The Politics    Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Stop the sleaze, please

By Paddy Manning

Stop the sleaze, please
A federal ICAC is desperately needed

A clean-out of the Victorian branch of the ALP looms after a third minister, Marlene Kairouz, quit the Andrews government this morning in the continuing fallout from the devastating 60 Minutes investigation into industrial-scale branch-stacking led by party powerbroker Adem Somyurek. The ALP national executive is considering the crisis, and may audit or intervene in the state branch, but there would be approximately zero public expectation that Labor will now (or ever could) eliminate factional rivalry or branch-stacking, which bedevils every major political party from the Nationals to the Greens. Victorian premier Daniel Andrews and federal Opposition leader Anthony Albanese will take the opportunity to make fresh inroads against the faceless men and women. Victorian police and the state’s anti-corruption commission are investigating, although Kairouz noted “these matters do not relate to any allegations of criminality or corruption”. Already there are federal implications. For voters, the obvious structural solution is to raise the bar on all politicians, and insist on the introduction of a strong federal anti-corruption agency.  

A strong federal ICAC would be able to investigate any federal Labor link to the branch-stacking in Victoria, including the potential misuse of taxpayer-funded political staffers, as Greens leader Adam Bandt told RN Breakfast this morning. Just like last week, however, the federal government prevented debate on the Greens’ bill for a federal ICAC (which has Labor and crossbench support and has already passed the Senate), with Bandt tweeting today: “It’s rort after rort and scandal after scandal in this place, but Libs keep running a protection racket.”

Bandt is right. Every other day there is a new scandal. At the galling-but-minor end of the spectrum is this morning’s example from Guardian Australia, which revealed how Stonnington City Councillors were dismayed that a three-year-old, $4 million sports grant had been used by Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack as justification for his VIP government jet flight before last year’s Melbourne Cup. Others represent a frontal assault on Australia’s democracy, such as last night’s ABC Media Watch interview with former ACT attorney-general Bernard Collaery, who is now subject to a secret trial over his client Witness K’s revelations that Australia illegally bugged Timor-Leste on behalf of Woodside Petroleum. His comments were genuinely disturbing: 

Bernard Collaery: We’ve just got a summons. It’s faceless. Who is driving this? … Who wants to jail me and why? 

Paul Barry: And what’s the answer?

Collaery: I don’t know. My family don’t know … It’s a bad dream. It’s ruined my practice and everything I’ve worked for. It’d be different if I felt that I’d done something wrong. It’s sheer, unadulterated, vindictive injustice, as far as I’m concerned.  

The plight of Bernard Collaery and Witness K can be added to a string of scandals that have been allowed to fester under the Coalition – from Helloworld to #watergate – which ought to be the subject of independent investigation. Attorney-General Christian Porter, who is simply too busy with his added responsibility for an ambitious industrial relations agenda, has run out of excuses for further delaying the introduction of the government’s own legislation. They can’t gag this debate forever. A federal anti-corruption watchdog with teeth, which could take on all sides of politics, is long overdue. 

Listen to The Politics Podcast, with Rachel Withers

“Complaining about red and green tape is like complaining about speed limits. These things are there for a purpose … In the aftermath of a bushfire [season] that has cost human lives and property, that has seen a billion animals wiped out, has there ever been a dumber time to start winding back our environmental protections?”

Greens leader Adam Bandt comments on the Morrison government’s push for “single-touch” environmental approvals.

“I used an unfortunate turn of phrase … For anyone genuinely hurt or offended, please know that was never my intention.”

Queensland LNP senator Amanda Stoker offers a fake apology after describing Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk as the “knee on the throat of Queensland businesses stopping them from breathing”, but denies she was referencing the alleged murder of George Floyd.

The power of tradesmen
As Scott Morrison announces his HomeBuilder scheme, there are serious questions about who it serves and how powerful tradesmen have become as a political bloc.


The proportion of respondents in the latest Essential poll who say that workers would be better off if unions were stronger. It is the first time that question has drawn a majority favourable response since the survey started in 2012.

“While most of the water for the environment has been recovered, progress on the remaining 450GL by 2024 under the sustainable diversion limit adjustment mechanism has been slow. Environmental water holders have used what water they have strategically, off the back of recent rains, to improve the river health … The states are generally on track with their commitments in the Basin Compliance Compact, but progress with metering and measuring water extracted in the northern Basin is slow and uneven.”

A report of slow progress from the six-monthly “health check” by the Murray–Darling Basin Authority.

The list

“Lipa and her team couldn’t have known, when they were writing Future Nostalgia, that the album’s credo – a credo of dancing-as-duty and erotics-as-discipline – would gain a new resonance in a world where the imperative to work and keep working would be stymied by events. Yet this catastrophe of capital, which is consequently a catastrophe for labour, has resulted in a situation where the pressure to remain efficient is, if anything, greater than it was before.”

“Critics of Collaery and Witness K argue we wouldn’t have an intelligence service if agents were free to divulge orders they disagreed with. And if those orders are illegal? The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 grants protection to whistleblowers in the public service, but, in what Wilkie tells me is a ‘glaring gap’, this excludes intelligence officers. Even in circumstances where a spy reveals egregious misconduct, and in the public interest passes it on to a journalist or member of parliament, they can be prosecuted in secret. Witness K will argue his sole breach was to prepare an affidavit for the arbitration at The Hague; he will argue he broke Australian law to uphold international law.”

“The irony does not escape us that the police on the east coast have responded to a rally against police violence and brutality with more violence and intimidation. This is an example of why reform just does not, and will not, work to end police violence. It is built this way, it is systemic, and they are operating the way that they were designed. It is not that the system can be fixed, the system is the problem – and this is why these colonial systems must be destroyed. New ways of living must be created that centre Indigenous people and sovereignties. This is the only way forward. Anything less continues to be built on the theft of Indigenous land and the genocide of our people.”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Body Count: How Climate Change Is Killing Us, Inside the Greens and Born To Rule: The Unauthorised Biography of Malcolm Turnbull.

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