…And Monday, In The Melbourne Magistrates’ Court…

IT PROMISES to be a big week in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court this week, where it seems the intersection between politics, unions and the law will lie; two cases involving senior ALP figures are set to progress, as more allegations and scandal that enveloped the last government near their climax.

It’s just a short post this time, and a pointer to matters that I’m sure will find their way back into our conversation; for those of a mind, a short segment on the topic from Michael Smith and Ben Fordham on Sydney radio 2GB can be accessed here.

The long game of cat and mouse that lawyers for disgraced former union boss and ALP MP Craig Thomson over what facts they would allow to stand uncontested is set to be swept aside, as Thomson’s trial on scores of fraud charges — laid in January — finally begins.

The charges of course stem from Thomson’s alleged activities as head of the Health Services Union prior to his entry to Parliament in 2007, and chiefly centre on alleged misuse of his union credit card and the improper use of union funds.

The trial follows the recent conviction of fellow union identity Michael Williamson on a raft of fraud-related offences.

And speaking of fraud investigations, another matter resuming in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court this week involves former Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the decades-old issue of an AWU slush fund Gillard is under Fraud Squad investigation over.

This column has maintained an extremely circumspect approach to the AWU issue, chiefly on account of Ms Gillard’s well-known propensity to throw legal proceedings around like confetti; we have said nothing defamatory of her, but by the same token we couldn’t be bothered dealing with a frivolous lawsuit either.

Even so, documents from an unprecedented raid carried out by Police on Ms Gillard’s offices in May — whilst she was the incumbent PM — face the Court’s adjudication as to whether they are admissible as evidence in any future prosecution of fraud charges arising from the AWU scandal.

We will watch developments on those matters very keenly.

Can I please also take to opportunity to note that this column is well aware of alleged criminal misconduct involving other senior ALP figures, and has been aware of these matters for some time; I think you people are smart enough to know what I am talking about, and I simply say that for the moment I won’t be making any comment on it.

In the fullness of time, however, I will have something to say on these matters.

 

Why “Gonski” — On Balance — Should Be Abandoned

THE UPROAR over Education minister Christopher Pyne signalling some elements of Julia Gillard’s so-called Gonski reforms would be reviewed is as predictable as the package’s demise was certain following Labor’s election defeat. It was a political tool and poor policy, and it should be junked.

At the risk of saying “I told you so,” I’d like readers to start by reading this article I wrote back in April; everything that was wrong with the Gonski funding reforms at time is still wrong now, and the Liberal Premiers who foolishly bought into the Gillard government’s chicanery are about to see their handiwork explode in their faces.

There will, in coming months, be much to rattle the bars of the cages of the Left as Tony Abbott’s government looks to clean up the mess left behind by the Rudd-Gillard regime.

The realignment of Australia’s foreign policy focus toward traditional allies (America, Japan, Britain) in priority to China — something that has stimulated “outrage” on the Left this week — is a very good early example.

The recalibration of Australia’s relationship with Indonesia (which, despite the howls of indignation from the Left, has been immaculately handled by Abbott) is another.

And when it comes to the management of Australia’s economy and the Commonwealth budget, many of the Left’s treasured edifices — built to pander to the climate change movement, minority lobbies, and the lunatic Leftist fringe at the end of a Communist Party Greens gun — are slated to simply be erased from existence.

The newly-defeated ALP made an artform of using taxpayers’ money (or more correctly, borrowed foreign money) in government to erect its monuments and enact its grand gestures, driving Australia deeper into debt than at any time in its history, and using this money to lay political landmines for its Liberal successors to trip over.

Which brings us to “Gonski” — a package that should never have been adopted in the first place, and which the new government is right to ditch.

Let’s deal with the “broken promises” aspect of this course of action first.

The two areas of government expenditure that the Liberal Party promised, in its election pitch, would be quarantined from expenditure cuts are Health and Defence.

Abbott and his team were entirely candid about the fact that every other expenditure measure would be a potential target for savings upon winning government and being able to properly study the true state of the government’s position.

It is obviously very early days in the new Liberal government’s life; its Commission of Audit hasn’t even begun its work. But there are already tangible and ominous signs that the real state of the budget is far worse than its predecessors publicly admitted.

Treasurer Joe Hockey has asked Parliament to legislate an increase in the country’s debt ceiling, from $300bn to $500bn; this is to accommodate recurrent expenditure items locked in and legislated by the previous government, whilst leaving some room to spare as a contingency.

Those spending measures alone will push debt to $400 billion without the Abbott administration spending a single additional cent: far from a “generous” offer by the ALP and the Greens to agree to an increase in the ceiling to $400bn, such a change would almost certainly require an immediate additional increase, which in turn the ALP and the Greens would indisputably attempt to use as “evidence” of Liberal mismanagement with which to engage in tacky, dishonest politicking.

Even now, the more sober (but brazenly hypocritical) barbs from the Left describe the proposed increase in the debt ceiling as “unprecedented” and point to Liberal statements that “the that the answer to debt is never more debt” as if this somehow absolves it of responsibility for the irresponsible time bombs Labor built into the budget.

