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Tag Archives: Peter Slipper

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!”

 

 

Whistleblower goodies and baddies

When Kathy Jackson blew the whistle on Craig Thomson for misusing union funds, she was praised by various members of the Coalition. Tony Abbott described her as “a brave decent woman”, a “credible whistleblower” whose actions were “heroic”. Christopher Pyne labelled her a “revolutionary” who will be “remembered as a lion of the union movement.” George Brandis and Eric Abetz were similarly effusive in their praise.

Kathy’s “courageous” revelations quickly led to Thomson being arrested by five detectives accompanied by a huge media pack at his Central Coast Office. The following court cases eventually found Thomson was guilty of misappropriating a few thousand dollars. His defence has cost him over $400,000, his career and reputation. His prosecution, combined with the ensuing Royal Commission into trade unions and dedicated police task force, has cost the state tens of millions.

In 2012, Tony Abbott said “I think it’s to the enormous discredit of some people in the Labor movement that they are now trying to blacken [Kathy Jackson’s] name.”

Unfortunately for Mr Abbott, the investigation revealed that his hero has allegedly misappropriated far more than Craig Thomson could ever have dreamed of, well over $1 million by some accounts. Despite the matter being referred to the Victorian police, Ms Jackson remains at large living a millionaire lifestyle. No squad of police arriving at her door with media in tow.

We also had whistleblower James Ashby choosing to reveal private text messages to accuse Peter Slipper of sexual harassment, a charge he chose not to pursue after he had achieved the goal of destroying Mr Slipper’s career and personal life.

And then there was the “unknown” whistleblower who chose to refer Peter Slipper to the police for a few hundred dollars’ worth of cab charges rather than allowing him to pay back the money, something that many members of the Coalition, including Tony Abbott and George Brandis, have been forced to do.

The prosecution of Peter Slipper once again cost the state an amount totally incommensurate with the alleged crime and he has since won his appeal.

The Coalition’s very close relationship with these two dubious characters – Abetz had Jackson on speed dial and Pyne met up for “drinks” with Ashby – shows they had a vested interest in encouraging their revelations.

But when Freya Newman chose to reveal that Tony Abbott’s daughter had been given a $60,000 scholarship that was not available to anyone else, she was immediately investigated, prosecuted and put on a good behaviour bond. The fact that Frances Abbott’s school was a Liberal Party donor who then benefitted greatly by Abbott’s decision to fund private colleges makes the whole thing smell of corruption.

Speaking of which, when a former ASIO employee chose to blow the whistle on Alexander Downer for, under the guise of foreign aid, bugging the offices of the government of Timor l’Este to gain a commercial advantage for Woodside Petroleum who subsequently employed Mr Downer, he immediately had his passport revoked so he could not testify in the case in the International Court and the office of his lawyer was raided and all documents confiscated.

When the Guardian and the ABC reported on leaked documents from Edward Snowden revealing that the Australian Government had bugged the phones of Indonesian politicians and even the President’s wife, they were labelled as traitors by Tony Abbott who apparently thought there was nothing wrong with the deed but talking about it was a crime.

Which brings me to, in my mind, the greatest travesty of all.

When ten members of the Save the Children organisation reported on cases of sexual assault and self-harm of children on Nauru, they were immediately sacked by Scott Morrison.

When the group made a submission to the AHRC’s children in detention inquiry providing evidence of sexual abuse, the Department of Immigration asked the Australian Federal Police to investigate Save The Children for potentially breaching section 70 of the Crimes Act, which bars the disclosure of Commonwealth facts or documents.

A secret report prepared by immigration detention service provider Transfield Services reveals the company was monitoring the activities of Save The Children staff, then accused them of providing evidence to the media of sexual assaults and protests in the detention centre. It reveals that Save The Children staff had compiled reports documenting evidence of sexual assault, which it said had become “increasingly emotive in recent weeks”.

