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Tag Archives: Mal Brough

The Brough End Of The Pineapple

“Well, Brough will have to resign now, won’t he?”

“No, not at all. He has a right to the presumpton of innocence.”

“Presumption of innocence? That’s a bit hypocritical. Your mob didn’t seem to worry about that in the case of Craig Thomson.”

“That was different. We all decided that he was guilty.”

“But isn’t everyone entitled to the presumption of innocence until a court finds them guilty?”

“Not if they’ve confessed. And Craig Thomson was a self-confessed member of the Labor Party until they threw him out.”

“Anyway, I wasn’t referring to Mal Brough’s guilt or innocence of the charges. He’s guilty of misleading parliament and convention demands that any minister who misleads parliament should resign.”

“Yeah, but you’re forgetting that John Howard changed that convention just slightly so that it only applied if a minister knowingly mislead parliament. That way, you could just say that you were sorry and that you had no idea what was going on and that you weren’t really telling a lie, you were just incompetent and therefore had every right to stay on as a minister. Sort of like the way Turnbull handled the whole Godwin Grech thing when he was Opposition Leader. Great practice for when he became a member of the Cabinet.”

“But even with the John Howard changes, Brough still has to go.”

“How do you figure?”

“Well he told parliament that Channel 9 had selectively edited the tape so that it sounded like he was admitting to asking Ashby to procure Peter Slipper’s diary.”

“And they had!”

“What?”

“Yep. They’d selected the bit where Liz Hayes asks him if he asked Ashby to get copies of Slipper’s diary and placed the bit where he answers that question immediately after it. That was very selective.”

“That’s not what selective editing means.”

“Well, Mal Brough can’t be expected to know that. He’s only a politician, not a media expert.”

“Ok then, if he didn’t mislead parliament. Why did he deny it when asked the very same question that Liz Hayes asked by Mark Dreyfus?”

“Because it wasn’t true. He didn’t ask Mr Ashby to procure copies of Peter Slipper’s diaries.”

“He’s on film saying that he did!”

“Yes, he was lying to Liz Hayes, not to Parliament.”

“So it’s all right to lie to a reporter?”

“I’d prefer to call it boasting. Lying is such a harsh word. It’s unparliamentary, you know.”

“You just said he was lying yourself.”

“I don’t think I did. Do you have film of it?”

“Of course not!”

“Then it’s your word against mine. Which means I’m telling the truth.”

“No it doesn’t, it just means… Never mind!”

“So it’s clear then. Mal Brough’s done nothing wrong except to get carried away trying to impress Liz Hayes that he actually had a role in trying to bring down Peter Slipper when, in fact, all he’d done was offer some advice to a young staffer who was having trouble with a boss who was sexually harassing him with unwanted text messages.”

“Hang on, that case was thrown out.”

“So?”

“Well, isn’t Slipper entitled to the presumption of innocence?”

“Of course not. He’d left the Liberal Party, so he falls into the David Hicks category.”

“But wasn’t he a member of the Liberal Party when he – allegedly – claimed those trips to the wineries?”

“Now you’re just trying to use a technicality to defend an indefensible, horrific crime against Australia.”

“I’d hardly call fudging travel expenses a crime against Australia!”

“I meant leaving the Liberal Party.”

“So you don’t think Mr Brough will be forced to resign.”

“On the contrary, I think he’ll be promoted after his dazzling parliamentary performance of saying nothing whenever asked a question.”

“Promoted?”

“Yes. He has Immigration Minister written all over him. Whether it’s now, or when Peter Dutton becomes Deputy Leader, I don’t know, but …”

“How could they make a nuph-nuph like Dutton deputy?”

“Hey, you said that about Abbott and he become the most successful PM to be kicked out of office by his own party in less than two years.”

“Isn’t he the only PM to have that happen to him?”

“Well, if you want to indulge in casuistry …”

“Casuitry?”

“Hair-splitting arguments.”

“Oh, OK. But Dutton?”

“Well, Turnbull has to do something for his own protection. A number of the Party have expressed the view that Bishop can’t stay in the job.”

“Because of her role in getting rid of Tony Abbott?”

“No, because she’s a woman.”

“Isn’t that a bit sexist?”

“We don’t see it that way. We don’t think that she can’t be deputy because she’s a woman; we just think that because she’s a woman she clearly isn’t the best man for the job.”

“And Dutton is?”

“Yep, since he became Immigration Minister we haven’t had a single boat arrival reported.”

“Wasn’t there one the other day?”

“No, it didn’t arrive. We found it and towed it back out to sea.”

“But if your tough policy is supposed to be humane because it’s about preventing drownings, doesn’t towing a boat back out into the ocean sort of undercut that a bit?”

“No, we’re only concerned with preventing the drownings of the people who have done the right thing and stayed on land. Anyone on the sea deserves to drown… But only as a deterrent to others, of course.”

“Sorry, I’ve just got a news report on my phone of a mass shooting in the USA.”

“Terrorists?”

“I don’t know.”

“That’s awkward. I don’t know whether to argue for boots on the ground in Syria or to rail against the idiots calling for greater gun control.”

“Or whether to treat it as the insane act of a few people, or to blame the religious leaders for not condemning the violence strongly enough?”

“Exactly!”

“Yes, it must be hard when you’ve actually got to wait for more evidence before expressing an opinion.”

“Well, nobody on either side of politics likes doing that!”

 

 

Winning back trust

When Greg Hunt appointed Gregory Andrews to be our first ‘Threatened Species Commissioner’ in July last year, few people other than Chris Graham at New Matilda paid any attention.

Andrews has a very dubious past. On June 21, 2006 he appeared on a Lateline story, entitled ‘Sexual slavery reported in Indigenous community’. He was incorrectly described as a “former youth worker” and his identity was hidden.

At the time, Andrews was an Assistant Secretary in the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination, and was advising then Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough, on violence in Central Australian Aboriginal communities. Andrews told Lateline Aboriginal men were trading petrol for sex with young girls, and that children were being held against their will and traded between communities as “sex slaves”.

Andrews cried during the interview, saying he had made numerous reports to police but had withdrawn them in fear for his safety.

This was revealed to be a lie. No such reports were made and a lengthy police investigation found “no evidence whatsoever” to support Andrews’ claims.