The more reckless attacks — including by Labor “leader” Bill Shorten — proclaim that Abbott and Hockey “are putting debt up from $300bn to $500bn,” the sheer dishonesty of which typifies the nihilism and ethical bankruptcy into which the ALP has sunk.

Where all of this becomes relevant to Pyne’s first step in walking away from Gonski (and I’ll call a spade a spade: it’s the first step in doing exactly that) is the fact that Abbott made it perfectly clear that the integrity of all spending promises, bar those in Health and Defence, were contingent on the state of the books. It was made abundantly clear.

Quietly hidden away in a corner of the Rudd-Gillard government’s Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Outlook (PEFO) was the revelation, largely unnoticed as intended before polling day, that Labor had itself cut $1.2bn from education funding that it never disclosed in yet another of its shabby attempts to undercook the true extent of its financial ineptitude.

It is this fact — and, in Pyne’s words, the resulting shortfall of money allocated to education expenditure — that sees him now move away from honouring the delivery of the package.

Taken in the cumulative sense, does all of this add up to a broken promise on Education by the Liberal Party? I contend that it doesn’t.

It needs to be pointed out that Pyne has committed to maintain education funding for 2014 “at the levels that would have occurred under Gonski;” indeed, he has offered the states that did not sign on to the package (Queensland, WA, and the NT) the same increase in Commonwealth money for 2014.

Beyond that, no guarantees have been made — and nor should they be.

The Gonski funding reform package was a deeply flawed, poorly directed initiative that was more about driving political wedges into the Liberal Party than it was about any serious commitment to proper funding of quality educational measures.

It featured $2.8bn in cuts to tertiary education funding to help offset the $14.5bn cost of the package — hardly the act, on Labor’s part, of an entity whose “commitment” to education is anything other than as a political tool.

It was in no way tied to educational outcomes, or to improvements in standards of literacy or numeracy on the states’ part; a cynical view would expect the extra money to fund pay rises for teachers, which is simply not an acceptable reason for the Commonwealth to hock itself to the tune of $14.5bn under the guise of “fixing” funding for schools.

Gillard herself was forced into an admission in an interview on the ABC’s 7.30 programme earlier this year that the package was underfunded by $5bn — an amount additional to the $1.2bn Labor has hidden in its pre-election budget documents.

And the states that signed up (yes, I am criticising Liberal Premiers) allowed themselves to be hoodwinked into a shocking political bribe that was only ever going to be to their own political detriment.

One clue was the “no ifs, no buts” deadline that kept getting extended whenever there were no takers for the snake oil Gillard was peddling.

Another was the variable amounts of money being dangled by Gillard: at first, it was a 2:1 offer by the Commonwealth; then, it was a 3:1 offer.

Where Messrs Napthine and (especially) O’Farrell thought this additional money would appear from — or how they thought it would survive a post-election budget review — is anyone’s guess.

Certainly, both of them should have had the sense to realise that with the general state of Commonwealth debt already widely known — if not the exact extent of it — an Abbott government following through on its pledge to right the state of the ship would cut hard on wasteful expenditure.

Make no mistake, the Gonski money — free of meaningful accountabilities as it is — is a waste of money.

And if none of that was enough to induce a state of “buyer beware,” the six-year duration of the proposed package should have had all comers experiencing palpitations at the thought it was anything other than a political trap.

In this sense, Colin Barnett, Campbell Newman and Adam Giles have all shown themselves to be more astute and shrewd than their counterparts in the larger states.

The point that has been conveniently missed in the ruckus generated by Labor and its mates at Fairfax and the ABC is that Pyne has said that 2014 is a bridging year; that is, school funding for 2014 will occur at Gonski levels whilst the whole question of education funding is reviewed.

Pyne has also said that his objective, ideally, is to come up with an ongoing funding model under which “the quantum” of money that would be paid under the Gonski package is maintained.

Of course, that leaves a lot of scope for modification — and perhaps even the extension of the time in which that money is paid. Time will tell on such considerations.

But a bad spending package contrived in the political interests of the ALP — not, as it loftily claims, Australian students — that fails to concern itself at all with improving standards, and costs $14.5 billion in borrowed money over six years, is not a package any responsible government ought to be “honouring.”

Far from being condemned, Pyne should be applauded for applying rigorous management standards to yet another mess the Coalition has inherited from the Labor Party.

Gonski — to put it bluntly — should be Goneski.

 

 

Jeff Kennett’s Savage Attack On “Mr Bean”

NEARLY FIFTEEN YEARS after his departure as Premier of Victoria in 1999, most people still either love or hate Jeffrey Gibb Kennett; I’ve always been an enthusiastic supporter, and Kennett’s attack on “Mr Bean” today shows that when it comes to destroying an opposition case, he’s still got what it takes.

This post deals with Victorian politics, and specifically, the leader of the state ALP, Daniel Andrews; the beauty of my point tonight is that irrespective of where in the country readers live, Kennett brings the issues underpinning his attack to life in such a way that it’s not hard to equate them with something local.

