It seems that we have two very interesting narratives over the past week. After it’s announced that ICAC is launching an investigation into Gladys Berijiklian, the NSW Premier resigns. This is widely mourned by politicians and their stenographers, who argue such things as: Why should an unelected body have the power to take down a popular premier in the middle of a pandemic. Unelected bodies investigation politicians? This is undemocratic. Would we allow the police to check whether a politician has obeyed the law? I mean if it’s discovered that a member of the Morrison government has breached a law, we get told that it must be the law that’s wrong and just because a judge says in court that a minister has broken the law, that doesn’t mean that the minister shouldn’t be promoted.
Of course, this narrative overlooks a few basic facts and I’m not just talking about the fact that Gladys resigned and wasn’t actually forced to. There is an argument put by some that once an investigation was launched she had no choice but to stand aside and that’s what’s outrageous about it because of the whole presumption of innocence thing… I’ll come back to this later. However, the most obvious basic fact is that an Independent Commission Against Corruption needs to be what it’s name suggests: It needs to be independent and – ignoring the fact that every media organisation seems to suggest that there’s always and a need for balance – it actually needs to be against corruption.
«Hi, every one. We’re just making some changes. ICAC will be brought under the office of the Attorney-General and will need the minister’s approval before it can ask anyone about anything. As well as this, it will need to also look at the benefits of any corruption and how it has driven economic growth, as well as any negative economic consequences from the corrupt party hoarding any bags of cash and not spending them. Henceforth it will be called the Commission For And Against Corruption Depending On Who’s Doing It And How Much It Cost Taxpayers.»
So, we’ve had several days of mourning for Gladys, the strong, competent, clear-headed courageous leader who is simultaneously unable to get the stars out of her eyes and has just been deceived by a cad who didn’t tell her what he was up to and she had the good sense to tell him not to.
Then, along comes the story about IBAC and Dan Andrews. A story is published which says that an anonymous source has tipped them off that IBAC may be going to question Andrews. About what? A deal with the Firefighters Union. This, according to some, is more than a good reason for him to go. When asked about it, he says that you’ll have to ask IBAC because you’re not meant to go public about their investigations, but hey, surely, if you’re not being questioned, you should deny it.
Presumption of innocence? That’s only for people who are actually being investigated… Or in the case of federal ministers, not being investigated because the police don’t start investigating them because they should be presumed innocent and what’s the point of wasting time investigating someone innocent. Of course, if evidence turns up without the police investigating that’s a bit inconvenient but we need to be sure that the evidence is sound, so we’ll ask some of those connected to the innocent party if they know anything about where the evidence could be found and if they don’t, well, what can you do.
When it comes to a Labor premier, as Tim Smith said, «Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.» This may have been a reference to the firefighters union or it may have just been him using an old saying which is demonstrably wrong because there are other things which may produce smoke apart from fires. However, notwithstanding Tim Smith who’s main role as shadow Attorney-General is to make Michaelia Cash seem like a competent choice, it’s interesting to compare the reaction to the two premiers.
Gladys, whose involvement with a corrupt boyfriend where she either deliberately ignored his behaviour or was dangerously incompetent at noticing, resigns before an investigation and there’s a general gnashing of teeth at the unfairness of it all. This is the middle of a pandemic and changing leaders is not something anyone should want. Dan, who may or may not be appearing in an IBAC investigation which may or may not be about his behaviour, is «refusing» to stand aside and «stubbornly» continuing to lead his state and refusing to answer questions that may be a breach of the law were he to talk about the inquiry which may or may not exist.
We’ll probably know more in the coming days. And if it’s discovered that Andrews has appeared then it’s only right that he should be placed in the stocks and publicly flogged, even if he was only appearing as a witness where he is cooperating to help bring to light branch stacking in the Labor Party. (Branch stacking doesn’t occur in the Liberal Party; they only have aggressive recruitment).
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