Andrews also had to apologise for misleading a 2006 federal Senate Inquiry in Petrol Sniffing in remote Aboriginal communities. Andrews told parliament that he lived in Mutitjulu for nine months, when in fact he lived 20 kilometres away, at the five star Ayers Rock tourist resort. He also told Senators: “Young people were hanging themselves off the church steeple on Sunday and their mothers were having to cut them down.” Police confirmed at the time that no child has ever hung themselves from the Mutitjulu church, nor has a mother ever had to cut her child down.

The woman who blew the whistle on Andrews’ lies, Tjanara Goreng Goreng, was later convicted of leaking government information, sacked and bankrupted. Andrews was a key witness in the case.

Greg Hunt was aware of all this when he appointed Andrews who was, at the time, managing implementation of biodiversity conservation programmes, including management and evaluation of National Landcare Programme and 20 Million Trees initiatives.

One reason for this story resurfacing is the image of Andrews’ old boss and architect of the Northern Territory Intervention, Mal Brough, walking alongside Malcolm Turnbull during the leadership spill, an image which sent a chill down the spines of Aboriginal Australians.

Speculation is rife as to what role Brough will play in Turnbull’s new cabinet. One rumour was that he wanted health. Chris Graham conjectures that Brough may be interested in the environment portfolio. Mining giant Adani has employed David Moore, Brough’s ex-chief of staff, as one of its key lobbyists. Or perhaps defence, being an ex-military man.

We will know soon enough if Brough is to be promoted. It seems a judge finding that he abused the judicial process for the “purpose of causing significant public, reputational and political damage to Mr Slipper”, and the disgraceful debacle where Julia Gillard was described in very unflattering sexist terms on a menu at a Brough fundraiser, have done nothing to hinder his political resurrection.

If the government wants to win back the trust of the people, promoting liars and cheats is not a good way to start.

 

Mal

prefix: mal-

  1. in an unpleasant degree. “malodorous”
  2. in a faulty or inadequate manner. “malfunction”
  3. in an improper manner. “malpractice”
  4. not. “maladroit”

Origin from French mal, from Latin male ‘badly’.

When the Howard Government came to office in March 1996, one of the issues it took on with gusto at its first meeting of the new Howard cabinet the following month was the “waste, fraud and ineptitude” in ATSIC’s near-$1 billion budget for indigenous programs.

Howard walked out of that first cabinet meeting and announced a “series of reforms” to funding of indigenous programs, including the appointment of a “special auditor” to oversee all ATSIC spending. John Herron, Howard’s junior minister, said on John Laws’ radio program that perhaps “up to $100 million” a year could be saved from ATSIC’s “waste and extravagance”. This was subsequently found not to be the case and the appointment of a special auditor was found to be illegal.

Mal Brough entered Parliament that year and ten years on he was part of Howard’s inner cabinet as Minister for Families and Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. His great grandfather was an Indigenous Australian.

Chris Graham reminds us of some of the low lights of Mal’s term.

One of Brough’s first acts as minister was to take $100,000 from the Aboriginals Benefit Account (which holds NT mining royalties on behalf of indigenous owners) and provide it to the organisers of the Woodford Folk Festival, in his electorate in Queensland.

By law, ABA funds must be spent for the benefit of Territory Aborigines.

His also took $4 million to upgrade the Alice Springs Aquatic Centre, a pool owned by the Alice Springs town council.

At the same time, Brough attacked Traditional Owners repeatedly for what he claimed was the irresponsible expenditure of mining royalty monies.

In 2006 Brough promised more than 80 demountable buildings from the recently closed Woomera detention centre would be urgently installed in remote Aboriginal communities as emergency housing.

By the time he left office 18 months later, not one demountable had been installed.

Instead, they sat rusting in an Alice Springs industrial yard until the Rudd government finally sent them north in 2008 . . . as emergency accommodation for asylum seekers on Christmas Island.

In 2012, the average number of Aboriginal people per dwelling in the NT was around 9.4 persons per dwelling, the same level it was when Brough entered office. This is despite the expenditure of at least one billion dollars on Aboriginal housing across the Territory over six years.

The Community Development Employment Program – aka the black work for the dole – was designed and run by Aboriginal people, and had been chugging away relatively successfully for more than three decades.

Mal Brough decided in 2006 that CDEP had become a “destination” rather than a “path to real employment”.

He began abolishing CDEP in remote regions, despite the fact CDEP was the ONLY source of employment in impoverished towns, not to mention the major funder of basic services.

Aboriginal unemployment when Brough left office was at near record levels.

In 2007, Brough decided Aboriginal people were at risk of becoming communists, because they couldn’t purchase their own homes on collectively owned Aboriginal land in remote areas.

So, after amending the NT Aboriginal Land Rights Act in the NT, Brough unveiled the Home Ownership on Indigenous Lands program (HOIL), a government-funded scheme aimed at helping Aborigines buy a plot of land they already owned.

He quarantined $100 million in government funding for HOIL while at the same time underfunded the highly successful Home Ownership Program (which enabled Aboriginal people anywhere in the country to access home loans).

HOP’s waiting list blew out exponentially while money sat locked in the HOIL program.

Finally, after five years of operation, Brough’s HOIL was quietly shelved and the money diverted into HOP. The HOP waiting list dropped instantly from 1,500 to just over 400 – that’s more than 1,000 Aboriginal families into home ownership almost overnight.

And the cost of Brough’s HOIL adventure? $10 million to administer a program that provided just 15 loans worth $2.7 million.

Brough spent much of his time as minister pounding the state and territory Labor governments for their poor performance in Indigenous affairs.

But at the same time, in 2006-07 his department underspent the Indigenous affairs budget by a staggering $600 million, one-fifth of the total budget. This in the same year that Brough declared “a national emergency” in NT Aboriginal communities.

Brough was the chief architect of the government’s controversial Northern Territory Emergency Response, a package of measures designed to combat alleged high rates of child neglect and abuse in the territory, which saw school attendance drop, suicide and self harm rates double, and a more than doubling in reports of violent incidents.

All the while the incarceration rate has soared to almost 90 percent of the prison population.

A parliamentary inquiry found its implementation was very poor – apart from alienating Aboriginal people and providing no emergency accommodation for anyone but police and soldiers, it caused widespread starvation among Aboriginal communities.