“Two days ago, information report 280917 was written in such a manner by SCA employees, DE and FF, and some of the allegations regarding sexually inappropriate behaviour by security guards contained within this report have been widely reported across Australian media today. DE left Nauru yesterday and the allegations have appeared in the press today.”

The Transfield report also alleges that “It is probable there is a degree of internal and external coaching, and encouragement, to achieve evacuations to Australia through self-harm actions,” though it gives no evidence at all in support of the accusation, which did not stop Scott Morrison and the Daily Telegraph from publicly repeating it last October.

Morrison’s reaction was to announce the Moss Review to examine allegations that staff from the charity acted inappropriately at the Nauru detention centre.

The Moss review, which is due to be released tomorrow, examined why 10 Save the Children aid workers were sent home from the detention centre and whether they fabricated allegations of sexual abuse.

As with the Human Rights Commission’s Forgotten Children report, the message has been ignored and the messenger has been relentlessly pursued and vilified.

In the corporate world, the Corporations Act contains protections for certain whistleblowers, including making it unlawful to persecute a whistleblower for making a protected disclosure of information. This protection encourages people within companies, or with special connections to companies, to alert the company (through its officers), or ASIC, to illegal behaviour.

Where is the same protection for people who alert us to wrongdoing by the government or its agents? Why does Morrison accept Transfield’s report but not that of the Human Rights Commission? Will the Moss Review investigate the sexual abuse or just the people who are trying to Save the Children?

A government who is happy to destroy people’s lives for their own political ends, who silences all criticism, and who considers their own interests in front of the welfare of children in our care, is worthy of the same contempt they show for the truth.

We are being governed by a despicable group of people who have sacrificed all decency and integrity to personal ambition.

asylum seeker children protest on Nauru

asylum seeker children protest on Nauru

Opaque and irresponsible

Tony Abbott promised to “restore accountability and improve transparency measures to be more accountable to you”.

This is a reminder of just a few of the stories that put pay to that hollow pledge.

They began their era of accountability by denying Freedom of Information.

Freedom of Information

“An attempt by technology media outlet Delimiter to retrieve the ‘Blue Book’ incoming ministerial briefing of Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull under Freedom of Information laws has failed, with the Federal Government as a whole appearing to standardise around interpreting its rights as blocking such documents wholesale.”

“The first Abbott government budget will see the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) closed, and its functions assigned to other government agencies. This back-to-the-future move is likely to make it harder and probably more expensive for long suffering FOI users.

The budget shows that the FOI review function will be transferred back to the AAT from 2015 with the Attorney-General’s department responsible for overseeing the Freedom of Information Act and issuing FOI guidelines. In essence Attorney General George Brandis will be expected to drive the decades-long effort to change the culture of secrecy to one of openness and facilitation of access to information.”

The next step was to gag ministers and employees.

Keeping Ministers in check

Prime Minister Tony Abbott admits that he has ordered all ministers contact his office before speaking to the media, saying his government needs to speak with a ‘‘united voice’’.

On Wednesday, an email leaked to the Australian Financial Review, Mr Abbott’s senior press secretary, James Boyce, informed ministerial staff that all requests for interviews, right down to ABC local outlets, must be vetted by Kate Walshe who has taken over leadership of communications in Mr Abbott’s office.

In the leaked email, Mr Boyce wrote: ”All media co-ordination and requests should go through Kate first. This covers all national media interviews on television, radio and print. This includes any ABC local radio or ABC television interviews, the Sunday program, Sky News, and metropolitan print media longer-format interviews, etc.

“With any regular appearances on shows such as Sky AM Agenda, they should first have been coordinated through Kate at least the day before.”

Social Media Gag

On Sunday, Samantha Maiden reported that the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet had issued new social media guidelines that included a clause instructing employees that there “is an expectation” to dob in colleagues if they see them do anything on social media that might contravene the code of conduct. Such things included being “critical or highly critical of the Department, the Minister or the Prime Minister”.

