Sunday, March 4, 2018
One of the more troublesome aspects of Australian political democracy for me is the amount of scandal that seems to come and go. They come with the smell of reprehensible corruption and go with sleight of hand manipulation.
Investigations, enquiries or whatever seem to take forever and get lost in the essence of time. Even AFP investigations are perceived to be politically tainted. They either support the government or they are hopeless at their job.
James Ashby is a case in point. He admitted on national television that he had illegally sought to steal the diary of the then Speaker of the House, Peter Slipper, yet he faced no charges. In my view, the whole sordid affair required a Royal Commission because one party, the Liberals, were actively engaged in perverting the course of justice by trying to bring down the Speaker and an elected government.
The same James Ashby is now Chief of Staff to Pauline Hanson. Work that out.
More recently we have heard from the lips of Tony Abbott’s former Chief of Staff admit that when Julia Gillard was Prime Minister the Coalition’s attack on a Carbon Tax had little to do with the environment, in fact, nothing to do with it but was basically just brutal retail politics. In other words, a scare campaign. Nothing more and nothing less. In admitting it, they have at least put the historical record straight.
It went on for years with Abbott perpetuating an enormous lie. The public fell for it hook line and sinker, but a lot of them would still welcome Abbott back as Prime Minister.
Together with the photos of Coalition members laughing in a circle when the tax was repealed, and the more recent one of Morrison brandishing a lump of coal, will remind us of the stupidity of their actions in perpetuity.
In the absence of a law forbidding reprehensible inanity, the people are left to judge the absurdity of their actions.
On top of this, we also learned that our involvement in the Iraq war was more a public relations exercise about holding hands with the US than fighting a war. Fairfax media uncovered a comprehensive report which is an assessment of our involvement in the war.
The 572 page declassified report with 500 redactions was written between 2008 and 2011 by Dr Albert Palazzo from Defence’s Directorate of Army Research and Analysis.
The report concludes that Howard joined US president George W. Bush in invading Iraq solely to strengthen Australia’s alliance with the US. Howard’s – and later Kevin Rudd’s – claims of enforcing UN resolutions, stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction and global terrorism, even rebuilding Iraq after the invasion, are dismissed as ”mandatory rhetoric.”
Howard and Sir Peter, facing domestic political pressure, ensured that Australian lives were exposed to as little risk as possible. They knew that Australian deaths would be unpalatable at home.
The result was a contribution that was of only modest military use and, in many cases, made little sense. Politically, delivering the right force was “secondary to the vital requirement of it just being there” but it led some American military officers to grumble that Australia was providing “a series of headquarters.” The war was a lie built on a lie. Why was Australia there? Well, to support the bigger lie that they had weapons of mass destruction.
And I cannot finish without mentioning the biggest cover-up in Australian political history. How we became involved in Vietnam. Sir Robert Menzies had said that he had received a letter from South Vietnamese government to join the war.
What Menzies did not say was that his government had approached the United States requesting such an invitation. When the cabinet papers were revealed 30 years later no letter was mentioned or found.
500 young men lost their lives and 3129 were injured.
The question, of course, is how they get away with it. Another war that we should never have been involved with. It was none of our business. We all read about the corruption that exists. The political donations in return for favours.
The expenses scandals seemly have no end with Julie Bishop taking her partner (a wealthy man by all accounts) around the world with him and the taxpayer paying his expenses. Despite repeated warnings, politicians don’t seem to give a stuff and eat at the smorgasbord of false expenses as often as they can.
There seems no end to it. We know what is needed but politicians are loath to investigate themselves. Yes, we need a national ICAC. Bill Shorten is committed but Turnbull remains silent. No wonder, if Labor is fair dinkum then it needs to be one with teeth and the powers necessary to wipe out political corruption whenever it raises its head.
Other scandals off the top of my head and in no particular order were the Petrov affair, the Morosi affair, Bjelkemander, the 1975 Constitutional crisis, Tampa, Muhamed Haneef, AWB oil for wheat, pink batts, Choppergate, Craig Thompson, Eddie Obeid, and Children Overboard.
You can currently toss into the fire of political scandal suggestions that Barnaby Joyce has acted inappropriately with regard to the sale of water and other things. And of course the behaviour of Michaelia Cash at the Senate Estimates committee meetings.
Now, of course, political scandals are part and parcel of the Australian political landscape but if we live in a so-called enlightened society one has to ask why. Why do politicians allow themselves to become trapped in a mire of scandal? Generally, it’s because they can’t differentiate between good and bad values, or they allow money, power and ideology to corrupt them.
It’s why something needs to be done to improve the quality of the people we select to represent us.
My thought for the day
“Never in the history of this nation have so many people been elected to serve us, but instead serve themselves.”