In May 2006, Brough appeared on Lateline where he told Tony Jones “Everybody in those communities knows who runs the pedophile rings.”

Jones: “You just said something which astonishes me. You said pedophile rings. What evidence is there of that?”

Brough insisted there was “considerable evidence” but gave no detail. Instead he made the blanket assertion of “people at very senior level” who “use children at their own whim”.

Next day, when an angry Clare Martin, the Northern Territory’s Labor Chief Minister, called on Brough “to put up or shut up” on his pedophile allegations, Brough evaded the challenge and said nothing.

Five weeks later, ABC radio promoted a “special report on Lateline tonight” on “unchecked pedophilia in some Aboriginal communities”. It even ran a voice clip of an “anonymous witness” saying: “It’s true. I’ve been told by a number of people of men getting young girls and keeping them as sex slaves.”

Lateline’s star interview that night was a man whose face was kept in shadow and whose voice was distorted. He was identified on the program only as an anonymous “former youth worker”. In a series of inflammatory remarks he supported entirely what Brough had told Jones five weeks earlier about “pedophiles” in remote communities.

The day after the Lateline “special” on June 21, Brough finally responded, in a formal press statement, to Clare Martin’s “put up or shut up” challenge more than a month earlier. Information had been passed on, Brough said, to Northern Territory police, but he’d been advised that “for legal and confidentiality reasons, I am unable to disclose detail”.

Three weeks later, in its issue of July 13, the National Indigenous Times outed the anonymous “former youth worker” on Lateline as Gregory Andrews, an Assistant Secretary in Brough’s department. His job was to advise the minister on issues of child abuse in Aboriginal communities.

Brough always denied knowledge of the appearance, but in later court proceedings it emerged his office was provided a written brief of what the bureaucrat planned to tell Lateline.

Tjanara Goreng worked with Andrews in the Howard Government’s Office of Indigenous Policy Co-ordination, where she was a branch manager. Brough was her minister. Her home was raided by police searching for “evidential material” that Goreng had leaked an internal OIPC email to the press. Gregory Andrews name appeared on the Federal Police warrant. Ms Goreng was suspended from her position.

Why did the ABC agree to hide the identity of a bureaucrat whose bogus interview got his minister off the hook?

Brough also walked out of a roundtable summit on Aboriginal violence and told media that someone in the meeting had revealed things were so bad in NT Aboriginal communities that $1 million in cash had been found in one remote town, the proceeds from the sale of drugs.

It later transpired there was a drug bust in the NT, but it occurred in Darwin, the amount of cash involved was small, and the guy arrested was white, with no links to Aboriginal communities whatsoever.

Mal Brough became President of the Queensland Liberal Party and strongly opposed the merger of the Liberals with the Nationals, which apparently explains why he did not seek pre-selection for Longman at the 2010 election after losing in 2007 with a swing of 10.3 percent.

In April 2012, Brough was accused of trying to entice a Sunshine Coast mayoral candidate to withdraw from the election.

Michael Bloyce says Mr Brough met him in November to ask him to reconsider his run for mayor to help boost the chances of another candidate, Mark Jamieson.

Mr Bloyce, who is a Liberal National Party supporter, says Mr Brough offered to back him financially if he ran for a council division.

He says he refused and now advertisements have begun appearing linking him with embattled federal MP Peter Slipper.

‘‘No doubt at all, I came away with a firm impression that Mal Brough was the intermediary,’’ Mr Bloyce told ABC Radio.

‘‘He had authority to speak on behalf of Mr Jamieson and his team and indeed we had conversations that indicated there would be support for me in a financial way to run my campaign if I chose to run for a division as opposed to the mayoralty.”

It seems that Brough had links with the local developer crowd that backed Sunshine Coast Daily editor Mark Jamieson who was subsequently elected as the local mayor, and faced investigation by the Federal Police over allegations he bribed Michael Bloyce to step aside.

Mr Brough and Mr Jamieson denied the allegations and the investigation did not proceed.

Brough set his sights on Slipper’s seat of Fisher. He won pre-selection courtesy of a good old-fashioned membership drive (which some have unkindly suggested is also known as a branch stack). Whatever it was, despite (or perhaps because?) Justice Rares having found Brough was part of a “combination”, with James Ashby, Karen Doane and others, to bring down the Government , it was enough to get him across the line in Fisher even though high profile federal Libs like Joe Hockey, Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull backed James McGrath.

It was at a Brough fundraiser in March that the despicable menu demeaning Julia Gillard was circulated. Despite other candidates losing preselection for similar misdemeanours, Brough remained in favour with Tony Abbott.

Brough set up office two doors down from Peter Slipper’s office. This raises questions about who was backing him because, as David Donovan points out:

“unelected candidates don’t have their own offices, or huge billboards, or company cars, or staffers; in the normal run of things, they can barely afford to print their own how-to-vote cards. All this … stuff was not paid for by Brough ‒ who hasn’t worked a day since 2007, as far as we can tell ‒ or his wife, who is a hairdresser ‒ but by somebody, or a group of somebodies, who really want Brough to be elected.

Why are some unknown people spending so much money to ensure Mal Brough is elected? Why is Abbott and the LNP prepared to burn as much political capital as is necessary to ensure he is ensconced in the seat of Fisher? And why was it so important to set up Peter Slipper and totally destroy him?”

Lawmakers or lawbreakers?

The Readers Digest list of the 50 most trusted professions in Australia ranks lawyers at 39 and politicians at 49 just scraping in in front of door-to-door salespeople and two places behind call centre staff.

Considering these are the people who make, and prosecute, our laws, this is a sad indictment.

The record of the Abbott government ministers with regard to the law makes one wonder if they may just consider themselves above it all.

Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinis is continuing to be mentioned at ICAC. Not only was he involved in shady dealings when at Australian Water Holdings, he is now implicated in emails (that his lawyers tried to have suppressed) from chief fund-raiser of the NSW Liberal Party Paul Nicolaou to Peta Credlin. As Sinodinis was Finance Director (2009 to 2011) and President (since 2011) for the NSW branch of the Liberal Party, it is hard to believe he knew nothing of the laundering of donations through the Canberra-based Free Enterprise Foundation.

