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Leadership, scandal, and the political process

When sitting Liberal Prime Minister John Howard lost his seat in the 2007 Federal election, three people raised their hand for the leadership of the party the next day. By Wednesday, one of them, Tony Abbott, had withdrawn due to lack of numbers, leaving Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull to contest the leadership ballot the next day.

That night, November 28 2007, Abbott appeared on Lateline with Tony Jones.

He blamed, in part, his close relationship with John Howard as a reason he did not have support for the leadership.

“I think it is true just at the moment, the Party thinks that it is important to move on from the Howard era. And I obviously have always been very closely associated with John Howard. I think history will judge him very well. But just at the moment, the Party is devastated understandably by the loss and wants to distance itself from the recent past.”

But Tony said he had “staked a claim”.

TONY ABBOTT: This time does not suit me. Who knows what the future might hold…. I’m certainly not guaranteeing that I won’t in the future challenge for the leadership.

TONY JONES: You mean during the next term? Because, we know what conservative governments in defeat were like in Britain: revolving doors for leaders.

TONY ABBOTT: And let us hope that that doesn’t happen to this conservative opposition.

Brendan Nelson won the leadership ballot. Less than 10 months later, he was rolled by Malcolm Turnbull. Fifteen months on, Turnbull was rolled by Abbott.

Jones went on to ask Abbott about Turnbull’s proposed ‘symbolic changes’: “an Australian Republic, sorry to the stolen generation, ratify Kyoto, he is sympathetic to the gay agenda and he now rejects WorkChoices outright.”

When asked if he accepted the symbolism of saying sorry to Indigenous Australians, Abbott replied

“Look, I think John Howard successfully moved us beyond that. And frankly, if Kevin Rudd wants to get into that quagmire, I think he is making a big mistake.”

Tony had just attended a lunch at the Lodge, the last hosted by Howard for his government colleagues. When asked why Peter Costello and his wife were not at the lunch, he had no answer.

Jones then asked about Howard’s state of mind, did he think the loss was his fault.

“He knows that there were many decisions that he made in the last term that will inevitably be called into question. And maybe he got some of those calls wrong… I think that he has come to the conclusion that it wasn’t really him. It was the fact that the government was 11.5 years old.”

They then went on to discuss one of the lowest examples of Liberal gutter politics, something that derailed the dying days of the Howard campaign – the Lindsay pamphlet scandal.

Liberal Party volunteers, including the husbands of retiring member Jackie Kelly and Liberal candidate Karen Chijoff, distributed fake election pamphlets alleged to have been printed at taxpayers’ expense in Kelly’s office in the western suburbs seat of Lindsay. Knowledge of the stunt allegedly went right up the chain to the state executive.

The pamphlet claimed to be from “The Islamic Australia Federation”, a non-existent organisation. It strongly urged support for the Labor party in the upcoming federal election and went on to praise the ALP on a number of divisive issues, including:

  • [forgiving] our Muslim brothers who have been unjustly sentenced to death for the Bali bombings, referring to the Labor party’s opposition to the death penalty (in particular Robert McClelland’s comments) and the Liberals’ argument that this policy supports the Bali bombers themselves
  • Supporting the construction of a new mosque, as well as the opening of a new mosque in St Marys with the help of local and state government funding
  • Support for controversial former Grand Mufti Sheik Taj El-Din Hilaly (spelt “Al-Hilaly”)

The pamphlet also misspelt Allahu Akbar as “Ala Akba”, with the ALP logo on either side. The logo used was an obsolete one that had been retired after the previous election in 2004. There was also no authorising statement, which all political advertising is required to include.

Interestingly, it was Luke Foley, current NSW Labor leader who was then assistant secretary of the ALP, who, acting on a tip off from an anonymous member of the Liberal Party, organised a sting operation which caught the miscreants red-handed.

Jackie Kelly, who Abbott described as “my best friend in the Parliament”, spoke about it on radio on 22 November in spite of a party directive not to do so. She said her first instinct when she saw the pamphlet was to laugh because it was a parody of some things that had occurred during the election campaign and compared it to a prank by the satirical comedy team The Chaser.

“When I first read it I had to laugh … pretty much everyone who has read (it) chuckles, in terms of the parody it does make of various things that have happened during the campaign. My view is that it’s a bit of Chaser-style prank.”

The police disagreed and five men were charged with distribution of unauthorised electoral material resulting in three of them being issued with small fines.

Abbott admitted he had spoken to Kelly before she gave what was described as the worst interview ever done by a member of parliament and there was some suggestion that the Chaser defence had been his idea.

The Sydney-based chairman of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Ikebal Patel, said falsification of election material created a further rift between mainstream community and Muslims. The Mufti of Australia, Fehmi Naji, said “When people read stuff like that, they say ‘why are we putting up with Muslims?’ We want to stop that thought, and show that we can live together and carry out our duty to our country together.”

