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That's what you do in politics: SA Labor's Family First Fraud
If the publicity of an election hoax was a major factor in PM John Howard losing his seat, then pre-publicity of Labor's how-to-vote hoax in South Australia would definitely have caused a total disaster for SA's ALP. Had it become public before voting on Saturday, a kneejerk reaction of distaste might have changed a possible tight win into an anti-Rannslide.
I was handing out cards for a party called Dignity 4 Disabled on Saturday, at a booth in SA Attorney-General Mick Atkinson's seat of Croydon. While we were waiting to pounce on fresh victims, the discussion among the various volunteers turned to the preferences being given by one to another.
The Family First Volunteer scoffed : "Our preferences don't go to Labor" and was dismayed when we showed her that FF were giving their preferences to the A-G. Even so, I'm guessing in hindsight that this isn't what she was talking about. Stories of what Labor was doing at the booths would no doubt have been circulating by mid-morning.
In most electorates Family First had placed Labor sixth in the preferential chain. As revealed in the Saturday night election coverage, the ALP sent out people with fake how-to-vote cards that appeared fair dinkum unless you read the fine print of the endorsement. The cards even carried the FF-registered logo, and those handing them out were reportedly (from an FF viewpoint) wolves dressed in sheep's clothing.
Unlike the true FF cards that put Labor well behind the Libs, the dodgy ALP ones gave Labor first preference. In this manner voters were conned into believing that their party wanted its unsuccessful votes to go to Labor when this was actually (apart from the deal with the A-G) far from the truth.
When shown the fake card during ABC-TV's televised election coverage. Deputy Premier and State Treasurer Kevin Foley countered by saying ""Clearly anything from the Labor Party would have been done within the Electoral Act" He told ABC's Kerry O'Brien that the tactic was "what you do in politics"
The good ship "S.A. Cabinet" has just lost two of its crew, and the Cap'n, First Mate and Bosun have been pounded by waves of disapproval. "Two fingered salutes" of double-diigit trends against them have already inspired Rann to send both Cabinet and backbenchers out on a renewal of the "Labor Listens" campaign. They're bound to get an earbashing filled with dismay at this deception.
Attempting to reinstill faith after a demonstrated public grumpiness about spin tactics, SA Labor's ailing cred-factor is reduced to tatters by such behaviour. Still hurting from public disbelief in his denials of sexual encounters with then-Parliamentary-Barmaid Michelle Chantelois, Premier Rann has not yet made any comment about this new display of ALP lying. One could guess that by now the Cabinet Media Pool might be dosing themselves with tranquilisers. No doubt, either, that Federal ALP spindoctors have been losing some sleep as well. With one SA Cabinet member already having many across the country shaking their heads in disbelief, the Feds now have an entire (almost) newly-elected Labor Government creating a publicity nightmare.
Attorney-General Atkinson is perceived by many as a national laughing-stock for his misguided mis-censorship of video games as well as his failed attempt to implement legislation regulating pre-election political commenting. His own FF preferences not part of the hoax, Mick resigned his Cabinet post (but not his seat) first thing after Church on Sunday morning. He claimed he was doing it to facilitate party renewal, and that it would be unfair of him to cause a by-election.
Believed to have been gagged by party tacticians, Atkinson was reduced to making unreported comments at Adelaide's Irish Club after the St Patrick's Parade. Reading from notes (placed near my feet on the stage) he told revellers nothing more controversial than that the route had been a nice length, and praised the local Catholic signifigance of the church where it began. Beyond such remarks, Mick hasn't been heard of for the weeks of the official campaign.
Labor's new Laura Norder stuff (regarded by many in Adelaide's legal community as both draconian and ludicrous) was announced by Premier Rann while Mick sat in the spindoctors' "Cone of Silence." This was lucky for him, as his continual attempts at provocation of litigious remarks (including challenging an independent MLC to repeat claims of local govternment meddling outside of Parliamentary Privilege) on some Facebook pages were beginning to resemble attempted political facilitation of at least one major property deal..
Whether or not Tony Abbott (in his capacity of NSW right "darling") was involved in the Lindsay "sh*tsheet" fiasco, he's going to love this display of electoral fraudulence by his opponents. Watch for him linking the sanctioning of such tactics to Rudd's Federal Cabinet. The approval (or at least lack of disapproval) by the vast majority of SA ALP candidates creates an ethical tarnishing and diminishing of credibility for the entire party that will ripple outwards a long way past the South Australian borders
There's a simple solution to the problem. Let A-G Atkinson resign his seat and llet it be contested on the issue of ALP credibility. Wouldn't you love to see how FF allocate their preferences in his Croydon seat the second time around? If the result of such a poll was percieved as either sanction or castigation of Labor's behaviour, everyone might know the lie of the land without too much blood being spilled in a political mutiny.
When first elected in 2002, Premier Rann introduced a Ministerial Code of Conduct that prominently featured party-representational behaviour at all times. Any of his Cabinet, himself included, that approved the Family First Fraud will need to be far away from politics by the next election. If not, the keelhauling will leave SA Labor becalmed for many, many years.