44 (iv) of the Constitution would make him ineligible to stand.  Well, on second thoughts, maybe I hope he is an MLA after all.

Two by-elections.  It's hotting up kiddies. 

Create a panic

Michael de Angelos says:

"But hit Aussies wallets and you are bound to be in for a thrashing."

In fact, you need apparently only create the illusion of them being hit in the wallet.

There's been four percent growth in real terms in wages this year alone.

Yep-It's Work "Choices"

I'm ashamed to admit it but as soon as I read the details of Work"Choices" (or, how to terrify your staff in to subservience) I whooped for joy as I knew it sounded the death knell for Howard.

There are so many other reasons he should be tarred and feathered – Iraq, Siev X, the hideous new era of terrorism laws which we are now witnessing in practice with the recent NSW debacle, Dr Haneef etc. But hit Aussies wallets and you are bound to be in for a thrashing.

Fiona: Myself, I can see no reason for shame, Michael.

Hugh's 2001 Groom report:

2001 Groom:

Groom is the Queensland Darling Downs seat held by Liberal Minister for Small Business Mr. Ian Macfarlane, currently enjoying a 15.1 percent majority. Macfarlane is best known for the Liberal's Groom-branch GST affair. Whispers suggest a split in the local branch may be appearing following the considerable heartache suffered by many local Liberal members.

The Tampa's arrival allowed Groom to slip back to its usual state of relative political obscurity and irrelevance to the nation, coincidentally saving Macfarlane's political skin.

Readers may remember our previous Liberal member, Bill Taylor, who left Groom to take up the post of Administrator of Christmas Island. Groom electors claim to have spotted Taylor in a background scene to an ABC news report during the Christmas Island hold off, but none can recall hearing him speak. Some things never change.

So far the candidates are, Ian Macfarlane (Liberal), Barbara Wuersching (National Party), Leann King (ALP), David Hoy (One Nation), Michael Kruger (Independent) and Michael Kane (Greens).

Michael Kane, 30, is a second year undergraduate climatology student at the University of Southern Queensland. He has nominated education, health, tree clearing and the failure of the Work for the Dole program as Groom issues.

Locals suggest a candidate representing a loose coalition of rural Independents may be announced shortly.

A previous Mayor of Toowoomba and ex-Liberal MP for the state seat of Lockyer, local pharmacy owner Tony Bourke, has not yet decided whether to run. Tony is a loud, cheerful and colourful character who renounced any allegiance to party machines a long time ago. He would make an interesting candidate. He offered a few unprintable suggestions for politicians when I spoke to him the other day.

He'd be a very outside chance to win but his loyal following could cruel the pitch for Macfarlane. It is doubtful he would offer anyone preferences.

The ALP got off to a flying start on Saturday with a notice from Senator Joe Ludwig in the local paper announcing the ALP employee entitlement and GST simplification plans. The ALP candidate, Leann King, stood earlier this year for the State seat of Cunningham to be defeated on preferences by National Party first timer Stuart Copeland. Leann spent eighteen months on the State election trail and was selected for Groom after the original candidate pulled out due to work commitments.

The ALP has selected a good candidate for Groom but unfortunately for her, as with many reasonable ALP candidates outside the eastern seaboard and greater Brisbane area, the ALP never supports them with appropriate levels of resources.

Remember Blair - the seat Pauline Hanson lost - last time? For those disaffected ex ALP members and voters in Groom, having a good candidate this time is cold comfort - the ALP remains as unyielding as ever.

The National Party will run a strong local campaign focusing on better local representation. Wuersching says the local branch felt compelled to run a candidate because Macfarlane hasn't properly represented their people. There was a need, "to give Groom a conservative choice in the election," she said.

Although uncomfortable talking about her coalition partner and opponent she acknowledged the Liberals branch GST mistakes did have an impact at the time but said that people had forgotten about it because of the Tampa.

In a departure from Prime Ministerial spin, Groom Nationals believe mileage can be made by highlighting health, employment, education and aged care. They do not accept that highlighting similar issues as the ALP and Greens meant they had concerns with the way the country was being run.

"You'd hope so," was Wuersching's response when asked if waiting lists had been reduced at Toowoomba Hospital as a result of the 30 percent private health insurance rebate.

The ALP have neither capitalised on the competition between the Nationals and the Liberals nor on the rumoured split in the local Liberal branch. A missed opportunity and rather slack.

Any excitement in Groom will come from friction between Macfarlane and Wuersching as the Nationals promote an ALP/Green platform. The last Groom National to try to knock the Liberals off retired hurt. It is unlikely this time will be any different.

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