When Queensland Liberal Senator James McGrath gave his maiden speech in July last year, Doug Cameron described him as a “fruit loop ” and a “Tea Party extremist.” Perhaps the best appraisal of the speech was by James Colley in his article “Senator James McGrath Is Your Newest Reason To Swear Loudly At The TV.” (worth the read)
The newly elected Senator wasted no time in dramatically outlining his priorities branding himself as a crusader against tyranny.
“The ‘Hundred Years War against Tyranny’ continues today on three fronts: first of all Islamist fundamentalism intent on caliphates destroying Western civilisation, especially religious freedom; secondly, democratic governments restricting freedom of speech and association, betraying hundreds of years of liberty; and, finally, leftists delegitimising all views other than their own, especially in media and education.
Whether I serve here for 16 days or 16 years, I shall always judge myself on how I have battled against tyranny and fought for the axis of enlightenment—that is, liberty of the individual, a free market, small government and low taxes. I will let others badge and brand and box me, as, in my great broad church that is the Liberal Party, my pew is a moveable feast. I have campaigned against dictator-loving Islamist fundamentalists in the Maldives; Sinn Fein- and PLO-supporting Labour candidates in London; and godless rebranded communists in Mongolia—not to mention the Queensland branch of the Australian Labor Party!
My life has not been about the pursuit or gain of power but to confiscate power back from government to free people.
From the dockyards of Kronstat to the editorial desk of The Age, the Left always want to control and brutalise. By restricting freedom of speech, they are building Australian gulags for words and thoughts.”
But apparently this freedom does not extend to the ABC who McGrath threatened during his speech saying
“I want to support the ABC. I like the ABC. Yet while it continues to represent only inner-city leftist views, and funded by our taxes, it is in danger of losing its social licence to operate. I am calling for a review of the ABC’s charter. And if they fail to make inroads to restore balance, then the ABC should be sold and replaced by a regional and rural broadcasting service. In the meantime, Triple J, because of its demographic dominance and clear ability to stand on its own, should be immediately sold.”
McGrath is now back in the news bemoaning the supposed bias of the ABC’s Q&A programme.
Q&A is the only television program where members of the public can directly ask questions of our elected representatives. The topics and panel members are usually chosen in response to concerns raised on social media, or events such as the budget or the writer’s festival, or to coincide with the visit of different experts or celebrities.
We have a chance to watch the body language, to see rare glimpses of unscripted responses, to hear differing views from other members of the panel.
The program is usually broadcast from the ABC’s studios in the Sydney suburb of Ultimo. Anyone wishing to be in the audience can fill in a form on the program’s website, which as well as asking for contact details, asks some questions relating to the applicant’s political views to help “select a diverse and well-balanced audience”.
Perhaps people from the right of politics are not the questioning kind or have no interest in taking part in something on the ABC. They most certainly are invited.
The most frequently-appearing panellists on Q&A, as of 9 March 2015, were
Coalition: (Total 149)
Christopher Pyne (21), Malcolm Turnbull (21), Barnaby Joyce (16), George Brandis (15), Joe Hockey (14), Julie Bishop (12), Greg Hunt (11), Sophie Mirabella (11), Amanda Vanstone (10), Kelly O’Dwyer (10), Tony Abbott (8)
Labor: (Total 112)
Tanya Plibersek (21), Bill Shorten (16), Penny Wong (14), Craig Emerson (12), Graham Richardson (12), Chris Bowen (11), Tony Burke (9), Kate Ellis (9), Lindsay Tanner (8)
Christine Milne (10), Clive Palmer (8)
Janet Albrechtsen (12), Greg Sheridan (11), Judith Sloan (9)
David Marr (9)
Germaine Greer (9)
By my count, that is 189 appearances from the right and 140 from the left.
Maths isn’t the only questionable thing about Senator McGrath.
McGrath spent his earliest political days as a teenager, doing volunteer campaign work for the Liberals in the seat of Toowoomba North. “One of those nerdy kids who are right into politics”, he joined the Young Liberals, who he describes as the “true bearers of the flame of liberty and freedom”, while he studied law at Griffith University.
After working on the unsuccessful Liberal campaign in the 2002 South Australian state election, McGrath eventually ended up director of political strategy for Boris Johnson in his successful bid in 2008 to become mayor of London.
Following the election on May 1, McGrath became Johnson’s chief political advisor in office, but it was less than two months before he was sacked.
Johnson had an uneasy relationship with the city’s black community having, as a journalist, previously described black Londoners as “picanninies” and “Africans and their watermelon smiles”.
When, in an interview, it was suggested to McGrath that some black Britons might leave the country if Mr Johnson became mayor, he responded: “Let them go if they don’t like it here.”
McGrath was sacked soon after the matter became public.
Mr Johnson said in a statement that if Mr McGrath had stayed, his comments would have provided “ammunition” for critics of his mayoralty.
McGrath didn’t return straight away to Australia, instead running a successful 2008 election campaign in the Maldives and an unsuccessful one in Sri Lanka in 2009.
Amidst widespread pre-poll violence, allegations of vote-tampering and intimidation in the Sri Lankan election, Mr McGrath, who was working as a campaign adviser to the opposition, blamed Rajapaksa’s domination of election coverage on Government-owned media.
”The coverage Rajapaksa got on state media just destroyed us,” he said.
I would have thought the intimidation and alleged fraud may have been greater concerns but, for a man who mentioned Mark Textor as a teacher and mentor in his maiden speech, I suppose it’s all about the ads.
In 2010, Brian Loughnane suggested McGrath for the job of running the LNP’s federal campaign in Queensland.
In 2011 the then 38 year old campaign director was revealed as the architect behind a scheme to pay disgruntled former Labor staffer and candidate Robert Hough for dirt on government MPs.
The LNP dirt file detailed a minister’s epilepsy and childhood adoption, claims about some politicians’ sexuality, sex lives, drinking habits and health matters, and included details of the schools of the children of government MPs.
Senior LNP figures including president Bruce McIver and aspiring premier Campbell Newman denied knowing about the dirt files until The Courier-Mail raised the matter.
They said LNP campaign director James McGrath and state director Michael O’Dwyer had been “strongly reprimanded” for commissioning the $3075 research but would not be sacked.
The saga came after Mr Newman had accused Labor of unleashing a dirt unit against him and his family after weeks of attention focused on his personal financial interests.
He labelled Premier Anna Bligh as a “sleaze bucket” and said the state was run by “drunks, punks and desperadoes”.
The message seems to be financial dealings are sacrosanct but personal gossip is an acceptable weapon.
Far from this shameful episode ending McGrath’s political career as many suggested it would, we now see him elected to the Federal Senate where he is pushing for the GST to be raised to 15% and broadened to “cover everything”, the abolition of payroll tax and the reduction of company tax, the abolition of the federal departments of health and education, with universities also to be run at a state level, the abolition of compulsory student unionism, and the repeal of Section 18C of the RDA.
“Each year, I will be compiling my own red-tape report to keep my government and my party on the Hayek road—away from serfdom and towards lower regulation, lower taxes and smaller government.”
I will close with the words of Doug Cameron who was “gobsmacked” by Senator McGrath’s maiden speech.
“These are the people that are supposed to be the high-calibre Liberals. If this is the high-calibre Liberals I’d hate to go to a Liberal party branch in Queensland and see the low-lifes in operation.”