Credlin and Loughnane appear to be in on the act, and Bronwyn Bishop and Tony Abbott have also been named, the former for redirecting funding through her Dame Pattie Menzies Foundation Trust and the latter for his association with Lindsay Partridge the MD of Brickworks who were advocating for the repeal of the carbon tax.

In May, the SMH published an article stating that

“Treasurer Joe Hockey is offering privileged access to a select group including business people and industry lobbyists in return for tens of thousands of dollars in donations to the Liberal Party via a secretive fund-raising body whose activities are not fully disclosed to election funding authorities.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption is probing Liberal fund-raising bodies such as the Millennium Forum and questioning their influence on political favours in NSW.

Mr Hockey offers access to one of the country’s highest political offices in return for annual payments.

The donors are members of the North Sydney Forum, a campaign fundraising body run by Mr Hockey’s North Sydney Federal Electoral Conference (FEC). In return for annual fees of up to $22,000, members are rewarded with “VIP” meetings with Mr Hockey, often in private boardrooms.”

Members of the forum include National Australia Bank as well as the influential Financial Services Council, whose chief executive is former NSW Liberal leader John Brogden. Both these groups have benefitted from the changes to the Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) laws.

The chairman of the North Sydney Forum is John Hart, who is also the chief executive of Restaurant and Catering Australia – a hospitality industry lobby group whose members stand to benefit from a government-ordered Productivity Commission review of the Fair Work Act that is expected to examine the issue of penalty rates.

Mr Hart also sits on Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Business Advisory Council.

When asked if there should be a federal ICAC, Mr Abbott said that he thought that Canberra had a “pretty clean polity”.

Despite accepting huge donations from bodies with obvious vested interests and loudly articulated demands – mining companies, property developers, financial institutions, hotel and gambling bodies, hospitality industry – Tony Abbott said

“The thing is that we’re going to keep the lobbyists out [of politics]. And the problem that ICAC is exposing is a problem of lobbying, essentially its influence peddling . . . and we’re going to make sure that that has no place whatsoever federally.”

Last night’s edition of 60 minutes showed Mal Brough, by his own admission, directed the stealing of a copy of Peter Slipper’s diary. James Ashby also stated he was offered employment and legal costs by Christopher Pyne who has always denied any knowledge or involvement. And now, boy wonder Wyatt Roy is dragged into the fray. Somebody is/has been fibbing.

It would be very interesting to know who filed the complaint with the Australian Federal Police after Mal Brough went through Slipper’s diary and when the complaint was filed. There has been some suggestion that is was ex-defender of bigots, Attorney-General George Brandis.

When faced with action in the International Court over Alexander Downer’s bugging of the East Timor Parliamentary offices to gain confidential trade information for a subsequent employer, Brandis reacted by raiding the offices of the lawyer for East Timor, confiscating the evidence and the passport of the key witness.

If laws get in the way, bypass them or abolish them.

In June, the court upheld a challenge to the National School Chaplaincy Program, saying providing funding directly to chaplaincy organisations was constitutionally invalid. To get around that, the federal government will give a quarter of a billion to the states, insisting they must employ only religious chaplains.

Despite 72 per cent of Australians wanting same-sex marriage legalised, one of Brandis’ first acts was to challenge, and overturn, the ACT’s recently passed same-sex marriage laws. Why? Because he could is all I can come up with.

I am sure Corey Bernardi and Kevin Andrews were demanding this ‘depravity’ be abolished.

A poll in 2009 showed that 85 per cent of the country is in favour of voluntary euthanasia but that will never happen while Kevin Andrews has a driving seat in the Star Chamber.

In 1997, Kevin Andrews and Eric Abetz were members of the Coalition’s fundamentalist Christian faction, the Lyons Forum, who were successful in overturning the Northern Territory’s historic voluntary euthanasia law.

Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, the recently decorated compassionate Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop also has an affinity with the law. Before we were paying for her Armani suits she was busy representing CSR (amongst other “dodgy” corporate clients) famously asking the court “why workers should be entitled to jump court queues just because they were dying.”

Our Environment Minister Greg Hunt has overseen the roll back of environmental protection laws to facilitate his approval of coal mining.

The Federal Government’s handover of environmental approval powers to the states for development projects will wind back 30 years of legal protection for the environment and put at risk Australia’s World Heritage areas such as the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu and the Tasmanian forests.

At the same time, state governments are seeking to ‘fast track’ major developments, such as coal mine and coal seam gas projects, reducing public participation and removing legal rights of local communities to mount legal challenges.

This is a crime that will certainly saddle our children with perhaps insurmountable problems.

And in perhaps the most heinous example of disregard for the law, morality, justice and humanity, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague is currently considering a submission calling for an investigation into Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers. The submission was officially accepted by the ICC on May 19, 2014, and it names Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott. Similar complaints have been lodged with the United Nations. Let’s hope they can compel our government to accept their legal obligations even if they are bereft of ethics.

hague

An Open Letter to Journalists at News Ltd

KickthisMobOut Dear News Ltd Journalists,

I’m writing you this letter on behalf of all Australians. That includes everyone who can vote in the upcoming election, as well as those too young to have a say in their own future. I wanted to let you know that your behaviour throughout the election campaign has been appalling. I know you know as well as I do that it’s not the role of a journalist to campaign for a political party. Journalists often justify their bias by saying that opinion pieces can be whatever they want them to be – whether or not they’re biased, unbalanced, untrue, or part of a conspiracy on behalf of your boss to get rid of the NBN, which threatens his business interests. But you’re not just contributing opinion pieces and amateur PhotoShopped front page images, denigrating the target of your smear campaign. You’re also contributing news articles, designed to bring about a certain result, a result you’ve allegedly been instructed to manufacture to help your boss make money. Doesn’t this make you feel dirty? Doesn’t the 17 year old aspiring journalist in you feel even a little bit sad about finding their middle-aged-self behaving in this unethical way? Don’t you care about the impact your work has on the country you live in?

