THE SENATE INQUIRY into Queensland’s LNP government called yesterday, at the behest of a Clive Palmer stooge and in cahoots with Labor and the
Communist Party Greens, is an inexcusable abuse of process; it is also likely to prove unconstitutional, a subtlety disregarded in Palmer’s malevolent crusade to destroy Campbell Newman. There is no quid pro quo. There is only personal vitriol — a commodity Newman’s protagonists are well versed in.
I haven’t given Clive Palmer and his grand plan for a Senate inquiry into the Queensland LNP, and into Campbell Newman specifically, the time of day until now; until or unless the inquiry eventuated I have taken the view that this crack-pot, mad-bad-and-dangerous scheme isn’t worth the column space to even allude to it.
Yet it did eventuate yesterday, with Labor and the Greens backing a motion by Palmer stooge Glenn Lazarus to convene just such an inquiry into every aspect of the Newman LNP government.
This is an unforgivable outrage, and it deserves to cost the Palmer United Party, Labor and the Greens very heavily indeed when next their representatives and candidates front electors. But of course, it probably won’t.
Before we get too far in I want to address the “justification” being offered up that, in effect, because the Abbott government has instituted Royal Commissions into the trade union movement and the Rudd government’s “pink batts” fiasco — viewed by Labor as investigations into a former government by its successor that breach a longstanding convention not to do so — then any conservative entity, government or programme is fair game in terms of retaliation.
I simply point out that in the case of the “pink batts” program, an inquiry to establish exactly what happened after several people were killed is entirely appropriate, especially when the ALP in office swept as much detail around who was either responsible and/or culpable for it under the carpet as possible.
And with the Heydon commission into the trade union movement — not a statutory arm of the former government, although when it comes to the Labor Party these days it might as well have been — increasingly appearing likely to lead to criminal prosecutions, Labor can only oppose its investigations in order to excuse illegal actions.
Had the “pink batts” mess been conducted transparently by the ALP, there would be no need for an inquiry now; were it not for the overwhelming quantity of whistleblower material, circumstantial (and sometimes hard) evidence and other substantive cause for reasonable questions to be asked of the legality of the activities of certain unions, there would be no need for the Heydon commission either.
So first things first: let’s hear no more of this nonsense about Palmer’s witch hunt against Campbell Newman in the Senate being justified on the nauseating pretext of an acceptable tit-for-tat measure. It isn’t.
By now I think everyone knows the story (told again, e’er briefly, in today’s issue of The Australian) of how Palmer — a life member of Queensland’s LNP and once its biggest donor — stomped out of that party when, in government, it refused to accede to a wish list of demands beneficial to his business interests, the best known of which being the route of a rail freight line from Palmer’s mining interests to a coal port.
And it scarcely needs saying that the Palmer United Party — stripped of “inclusive” rhetoric that would persuade only the gullible and the extremely stupid — exists solely to destroy Campbell Newman, his government in Queensland, and to damage to the maximum extent possible Tony Abbott, the federal Coalition, and other Liberal governments at state level across the country.
Now we have the Senate “star chamber” in place that Palmer has sought to convene since the minute his Senators took up their places in July.
This inquiry has no jurisdiction to investigate the Newman government; constitutionally, one Parliament may not conduct inquiries into another, and Attorney-General George Brandis QC and his Queensland counterpart Jarrod Bleijie have already foreshadowed urgent legal action, up to and including seeking a ruling by the High Court that it is unconstitutional, but never mind that.
Even if the Court shuts down an investigation that should never have been formalised in the first place, the circumstances of this sham offer great insight into its perpetrators — for those prepared to look upon it with their eyes open.
Lazarus will benefit personally from this outrage, with a taxpayer-funded salary bonus of some $21,000 headed into his pocket for chairing this inquiry: so much for any principled motives.
