Thursday, November 8, 2018

Today by Paddy Manning

“I want this to stop”
NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley’s position is untenable


ABC journalist Ashleigh Raper’s damning statement against NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley leaves him with no option but to resign. It is not only Foley’s alleged conduct, but the subsequent denials and cover-up, revealed in his private admissions to Raper, that undermines his credibility. Her statement is also quietly damning of Liberal politician David Elliott, who weaponised a rumour against Foley for political purposes, with zero regard for Raper, and today she insisted “I want it to stop”. There is no doubt that the Liberals will benefit; weeks ago party sources were telling journalists off the record that they could ride the furore all the way back into government in March. They should be wary of hubris, although Foley’s threats to retaliate will now probably come to naught. Labor, Liberal, the Nats, the Greens and the rest of them must all face up to the implications of the #MeToo movement for political parties.

Barely a fortnight ago, Foley was the Opposition leader who had dragged Labor back into a competitive position ahead of the 2019 election. Most pundits had predicted the party would be out for 12 years at least after the 2011 bloodbath of corruption allegations and ICAC hearings that saw two former ministers jailed.

Then, Corrections Minister David Elliott accused [$] Foley under parliamentary privilege of having “harassed an ABC journalist” after drinking “a little bit too much” at a party. Foley rejected the accusation, accused Elliott of misusing privilege and dared him to “walk 10 metres outside” parliament, adding: “If he said that again I’d sue him.”

In the absence of a formal complaint by the unnamed journalist, there was nowhere for the story to go. As Fairfax Media’s Jacqueline Maley wrote in a powerful piece, none of it was about the woman at the centre of the allegations:

All of it is about cheap politicking and the transparent use of the looser atmosphere of the #metoo movement for bully blokes to bring down other bully blokes. The spectacle of these men bellowing at each other in the chamber, over what they have or haven’t done to women, is a near-perfect vignette of sexist cluelessness … These men cloak themselves in care for women while throwing them under the bus. They take on the mantle of the #metoo movement while missing its main point: women get to tell their own stories. No one else.

Sexual harassment had become just another political weapon for men to use against other men. As Maley pointed out, this was exactly what happened to Catherine Marriott, whose confidential allegations against former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce were leaked to the media. She was outed, and yet no finding was made in the actual complaint.

Now Raper has chosen to go public, reluctantly as is clear from her statement. The most damning part is when, in a private phone call, Foley offered a qualified apology to her, but, after indicating he would be resigning as Opposition leader, in a second phone call recants: “He repeated his apology and told me he owed me ‘a lot of contrition’. He informed me he’d received legal advice not to resign as Opposition Leader. He indicated he intended to follow that advice.”

If true, that is reprehensible: conceivably, through a full admission and open apology, there was a way through this for Foley. Surely, not now. Senior Labor MPs have told the ABC off the record this afternoon that Foley “can’t survive” as leader, while qualifying that he would “not go easily … it’s not his track record to not put up a fight”.

If Foley does go, Labor will need to appoint a new leader. Deputy Michael Daley is the frontrunner [$], but transport spokesperson and former journalist Jodi McKay is also a contender. When she was member for Newcastle between 2007 and 11, McKay showed integrity in Labor’s darkest years, the Obeid era, standing up for her community against former billionaire Nathan Tinkler’s plans to build a new coal loader on public land. One way for Labor to heal the Foley wounds would be to put a woman into the leadership, who can credibly front the public with a promise that Labor gets #MeToo, and can go head-to-head with Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

since this morning

In The Monthly’s “Tired of Winning” dispatches from America, Richard Cooke writes: “So was it a ‘blue wave’? American punditry obsessed on this question last night and this morning, beginning their speculation before voting had concluded.” 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pledged $3 billion towards much-needed infrastructure in Pacific nations as part of a frank admission Australia has sometimes taken its neighbours for granted, and amid concerns that China is building its influence on Australia’s doorstep.

The ACCC has given the green light to Fairfax Media’s proposed merger with Nine Entertainment in what former prime minister Paul Keating labelled [$] a “truly appalling decision”.

in case you missed it

The AFR’s Chanticleer columnist writes [$] that after blocking the $13 billion takeover of gas pipeline owner APA Group, “Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has tried to give CK Group one of the oldest lines in the book: It’s not you, it’s us.”

Fairfax Media reports the Liberal Party has launched a funding blitz to fill its coffers for the federal election campaign. In a special report, The Guardian’s Anne Davies writes that Tony Abbott and like-minded conservatives are in the midst of a concerted push to claim back the heart and soul of the Liberal Party, and potentially reinstall him as leader should the party find itself in Opposition.

Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd has savaged PM Scott Morrison’s proposal to consider moving Australia’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, describing it has “foolhardy” and warning it could lead to a new wave of violent protest in the Middle East.

The Guardian reports power retailers advanced a proposal to standardise comparison rates for all customers but have given no undertakings they will lower prices by January, during a roundtable with Energy Minister Angus Taylor. Fairfax Media columnist Elizabeth Knight writes that the energy roundtable felt more like a public relations exercise for the government.

by Richard Cooke
Tired of Winning
The US midterm elections
Was it a blue wave? One thing is sure: the consequences will be compelling

by Anwen Crawford
Twisted sisters: Luca Gudagnino’s ‘Suspiria’
Sentimentality ruins the magic of this otherwise unsettling and actively cruel film

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is also the author of three books, including a recently updated unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?

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