The new guidelines made it a contravention of the code if anything you did on social media “could be perceived” as “compromising the APS employee’s capacity to fulfil their duties in an unbiased manner”. While this was particular to comments made about “policies and programmes of the employee’s agency”, it could be applied to other matters. “Such comment does not have to relate to the employee’s area of work.”

Raids to confiscate damning evidence in a case before the International Court were the next step

Timor l’Este

“A lawyer representing East Timor in its spying case against Australia says his office has been raided by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).

Bernard Collaery says a number of agents seized electronic and paper files on Tuesday afternoon from his law practice in Canberra.

He says the agents identified themselves as working for ASIO and the AFP, and would not show his employees the search warrant because it related to national security.

East Timor will launch a case in The Hague alleging the Australia Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) covertly recorded Timorese ministers and officials during oil and gas negotiations in Dili in 2004, allegedly giving Australia the upper hand.

Mr Collaery also says a key witness in the Timorese case – a former spy turned whistleblower – has been arrested in a separate raid in Canberra.”

Next on the list…muzzle the ABC and journalists (unless you are Andrew Bolt)

The ABC

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has stepped up his criticism of the ABC, accusing the national broadcaster of being unpatriotic in its coverage of the Edward Snowden leaks and asylum seeker abuse claims.

Mr Abbott also questioned the ABC’s newly established Fact Check unit, saying he wanted the corporation to focus on straight news gathering and reporting.

“A lot of people feel at the moment that the ABC instinctively takes everyone’s side but Australia’s,” he said in an interview with Ray Hadley on Sydney radio station 2GB.

“I think it dismays Australians when the national broadcaster appears to take everyone’s side but its own and I think it is a problem.”

Brandis’ National Security plans.

The attorney general, George Brandis, would decide who would be prosecuted under a controversial new provision in national security legislation designed to head off a homegrown Chelsea Manning or Edward Snowden.

The reforms proposed by the Abbott government are intended to make it easier for the peak spy agency, Asio, to monitor computers and computer networks. They also contain provisions which create a new offence punishable by five years in jail for “any person” who discloses information relating to “special intelligence operations”.

The broad wording in the proposed anti-leaking provision has prompted some leading criminal lawyers, the journalists’ union and media companies to warn the change could criminalise not only the initial disclosure, but any subsequent reporting of Snowden-style intelligence leaks.

An explanatory submission by Brandis’s department to the new JPCIS inquiry makes it plain that it will be the attorney general who decides who will be prosecuted under the new provisions.

We don’t want no stinkin’ accountability….

Open Government Partnership

THE Abbott government is reconsidering Labor’s pledge to sign Australia up for a major international transparency and citizen engagement initiative.

Australia was expected to formally enter the Open Government Partnership this month, joining 63 other nations in rolling out action plans to make their governments more open and accountable to the public.

Boys Own meets the bastard child of Secret and Magnificent Seven.

Operation Sovereign Borders

The current management arrangements for Operation Sovereign Borders have little to commend them. They confuse accountability and provide scope for too much buck-passing. Their only obvious virtue, if it can be called that, is that they provide a veneer of military respectability for what, underneath, is an unedifying spectacle. And it has given employment to former major-general Jim Molan, who apparently had some hand in designing the operation’s ”concept”. Molan says he is, of all things, the operation’s ”troubleshooter”. It would be interesting to know how many targets he’s hit thus far, with what effect and at what cost.

In general, the provision of information on the operation’s workings and the public accountability about it fall well short of reasonable expectations. Some restrictions on operational grounds will be necessary but blanket bans on fessing up about all ”on-water matters” are absurd. It’s the equivalent of the ridiculous notion in sport that ”what happens on the field of play, stays on the field”. If current habits were to be extended to under the water, on the land and under it, and in the air, the accountability shop could just about be shut up.

