Thursday, August 2, 2018

Today by Paddy Manning

Politics reverts to sleaze
The allegations against Emma Husar have spoiled the party for Labor


In 1995, Opposition Leader John Howard used a very effective line against Prime Minister Paul Keating, complaining that Australia had “five minutes of economic sunshine” between the end of the recession we had to have and the beginning of interest rate hikes. That’s a useful analogy for how Australian politics suddenly feels: between the May budget and the Super Saturday by-elections, we’ve had five minutes of genuine policy debate about the future of the country – do we want lower taxes or better services? – before reverting to sleaze. The lurid allegations against embattled Labor backbencher Emma Husar, published on BuzzFeed today, have dragged #auspol straight back to the same torrid, ethically fraught territory where the year began.

When the Barnababy saga broke, there was a flurry of debate about whether the then deputy prime minister’s affair with staffer Vikki Campion was genuinely in the public interest. The consensual affair by itself was arguably nobody’s business, but the allegation that a taxpayer-funded job was conveniently found for Campion certainly was (though nothing came of it in the end).

Husar’s situation is different. At the beginning, the allegations of workplace bullying were serious and already subject of an internal ALP investigation, and there was no question that the original BuzzFeed story was in the public interest. In the days since, however, the allegations against Husar have kept coming [$] and coming [$], and have turned increasingly salacious.

Today’s BuzzFeed report made sensational reading, but it took less than 65 minutes for a key allegation – that Husar had a “Basic Instinct” leg-uncrossing moment with frontbencher Jason Clare – to unravel. Nine’s Chris Uhlmann tweeted that Clare had called the allegation “categorically untrue”, and Husar herself tweeted: “This smear is completely and utterly untrue, unfair and hurtful beyond belief. 100 per cent false.”

If one of the allegations in the BuzzFeed story appears unreliable, what does that say about the rest of it? In a statement to BuzzFeed this afternoon, the NSW ALP tried to play a straight bat, declining to comment and standing behind the ongoing internal investigation by barrister John Whelan: “The continued speculation about this matter in the public arena is of significant concern. It is a cause of some delay to the process and is serving to escalate tensions in an environment where parties to the Assessment have expressed concerns about the impact of this matter on their wellbeing.”

Labor is now in a desperate bind: the party that seeks to represent workers must handle their grievances fairly and confidentially, but the process is leaking like a sieve, with stories drip-fed to the media day by day, and more to come. Each new allegation and media report expands the investigation, and pushes back the finish date. In the meantime, fairly or unfairly, some mud must stick, and it is hard to see how Husar can hang on to her extremely marginal seat of Lindsay in the vital battleground of Western Sydney. Whether she remains on the backbench, or is disendorsed and goes to the crossbench, or resigns and triggers a by-election, it is hard to see how it can end well for Husar.

After its resounding success on Super Saturday, Labor appears hell-bent on wrecking its own moment in the sun.

since this morning

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young has filed defamation proceedings against Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm, making her the first sitting Australian politician to sue a fellow parliamentarian for defamation since uniform laws were introduced in 2006.

In Crikey, sustainable energy expert Nicky Ison writes [$] that “if you believe the Energy Security Board and Acil Allen’s new modelling released yesterday on the National Energy Guarantee, you are believing in a fairytale.”


The Age reports that Victoria Police has made a number of arrests and interviewed several people caught up in Labor’s “red shirts” rorting of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in 2014. Police say they will interview 17 people across Australia as part of their criminal investigation into the scheme. The Herald Sun reports [$] that senior state ministers, including Education Minister James Merlino, have cancelled events.

Katharine Murphy writes in The Guardian that the Greens are pressuring the Andrews government in Victoria to block the National Energy Guarantee ahead of a crucial meeting on the policy in just over a week.

The AFR’s Mark Ludlow writes [$] about why Queenslanders don’t like Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

RenewEconomy presents figures showing that total global coal capacity continues to inch up, but that a peak is on the horizon. In the first half of 2018, retired capacity has nearly matched that of newly operating plants, and the global pipeline for proposed coal is quickly eroding.

The Guardian reports that medical neglect of asylum seekers is continuing on Manus Island, after the Federal Court yesterday dismissed arguments from the immigration minister’s representatives that a dangerously sick girl wasn’t seriously ill, and forced Peter Dutton to transfer a her from Nauru to Australia for treatment.

by Richard Cooke
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by Evan Williams
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Believe the hype about the Tasmanian comedian’s Netflix special

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Inside the Greens and the unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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