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Gordon Moyes joins Family First

Independent NSW MLC Gordon Moyes has just announced he is joining Family First, becoming their first MP in NSW.

Moyes was elected to the Legislative Council in 2002 as a member of the Christian Democratic Party. He served in that capacity until 2009 when he was expelled from the party after a number of personal and policy clashes with the CDP and its leader, Fred Nile.

Immediately after he was expelled Moyes entered discussions with Family First about becoming a member and leading their upper house ticket in the 2011 election.

It’s an interesting, if not unexpected, move by Moyes. Whilst undoubtedly a social conservative he has sided with The Greens on a number of occasions and voted against the Government to subpoena documents in a range of areas.

Moyes holds a key balance of power position in the NSW upper house and his vote is often required to pass legislation. His modus operandi in Parliament seems to be to approach each issue on its merits and compare it to his personal beliefs and values. It will be interesting to see whether this changes now that he is once again a member of a political party. There are a few stark policy differences between Moyes and the Family First Senator Steve Fielding – most notably on the issue of climate change. Where Fielding is a climate sceptic/denialist, Moyes is a firm believer who has often advocated for stronger action on protecting the environment.

It’s difficult to predict the results of the next election but it is unlikely that Moyes would be re-elected. The Christian Right vote in the last few elections has only been high enough to elect one MLC – last election the CDP received 2.4%. It is possible that disgruntlement with both major parties could see a boost in the Christian vote, but I think this split will offset any positives to be gained from a small vote boost.

Update:
It looks like we have another schism between Family First Senator Steve Fielding and Gordon Moyes, this time on the issue of asylum seekers.

This week Steve Fielding said of the 78 asylum seekers on board the Oceanic Viking:

This is our boat, it’s been hijacked by the refugees, and the Rudd government hasn’t got a clue what to do. Those people trying to jump the queue should go to the back of the queue.

Today, Gordon Moyes has announced a completely different position:

Kevin Rudd could solve the problem of the 78 Sri Lankan boat people on the Australian vessel in Indonesian waters by ordering today that the ship bring them to Australia. Process them in Perth or Port Hedland, then bring them to Sydney.

He also goes on to describe his experiences in resettling illegal refugees in the 1960’s.

This is a stark policy difference and mirrors the difference between the two parliamentarians on climate change. Only one day into the “leadership” of the NSW branch of Family First and Moyes is already picking fights with the Federal leader. Looks like it might be a habit…

Cabinet reshuffle

This afternoon Premier Nathan Rees unveiled what I would call a pretty significant cabinet reshuffle.

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Della’s post mortem

The resignation of John Della Bosca has changed the political dynamic in NSW on a number of levels. Premier Nathan Rees has been forced to plan a cabinet reshuffle, promoting allies and demoting those who he perceives as being destabalising figures in caucus. Rees’ hold on the leadership of the Labor Party has also been affected by Della’s resignation, though perhaps not as obviously as some are suggesting.

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Most readers are probably by now aware of the story of murdered property developer Michael McGurk. I won’t rehash the events of the last few days because this isn’t a crime or gossip blog. There is a good summary of the story here.

What’s more relevant are the political ramifications of the McGurk saga. The story has exposed links between associates of McGurk and the Labor Party and the issue of political donations has again reared its head.

The more pertinent issue at the moment are the allegations of corruption targeted at unnamed State and Federal Government ministers, bureaucrats and local councillors. Earlier today the NSW police handed over evidence to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). The Coalition is also initiated an upper house inquiry into the allegations with the help of The Greens and The Shooters. The scope of the inquiry is unclear, but it would be an interesting move if it was widened by The Greens to include the broader issue of political donations. However the Coalition would probably head off any such move.

I’ll update this post with more information as it comes to light.

Update: The Coalition’s attempts to set up an inquiry appear to have stalled with The Shooters wavering.

Update 2: Apparently a NSW MP has been interviewed by police. There are suggestions that McGurk was seeking a seat in Parliament only two days before his death.

Tony Stewart loses court case

Former assistant health minister Tony Stewart was today blocked by the Supreme Court from continuing a legal challenge against the NSW Government.

Stewart was sacked from cabinet after allegedly touching and verbally abusing a staff member. He denied the allegations and launched legal actions against the Government for firing him.

The court ruling is being spun as a “win” for Premier Nathan Rees. My opinion is that any relief Rees will feel from winning the court case will be outweighed by the resurgence of the Tony Stewart fiasco in the minds of the public.

Education Minister Censured

Today in parliament The Greens moved a motion to censure the Minister for Education and Training, Verity Firth, for misleading Parliament over comments she made about the implementation of school league tables being tied to Federal funding.

During the debate over the league tables legislation Verity Firth refused to back down, stating:

We will not put New South Wales at the risk of losing $4.8 billion dollars in Commonwealth investment.

However her representative in the upper house, Penny Sharpe, answered a question by Fred Nile on whether the move to ban league tables would have any impact on the Commonwealth agreement or in anyway threaten Commonwealth funding by saying:

The answer to both questions is no.

Some might consider the move to censure Verity Firth trivial as Labor does not have a majority in the upper house. However, in the context of ongoing scandal the motion is quite embarrassing for the Government, but more importantly, analysing the breakdown of the vote shows the difficulty it faces in the Legislative Council.

The vote passed 18-17 with The Greens, Coalition and Gordon Moyes voting for the motion and Labor and Fred Nile voting against it. The Shooters abstained.

This vote perfectly encapsulates the political dynamic in the upper house. The Coalition will jump on every opportunity to make the Government look bad and Gordon Moyes seems to have developed some kind of environmental and social conscience, for example, siding with The Greens to call on the Minister for State Development to:

(a) respect the right of local communities to peacefully express their opposition to the Repco
Rally, and

(b) actively monitor the environmental and social impacts of the Repco Rally.

On these kinds of motions Fred Nile tends to support the Government as a small thanks for his increase in pay due to his appointment to the useless position of Assistant Deputy President. The Shooters used to be a reliable source of support for Labor but, as discussed previously, they seem desperate to prove they can’t be taken for granted. While showing their bargaining power they aren’t going so far as to actually support censuring the Government, perhaps suggesting a thawing in relations leading to a potential compromise.

After spending weeks denying that the Government was prepared to do deal with The Shooters over their proposal to legalise hunting in national parks, Nathan Rees and Co. look like they’ve backflipped.

The Premier’s Chief of Staff, Graeme Wedderburn, met with The Shooters MP’s offering a compromise deal that would allow hunting in national parks on a “trial basis”. Labor needs the support of The Shooters in the Legislative Council to overturn a ban on publishing simplistic school league tables.

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