With the Victorian Liberals happy to accept the vote of alleged rorter Geoff Shaw, Vince O’Grady considers the Coalition’s anomalous attitude towards “tainted” votes.
WHO is really tainted?
If you were to believe Tony Abbott you would think that the Australian Labor Party are controlled by faceless men skulking in the background, with dirt units looking up dirt on the Liberals.
I am here to tell Tony ― you don’t need a Labor Party dirt unit to dish the dirt on MPs who support his Party.
On Tuesday 24th October, Craig Thomson’s house was raided by the NSW Police at the behest of the Victorian force.
It’s theatre on the political stage, allowing Abbott to get up and do his worst rendition of the political tragedy ― like a second rate actor and who keeps repeating the same lines, banging on about Thomson’s “tainted vote” and Julia Gillard’s alleged “incompetence”.
it’s the classic case of an empty vessel making the most noise.
And like Abbott the failed actor, Abbott the failed boxer hasn’t been able to land a political blow on Thomson yet.
The status quo ante still exists ― the one that began 19 days after the 2010 election.
The smear and spin from “Punchy” Abbott – as well that of Pyne, Abetz and Brandis – has been immense, but still ultimately unsuccessful.
The Labor Party still governs with the confidence of the Independents and the Greens.
They still have a small majority and, it should be recalled, they did get 30,000 more two party preferred votes than the Liberals, irrespective of the lies told by Barnaby Joyce and Christopher Pyne.
The Thomson affair has dragged on for years now and hundreds of pages of reports have been written about it. Numerous Police task forces have been convened and diddy squat has happened. Not after the FWA document, the Senate investigation, the KPMG report or the Temby report.
If Thomson was guilty, he would have disposed of any incriminating evidence from his home or office. However, under such scrutiny over so long, he seems to be holding up well ― despite Abbott’s relentless attacks.
It is obvious that Abbott is after him so viciously because he wants to be prime minister ― for no other reason. The same way he was after Slipper. Slipper also was smeared relentlessly and, eventually, they got him, but he still sits there in parliament and I am sure that there are a few Liberal and National party members quaking at the moment, waiting for him to dish the dirt on his old party. I can’t wait to see that.
So that’s a wrap of Abbott’s tactics, get rid of the excess seats the Labor Party hold and topple the Government. But the reason they haven’t succeeded is because there is nothing there to give offer success.
That is not the reason for me to put my fingers on the keyboard, however. The reason is the utter arrant hypocrisy of the Liberal Party of Australia.
While there the amateur theatrics carries on in Canberra, there is a similar but more sinister play on stage in the Parliament of Victoria. In this play, however, the roles are reversed.
Earlier this year, a whistleblower came forward and made allegations about Shaw’s misuse of his Parliamentary vehicle. The usual political theatre ensued, with Labor calling for resignation and the toppling of the Baillieu government.
Baillieu denied a police investigation and sent the matter off to George Brouwer, the Ombudsman.
On 10 October 2012, Brouwer presented his report to the government.
The whole report is a mere 27 pages long and is conclusive. It says the following at page 22.
132. My investigation established that Mr Shaw used, and allowed others to use, his parliamentary vehicle for commercial use.
133. Mr Shaw used the vehicle for a commercial trip to Sale. His own evidence was that he would not have travelled to Sale if he did not need to collect Southern Cross Hardware stock. While Mr Shaw states that the trip was ‘incidental’, this is not supported by his evidence.
134. Mr Shaw also used his parliamentary fuel card to purchase fuel for a private vehicle on one occasion, in contravention of the Members of Parliament Motor Vehicle Plan (the plan).
136. Given that Mr Shaw’s actions were inconsistent with the plan, I consider that those actions may amount to a breach of privilege, a contempt of Parliament and/or a breach of the code of conduct established by the Register of Interests Act. This is, of course, a matter for the Legislative Assembly to consider and resolve, and for that purpose, I recommend
that the House refer this issue to the Privileges Committee of that House or such other Committee as the House considers appropriate for consideration and recommendation to the House.
137. In addition, Mr Shaw has been publicly reported as stating that he will reimburse the Parliament for the cost of any commercial trips undertaken in his vehicle. The Parliament may wish to consider accepting this avenue.
138. I consider that the plan and its legislative basis need to be reviewed to ensure that there is a clear and unambiguous basis for Members’ obligations regarding the vehicles with which they are provided.
And Brouwer made the following two recommendations:
The Department of Parliamentary Services review the foundation of the Members of Parliament Motor Vehicle Plan (the plan) and advise the Presiding Officers regarding the means by which a clear legislative basis can be provided for:
• the plan
• the obligation of Members of Parliament to comply with the plan
• the consequences of failure to comply with the plan.
In order to achieve this purpose, the Department of Parliamentary Services may wish to consider recommending that the regulations be amended to:
• restore the obligation that was included in the original Parliamentary Salaries and Superannuation (Vehicle) Regulations 1996 so that the use of vehicles provided is expressly subject to the terms and conditions contained in vehicle plans
• empower the relevant Minister or other person or authority to issue plans.