UN denied access to offshore detention camps

Inspectors from a UN working group say they were denied access to Nauru after an initial invitation from the Nauruan government to investigate conditions in the detention centre.

The group’s leader Mads Andenas told a New Zealand radio station access had been cancelled, with the Nauruan government citing “practical reasons for it not being suitable, practical for us to come”.

Professor Gillian Triggs blamed the Abbott government for blocking the visit.

“Behind this is the Australian government pulling the strings in relation to who denies the UN access, but it’s just outrageous to deny the UN,” she told Fairfax Media.

“It’s an astonishing thing to do, to deny the very groups that are set up to monitor these matters globally with the consent of most of the international community, including Australia,” she said, following a National Press Club address on Wednesday.

Professor Triggs was similarly denied access to the Nauruan detention centre in February by Immigration Minister Scott Morrison on the grounds that the commission’s jurisdiction did not extend beyond Australia’s borders.

Human rights advocates say this is the second time in a month that UN delegates have been refused access to Australian detention centres offshore.

Last month a delegate from the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, was refused a meeting with asylum seekers and G4S in the Manus detention centre.

Children in detention

“The Refugee Council is demanding Immigration Department staff be sacked if they were involved in a cover-up about the scale of mental health issues among child asylum seekers in detention.

Yesterday a Human Rights Commission inquiry was told that Immigration Department officials reacted with alarm at figures showing the extent of mental health concerns among young detainees.

“[They] asked us to withdraw these figures from our reporting,” psychiatrist Dr Peter Young said.

Any hint of government corruption may not be discussed.

Suppression Order

Australia has secured a super-injunction order barring its media from reporting on a corruption case implicating top leaders from Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam in deals with the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).

The case stems from the long-running allegations of bribery involving RBA subsidiaries Securency and Note Printing Australia to obtain contracts to supply polymer notes to the governments of Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and other countries.

According to WikiLeaks, Canberra invoked grounds of “national security” in order to secure the so-called super-injunction, claiming that censoring reports on the matter would “prevent damage to Australia’s international relations”.

“With this order, the worst in living memory, the Australian government is not just gagging the Australian press, it is blindfolding the Australian public,” WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange said in the statement. “The concept of ‘national security’ is not meant to serve as a blanket phrase to cover up serious corruption allegations involving government officials, in Australia or elsewhere… Corruption investigations and secret gag orders for ‘national security’ reasons are strange bedfellows.”

MP expenses

Under pressure to explain why taxpayers should spend thousands of dollars to help politicians compete in sports events and attend colleagues’ weddings, Mr Abbott said there would “always be arguments at the margins” and changing the rules would achieve nothing.

“I’m not proposing to change the system,” Mr Abbott said on Thursday. “You don’t want members of Parliament to be prisoners of their offices.”

Liberal Party slush funds

The sensational corruption inquiry into alleged Liberal Party slush funds is expected to be adjourned within days to give investigators time to examine new evidence.

Federal ICAC

It is time the Liberal Party accepted that corruption among politicians, public officials and businesspeople is not confined to the states or to its opponents.

The NSW Labor conference unanimously passed a motion that Labor’s national conference next July debate support for a federal ICAC. The federal ICAC would have royal commission-style powers to investigate MPs and public officials in relation to bribery, travel expenses and donations, while providing advice about ethical and legal duties.

The Labor motion even proposes a federal ICAC tackle white-collar crime, as the Serious Fraud Office does in Britain.

Former NSW ICAC chief David Ipp has told the ABC it is ”so screamingly obvious that there is a breakdown in trust” and that a federal ICAC is required.

Yet the Liberals have rejected every attempt to create one.

Abbott has questioned the need for it, notwithstanding his party’s appalling record on travel expenses.

We will not see the promised cost benefit analyses for anything costing over $100 million. The NBN has become a secret. Anything you want to know is commercial-in-confidence, or on-water, or a matter of national security, or before the courts. We will decide what we tell people in this country and how they will be told.

