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We used to be a nation that played cricket

I first published this editorial in January 2013 - 5 years ago.

Back then I would never have thought "whatever it takes" syndrome would infect Australian cricket.

Sadly the past 5 year have brought a steady decline in our country's standards and our national character.

Reading the piece again today I'm just as fired up now as I was 5 years ago.

I promised you then that we'd see this thing through - and we will.





In August, 2011 I was very sure of myself, my country and our future.

I'd just interviewed Craig Thomson MP and he disclosed the he authorized HSU money being used to pay for a series of brothel bills.   Some months later Victoria Police took a statement from me, incorporating the record of interview with Thomson and other evidence.   I was told that police intended to charge Thomson.   Fair Work Australia has adduced substantial evidence against him, he made certain admissions to me, I've seen the credit card, licence, mobile phone and other evidence led against him in Supreme Court defamation proceedings - what could be clearer I thought?  Pull him in, interview, fingerprint, photograph, charge, bail.

I'm in the unique position of being a witness in the Thomson matter, thus police who have called me as their witness have some obligation to stay in touch.   I ask the same questions that you ask, what on earth is taking so long?   How can such a weight of evidence, a deficiency in the financial accounts, the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars with a named offender not result in an interview and charges?   What's the delay?

I'm told that Victoria Police is producing a brief of evidence that will withstand the vigourous defence we've been led to expect.   But there is more to it than that.   I cannot imagine a divisional manager in a business in the private sector, accused of the same crimes as Thomson, being able to throw at police such delaying tactics in the investigation stage as has Thomson.   It is beyond the resources of one man to produce sufficient substantive reasons for delay, re-work, re-taking of witness statements and the like as has been the case with Thomson.

Thomson has at his side the Prime Minister.   From my earliest days in broadcasting assertions about him - that he was a liar and a thief - Ms Gillard was effusive and complete in her support.  "He's doing a great job and I fully support him."  Even after he admitted using HSU money - she continued the support.   See, this is the nub of the problem we face.

We used to be a nation that played cricket.   A gentleman's game.   We walked if we were out.   A man's reputation was central.   Even our highest institution, the Parliament, operated with uncodified traditions of gentlemanly behaviour and ministerial responsibility.   We didn't need laminated bullet point codes of conduct in a frame on the wall.   We learnt right and wrong and we acted on it and our mates pulled us into line if we needed it.

The Thomson matter is the most clear cut example of the Gillard/Conroy/Shorten/Roxon/Emerson/Swan/O'Connor et al disease that's blighting us.   It's not what's right, it's what you can get away with.  It's not what happened, it's what can be proved to have happened.   And the content of your character is immaterial, of no account whatsoever.

You are a mouthpiece.  A blank canvas.   You can announce the end of the world according to the Mayan calendar, the start of a carbon tax, a promise there will be no carbon tax, your unconditional support for Craig Thomson, your withdrawal of support for Craig Thomson and make it all sound the same.   You can say it's all on the public record.   I did nothing wrong.  Then when new things come out, bit by bit, you shape your focus-grouped answers subtly to suit the changing disclosures.  Where am I, oh yes, today's truth.

Better still, don't get drawn into a discussion on the truth.  Target a well-intentioned, self-examining person with a conscience who makes admissions about his weaknesses.   Turn his honesty against him.   Hammer, beat, slash, grind, scratch him - make him the issue.

But he's not the issue, whether his name is Tony Abbott, Ralph Blewitt or Bob Kernohan.   You are.   What you did to get to where you are is the issue.   What you did to cover it up.   What you did and continue to do to genuine people, real people with feelings, families and a normal, non-sociopathic capacity to absorb psychological trauma.   You are cruel and vicious and you have regard only for yourself, not the wives and families of the men you routinely seek out, not even your own inconvenient child.   Only you.

That's the issue.   You take the centre-stage position.    You conjure up the gallery, light the lights, open up the microphones, cue the theme - listen to me.   This is important.   This is the way it is now. Craig did no wrong.   It's a smear, it's sexist, it's misogynist.   I'll shape the agenda.   But the good guys didn't go away with Craig.   They didn't give up.  And slowly, the community woke up.   This is bullshit, this story doesn't make sense, this bloke is having us on.   First it was just the HSU members who Craig had extracted his play money from.   But the word spread, slowly, surely, amongst good people. And then when the focus groups said so, when the line on an issues management chart had been crossed, Craig was cut free in the most painless way possible, to sit as an "independent".

He'll be charged.   It will happen.   You can keep the delaying tactics up if you are Bill Shorten, the HSU, the Labor Party and its associated networks, but only for so long.

And as happened when we came to understand what Craig is alleged to have been up to - so will we all come to understand what you were up to with Bruce and the slush fund.   And you'll pay.   It will take time because you'll make sure it will take time.   Every step will be painful because you'll make it painful.   You lie, you conceal, you make no admissions in the face of overwhelming evidence.   But we are made of sterner stuff and we care,  my God we care.   And we won't stop.   Never, ever.   We won't put up with you changing our understanding of morality - we know right from wrong and we try to do right.

But you have something missing. 

Something stinks in contemporary Labor.   They've attracted a bunch of misfits, crooks, shysters and cheats who don't fit in to normal social structures.   Labor has to fix itself - its medicine can't be prescribed from outside the organisation.

But until it does, we have a crew of soulless, empty talking-heads who manipulate the Labor indulgence and patronage system to ensure they are voted into the parliament by that solid rusted-on reliable Labor vote.   And they are changing our country.

Don't let them.   Get active.   Tell your friends.  It will happen if you make it happen.   You get what you put up with.

So I am up for the truth this year.   And I hope you are too.