I’m sure many of you justify your blind obedience in the ‘get Rudd’ campaign to the fact that you need a job. You have to do what you’re told so you can keep working as a journalist. I know there’s not many jobs out there for journalists, but this doesn’t justify you doing the wrong thing. There are hundreds of examples throughout history of ‘employees’ doing the wrong thing on behalf of their bosses, and justifying this wrongness by saying they were instructed to do it. That doesn’t make it OK. If Murdoch told you to hit your wife, would you do that too? Where exactly is the line that you wouldn’t cross, no matter what your boss wanted? Is there a line? When you write puff pieces about Tony Abbott, when you do glamorous photo shoots of Tony Abbott’s daughters but don’t actually ask them a question, when you choose not to scrutinise Abbott, and omit news that is damaging to him, when you support Mal Brough’s campaign to destroy Slipper and then ignore the news that you were part of the Ashbygate conspiracy which a Federal Court Judge has revealed, when you cover your front page with blatant propaganda to help Abbott win government, but don’t tell your readers what his real plans are, when you give a candidate a free run and create the misleading impression that the Labor government is unsuccessful, you are failing Australia. Your job is not more important than your responsibility as a journalist. How are you ever going to get another job with this sort of behaviour in your background?

I actually think it’s an absolute outrage that not one of you has resigned in protest during this election campaign. Not one of you has stood up for journalistic integrity and said ‘enough’. Not one of you has said your pay cheque isn’t more important to you than your ethics. And what about all the jobs your readers will lose because of your campaign? You know Tony Abbott has proudly announced that he’ll sack 12,000 public servants. These are people doing important work in our communities. They help people. They support the disadvantaged in society. How is your job more important than their jobs?

No doubt many of you are Liberals yourself, having been hand-picked by your boss to make sure you’re on his side. But even if you think Tony Abbott deserves to win the election, and even if you like his policies and are completely in favour of his plans for this country (assuming you know what these are), don’t you think the Australian people have a right to hear both sides of the story before making up their own minds? Don’t you think it sounds a little bit like Fascism for your boss to decide that he wants an Abbott win, and then for you, his minions, to do his dirty work in the most blatantly dishonourable and immoral media campaign this country has ever seen?

Perhaps you read letters like this, and you are so hardened to the world that you let it roll over you, like water off a duck’s back. But I just hope that somewhere, deep down inside you, there’s a little voice reminding you that you’re doing the wrong thing. If you even have the ability to feel guilty, to feel ashamed, even if it’s just at 3:00am in the morning when you can’t sleep, I hope you feel awful.

It’s also important for you to know that we won’t forget what you’ve done. If your boss gets his way, and you do manage to deliver Australia the most conservative, austerity obsessed, downright mean and selfish government we’ve ever had, it’s very likely most of your readers, especially those in areas like western Sydney who’ve you’ve conned most successfully, will not be very impressed with you. They might ask why on earth Abbott is cutting spending on services they need, like health and education, when they didn’t hear about it before the election. They might be disappointed to hear their work rights are being undermined by the same front bench who came up with Work Choices. And they might be really pissed off when the surplus they’ve been promised is actually a gigantic $30 billion dollar black hole. No doubt you’ll do your best to blame all these woes on Labor, as this is your unthinking knee-jerk reaction to everything. But how long can this work? I know you like your readers dumb, but don’t underestimate how quickly people work out that they’ve been screwed over. I hope your precious job is worth it then. I would have thought your entire industry was in enough trouble without you putting another dozen nails in its coffin through your own arrogance and incompetence.

Too little too late

mouse-on-wheel The switch has been flicked. Extraordinary. I have seen more reporting of government policy in mainstream press over the last week than I saw in the last three years. This is probably an exaggeration, but isn’t perception reality? All I remember seeing throughout 2010 to 2013 was yet another report about Gillard’s ‘unstable grip on the leadership of the Labor Party’.

Political journalists treat their readers like idiots by pretending that they got the Labor leadership call right. How dare they now pretend to be innocent bystanders and justify their newfound interest in political policy by saying it was all Gillard’s fault that they couldn’t report her policy success. Because when you’re saying something is going to happen for years and it eventually does happen, you still just look like an obsessive, one-track mind with a Murdoch narrative that no journalist had the courage to rise above. A broken clock is right twice a day; however in this case of course it’s worse than that. The mainstream media just kept picking away, kept writing article after article about Rudd’s campaign to destabilize Gillard’s leadership until they gave her no choice but to give in to the bullying. They made the story a reality.

The excuse that Rudd’s campaign was newsworthy, and therefore justifiably reportable is rubbish. We all know there is leadership tension in any party. Anyone keen to use Turnbull or Hockey as their unnamed source would find the same thing on the other side of the chamber. We all know there is plenty of news going on in Canberra and elsewhere all the time. It’s journalists’ decision, it’s their judgment call, to decide, with their limited column inches and word count, what news is important to report. When every political journalist in the country was writing the same article every week, they were declaring to readers that nothing else of importance was happening in this country. And isn’t this how the mainstream media have really failed? Because I can’t believe anyone could argue that Rudd’s blind ambition was a bigger story than any of the things they missed, namely:

Gillard’s Success

It’s amusing now to see so many political journalists writing glowing obituaries about Gillard’s career as the first female Prime Minister of Australia. Actually, it’s not funny. It’s pathetic. Where were these articles before Rudd challenged last week?

Gillard’s amazing legacy will be intact, and future analysis will only improve our understanding of the significance of the last three years of policy reform to the social fabric of our community. That is, on the assumption that Abbott doesn’t dismantle all Gillard’s good work. But no, this was never the story. The story was never on policy, was never on Gillard’s exceptional negotiation skills. It was never on her poise in the face of constant abuse from Tony Abbott, from his colleagues, from many in the media and all their foul mouthed foot-soldiers across social media and deep, ugly dark parts of the internet. Abbott changed this country the day he stood in front of the ‘Ditch the Witch’ sign (twice). He gave permission to the Grace Colliers, to the Larry Pickerings, the Alan Jones, to the Mal Broughs and his fundraising dinner, to children throwing sandwiches. Abbott’s message was that it’s fair game to personally denigrate your opponent for political gain, and to denigrate the position of Prime Minister in the process. He made it fair game to call Gillard a liar every day until it became part of her name. That is Abbott’s legacy. And this is what we saw in the press instead of hearing about Gillard’s amazing success while leading a minority government constantly referred to as ‘chaos’. Journalists should hang their heads in shame when the only way to get an accurate account of Gillard’s leadership is for the Victorian Women’s Trust to buy space in a newspaper.