The Legislative Assembly consider referring the issue of Mr Shaw’s use of his vehicle to the Privileges Committee of that House or such other Committee as the House considers appropriate for consideration and report on the following issues:
• whether that usage was a contempt of Parliament, an abuse of the privileges of the Parliament and/or a breach of the code of conduct established by the Members of Parliament (Register of Interests) Act, and
• if so, what penalties should apply to Mr Shaw
The political theatre has the same plot, each play has a minority parliament. In the Federal case it is Labor and the Victorian is Liberal/National.
But there are significant differences.
The allegations about misuse of the HSU’s money was supposedly done several years ago, when Thomson was an official of the Union; the allegations against Shaw, however, were about his activities as a sitting member of the Victorian Parliament.
There have been numerous investigations into the HSU and Craig Thomson – nine at last count – and, as yet, he hasn’t faced a single criminal charge. Nevertheless, hundreds of words have appeared in reports, newspaper articles, commentary, opinion, in Federal Parliament and on the news.
In the Shaw case, there is prima facie evidence and testimony from witnesses as to the wrongdoing in his usage of:
1. his parliamentary vehicle for commercial purposes contrary to the Parliamentary Vehicle Plan;
2. the use of a Government fuel card to fill up a vehicle other than the parliamentary vehicle it was assigned to;
3. the possibility of mendacious behaviour under oath; and
4. contempt of the parliament.
In other words, serious evidence.
Other differences are that the Victorian investigations were done by a highly qualified investigator (Mr Brouwers holds Bachelor and Master of Laws degrees and is a qualified barrister; the rest of his extensive work experience can be found here.)
Contrast the hundreds of rambling pages in Fair Work Australia’s 4-year long report with the erudite and completely relevant report into this matter by the Ombudsman.
Much of the KPMG report into the FWA report on Thomson was critical of the lack of Investigative skill of the Fair Work Australia staff. It was verbose and it wandered around the issues rather than confronting them.
But let’s go back to the theatre.
Nothing has been proved against Craig Thomson – except perhaps in the court of public opinion due to constant negative media reports and defamatory statements against Thomson – yet Abbott asserts that his is a tainted vote.
The high farce of Abbott and Pyne running from the Parliament of Australia has brought the whole thing down to a new low.
So Tony has a set of rules which he has said are inviolate.
“Will not accept his tainted vote”
But what of Baillieu?
Why, when Geoff Shaw, has to face the Privileges committee of the Victorian parliament, does Ted Baillieu accept his tainted vote?
Is it because it’s written in the Liberal manifesto, the novel ‘Animal farm, a fairytale’, where it says:
“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”.
Is it because Baillieu holds power tenuously by a single vote?
No wonder this week’s Newspoll showed the Liberals 10 points behind in Victoria.
I suspect the people of Victoria have finally realised that the empty vessel that is Ted Baillieu is just as bad as those other empty vessels in Canberra, Queensland and New South Wales.
Things get worse, because we have also learnt this week of another misdemeanour by Geoff Shaw. Whilst sitting in the Victorian parliament, he allegedly called member(s) of the labor party “wanker” or “wankers” and made an obscene masturbatory gesture with his hand.
Geoff Shaw has denied this, but there is video evidence that he did actually say the words and make the gesture. Shaw actually issued a statement which said he used the word “wackers” and was simply pointing.
The MSM must be pretty sure he did say “wanker” because they have published it as fact.
So what standard are we upholding here?
Is this so different from the Peter Slipper obscene text message in which made comment about a woman’s private parts?
Peter Slipper resigned as Speaker after these texts emerged, yet Slipper’s obscene message was a private one between himself and James Ashby in October 2011, when, Ashby wasn’t employed by Slipper and Slipper wasn’t Speaker and, indeed, was still a member of the Liberal Party. The message in question is not even evidence in the sexual harassment case against Slipper, because it falls outside the dates specified in the complaint.
Contrast the behaviour of Geoff Shaw. He was sitting in the Parliament of Victoria whilst it was in session and made the obscene gesture and said the word(s) whilst Parliament was actually sitting. He has denied that he said the word and made the obscene gesture. So he may well have compounded the offence by lying as well.
The values of the Liberal Party are all at sea over these issues. It does not matter who makes an obscene gesture or remark, it is still an obscene gesture or remark. The same goes for misuse of vehicle entitlements.
In the case of Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper, we have a cacophony of noise and moral outrage about the behaviour of a parliamentarian, and on the other we have obfuscation, cover-up and silence from those hypocritically sanctimonious senior Liberals ― Abbott, Pyne, Abetz and Brandis.
Where is their outrage at their MP in Victoria?
Australian Politics has reached a new low thanks to Ted Baillieu and the Victorian Liberal party. In a just world, Shaw would be charged with the same moral outrage that has been levelled at Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper.
But they won’t be, because in the Liberal Party Animal Farm, some animals are more equal than others.
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