In contrast….

Peter Slipper

“In June, Mr Slipper’s lawyers argued the charges should be dismissed under the Mental Health Act because of the former MP’s state of mind.

The court was told that Mr Slipper’s life had spiralled into one of despair as a result of the criminal allegations, but the magistrate ruled the trial go ahead for the sake of the public interest.”

Royal Commission into Union Corruption

I will be recommending the establishment of a Royal Commission to inquire into alleged financial irregularities associated with the affairs of trade unions. It will inquire into the activities relating to ‘slush funds’ and other similar funds and entities established by, or related to, the affairs of these organisations.

It will address increasing concern arising from a wide range of revelations and allegations involving officials of unions establishing and benefiting from funds which have been set up for purposes which are often unknown and frequently unrelated to the needs of their members.

 

Democracy must be built through open societies that share information. When there is information, there is enlightenment. When there is debate, there are solutions. When there is no sharing of power, no rule of law, no accountability, there is abuse, corruption, subjugation and indignation.

Atifete Jahjaga

Under pressure

Marco Bolano was the deputy general secretary of the HSU east branch. It was Mr Bolano, along with the national secretary, Kathy Jackson, who went to the police in September 2011 with allegations of systemic corruption within the union.

At the end of June 2012, Mr Bolano was one of eight union figures to lose his job when an administrator was appointed to the troubled HSU east branch. A Federal Court Order placed the union into administration and directed all officials to stand down. At a subsequent election Bolano was voted out by the HSU members.

Bolano then claimed he had been “bullied” and sought workers compensation which is still being paid to him through Workcover (ie government funds) at his pay rate of $230,000 pa.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtWTGWhSynM

Bolano’s fellow whistleblower and union colleague, Kathy Jackson is being sued by the HSU for $700,000 of allegedly misspent union members funds.

In June, Kathy Jackson was due to appear before Federal Court in Melbourne to give her defence against civil actions being taken by the national office of the Health Services Union to retrieve funds. When she failed to appear, her partner Michael Lawler rang the court representing Jackson attempting to have the matter heard remotely – something the judge pointed out was not permissible.

When Tony Abbott was Industrial Relations Minister, he appointed Michael Lawler to the position of vice president of the Fair Work Commission at a salary of about $400,000. It was the FWC that investigated the Health Services Union and led to the allegations against Craig Thomson.

As Peter Wicks pointed out in his long-running expose on this case

“Surely, taxpayers’ dollars should not be spent on a public servant meant to be an impartial industrial judge who is freelancing as a barrister for a union official with whom he is in a long-term relationship that is facing civil action from her own union.”

On Friday, Kathy Jackson was in court in Melbourne representing herself. She failed to produce her defence as directed, despite having been given more time to do so. She told the court that she was under medical direction “to disengage from this process for three months”.

I can understand her feeling under pressure as I am sure Craig Thomson did also for far smaller amounts than those Ms Jackson is alleged to have misappropriated. My question is, when your partner is an industrial judge of equivalent standing to a Federal Court judge, who is intimately aware of, if not directly involved in, the case, couldn’t he have prepared her defence documents as required by the court?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9bt7kGXNT8

Speaking of pressure, Peter Slipper faced court again today for his alleged misuse of less than $1000 in cab charges. The court is set to sit for 6 days to hear this case which may find Mr Slipper in breach due to misrepresenting where he went on a couple of the vouchers. I wonder how much this has cost so far in police and court resources.

What beat up?

Andrew Bolt is not happy.

Not only is social media attacking his pin-up boy, the newly elected Prime Minister (over a dozen justifiable issues) but there is now, in Andrew’s words:

. . . this beat up over Abbott’s expenses . . .

