Two days to go. How to vote?
WA skeptics can make a difference here, but I have to deal with the DelCon dilemma too.
Dr Dennis Jensen is the most qualified science trained and outspoken skeptic in Parliament, and he’s running as an Independent on Saturday. For Tangney voters, it’s a pointed dilemma. Jensen bravely spoke out as a skeptic in 2004, before almost anyone else. He also helped to toss out Turnbull in 2009. But then he bafflingly (to me) voted for Turnbull last year — undoing almost all the gains skeptics had made in the last 10 years. I wrote to him pointing out how far backwards we have gone: “We are now so much worse off than we were in 2010 or 2013. We don’t even have a major party in opposition offering us a skeptical alternative and we won’t get one as long as Turnbull is PM. In 2013 Tony Abbott won on a blood oath to get rid of a carbon tax that Australians overwhelmingly wanted. Despite that, a carbon tax starts in 3 days. We skeptics haven’t forgotten that you spoke out for skeptics when no one else did, but neither can we ignore a decision that set us back ten years.”
Dennis Jensen is in a safe Liberal seat with a big margin — his seat was not threatened — so his choice was not about self preservation. Since the Turnbull vote, he has lost pre-selection and is running as an Independent.
Churlishly, incredibly cynically, the Liberal Party are preferencing the Labor candidate over him (the Labor Party has returned that favour). UPDATE: This was not so. Jensen was #2 on the Liberal ticket, as would seem fair. (I’ll try to find out what happened. When I spoke to Jensen on Wednesday he had been told the preferences were not that way.) So the establishment closes ranks and Jensen is too big a threat. I asked Dennis if he regretted supporting Turnbull and his reply was that it was an “agonizing” choice and Turnbull has been a major disappointment — but at the time he sincerely felt that Shorten would win if he didn’t. Plus Turnbull had agreed to keep the same climate policy and the plebiscite on gay marriage. (I guess Jensen, like most people, was unaware that the Abbott plan contained the subclause to bring in a carbon tax through CapNTrade.)
It’s the Delcon dilemma, and I would have picked the other way. I believe Abbott would have won this election – despite the long-running poor polls. The whole campaign has been about bread and circuses, distractions, fake scares, non-issues and fantasy-distant scenarios. If Abbott just reminded everyone about the boats, the carbon tax, the pink batts, and the monster debt, the public would have still picked the incumbents. But Dennis was there at the coal-face, and he saw things differently.
If he is to take on the establishment, grassroots support at the polling booths will make a big difference. So, if you are near the seat of Tangney (southern Perth) I know Dennis will be grateful. For the Delcons, it’s a question of thinking forwards: whether you think he would make a better MP than the establishment candidates.
Due to Jensen being the longest running and most outspoken skeptic in Parliament, and not in a major Party, David and I will head down and help out on Saturday. If you feel strongly about this election, and about the Senate too, you can share your thoughts with scores of voters at an influential moment. Dennis is outside the party machine now and is a better representative for science in the House than anyone else. People who want to help on the day can phone Reece at Denis’ office on 9354 9633.
Jensen is good on policy, but maybe not so strong at networking. If you think that numbers-guys and science trained thinkers ought be in Parliament rather than smooth talking networkers then those type of people need support.
Here is his reply, below.
Guest post Dr Dennis Jensen M.P.
The decision I made that night of the leadership coup is one that I will replay in my mind for the rest of my life. I cannot really say what the ideal action would have been; I really don’t think there was one. I made a very narrow judgement call that many will judge me on. Ultimately I came to the conclusion that the conservative cause in Australia is more important than any individual.
I hope that this explains why I took the actions I did, even if some will forever condemn me for them. They were not easy, and I really do not know whether I made the right decision.
I have to say that I am really pleased to be out of the Liberal Party. I can now focus on the job, rather than focus on the Liberal Party, and massage overinflated egos. The Liberal Party grassroots members are some of the best people you can hope to meet, but those pushing and manoeuvring for office bearing positions are some of the worst. I am just glad to be out of it, and all the Machiavellian games, so I can focus on constituents and policy, unconstrained by party dictate.
First, it is important to note that I am philosophically far more aligned with Tony Abbott than Malcolm Turnbull. It is also important to note that I was central to Tony Abbott wresting the leadership in 2009 from Turnbull over the issue of the ETS.
Fast forward to late 2014. I texted Tony Abbott of my concerns regarding his leadership (I had also spoken with him about this). Unfortunately, nothing seemed to change. His office was an echo chamber, designed to keep MPs away from Tony. The office was effectively a closed shop. After my expression of concern, including the lack of strategic direction and so on, nothing changed. It was business as usual, mistake after mistake being made as the decisions were being made by very few people, no reality check and no devil’s advocate. Then there was the “Sir Prince Phillip” issue, and I decided to fire a shot across the bows, by publicly stating that he had lost my support in early February last year. What eventuated was a spill motion that failed. Too his credit, at that stage, Abbott opened up a lot more, and things started to improve. I was very pleased with this.
Unfortunately, sometimes people cannot adapt, and fall back to familiar ways, and this occurred with Abbott, and by the middle of the year things had fundamentally returned to the way they were. I sensed a hardening of the sentiment about Abbott in the community at that stage (in February, after the spill, I had sensed that people were prepared to give him a second chance). This process, in my view, became absolutely rock solid when the Choppergate issue occurred, and Abbott did nothing about it for way too long. I had staunch conservatives in the electorate and in the Liberal Party state council telling me that Abbott had to go, including the Tangney Divisional president Phil Turtle.
Thus, when the actual spill occurred (I was not an active participant), and Turnbull was the only candidate, I was stuck with a really hard choice. My partner Trudy could verify that I phoned her the evening of the spill, agonising over which way to go. In the end, my view was that if Abbott were to contest an election against Shorten, Shorten would win. Thus I believed that the only option to prevent Shorten becoming PM was installing Turnbull as the leader, as there were no conservatives who had nominated for the leadership. I thought that we would have to force Turnbull to accept and sign on to two things:
1) No change in climate policy
2) A referendum on gay marriage
I ended up voting for Turnbull because he signed onto those two points. He has been a huge disappointment, with no strategic vision and worse, no action on anything! I did not feel comfortable with the decision to install him, and was caught between a rock and a hard place. I still firmly believe that the electorate’s view of Abbott had solidified, and that he would have lost the election. It is faint recompense that Turnbull will probably win, as his government is effectively a policy-free zone. Possibly I should just have supported Abbott, electoral consequences be damned. All very well in hindsight, and even then, a tough call considering the alternative.
Tony and I still have respect for each other. Indeed, a few weeks ago he said I was a good solid member, and a couple of months ago texted me that I was a good man.
At present, I am campaigning as an Independent, unsupported by a massive Party machine. As such, things are tough, and if anyone is able to assist on Saturday handing out How To Vote Cards, I would greatly appreciate it.