March 06, 2019

Horse 2515 - Tony Abbott Complains About Branch Stacking And Runs A Possibly Illegal Internship Program

Although I live in the bogan western suburbs of Sydney, I work in the Insanic Kingdom of Mosman. Mosman is possibly the blue riband seat of the Liberal Party and we have found this week that even the thought that someone might challenge the sitting member Tony Abbot in the as yet uncalled May election (May 18, mark my words) is enough for both the Mosman Daily and the Manly Daily to lose their minds.

"The story here, I think is not that one or two short-term Liberals were ostentatiously resigning. The story was that GetUp was sufficiently sophisticated to plant people."
Mr Abbott said there was "absolutely no doubt" that branch stacking attempts were being made in Mosman branches of the Liberal Party is a bid to destabilise his support base.
"This group, the North Shore Environmental Stewards (founded by one of the former Liberals, Rob Grant) was created for the purpose of trying to get people, climate activists into the Liberal Party for the purposes of making trouble for me," he said.
- Manly Daily, 6th Mar 2019

In passing I will comment that both the Manly Daily and the Mosman Daily, having both lost their editorial independence, now both carry puff pieces masquerading as news. Their letters sections mirrors their mothership newspaper the Daily Telegraph and also chime in with their blatant partisanship.
The Mosman Daily exists almost entirely to sell properties to other people living in Mosman, while the Manly Daily exists as the propaganda wing for the IPA/News Corp/Liberal Party triumvirate/cabal.

I will also point out that the Manly Daily, doesn't really have a proper staff of journalists and cadged the front page's article off of Tony Abbott's twitter feed:

“Zali’s Liberal Army” (today’s Manly Daily headline) has just two members. Julie Giannesini who hasn’t been a member since 2007 and when she tried to rejoin late last year was rejected by the Mosman branch because she was so obviously a plant.
- Tony Abbott MP, via Twitter, 2nd Mar 2019 (7:56pm)

And Rob Grant who joined a branch just 12 months ago as part of a left wing stack. These aren’t Liberals, just left wing entryists who joined so they could ostentatiously resign. The MD was told this but still chose to peddle fake news
- Tony Abbott MP, via Twitter, 2nd Mar 2019 (7:56pm)

I find it somewhat ironic that a democratically elected member of parliament should complain about attempts to undermine democracy by acting in ways that are actually entirely democratic in nature. I find it especially ironic considering that once in parliament, Tony Abbott has been very influential in playing factional politics; which was in fact the reason why he became party leader in the first place and subsequently Prime Minister, and then further playing factional politics, which is the reason why Peter Dutton had a tilt at the top job at all. This is further built on the irony that Tony himself has the position in that seat, because of the career that he had.

After being president of the National Union of Students, and surviving a charge for indecent assault after he lawyered up and basically out stared the lady who took him to court, he became a youth pastor of sorts at Emu Plains and quit that job because it was too hard.
For a time he worked as a plant manager for Pioneer Concrete (probably at Pendle Hill) before becoming press secretary to Liberal Leader John Hewson from 1990 to 1993, helping to develop the "Fightback!" (exclamation mark included) policy; after which he was parachuted into the extreme safe seat of Warringah, which has always been held by the Liberal Party of Australia or its predecessors since its inception in 1922.
Tony's political career itself is purely because of the directives of the Liberal Party and the crushing of the local party branches.

I would think that the very practice of signing up members for a local branch of a political party with the express purpose of changing policy within the party, is in fact one of the highest and best expressions of democracy. Actually getting people to have say about the preselections of candidates as opposed to doing it through the ballot box, is by definition, a way of enacting change from the inside.
It is somewhat bewildering to me that the Manly Daily article, suggests that just 12 people are enough to destabilise his support base, and by inference, the people of Warringah should be very very worried.

There is a second and somewhat troubling chapter to this story though:

Former prime minister Tony Abbott will hire up to 20 unpaid interns to work on his re-election campaign in Warringah in a clear sign of the enormous electoral pressure facing the 25-year political veteran.
An advertisement posted on Mr Abbott's Battlelines website announces a snap four-day search for "dedicated and energetic people" to assist on the campaign over the next eight weeks.
- Michael Koziol, Sydney Morning Herald, 5th Mar 2019

The text of that website is thus:

Politics is a noble calling that is all about improving people’s lives.
And running smart, effective political campaigns is absolutely essential in achieving those lofty aims.
There has never been a more important time to invest in the future of bright, young, upcoming talent – which is why I’m launching the Battlelines Bootcamp.
Battlelines Bootcamp will introduce recruits to best-practice campaign techniques and provide on-the-ground practical campaign training.

So here’s everything you need to know:
8-week internship based in the Warringah campaign
Up to 20 internships are available for dedicated and energetic people eager to learn the art of political campaigning
Learn best-practice campaign techniques with on the ground practical training
We’re looking for people with advanced IT skills who have a demonstrated commitment to the values of the Liberal Party.
Please send applications to with at least 2 current references.

Applications open Tuesday 5 March and close Friday 8 March 2019.
- Battlelines Bootcamp as at 6th Mar 2019

There is a distinct problem with this. As the Sydney Morning Herald reports and as I have subsequently confirmed independently by emailing them, those 20 interns are unpaid.

As Fair Work Australia has said on their website:
Unpaid work experience, job placements and internships that are not vocational placements will be unlawful if the person is in an employment relationship with the business or organisation they are doing the work for. People in employment relationships are employees of a business and entitled to:
- a minimum wage
- the National Employment Standards
- the terms of any applicable award or registered agreement.

These "internships" are not vocational placements and are explicitly about running a political campaign. On the face of it this appears to violate the Fair Work Act 2009.

To summarise:
We have an MP complaining about supposed branch stacking in his own party while at the same time conducting unpaid internships which appear to be on the face of it illegal.
And he wants to remain as the Member for Warringah?