Andrew has mellowed. He never used to tolerate misuse of taxpayer’s money. Last year he asked Peter Slipper to justify the reason why he had billed the poor tax-payers for cab fares amounting to a few cents over $80. He aired this request publicly, devoting a whole article:

In February, I asked Peter Slipper to explain these taxi fares he charged to taxpayers.

And he also asked:

. . . where was Finance Minister Penny Wong in this, with so many people raising concerns over this spending of our money? What happened to the investigation by Special Minister of State Gary Gray? Who was minding the till?

Wow, I’m glad you’ve mellowed on matters pertaining to the public purse, Andrew. I’d hate to think how you’d attack Tony Abbott if you hadn’t.

 

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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.

 

An Abbott in the Lodge: “NEVER” (Part four)

lodge 4

The Lodge – the official residence of the Prime Minister

But what if.

Tony Abbott is often touted as being the most effective opposition leader this country has ever had. What criteria people use to reach this conclusion is I am unsure. However it seems to me that it is flawed. Why? Well it’s rather simple really. For almost three years the polls have given the LNP an unassailable lead over the Labor Party. So why the overkill? Obviously both the MSM and Abbott were eager to be rid of the Prime Minister. Did they show good judgement in hounding her out of office in the knowledge that a more formidable and popular opponent would replace her. Why do it when it would have been easier over the past twelve months to let political nature take its course and assume office with little effort. Everyone agreed that the populace had stopped listening to her in spite of her policy success. They needed to do everything possible to see her remain in office. It would guarantee them victory. So what was to be gained by applying the blow torch?

It goes without saying that Julia Gillard was subjected to the most contemptible and at times depraved attacks that in a political sense were unnecessary if just gaining office was the only objective. However, it seems that men cannot help themselves so they went for the jugular and in so doing put Abbott’s election at risk. But they did achieve one objective and set back the political aspirations of women for generations.

If Abbott does lose this election then he could be rightly accused of losing an unlosable one.

Tony Abbott if nothing else is a very colourful character. He is aggressive both physically and in the use of language. His negativity is legendary and he has little consideration for any ideas other than his own and says NO to his opponents policies regardless of their worthiness. He is by evidence and his own admission a liar of some regularity. Added to that he has a political gutter mentality and little respect for the institution of parliament and its conventions.

My personal desire is that Labor wins the forthcoming election. Firstly because it’s the party I support ideologically and at this point in time has the best policies to take this country forward. Secondly because I would prefer never to again see the negative often hateful style of opposition that Mr Abbott has foisted on the Australian people. It may be a way to win office but the country pays a price.

But what if he does win.

He would face governing the country (Perhaps even implementing Labor policies) against a backdrop of unsavoury personal and party distractions. All of these distractions regardless of merit would create major diversions not withstanding constant public intrigue and judgement. He would be a Prime Minister like no other facing constant involvement in court proceedings or by association being on the edge of them.

There is the law suit he is facing in relation to David Ettridge and One Nation. He is being sued by Ettridge for for $1.5 million. His expenses are being looked after by a legal firm of Liberal supporters. Now it is not for me to judge the veracity of Mr Ettridge’s claims (the courts will do that) however, I would just point that firstly Abbott established a slush fund to bring down Pauline Hansen and then lied about its existence on the ABC Late Line program. He would have to explain this to the public. Not a good look for newly elected a Prime Minister. I dare say we could expect a plethora of journalists all chaffing at the bit to fill a few tabloid pages.

Then of course we have the Ashby/Slipper affair and we are awaiting the courts appeal decision. It is difficult to imagine whatever the outcome that there would not be some residual flak that Abbott would have to face. He has said that he had no direct knowledge of the proceedings. He has never explained what knowledge he did have. And if Ashby was granted his day in court it would involve members of his party and he could not escape the obvious implications. He may be able to explain his involvement but he would have to explain the involvement of his colleagues and that would be difficult. If on the other hand the ruling vindicates Justice Rare’s original verdict and an investigation is warranted. Would Prime Minister Abbott have to stand aside? After all, he was suggesting that the Prime Minister Gillard and Craig Thompson do just that under similar circumstances.

