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Thursday, 17 January 2013

When standards were automatic and stealing and lying were quite unacceptable

If you google the phrase "get on with the business of government" +awu scandal gillard - you'll get about 38,500 matches.

The ABC, The Drum, Crikey, Fairfax, McTernan, the Labor daily script and a range of their barracking commentators tell us daily that Australians deserve a political leadership that's focussed on health, education, the economy etc.

And we're told that it's the Liberal Party's smear campaign that's keeping the name-calling going and diverting us all from the real business of running the country.

They are absolutely correct.   It's got to stop.   There is no place in a properly functioning Australian parliament for the continuing, repetitious statement and re-statement of the allegations and evidence against the Prime Minister and Craig Thomson.

We have a range of law, tradition and convention that holds our Westminster system of government together.   The tradition of ministerial responsibility is one.  That convention holds that a minister, including the Prime Minister, is expected to take responsibility for their departments, the actions of their staff and themselves.  In the past this convention and the honour that went with it was sufficient to ensure reasonable standards of behaviour. and reputation amongst our parliamentary leaders.

There've been plenty of recent examples of ministers standing down over what by the Gillard-test were fairly minor departures from the convention.  Often it's the political support of a Prime Minister that has been the reason for survival - as was the case with Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer, in 1996, after claims that he misled Parliament.  Similarly, Health Minister, Dr Carmen Lawrence, survived criticism during 1995 because of support from Prime Minister Keating.

Assistant Treasurer, Senator Jim Short, resigned from the Howard cabinet in 1996 after failing to declare a personal holding in ANZ bank shares.  Relatively minor Travel Allowance claims led to the resignations of three ministers (John Sharp, David Jull and Peter McGauran) in September 1997 from the Howard ministry. In 2009, Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon resigned from the Rudd Government for breaching the conflict of interest provisions of the ministerial code of conduct.

These resignations were generally automatic.   Once the breach was brought to public notice, the  ministers concerned acted nobly.   They put the interests of the system of government, the good name of the parliament and their cabinet first.   And I think they acted with an even higher nod towards the nation's character and the way it evolves with each of these moments of truth.

I was genuinely bewildered, lost and gobsmacked when the Prime Minister wrote a series of letters to me (via her media staff) about Craig Thomson.   He admitted to so cavalier an attitude towards his members' money that he "inadvertently" approved the payment of brothel bills with HSU money about 8 times.   A reasonable person would be entitled to believe that Thomson also placed the orders for the services that he approved payment for, and that he signed the credit card vouchers on the nights in question.   Thomson is also accused of using union members' money to finance his election into the parliament.

Ms Gillard wrote back that he had no issues to answer.   He was doing a great job.   She believed he'd be around for a long, long, long, time.   Surely the convention, the dignity of the parliament, the character of the leadership of the nation would require her to demand that he stand down while a brief investigation took place.   If she knew him well, I thought, perhaps she would ask for his resignation from the parliament.   I expected the Prime Minister to at the very least distance herself from him.  But she did the opposite, within an hour or so of each occassion of me writing to her.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars apparently embezzled from some of the lowest paid, hardest working people in the nation.  The money is gone, the fun has been had.  The workers simply don't rate on the currently parliamentary score card.

I can see now why Ms Gillard acted instinctively as she did in supporting Craig Thomson.   I've studied her actions in excrutiating, soul-destroying detail.   She is Prime Minister to be Prime Minister.   That is the purpose of her vocation, her ministry.    She is there to remain there.

In all the confected fights, the name-calling, the smears, the misogyny speeches, the denials of wrong doing, the meaningless hour-long press conferences - we have lost sight of a greater evil than The AWU Scandal and its cover-up.   We have allowed our fabric of automatic, reflexive, predictable decency to decay, to tear and to breakdown like so much hessian on the compost pile.   And we've accepted the breakdown - some in the media barrack for it.   Isn't she a fighter, isn't she doing a great job, what a strong negotiator.

Ms Gillard should not have to endure the horrible spectacle of well-researched and factually substantiated allegations being made against her - and her office - during every parliamentary question time.   She shouldn't have to endure it because she should not be there to draw them.   She should resign and the proud members of her Party should demand it and withdraw their support if it's not forthcoming.

She shouldn't be dragging her office down to the level of hoon-driving, serial promiscuity conflicting with professional obligations, legal malpractice, dubious associations personal and corporate and the range of patently obvious malfeasance that adorn her history - and the knowledge of those black marks keeps her in the job, courtesy of a controlling AWU. 

I maintain wonderful relationships with my former colleagues in the police.   I received this note today from a working detective.

What amazes me is that the Prime Minister of Australia is a person-of-interest in a major fraud investigation and none of our media organisations want to say anything about it.
As for Thompson I would have interviewed him and charged already on the evidence I have seen.
I hope the boys in the Fraud Squad are being protected by their bosses from prying government eyes, as JG's latest foray into police matters relating to gang violence is making me suspicious.

I have no doubt she would be pulling out as many favours and funding offers to stop or slow down this investigation as possible. She can't keep everybody's mouth shut for ever and she knows it. A caged animal is a very dangerous creature

Keep up the good work, your police buddies will stick with you.  
 
Can you imagine the office of the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of Great Britain - or the Prime Minister of New Zealand being spoken of in those terms, without it being galvanising, vote-changing news?
But we've allowed the branches to be stacked, the unis to be group-thought, Fairfax and the ABC to replicate the Western tradition hating activists - and here we are. 
Well I won't stand for it.   We should be focussed on the issues that count, health, education, the economy.   And we must fight to take back our self-reinforcing standards of decency, propriety and goodness.   How do we bring it to a head?   Over to you.



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Where it Started

Gillard & the AWU scandal

Interview with Bob Kernohan