Ashbygate

I can already imagine the groans of mainstream journalists about this next topic. But this time, before you all start complaining, I’m not imploring you again to take interest in the campaign designed by Mal Brough to remove Peter Slipper from parliament, with the hope of bringing down the Labor Government. I’m not asking you to track down James Ashby and to find out exactly what went on. I’ve come to terms long ago with the realization that you’re just not up to investigating Australia’s own version of Watergate. But again, aren’t you shamed by the Ashbygate trust, which has raised over $50,000 from the public to dig into this story and to reveal the truth? While you complain you can’t afford to do any investigative reporting, we’re all donating funds to see this job done properly by someone else. Well played.

Policy, policy and policy

Is it not a huge embarrassment to the mainstream media that they are now trying to spend the few weeks before the election playing catch up in political policy areas far too complex to leave to sound bites? The electorate deserves better than this. We deserve to know about Abbott’s plans, and how they differ from the current Labor government. I could write fifty posts about all the policy areas that have been totally ignored for the last three years, replaced and wiped out by the unending narrative of ‘Labor leadership tensions’. Here’s a snapshot of a couple, and some questions I would like answered which should, in a decent mainstream media, have been asked years ago:

Climate Change – we saw Abbott on the news every night in his latest stunt, wearing yellow safety vests, stacking bananas and driving trucks. What exactly is his Direct Action Policy? How much will it cost? And how will it actually work? Did you not think when you went along on one of Abbott’s stunt trips it might have been worth asking about this? And to keep asking until you got an answer?

What about the effect of the Carbon Price which was meant to wipe Whyalla off the map? Have you held the Liberal National Coalition to account for all their easily disprovable propaganda and lies, designed to scare voters and to undermine action against climate change? If you bothered to check, the effect of the Carbon Price has been to reduce emissions and to increase investment in renewable energy which will further reduce emissions in the future. This is great news! Also, it’s slightly newsworthy that, even after Abbott spent all his tax-payer funded time and travel allowance on his anti-carbon-tax road trip, the majority of voters haven’t been fooled. Doesn’t this story warrant as much of your attention as a leaky Rudd? It’s just the health of the planet we live on at stake after all. Is the tenant in the Lodge really more important than that?

Paid Parental Leave – This is Abbott’s ‘signature policy’. He is offering to pay women a full time salary, capped up to $75,000 for six months maternity leave, presumably to help them pay their mortgages while they take leave from work. Apart from the fact that this is middle and upper-class welfare on steroids, I am quite concerned that many voters have very little information about the mechanics and cost of this scheme.

Abbott has said he will tax companies to fund this policy. However he hasn’t mentioned it much since business said they weren’t happy about it. I don’t need to imagine Gina Rinehart’s reaction to a tax increase. Can someone please follow up with Abbott about this? Is his policy a policy or not? We want to see another blood oath! One question, which still hasn’t been answered, is a fairly simple one – will a woman who already receives paid maternity leave as part of her employment contract receive Abbott’s paid leave as well? Or does it just top up the employer’s contribution to six months fully-paid leave? Or is it instead of the employer’s contribution? I would have thought this information is kind of important, no? Is anyone going to ask the question?

We could have seen three years of policy analysis, including plenty of comparison of Abbott’s broadband plan, his education funding versus Gillard’s Gonski plan. We could have heard how Abbott’s ‘Stop the Boats’ policy of turning back boats was not going to be accepted by Indonesia, and how it contravened the agreement Australia has made by signing the UN Refugee Convention.

But no. All we saw was sound bites about how Abbott wants to destroy the Labor government, how Rudd wanted to take over from Gillard and how Gillard’s government was always on the brink. We will surely look back at the last three years as a proud, successful time for the Labor Party with an amazing leader. And a time where trust in the mainstream media was eroded to the point of no return. Because journalists and their vested interests in the vested interests of their bosses have failed the electorate. We are now seeing too little too late and democracy is the loser. Shame on you all.

 

What’s on the Menu? Part 2

Brough

Photo: Liberal Party of Australia

A couple of weeks ago, I posted “What’s on the Menu” about the Mal Brough dinner. Someone who works in the hospitality industry raised a number of concerns with me about what people were saying. This person – who I’ll call “Barry” – expressed the view that it was very likely that the people working on the night would have been agency staff, so the idea that they’d be afraid of losing their job didn’t strike him as plausible. Most restuarants, he said, just had a skeleton staff, and used agencies when they had a function such as the one where the infamous menu appeared. (Or didn’t appear!)

“Barry” said that working in hospitality was a hard gig, so people often joked around, so the idea of a fake menu didn’t strike him as implausible. As for the idea that it would be put on the table, well, they have “very severe sexism laws”. Something like that just wouldn’t be tolerated. In the hospitality industry, men and women all get equal respect.

He also had problems with the chef who was sacked. Chefs just don’t get sacked in this industry – very rarely anyway. He only knew of two in his twenty years working in the industry.

Of course, many people have argued that the menu looked professionally printed. “Barry” pointe out that many places now printed their own menus from templates. Knocking up a “joke” menu would be no trouble at all. And I must agree. It’s quite easy to print a professional looking document these days.

It does seem a little implausible that a reputable restuarant would put something so crass on the tables.

All this seems quite reasonable. Still, it does seem strange that Mal Brough knew that the menu was written by “non-party member”. It does suggest that he knew who wrote it, which suggests that he’d seen it before the email from the restaurant owner apologising. So whether the menu appeared on the table or not, Mr Brough seems have been acquainted with it.

What’s on the Menu?

Image from abc.net.au

Image from abc.net.au

There is a post going round social media which alleges to be from someone called “Sascha Taylor” where she claims to have worked at the restaurant on the night of the “Menugate” (If the Democrats had been at the Hilton instead of the Watergate Hotel, would every cover-up now have to finish with “ton”?). She claims that the menu was widely circulated, and that she resigned in disgust a few days ago.

I’m going to go out on a limb and declare this to be a fake! If anyone can produce “Sascha Taylor” then I’ll apologise. But it strikes me as strange that it took until now for the person concerned to resign in disgust. I don’t doubt that there were people working that night, and I find it weird that I’ve seen no reports from anyone who’s interviewed them, nor any report that they weren’t prepared to speak. Again, if anyone has any links to such things, please post them.