Early next year Barbara Ramjan sues Michael Kroger for defamation. Remember she accused Abbott of punching a wall either side of her head during a university altercation. Tony Abbott is not directly involved in this case although he might have to explain the fact that he reckons the event never took place in spite of witnesses saying it did. You might also recall that upon finding out Ramjan’”s standing in the community Alan Jones apologised to her. And she is married to a Supreme Court judge. All in all again not a good look for a new PM.

And Peter Slipper will front court to answer Cab Charge charges. On the surface this might seem trivial but it is still to be explained as to why the matter was not dwelt with in the normal parliamentary manner instead of having to go to court. Again Abbott is not directly involved but he would have to explain his party’s complicity.

And of course, unionist John Setka is also suing Abbott for defamation.

I can think of no person ever running for the position of Prime Minister who would take with them so much personal and party scandal into the office.

Why I don’t make predictions . . . and why I never will

I really shouldn't make predictions (image from dreamstime.com)

I really shouldn’t make predictions (image from dreamstime.com)

In the Fortune Teller’s Tent

Madame Claire: Good afternoon, if you cross my palm with silver, I’ll tell you your future.

Unnamed Politician: No thanks, I’m . . . ah . . . keeping my money till I find out whether you’re the real thing.

Madame Claire: But didn’t your good friend Peter send you after my accurate reading of him?

Politician: Ah . . . yes, but I . . . ah . . . don’t trust Peter – this could be some sort of trick.

Madame Claire: Very well, how about if I give you this initial reading and after that, if you need my services, you’ll just pay me twice as much the way you intend to do with outsourcing and the public service.

Politician: Ah… You’ll have to do better than that, you could have predicted that from looking at what the State Liberals do.

Madame Claire: The first thing you want to know is who will win the election.

Politician: Obviously. So . . . ah, do I?

Madame Claire: That depends on what you mean by “win”.

Politician: Look, it’s ah . . . a perfectly simply thing.

Madame Claire: Well, who won the last election?

Politician: Er . . . We did, but Labor stayed in power because they bribed the independents with trinkets and promises of faster internet.

Madame Claire: Well, I see very few winners out of the next election.

Politician: I . . . ah, don’t follow.

Madame Claire: I see a man with a big hat who is smiling. Or is it sneering.

Politician: That’d be Katter.

Madame Claire: The media want to know where he’ll be directing his votes.

Politician: His vote.

Madame Claire: No, his votes. And he is saying that he’ll be meeting with a big man named Clive in the next few days.

Politician: Clive Palmer?

Madame Claire: I don’t know. I only have glimpses. The future is a mist. Nothing is certain. It can all be re-written differently.

Politician: Ah . . . sort of like News Limited does for us.

Madame Claire: Not exactly. It’s more like your Real Solutions document. A trained eye can see something, but only through a veil . . . And certain words and phrases keep blocking me from seeing the whole picture.

Politician: What are they?

Madame Claire: “Labor’s fault”, “bigger than we thought”, “aspiration, not a promise”. And the letters N D I and S keep confusing things. Do these letters mean anything to you?

Politician: Not a thing.

Madame Claire: Ah I’m getting something else Gone . . . Gone . . . Ski?

Politician: Gone skiing?

Madame Claire: No, Gonski, that’s it. A man named Gonski is threatening you.

Politician: No, we’ve dealt with that. We’ve told everyone that the system is just fine. Apart from the private schools not getting enough federal money. But you haven’t answered the important question – do we win?

Madame Claire: Who’s “we”? And what does it mean to “win”?

Politician: Do I become Prime Minister?

Madame Claire: I’m sorry, but you’ll have wait until after the election when I can charge consultancy rates.

SHE BEGINS TO EXIT.

Politician: Wait, I need to know. Those votes Katter was talking about . . . were they the Lower House or the Senate?

