The fallout from yesterday’s resignation of New South Wales premier Barry O’Farrell must settle on the issue of lobbying in Australian politics.
Tony Abbott’s extraordinary defence yesterday of O’Farrell’s character – “we are seeing an act of integrity, an act of honour, the like of which we have rarely seen in Australian politics” – entirely airbrushed the fact that an incoming NSW premier received a $3,000 bottle of wine from a lobbyist.
The disturbing thing is that so many in the political class, including journalists, appear to accept that this is such an ordinary part of doing political business that it’s entirely plausible that a premier could forget about a single bottle of 1959 Grange. Of course it’s not plausible, even to O’Farrell himself. Under questioning he had told ICAC: “I’m certain I would remember receiving a bottle of Penfolds, particularly one that was my birth year.”
But some sections in the media have this morning turned on ICAC for not complying with the rules of evidence required of a courtroom trial. Abbott himself aggressively shamed a female journalist for merely suggesting corruption.
There is rarely any direct proof that this bottle of wine or that fully-paid overseas junket has bought influence. To get such proof requires climbing inside the decision-maker’s head. That’s why reformers aim to limit the perception of influence-peddling. Yet the vast bulk of corporate lobbying of Australian politicians remains off-record, because only professional lobbyists (and not company chairmen doing their own lobbying directly, for instance) are required to be registered.
We know two things about extravagant gifts to public officials. Most people can’t give them. And they wouldn’t be given at all if they didn’t occasionally buy something valuable.
"The NSW government is in crisis after Premier Barry O'Farrell announced his resignation following revelations he misled a corruption inquiry. In Victoria, it has prompted a quickfire reform of the powers of the state's anti-corruption body; in Canberra it has put the heat on Prime Minister Tony Abbott, especially over his support of Senator Arthur Sinodinos, who has been embroiled in the same corruption hearing."
Also: If O'Farrell has to go, what about PM's man? (Mark Kenny, Sydney Morning Herald)
And: Proposed changes to Queensland corruption watchdog could be dangerous (Rae Wilson, Queensland Times)
Background: History repeats: How O'Farrell and Greiner fell foul of ICAC (Olivia Monaghan, The Conversation)
"Treasurer Mike Baird is set to become NSW Premier this afternoon after he and Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian confirmed they had reached an agreement whereby she would seek to become deputy Liberal leader."
"It was supposed to be his big day. For Prime Minister Tony Abbott, it doesn’t get much closer to Christmas than this: an infrastructure announcement joyfully rounded off with a royal visit. A regally red-letter day. But then it got torpedoed by a bottle of Grange and a forgetful Premier."
Also: Tony Abbott attacks journalist over NSW 'corruption' question - video (The Guardian)
"Outgoing West Australian senator Louise Pratt launched a blistering attack on her Labor running mate Joe Bullock on Wednesday, labelling him a ‘deeply homophobic’ person who is disloyal to his own party."
"Let's move the arguments about cities away from the technocratic, away from thinking about tax systems, supply incentives, planning restrictions, NIMBYs and developers. Let's start with what ought to be common ground: universal housing, on one hand, and universal financial security."