Whipping up fear about Muslims is not a new sport for the Liberals.

The Lateline interview concluded with Jones thanking Abbott.

TONY JONES: Tony Abbott, we thank you once again. A hard day at the office. I’ve got to say, you always come in on hard days – some of the hardest days – to talk about it. That is one thing to be admired about you and we thank you very much for coming in once again.

TONY ABBOTT: Part of the political process and democratic accountability, Tony.

Sadly, under a Credlin led government, democratic accountability is no longer part of the political process.


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  1. Emily Davison

    oh look ANOTHER post by Kay Lee – that’s what I love about this blog, the diversity of opinions

  2. Kaye Lee

    My husband always says “Never give her the microphone. Once you start her up….”

  3. Free-Thinker

    Thanks Kaye for re-activating this issue again.

    Rightly you alert us to Abbott’s most finely finessed skill: his ability to sledge and smear his political opponents, and that this ‘ ability’ has a deep history.

    Beware as we approach the next election.

  4. Kaye Lee

    The Credlin dirt files will be getting a workout.

    The Libs have a history of this sort of stuff. Also from that time….

    Ed Husic, a Labor candidate for the seat of Greenway in the 2004 election who was the subject of a racist letterboxing campaign, said the revelations prove race-baiting is an established Coalition technique.

    Mr Husic, a Muslim who lost to the Liberals’ Louise Markus by about 800 votes, said the only difference between the 2004 and 2007 incidents is that this time the perpetrators have been caught.

    On the Friday night before the 2004 election, anonymous campaigners plastered Greenway with a leaflet that read: “Ed Husic is a devout Muslim. Ed is working hard to get a better deal for Islam in Greenway.” The leaflet carried a picture of Mr Husic, the ALP logo and its campaign slogan, making it appear genuine.

    Mr Husic said the issue in Greenway then and Lindsay now was not so much who produced the propaganda but who benefited from it.

    A former Liberal Party campaign worker yesterday said the retiring member for Lindsay, Jackie Kelly, had used such dirty tactics before.

    Ken Higgs, a booth captain in Lindsay in 2001, said Ms Kelly and her crew printed fake how-to-vote cards in 2001 to capture the preferences of a local action group that was trying to save a former defence site at St Marys.

    “It was actually a fake how-to-vote card … intended to deceive voters into voting for Jackie Kelly instead of the Save the ADI site candidate.”

    Earlier this year Ms Kelly was caught using electorate office resources to support a business distributing clothing bearing the Australian flag.

    In Bennelong and Parramatta, candidates have been targeted by Right to Life Australia with a leaflet accusing them of being pro-abortion and supporting “destructive research on human embryos”.


  5. kerri

    Sounds like Emily Davison needs to write and article for the A.I.M.N.?
    The opinions are generally from those who make the effort to contribute and take the time to research!
    Good article Kaye. I hope it gets well shared on facebook!
    Oh hey? And wasn’t that the same Jackie Kelly who failed to renounce her New Zealand citizenship??

  6. Bilal

    This incident is fresh in the minds of most Australian Muslims, as is the link between NCC admirer Abbott and Kelly. We know that the Aryan supremacists of the “Liberal” Uglies were major supporters of Abbott’s beloved Kero Bishop. The attitude of the extremists running the government towards the First Nations people in inland settlements – an lifestyle choice- is also well known. If this front bench continues its depredations for much longer we will be under international sanctions. Howard was a centrist democrat compared to this lot and its Dear Leader.

  7. jagman48

    Emily Davidson instead of bleating about who posts when and where, why don’t you try to write something constructive. Or else just go away please.

  8. Florence nee Fedup

    Yes Kaye is a prolific contributor but keeps coming up with new topics to discuss. There are also many other authors that contribute, on many different topics. New people are always welcome.

    Emily what else could one want?

    Personally I am jealous of her ability to be across so many topics.

  9. Aortic

    Yeah Emily, Piers Akerman and Miranda Devine have your sort of stuff in the daily Tellmecrap.

  10. David Bruce

    I sometimes wonder if Credlin is also a Khazar Kagan, similar to that Nuland woman who caused all the catastrophes in Ukraine?

  11. Kyran

    In the past few weeks, there have been a few ‘political scandals’ in the news. One was a ‘House of Lord’s’ bloke, enjoying what appeared to be cocaine, with a prostitute. Both of which, he apparently assures her, were paid for by his government allowance. I think it was a ,news corpse’ taping. There was a speaker in the ACT who decided her need to get to Geelong was so great, she had to hire a helicopter from a ‘mate’, at an inflated price, to get there. The reaction by ‘the leaders’ could not be more contrasting.

    A minister in the Victorian Government resigned today, because the premier said his behaviour was unacceptable and his position was, therefore, untenable. Being old enough to remember the 70’s, I have been trying desperately to find the name of the Whitlam minister who resigned because he failed to declare a teddy bear. The standards imposed by genuine leaders (as opposed to wannabe’s) is fairly stark.

