I read with interest the piece featuring Andrew Hughes, one of the ANU political gurus. Andrew has immense insight for someone who has not been an elected member of the Assembly and has a top set of tea leaves, through the prism of which he looks into the ALP Caucus to speak authoritatively about succession of a new Leader, and thus Chief Minister.
I wish I could get a job so well paid, speaking as though I had inside knowledge and speculating with no substantiation or quoted source to show the legitimacy of the argument. Perhaps I’m just a retired old git who used to be inside the tent.
Well, this is how it really is. For probably 95 per cent of the time, since Jon Stanhope became Chief Minister in 2001, the Grand Poohbah was not selected by Caucus through a factional battle. Jon won the first and only contested ballot for Leader of the Assembly ALP and ever after that, either he kept the job or his successor was negotiated on the basis of merit.
In the Assemblies between 2001 and 2008, the factional numbers were split evenly between Right and Left with the independent Stanhope (with help from Wood) holding the balance, but in the 2008 to 2012 period the numbers were Right 4, Left 2, Independents 2.
Thus it was possible for a coup to have occurred if there was an appetite for it. But when Stanhope decided to go, the transition to Gallagher, from the Left, which had half the numbers of the Right, was seamless. The same occurred when Barr took over from Gallagher.
However, history is often ignored. In the dark days of Assembly life, there was factional number crunching which saw the Left have both the Chief and Deputy Chief Minister positions, just because they had the numbers. The ALP grew up in 1998. In fact, the ALP has had two Left Chief Ministers – Rosemary Follett and Katy Gallagher, and the Right has only had one Chief Minister – Andrew Barr.
But the longest-running Chief Minister was the Independent Jon Stanhope who was primarily either a negotiated or compromise Poobah. Thankfully, wiser heads prevail these days.
If, and it is a very big if, the Chief Poohbah does pack his backpack and head for Melbourne or Tasmania, a countback will ensue, just like for Katy and Andrew himself. We know the vagaries of Hare-Clark always return a new member from the party in which they ran. The next one will be no different.
Votes for the resigning member are recounted to apportion the second, third and so on preferences. The probability, therefore, is that his seat will be a race between Josh Ceramidas, Leah Dwyer and Richard Niven.
So here’s the big call.
If the Chief Poohbah takes off, the Left’s Dwyer probably gets his job in Kurrajong and the factional numbers now swing to the Left. When the Assembly first came together in 2016, the Right had 6, the Left had 5 and the Independents had one. A total of 12.
After a countback, the numbers will be Right 4, Left 6 and Independents 2 (Pettersson left the Right to go independent). So the fate of Berry and Fitzharris will either be negotiated or through a ballot in which Ramsay and Pettersson have the whip. The left could do a deal with either and then it is game over. Berry for CM.
My bet is that Fitzharris will get the nod, through negotiation to ensure a seamless transition this side of an election. Should she lose the election, she and Anne Boleyn will have something in common.
Among the arguments will include the fact that Fitzharris has had two difficult portfolios and hasn’t crumbled, whereas Berry has had a couple of dream portfolios.
Both will need to contend with the “It’s Time” scenario but you can bet the Libs will dust off the old Carnell slogan, “Don’t Berry Canberra” to associate, wrongly, Yvette with her dad.
The Libs though, haven’t shown any reason to change, have become either complacent or sloth-like in pursuing the Government. Cardboard cut-outs.