Mr BRIGGS (Mayo) (11:32): Today I rise to speak in relation to my role as a scrutiny of government spokesperson for the coalition and a flagrant abuse of taxpayers' money. Earlier this year, the new SA Premier did a rare good thing and cut a program called Thinkers in Residence, a program that was simply a way for former Premier Mike Rann to abuse SA taxpayers' money by offering patronage to left-wing mates.
The worst example of this was the failed British political operative, Mr John McTernan, who was supposedly thinking during 2011. According to reports, Mr McTernan was paid some $200,000 for his time thinking. The topic of Mr McTernan's thinking was, ironically, delivering a more effective public service. Some 12 months after the completion of this thinking, no report has been prepared and there is no sign either of the two toolkits he was supposed to produce.
This disgraceful fact is that the SA taxpayer has footed the bill to bring a Labor mate to Australia. But what makes it worse is that the Prime Minister decided to employ this failed British headkicker, again, using large amounts of Australian taxpayers' money. This FIFO political adviser is employed in the Prime Minister's office on a taxpayer funded salary, somewhere in the vicinity of $200,000.
Mr McTernan is a self-confessed political fighter, a class warrior. He describes his approach to politics in the following way:
If you get to senior positions, you have to be able to kill your opponents. It is not pretty, it's not pleasant, but if those at the top can't kill, then those at the bottom certainly cannot. High politics demands very low political skills, too.
He affirmed this approach to Labor staff earlier this week, and Ben Packham at the Australian reported:
Julia Gillard's media director John McTernan has reminded ministerial staff that politics is a contact sport, urging them to hit back hard whenever the opposition attacks. Illustrating his point yesterday, McTernan borrowed countryman Sean Connery's classic line from The Untouchables: 'If they pull a knife, you pull a gun. If they put one of your men in the hospital, put one of theirs in the morgue.'
He certainly is obsessed by killing this character. That is what happened earlier this year. Mr McTernan started this year with a New Years' Eve tweet:
Happy New Year to friends, colleagues, commentators and combatants in Australia. 2012 is going to be fun.
He has not let us down. It all started on Australia Day and the infamous Australia Day riot when a member of the PM's staff on our most sacred day told a group of protesters that the Leader of the Opposition had said something he had never said. A young Labor staffer named Tony Hodges, a good young Labor man, took the rap for this; however, we know from the former Attorney-General, the member for Barton, that this decision was made much further up the line. That young Labor staffer was in effect collateral damage. Maybe this just confirms Mr McTernan's words from 2011:
Full disclosure is important, but-speaking cynically-only of what will eventually come out.
We see that in operation every day. More recently, we have seen the so-called misogyny speech and campaign that the Leader of the Opposition has been sexist and antiwomen. What is really interesting is that Mr McTernan wrote in the British Telegraph in 2011that the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, has a problem with women. It is not just Liberals who have felt the full force of the attacks: look at what happened to the member for Griffith in February this year when he had his character systematically assassinated. This vicious brand of low-rent political muckraking should never be welcomed in Australia. The type of campaigns Mr McTernan brags about when he wrote:
Around the world, campaign after campaign shows that fear beats hope.
The 457 visa program—and well may you laugh—is designed to bring in skilled workers where there is no-one available in Australia. Surely, even this Labor government can find someone in Australia to be employed in the highest office in the land. As a seasoned political observer put it to me yesterday: 'Mr McTernan is an international political jihadist who is interested in raising his profile with no regard for the future of Australia.' I call on Mr McTernan to pay back the $200,000 he has fleeced from the South Australian taxpayer, and I say to the Labor caucus: roll this Prime Minister again, as you did earlier this week, and send this self-promoting British Labour reject and his putrid politics back to where they came from.