Of course, we have had the restaurant owner, Joe Richards, claiming that he only printed up a couple of copies for him and his son, which raises the question, “Was it his son or him who passed it on to the part-time chef who made it public?”

And, of course, the other obvious question is why was this Mal Brough’s reaction when the story first broke:

‘Mr Brough says the menu was drawn up by a non-party member who thought it would be “humorous” and “didn’t mean any harm by it,” but is now “deeply apologetic”.

Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey was the guest of honour at the March event, but has tweeted that he can’t recall ever seeing the menu.

“It is offensive and inappropriate whenever it was put out and it is now,” he said.

Mr Brough, a former Howard government minister who is seeking to return to parliament in a Queensland seat, has also defended his colleague, telling the ABC “Mr Hockey had nothing to do with it.”

Mr Brough also insisted he could not recall seeing the menu at the event for 20 people, held on March 28.

Asked if it could see him disendorsed, or affect his preselection in any way, Mr Brough said that was a “ridiculous” suggestion.

“I didn’t condone the menu nor did I authorise it…it should never have been written,” he said.’

Why didn’t Mal Brough condemn it as a fake straight away? Surely he must have known it was a “fake”. But as Andrew Bolt writes: “Brough says he did not see the menu. There is no evidence he did.” Yet, in spite of never seeing the menu, he knew that it was ‘written by a non-party member who thought it would be humourous”. This statement was made before Richards sent his email apologising, so whether he saw the menu or not, he was clearly aware of its existence. So while he knew who wrote it, but had no knowledge of it. Of course, it has been reported that Joe Richards is a Liberal Party donor, but I’ll take Mr Brough’s word that he’s not a party member.

Why does this seem vaguely familiar to me? Ah yes,

“Mr Brough was quoted in The Sunday Mail last weekend dismissing as ”nonsense” any suggestion he knew of James Ashby’s court documents before they were lodged.

He reportedly said he knew Mr Ashby as a local party member but had no previous knowledge of his civil suit.

But Mr Brough yesterday confirmed he had met Mr Ashby three times and sought legal advice on his behalf. Mr Ashby went to him for advice on how to deal with the allegations of sexual harassment and misuse of travel entitlements, he said, at the urging of Liberal National Party of Queensland member Val Bradford.” Sydney Morning Herald, May 6th 2012

Howard’s Golden Years

Do you remember how good life was under the Howard Government? How we were all made to feel safe from terrorists and boat people? Remember too that we had a media – and Howard himself – incessantly tell us how lucky we were? Remember how good the economy was and remember having that message drilled into us? Ah, they were all part of the golden years.

Ministers could be sacked or toss in the towel without a media scandal ensuing. Any Government hiccups weren’t a national headline or publicised as glowing evidence that the Government was in turmoil. In the golden years, the Prime Minister could even wear glasses.

In those days the media let the Government do its job and told us what a good job they were doing.

Aren’t we lucky that Tony Abbott wants to lead us back to those days?

But before you start reminiscing for those days long past let’s recap on the finer points of Howard’s Golden Years before we decide if we really want to return to them.

Blogger Cuppa has compiled a list of the highlights, taken from a parliamentary speech by Senator John Faulkner, 22 March 2006 when Faulkner recounted a list of the scandals, lies and intrigue that were the real highlights of Howard’s Golden Years.

We remember:

* Minister Jim Short was forced to resign for failing to divest himself of financial interests in his area of ministerial responsibility.

* Industry minister John Moore was exposed for his shareholdings in technology investment and share-trading companies.

* Parliamentary secretary Brian Gibson lost his job because of a conflict of interest.

* Small business minister Geoff Prosser was running three shopping centres while he was a Minister and he was forced to resign. (Geoff Prosser resigned in July 1997 following the disclosure that he was a shopping centre landlord while he was responsible for commercial tenancy provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1975).

* Resources minister Warwick Parer had massive share interests in a coalmine and in other resource companies; he stayed, in breach of the Ministerial Code.

* Acting Minister for Communications Peter McGauran forgot that he owned 70 poker machines.

* Employment Services Minister Mal Brough promoted training courses which were actually Liberal Party fundraisers.

* Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane was involved in a complex scam to rort GST rebates from Liberal Party fundraisers.

* Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Herron kept up his practice as a surgeon, in breach of the code.

Mr Howard himself was found to be in breach of his own code when he failed to resign as a director of the Menzies Research Centre.

Mr Howard misled the Parliament over meetings he had held with ethanol producer Manildra’s boss – massive Liberal Party donor Dick Honan. It was eventually proved that the meetings did occur, and three weeks later the Government increased trade penalties against a Brazilian ethanol producer.

And there’s more:

* Parliamentary Secretary Warren Entsch’s concrete company won a massive Government contract in breach of the code.

* Peter Reith was appointed as a consultant to defence contractor Tenix immediately after resigning as Defence Minister.

* Health Minister Michael Wooldridge signed a $5 million building deal for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and days later, after resigning as Health Minister, was employed by the college as a consultant.

* Senator Coonan, as Minister for Revenue, avoided paying a land tax. She was then exposed and forced to resign as a registered director of an insurance dispute resolution company operating from her own home.

* Wilson Tuckey, then Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government, heavied a state police minister on behalf of a family member.

* Parliamentary secretary Bob Woods retired from politics when he was under police investigation for travel rorts.

* Communication minister Richard Alston’s family trust held Telstra shares.

* Peter Costello, the Treasurer, appointed Liberal Party megadonor Robert Gerard to the Reserve Bank board despite being told by Mr Gerard that he was involved in a 14-year long tax evasion dispute with the Australian Taxation Office.

* Three ministers – John Sharp, David Jull and Peter McGauran – were forced to resign as a result of travel rorts involving false claims, mismanagement or cover-ups.

* Parliamentary Secretary Bill Heffernan was forced to resign over fabricated claims against a High Court judge.

What else have we had over the past 10 years? Ten years of public policy failure. A partial – very partial – list would include:

* The massive pork-barrelling of the $1 billion Federation Fund program.

* The scandal over the budget leak about MRI machines.

* The development of a culture of assumption and denial in DIMIA while Mr Ruddock was minister for immigration, which the Comrie report called failed, catastrophic and dehumanised; the wrongful and scandalous deportation of Australian citizen Vivian Alvarez Solon.

* The wrongful and scandalous detention of Cornelia Rau at Baxter detention centre.

