Friday, October 16, 2020

Today by Paddy Manning

Digging in
The Liberal Party rallies round Gladys Berejiklian

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Via ABC News

The Liberal Party appears to have rallied around the besieged NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, despite the ongoing revelations from the ICAC investigation into her former long-time partner Daryl Maguire, who has admitted to carrying out blatantly corrupt activities while he was the member for Wagga Wagga. Berejiklian’s five-year lapse of judgement will be passed over, apparently, with three of her senior ministers expressing support for her leadership today: Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello, Planning Minister Rob Stokes and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet. The treasurer, who as deputy leader would be the logical frontrunner to replace Berejiklian were he not recently implicated in the icare scandal, refused to say whether he would put his hand up for the top job in the event of a spill or resignation, mouthing those ill-fated words: “The premier has our full support.” Prime Minister Scott Morrison, too, has hitched himself to the Berejiklian wagon, telling reporters: “Gladys Berejiklian is the premier that NSW needs in these difficult times. She has been an extraordinary leader, particularly setting the right bar, the gold standard, as I’ve called it, when it comes to contact tracing and testing arrangements here, and outbreak containment. Keeping NSW open while keeping NSW safe … no one has done that, I think, better than Premier Berejiklian. And she has very strong support, obviously, from the deputy premier and the many members of her team.” It is a political gift for state Opposition leader Jodi McKay, who ought to be grateful that the Coalition appears intent on sticking with such a damaged leader, who will be asked questions about Maguire all the way to the next state election, in March 2023. 

Berejiklian keeps insisting that she has “done nothing wrong”, but the point is precisely that she did nothing. It is almost inconceivable that she did not know what Maguire was up to – as The Daily Telegraph reports, she even had dinners in Wagga with Maguire and his business partner in the cash-for-visas scheme, Phil Elliott, and his partner. 

This week’s ICAC revelations underline the importance of not just having an anti-corruption agency but having one with the right powers. Despite the nation’s collective shock at the flagrant corruption continually being exposed in NSW, it would be naive to believe that similarly dodgy deals are not being done in other states and territories. We know from history – through WA Inc or the Joh Bjelke-Petersen era in Queensland, to take just two examples – that NSW politics is not alone in being susceptible to corruption. The fact is NSW has the best and most powerful ICAC, courtesy of the former Liberal premier Nick Greiner, who established it in the 1980s.    

The federal independent member for Indi, Helen Haines, took advantage of the furore to highlight that, in the face of the Morrison government’s failure to introduce its own promised legislation for a Commonwealth Integrity Commission (CIC), she would introduce her own private member’s bill when parliament reconvenes in late October. In a tweet, Haines highlighted the differences between her proposed Australian Federal Integrity Commission (AFIC) and the Morrison government’s proposed CIC: Haines’s AFIC would be able to have public hearings (CIC wouldn’t); anyone could make a referral to AFIC (CIC wouldn’t take public referrals); AFIC would have full retrospectivity (CIC wouldn’t); AFIC would use a commonsense definition of corruption (CIC would only look at criminal conduct); and AFIC would have a focus on prevention, education and training (CIC would be “anti-corruption, not pro-integrity”). It is a handy list for when Attorney-General Christian Porter finally gets around to introducing a bill to parliament. Much as it would like to, the Morrison government can’t put it off forever.

“Logic, fairness, decency and, above all, the public interest demands that these charges against David McBride be dropped now. If the CDPP considers that the role of public interest journalism … was a key factor in dropping the charges against Dan Oakes, then surely those considerations are even stronger in protecting the source for the story.”

Former senator Nick Xenophon, now a partner in law firm Xenophon Davis, calls on the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions to drop charges against “Afghan Files” whistleblower David McBride, after charges against ABC reporter Dan Oakes were dropped yesterday.

“[I] make no apology for the exchange between Mr Chiu and myself yesterday. At no point did I question the loyalty of anyone.”

Conservative Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz declines to apologise for asking Chinese-Australian witnesses at a Senate hearing, including Per Capita’s Osmond Chiu, to denounce “the Chinese Communist party dictatorship”.

Mr Morrison goes to Queensland
With the Queensland state election looming, the prime minister has hit the campaign trail. But just as he arrived, it was revealed that the LNP Opposition leader had been referred to the election watchdog for alleged impropriety. Paul Bongiorno on the growing political scandals around the country.


The potential size of the Chinese import tariff that Australian cotton producers could face, in the latest example of the deterioration of Australia’s relationship with our largest trading partner.

“The [Business Growth Fund] will operate commercially and make investment decisions independently of government. Established Australian businesses will be eligible to apply for long-term equity capital investments between $5 million and $15 million, where they have generated annual revenue between $2 million and $100 million and can demonstrate three years of revenue growth and profitability, allowing for the impact of COVID-19 on recent business performance.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg launches the Australian Business Growth Fund, chaired by former Tasmanian premier Will Hodgman, which will have $540 million to invest.

The list

“Between 1992 and 1993, three babies died suddenly in separate incidents. According to Manock, each died from bronchopneumonia. This was rubbished by a subsequent coronial inquest, which highlighted that all three babies appeared to have been severely abused: one, for example, had extensive bruising and a fractured skull. The coroner said Manock’s post-mortem examination in each case ‘achieved the opposite of what should have been its purpose: it closed off lines of investigation rather than opening them up’.”

“Feliks Zemdegs, a pale 22-year-old from Melbourne, took to the stage in shorts. Suddenly he was unscrambling the cube, wrenching his head back as if to give the mad flurry of his fingers more room. In roughly the time it will take you to read this sentence, there was a solved cube on the mat in front of him.”

“It feels a bit redundant to explain Prior’s creation to an Australian audience – even if you didn’t grow up with the Grug books, the image of a friendly-looking stripy round creature who lives in an underground home seems to have seeped into the public consciousness. He’s been on Australian bookshelves since 1979.”

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 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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