The investigation — voted down twice previously — has been made possible because of Labor support following the dropping of a demand by the Greens that it extend to cover the Labor government in Queensland of Anna Bligh, and because of Greens support following Palmer agreeing to oppose the Abbott government’s plans to hand control over environmental approvals back to the states (where, arguably, they belong).
Put bluntly, Labor is happy to advance an unconstitutional vendetta provided it only pursues its enemies, whilst the Greens are happy to do so if it means they retain at their fingertips the means to frustrate every elected government in the country.
Once again, so much for any motives involving real principle.
It is unclear exactly what this inquiry is aimed at investigating; its broad remit to examine every aspect of the Newman government isn’t exactly what passes as a reason for holding an inquiry at all.
But what is perfectly clear is that this inquiry, which is conveniently scheduled to “report” a few days after the LNP’s term in office expires in March, will simply drip-feed a torrent of anti-Newman, anti-LNP headlines designed to destroy whatever the remaining electoral prospects of the Queensland government for the next six months.
The only entities that can be advantaged, of course, are the Queensland ALP and the Palmer United Party, whose campaigns for the looming state election stand to benefit from every skerrick of “muck” — real, perceived, imagined and/or fabricated — that the inquiry can produce or conjure.
Its five members will include just one from the Abbott government in a further, irrefutable sign that the basis for this nonsense is purely partisan.
It is also yet another symptom of the urgent and overdue need for Senate reform.
And with the virtually explicit objective of destroying Newman’s government, Palmer and his allies in the Senate have now contrived a situation whereby a house of federal Parliament will actively embark on a campaign to engineer the electoral defeat of a duly elected government in one of the states.
Lazarus, in announcing the inquiry, tried to claim that he had Queenslanders “crying” on the phone to him regularly about “terrible things” that happen in the state, and whilst the Senator must keep very unique company for such conversations to be occupying his telephone time the assertion is bereft of credibility, and should be ignored.
Even after all these years living in Melbourne, I’m still in regular contact with literally hundreds of people in Queensland; I talk to them often, and with politics a common interest among many of us — and myself known to them all as the publisher of this column — I get a lot of first-hand insight into where Queenslanders see things in their state. Oddly, with the exception of a couple of rusted-on, diehard Labor fellows who hate anything Liberal because that’s their reality, I have heard very, very little that could possibly justify such a stupid statement as the one made by Lazarus.
In any case, even the attempts to shroud the abomination of this inquiry in a cloak of legitimacy stink of amateurism and unprofessionalism.
If the High Court is to strike this vindictive move by Palmer down, it is to be hoped that it does so quickly; I concur with the view that what was announced yesterday is unconstitutional, and if that view is upheld at law then the inquiry should not be permitted to utter so much as a syllable against Newman’s government.
I have no problem with Labor, or the Greens, or Clive Palmer fighting a clean fight against the LNP in Queensland and, whilst I think the Newman government merits a second term in spite of its well-documented problems, I find it entirely legitimate for those forces ranged against it to campaign for its defeat.
But the operative word is “campaign:” in Queensland, and in the context of a state election campaign.
Convening inquiries that breach the spirit if not the letter of the law are something with which I have no truck, irrespective of who it is calling them: and I reiterate that the only reason for opposing the Royal Commissions being undertaken by the Abbott government (and which were Liberal Party election promises, no less) is to hide and/or excuse the commission of illegal acts.
No doubt Palmer is happy with Lazarus’ day’s work yesterday, and no doubt he is satisfied that his quest for vengeance against Newman — for no other reason than the LNP placed more emphasis on due process than rewarding its mates — is set to take a great leap forward.
In truth, he ought to be ashamed, for the outrage committed yesterday is cause for deep shame to all who were party to it.
It is perhaps one of those obscene quirks of circumstance that the apathy and/or ignorance of the average voter toward the fine details around this inquiry — and why it should never have been formalised — will probably mean that they escape scot-free, and thus immune from the electoral backlash they, themselves, deserve to suffer for their handiwork.