    Also worthy of reflection, with particular regard to this article, is the exemption granted to political party’s in Australia by the ACCC for non observance of ‘false, misleading and/or deceptive conduct’ principles.

    “The ACCC, as recently as last Sunday on Meet The Press on Channel 10, has generally taken the view that since Part V of the Trade Practices Act 1974 only applies to persons or corporations engaged in trade or commerce, it does not apply to advertisements or other statements by government or political parties in the course of political debate or political advertising or in the course of governments issuing advertisements or information informing, or purporting to inform the public about their policies and their claimed effects.”


    That one related to the introduction of the GST in 2000. Political party’s, a ‘democratic duopoly’, have exemptions under most acts. Not just the trade practices act, but various acts pertaining to vilification, privacy, charitable status and so on. In my mind, if they wannabe leaders, their standards should be higher, not lower, than those that apply for us mere voters.

    With regard to the microphone thing, next time you get it, it would be appropriate to cite the principles of Emily’s List. It was on the news this morning because the conservatives need to do something about female representation, according to females in their party. See? Irony.
    Thank you, Ms Lee. Take care

  12. Kaye Lee

    Emily is entitled to her opinion that I should express my opinion less because at the AIMN we encourage people to express their opinions. I hope she exercises her choice and does not let her annoyance with my verbosity stop her from reading the many wonderful articles and astute comments made by people who aren’t me.

  13. Bilal

    Your articles are very much appreciated Kaye Lee. Don’t let grumpy comments upset you. They are more a sign of your effectiveness.

  14. Trace

    Kaye Lee……I hope you do realise that the Emily above is not a real person but a torrie, a Adolf aka Abbott supporter…..it is a well know fact that Adolf has recently spent 4 million dollars in order to monitor SM…..interesting story where he got the money from, you should look into that Kaye, try, a public hospital having it’s much needed MRI machine closed down….
    Any who…..Adolf pays torries well to sit at home and make up hundreds upon hundreds of fake profiles to troll anti Lib and anti Adolf sites…..
    He has done it before and he’s doing it again, except this time, he has access to a heap more of tax payers money….
    Do not, for one minute, think this guy is just a buffoon…..not at all, he is the most dangerous, evil, corrupt PM we have ever had…….his story for Australia is not one he is willing to share…..yet……but by the time people wake up and see his master plan, it will be far, far too late…..
    Believe me, if Adolf gets in again…..it will be the end of Australia as we know it……

  15. Kaye Lee

    I was a casual high school maths teacher for quite a while. It was a good learning experience at dealing with grumpy comments. They don’t trouble me 🙂 Emily is right about me talking a lot. I don’t feel chastened by her criticism.

  16. J5

    Great article, thank you

  17. corvus boreus

    To your query, yes.
    Jackie Kelly was born a kiwi, and was elected to Lindsay in 1996, whilst still holding duel nationality and whilst still a serving officer in the RAAF. There was a successful high court challenge to her eligibility for office at time of election and a by-election was held. She won, having got herself all legit(ish) in the meantime.

  18. Ricardo29

    I suspect that Abbott and his cronies gave already irreparably damaged Australia as we know it, I doubt that a re-elected Labor will undo all, or even half, of the nasties that this mob have imposed (see turning back the boats). However I agree that if the LNP were to get back in, the changes would be unimaginable. It really is time for progressive Australians to start to prepare for what may be the biggest fight of our lives. And Kaye Lee, well, you know…. Nailed it yet again. Keep up the good work, jim jams and all.

  19. Kyran

    Thank you, Matters Not. The article points out it was a Hawke, not Whitlam minister. Of note, from the same article;

    “Analysts constantly bring up the occasions when ministers were sacked for relatively minor offences in the days when, apparently in some sort of misty eyed way, ministerial standards meant something. They seem to think that these occurrences should be the precedents for now and into the future.

    But many of those resignations and sackings were over the top, an overreaction to blanket media coverage at a time when political parties were still trying to come to terms with the relatively new and powerful television medium. The sackings were wrong then and they would be wrong today, if similar circumstances existed.”

    Cassidy’s premise that political parties were struggling with the (then) “new and powerful television medium” is funny. Social media and that internetty thingy must be causing them some discomfort. It doesn’t change their behaviour, merely their attempts to effect ours!

    Same same, but different. Take care

  20. kerri

    Sounds like Emily Davison needs to write and article for the A.I.M.N.?
    The opinions are generally from those who make the effort to contribute and take the time to research!
    Good article Kaye. I hope it gets well shared on facebook!

  21. cornlegend

    It is good to see AIMN maintains its open comment policy.
    Unlike Independent Australia, who have carried out a wholesale banning of anyone pushing the ALP line too much .
    Go check out have many regulars have gone .
    I have an extensive list of those banned

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