The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (15:37): After 12 years it is sad to watch a government disintegrate before our eyes: a government in turmoil, a government of ministers and staffers tearing each other apart, and a premier showing clear signs of poor judgement, irrational decision-making and of cracking under significant pressure on a range of issues.
We now see senior right members and staffers openly regretting the decision they took to install Mr Weatherill into the position of premier, openly saying to anyone who will listen that they now question the Premier’s political judgement on a range of issues, such as the Future Fund, the Debelle report and how it has been handled, and his insistence on defending the indefensible in relation to protecting his staff, such as Mr Blewett and Mr Harvey. In fact, I am told that even Mr Blewett has been open enough at a recent meeting with staff to apologise to other staff members in other ministers’ offices about the trouble and the grief that he has caused for the government in relation to his actions.
These senior right ministers and staffers are questioning openly the Premier’s decisions to embark on a carpet bombing of journalists and others with defamation actions. The Premier, as we all know, has instituted legal action against Michael Owen from The Australian, The Australian as well, the ABC and the member for Unley, amongst others. There might be others. Mr Blewett and Kate Baldock, I understand, are suing The Australian. Minister Portolesi is suing the member for Unley. We see, as I said, a carpet bombing of anyone who questions the government or its ministers or staffers with threatened defamation actions.
Indeed, the Premier also claims that defamatory statements have been made about him in parliament, without ever giving any indication or evidence of what he claims to be defamatory. What I would challenge him to do is indicate the legal advice that he and others who are suing journalists and others are receiving, the rate they are being charged by lawyers for their advice and the number of hours that they are being charged for the work that is being done for the legal advice so that we can all assure ourselves that mates’ rates are not being charged to the Premier and others as they carpet bomb anybody in the community with legal action.
Senior right ministers and staffers are also questioning the Premier’s ability now to win the next election. I am advised that internal Labor Party research is showing that the approval rating for the Premier is tanking, as is his net favourability rating, and some candidates are openly talking of trying to distance themselves from branding with the Premier at the next state election.
Some members of the Premier’s own media unit are telling anyone who will listen, as they seek to distance themselves from the Premier, that the Premier is not listening to advice. They describe him as having a messiah complex, and only yes-men and women who tell the Premier what he wants to hear are the ones being listened to at the moment. Anyone who puts a different point of view is being sidelined or ostracised.
The final example of a government and a leader disintegrating before our eyes and, I guess, the last recourse for leaders under pressure—leaders who have lost all touch with reality—is that he is now instituting black bans on journalists he does not like. For example, The Australian journalist, Mr Michael Owen, now has no emails or text messages and no advice in relation to press releases or media conferences. No information at all is allowed to be provided to Mr Owen and The Australian—Mr Owen, in particular—because the Premier does not like the quality of the work that Mr Owen has continued to provide in terms of commentary on the Debelle issue, and other issues as well.
It is no wonder that, as I said, staffers and Labor figures are now openly saying that representatives of minister Rau and the right are openly canvassing and taking initial soundings on the numbers in caucus in relation to any potential for leadership change.