Saturday 21 May 2016
Leaking is not unusual. In politics it is the fat from which journalists feed. One of the most famous was during the height of the Iraq war when the Howard Government came under a lot of criticism from Andrew Wilkie. Wilikie had worked as an intelligence officer for the ONA. Howard leaked classified information to Andrew Bolt who then did a stitch up job on him.
There are many others of course. The following are from an article in the Drum 2/2015:
There was the leak in the Australian that the Howard Government had considered a unilateral invasion of Iraq contrary to what it had said.
Fairfax published excerpts of two candid and blunt emails from Liberal treasurer Phil Higginson about the conflict of interest of husband and wife pairing of the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Peta Credlin, and the party’s federal director, Brian Loughnane.
Remember the leaking of private note from Party President Shane Stone to Laurie Oakes in which he described the Howard government as ‘’mean and tricky.
In 2012 a leaked video of Kevin Rudd losing his temper and swearing found its way onto social media.
In 2002, the Democrats faced what proved to be an existential crisis when letters were leaked in which former leader Meg Lees attacked her successor Natasha Stott-Despoja.
In 1988, Prime Minister Bob Hawke agreed to hand over the Labor leadership to Paul Keating after the 1990 election, but later reneged.
Laurie Oakes, who revealed the pact for Channel Nine, later said the leak had come from Keating’s leadership campaign manager Graham Richardson.
And what about Rudd’s constant leaks in order to destabilise Julia Gillard and Abbott’s leaks against Malcolm Turnbull.
In the last few weeks details were leaked about the Coalition’s plan to use taxpayer funds to promote a political advertising campaign in support of the May 3 Budget.
Of course these are only but a few. There have been more than 20 leaks on national security, leaks from the national security cabinet that have not been investigated.
Internationally we have had Wikileaks and the Panama papers. As a result of the Panama papers 800 Australians are under the investigation of the ATO.
Leaks are common in politics. Parties do so to embarrass their opposition or to promote themselves. Budget week is a typical example.
Often informers leak because they see dishonesty before them and want it corrected. They take an enormous risk in revealing information. Others obtain information illegally with no other thought than to damage their opponents.
What makes the raid on the Labor party’s member’s premises different is important for three reasons. Firstly it most unusual, even unheard of, to do such a thing during the course of a federal election. Secondly the NBN Co is not independent of the government, it is owned by government.
It is beyond plausibility, beyond the pub test, to believe that someone in the Government didn’t know that the raids were to take place. The Government has two directors on the board. Surely they knew and it would have been fed to the Prime Minister.
Thirdly it has the footprint of the AFP written all over it. Conservative governments have not been reluctant to give, at a very high cost, all the resources it required. It is not always even-handed. In the case of the Bali nine they allowed a crime to be committed when they could have prevented it. It cost two young men their lives.
They have been sitting on the Mal Brough investigation for what seems an eternity. Only recently have they got of their bums to do anything about it.
As Tony Burke points out:
“The thing that I also know with this, is during the life of this Parliament, on 23 different occasions we’ve asked about leaks from all parts of this government, right through to the national security committee of cabinet. The night before the budget government staffers were handing out cabinet in confidence documents around the press gallery”.
“I know how many of those inquiries have resulted in police raids. I don’t know how many times they’ve been referred to the AFP”.
Kaye Lee writing for The AIMN had this to say.
“The other thing that is weird is that the cost blowout to $56 billion was reported by the Minister himself in August 2015 when NBNco released its corporate plan. They made a referral to the AFP in December. But it wasn’t until February that the leak was published of a “damning internal progress report” showing that the project has fallen two-thirds short of its benchmark construction timetable and connection costs to each house or business are also blowing out”.
So what were they complaining about in December?
The leaks relate to a story published by Fairfax media in the Sydney Morning Herald. The story said that the NBN network was facing mounting delays and rising costs, based on documents marked “commercial in confidence” and “for official use only”,
At the time the article caused “immense damage” to the Prime Minister as former communications minister. There was a massive blow out of costs of billions and billions of dollars, and of course huge delays in the roll out of the NBN.
Malcolm Turnbull when talking about the NBN brushes off any criticism as though there were not a worry in the world. Greg Hunt does the same on the environment. The fact is we are getting an inferior NBN compared with Labor’s proposal at a higher cost.
I’m not sure if political campaign strategists Crosby Textor are working on LNP strategy for this election but all this seems to have their mark on it.
Crosby is known for what Boris Johnson describes as the dead cat theory. It goes like this:
“Let us suppose you are losing an argument. The facts are overwhelmingly against you, and the more people focus on the reality the worse it is for you and your case. Your best bet in these circumstances is to perform a manoeuvre that a great campaigner describes as ‘throwing a dead cat on the table, mate’’.”
“The dead cat strategy which involves distracting the public from a politically difficult issue by creating shocking news’”.
Like many other policies Turnbull has compromised his beliefs for the sake of position and power.
My own view is that Labor has been given a gift. One where they can exploit Turnbull’s abysmal performance with the NBN. During Howard’s tenure the LNP had 13 attempts to get it right and made a complete mess each time. Howard didn’t know how to send an email. Abbott thought it was just for porn and the Attorney General can’t use a computer. Luddites the lot of them.
My thought for the day.
“On the NBN. The problem with designing a network to meet the needs of today is that it denies you the ability to meet the needs of tomorrow”.
PS: The Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Outlook [PEFO], which is prepared by the two central economic agencies and released without the involvement of government within 10 days of an election being called does not look good.