* The utter incompetence of Veterans’ Affairs Minister Dana Vale over roadworks at Anzac Cove.

* The rorting of the $500 million Regional Partnerships program, with massively disproportionate grants being allocated to Coalition seats – not to mention the Tumbi Creek and Beaudesert Rail scandals under the same program.

* Support for the training of scab labour in Dubai to work on the waterfront and the use of dogs and security guards in balaclavas during the waterfront dispute as waterside workers were sacked under the cover of darkness with the loss of all entitlements and, in some cases, personal possessions.

Of course, the Prime Minister introduced the GST after promising he never, ever would.

* The Howard Government have sponsored many attacks on the independence of the judiciary and the courts, including repeated slurs by Senator Heffernan in this chamber and in Senate Estimates.

* They scrapped the free Commonwealth dental health scheme for low-income people.

* They put back the cause of reconciliation irrevocably by refusing to say sorry to the Stolen Generations.

* They blurred the line between church and state by the disastrous appointment of Archbishop Hollingworth as Governor-General of Australia.

Within days of coming to office, the Howard government sacked six departmental secretaries and have since politicised the public service so that officials will never offer frank and fearless advice. In fact, the Government have encouraged a culture where advice of any kind from a public servant is not welcome.

* They have increased Government staffing of Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries from 293 when they came to office to 430 now, many paid above the salary range.

* They cynically manipulated public sentiment about asylum seekers for political advantage.

* They refused to sign the Kyoto protocol to deal with our greatest global environmental challenge – climate change.

* They sponsored attacks from the former Communications Minister Richard Alston and from government backbenchers over alleged ABC bias while making partisan appointments to the ABC Board.

* They introduced draconian industrial legislation to strip away the hard-won rights of Australian workers.

* They introduced the flawed Pacific Solution, which has seen detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island remain open without any detainees.

* They have allowed an Australian citizen, David Hicks, to be held overseas without charge or trial for more than four years and left him to face a highly flawed tribunal process without making any efforts to ensure he will have a fair trial.

Then there was the dithering over preferences to One Nation, giving succour, as a result, to Pauline Hanson and tacit approval of her racist views.

* There was the billion dollar bungling of major defence upgrade and acquisition projects. There was the massive blow-out of $2 billion in the Commonwealth’s Consultancies Bill.

* There was the complete fiasco of the family tax benefit debt trap, which has slugged millions of Australian families with over $1.5 billion in debts.

* There is the fiasco of child-care shortages and the broken promise of the Government on the child-care rebate.

* We have had the Minister for Health and Aging, Tony Abbott, presiding over private health insurance premium hikes, which have totally absorbed the government rebate.

* We have had the plunge in bulk-billing rates and the breaking of the Health Minister’s promise not to increase the Medicare safety net threshold.

We really have seen 10 years of sleaze, deception and manipulation. We would be here all night if I had time to list every sorry exploit of the Howard Government, but I do not. A mere sample includes:

* National Textiles, the company headed by the Prime Minister’s brother, Stan Howard, which was bailed out by the government to the tune of $4 million.

* The infamous Peter Reith telecard affair.

* The lies and deceit of ‘children overboard’.

Then this nation was committed to war in Iraq on the basis of faulty intelligence about weapons of mass destruction while the Government claimed that they were not aiming for regime change in Iraq.

But when the government’s claims about weapons of mass destruction proved false, of course regime change became the justification for the war in Iraq. Never before has an Australian government sent our troops to war and lied to the Australian people about the reason for doing so.

We had Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty heavied for doing no more than stating the obvious about the increased terrorist threat in Australia after our involvement in Iraq.

* We have had public servants and senior defence officers forced to take the blame over the Government’s denials about their knowledge of the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison.

* We have had an unprecedented amount of public money splurged in advertising campaigns – as the Auditor-General has reported – to promote Liberal Party policies in the lead-up to the last three federal elections when the Howard Government was in office.

* We have even had the government write the name of the Federal Liberal Party into electoral legislation on 33 occasions to strip the Liberal state divisions of public funding. They even now use the Parliament for their own dirty factional work.

Despite the farcical denials that we have heard about Senator Hill’s appointment, he is about to become the 18th former Liberal Party politician to be appointed by the Howard government to a plum diplomatic post.

Mr Howard perverted the accepted definition of an election promise. He broke promises willy-nilly but just redefined those broken promises as ‘non-core’ promises.

What about the Nixonian leaking of a classified document to Andrew Bolt in order to politically assassinate its author, Andrew Wilkie, while not vetoing the leaker from contesting a Liberal Party preselection ballot?

We also had a situation where Mr Howard’s government engineered the sleaziest of deals with a former Labor senator, Mal Colston, to promote Colston to the Deputy Presidency of the Senate in return for Colston’s vote on crucial legislation. How low can you go? Just recently, we had the unprecedented gagging of public servants before estimates committees.

Kickbacks to Saddam.

Mr Howard himself, his senior minister, and his entire government have turned a blind eye to kickbacks paid to Saddam Hussein’s regime to ensure wheat sales. At the same time, we had Mr Howard self-righteously proclaiming that Saddam Hussein is a ‘loathsome dictator’. They turned a blind eye to our single-desk wheat exporter, who practically became the banker of the Baath Party in Iraq. Who knows where that money ended up? Who knows what it paid for?

What we do know is that, under the Government’s own terrorist legislation, if someone acts recklessly and funds turn up in the hands of terrorists, the guilty party is subject to life imprisonment. You go to jail and they throw away the keys if you recklessly engage in an action under our terrorism laws where financial resources end up in the hands of a terrorist. Let us see what happens in relation to the Howard government, which has acted as Saddam Hussein’s banker.

Of course, all these sins mean nothing to the Howard government. After all, how can they repent what they cannot recall? This Government, and its hand-picked sycophants, suffers from the worst case of collective amnesia in medical and political history.

What are the bywords of the Howard government? ‘I cannot recall,’ ‘I don’t recollect,’ ‘I wasn’t informed,’ ‘I can’t remember,’ ‘I have no recollection of that.’

Best of all, we had Trevor Flugge of AWB fame claiming, as his defence, that he is hard of hearing. It seems to me the whole of this government is hard of hearing. They are certainly deaf to the cries of conscience.

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