Madame Claire: Why should I tell you, when you refused to cross my palm with silver?

Politician: I don’t have any. Labor cornered the market on silver when they offered Peter Slipper the Speaker’s Chair, but perhaps I could offer you a job somewhere.

Madame Claire: Such as?

Politician: What do you want? Media Watch Presenter? Tim Flannery’s job? Head of the FUTURE fund?

Madame Claire: Aren’t you overlooking something?

Politician: What?

Madame Claire: You aren’t Prime Minister yet . . .

 

Reader’s poll: Should Tony Abbott stand aside?

By now everyone would be aware of this news (despite the story’s absence from most of our mainstream media groups):

A lawsuit by One Nation Party co-founder David Ettridge against federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott will head to court next month.

Mr Ettridge is suing Mr Abbott for damages of more than $1.5 million. He has accused Mr Abbott of acting unlawfully in 1998 by assisting and encouraging litigation against One Nation in the Queensland courts.

If this action had have been against a Labor or Independent politician, Tony Abbott will be screaming that they stand aside. Like he did with Craig Thomson:

Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has taken his attack on Craig Thomson to a new level, using parliament to call for the MP’s resignation just hours after the former union leader appealed to be left alone.

Mr Abbott has called for Mr Thomson’s resignation before, but not in parliament.

Or with Peter Slipper:

“. . . it is surely right for the Speaker to step aside to protect the integrity of the parliament”.

It’s good to know that Tony wants to protect the integrity of the parliament. Perhaps he could walk the walk – and not just talk the talk – by at least stepping aside while he faces his own demons in the court of the land which would of course protect the integrity of the parliament . . . enormously. What do you think?

[polldaddy poll=7042512]

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Let’s ask Tony Abbott

Tony Abbott is a media magnet. Nothing can happen on the Australian political scene without the resultant news story beginning with: “Tony Abbott says …”

And so it was with the announcement that Peter Slipper would face three charges after being summonsed by the AFP over allegedly breaching MP car travel rules. Tony Abbott says:

Prime Minister Julia Gillard should never have allowed Peter Slipper to become the Speaker of Parliament.

Mr Abbott says the latest development involving Mr Slipper again exposes the Prime Minister’s lack of judgment.

“Why did the Prime Minister ever think that the gentleman in question was fit and proper to be the Speaker of our country?”

The media had done their job with another prized “Mr Abbott says …” But what a pity they didn’t do their job properly. Why was it not pointed out to Mr Abbott that the man he now professes to have been unsuitable for the role of Speaker is the same man he defended just over two years ago on the same issue he now condemns him? Back then, Mr Abbott said:

“I’m satisfied (Mr Slipper) has acted within his entitlements. My understanding is that he’s acted within his entitlements.”

That was their first failure. Their second failure was avoiding asking Tony Abbott some hard questions. Here’s a number that I’ve thought of:

  • Did you sign any of Peter Slipper’s travel documents and if so, do you realise Peter Slipper could call you as a witness?
  • In the court documents it shows that the voucher system of cab charges was to be discontinued and that Peter Slipper received such advice in 2006 and again in 2007 when the Coalition was in government. Why then didn’t a Government MP not abide by it’s rules?
  • Knowing this, why did the Liberal party and yourself support not only the re-election of Peter Slipper, but his nomination as Deputy Speaker?
  • Why did the Coalition Government allow it’s finance department to still allow paper cab vouchers if it had changed the rules back in 2006? Rules that apparently were set in place to stop fraud. Wasn’t Nick Minchin the Finance Minister? Did he fail in his responsibilities? Is he party to the fact of allowing a fraud to occur against the Commonwealth?
  • Did the department write to the Minister with the problems they were having with Peter Slipper?
  • Did you ever contemplate going to the police if you knew any of the above?

Perhaps I should follow Tony Abbott on Twitter and ask him myself.

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