For example, the Westgate Bridge could as easily be the Sydney Harbour Bridge or the Story Bridge or the Tasman Bridge.

We have discussed the Victorian opposition leader a number of times in this column and his numerous shortfalls in particular; those not familiar with these discussions will get a basic overview of the situation here and here.

I’m writing on what at first glance might seem a parochial issue for a national readership base because in many respects Andrews — and his deeply flawed transport policy, that Kennett has ripped into — is representative of the type of cardboard cut-out figure that seems to symbolise Labor’s next generation of parliamentary leaders across Australia.

Indeed, based on what has been emanating from the federal ALP since the election in September and from its “leader” Bill Shorten in the past six weeks, you can almost hear Kennett’s words being extrapolated out to other Labor leaders and to the issues particular to their respective jurisdictions that they seek to extort votes from.

And always remember, when it comes to contemporary ALP policy, honesty of virtually any description is a very loose concept.

I’d ask readers to check out Kennett’s weekly piece for Melbourne’s Herald Sun here; the vitriol and colour of the onslaught are vintage Kennett, and in any case should provide a laugh if nothing else.

That’s the problem: if it weren’t so serious, it would be funny; Kennett caricatures Andrews as Mr Bean, that bumbling, doddling dolt who has provided so much mirth for so many, and he does so to deadly effect.

Where it becomes serious is in the fact he’s talking about the actual policies of a leader (and a party) that aspires to return to government in Victoria in a year’s time; the sheer idiocy of these is compounded by the fact some of what they seek to redress either had its genesis on the watch of the Bracks-Brumby government and/or was ignored by that regime.

Andrews has a further, additional problem come election campaign time that is not covered by the transport plans Kennett pillories: the fact that on his watch as Health minister under John Brumby, he not only acknowledged that public hospital waiting lists had been doctored for PR purposes, but went on record in vigorous defence of the practice.

There is a wider issue, and as I alluded at the outset, it’s the other reason for posting on this point. Look around.

Bill Shorten is leading an attack against the Abbott government based (among other things) on assertions that Tony Abbott “is putting debt up to $500 billion.”

He isn’t and he won’t, directly; the government seeks to raise the legislated cap on borrowings from $300 billion to $500 billion to accommodate the recurrent spending commitments the ALP locked in prior to its defeat — and which will necessitate further borrowings as a result.

As I said, honesty isn’t really a premium commodity at the ALP nowadays.

And if you look further around the country, there are Labor leaders — actual and/or would be if they could be — coming out of the woodwork who all espouse the same magic pudding, sleight-of-hand, baby having a tantrum in a high chair approach to policy, political leadership, and to politics itself in their respective jurisdictions.

It’s too trite to dismiss this as a simple manifestation of all politicians being as bad as each other; the trend now becoming too obvious to ignore, it’s clear that this phenomenon — the smooth-talking boofhead with an answer for everything — is the latest evolution of the Labor leadership template.

There are days I really miss Jeffrey; as a political observer of several decades’ standing it’s hard not to when genuine characters are increasingly rare in politics today as that vocation becomes more formulaic, more sterile, and less spontaneous.

Whether you share such a nostalgic view of Jeff or not, he’s got it about right about Andrews, and he’s got it about right on the Victorian ALP’s transport policy — giving it the only treatment it truly deserves, which is to tear it to shreds and to ridicule it.

Wrong again, Mr Bean.

 

Disparate Opinion Polls: Interpret With Caution

THOSE who take their cue from opinion polls will either be discombobulated this week, or ignoring one set of numbers o’er the other; Newspoll finds the Abbott government ahead 52-48 after preferences, whilst Nielsen sees Labor in an election-winning 53-47 position. It’s likely neither is right.

We cover polling in this column not because I believe it (or more specifically, that I believe individual survey results) but because survey findings are snapshots, and taken together — as a basket of data over time — are very useful in identifying and monitoring trends.

It’s safe to say the polls are registering something; we haven’t seen the weekly Essential Media report just yet (which in any case has been stuck at 53-47 to the Coalition ever since the election) but two polls in two days have recorded wildly different findings.

(Oh, and last fortnight — in the face of the antics of Kevin Rudd — we missed a Newspoll that showed a 53-47 Coalition lead).

Newspoll is out again today, in The Australian, finding Labor closing the gap on the Liberals by one percentage point since that missed survey: the Coalition leads 52-48.

Nielsen, published in a flurry of jubilant sensationalism in the Fairfax press yesterday, shows Labor making a stunning (and stunningly quick) recovery from its election rout to lead the Coalition 53-47: to put that into perspective, Bill Shorten would win an election more convincingly on those numbers than Kevin Rudd did six years ago.

The one thing I would say is that the ALP shouldn’t break out the Bollinger just yet.

Obviously there is a lot beginning to feed into the polls — and not least, of course, the diplomatic problem that has blown up with Indonesia.

The Abbott government is beginning to flex its muscles as well, and starting to make general statements about some of the less-than-popular medicine it will soon begin to administer as it starts the onerous job of bringing Australia’s finances back under control.

And Labor, too, is making some running: under “leader” Bill Shorten it seems determined to keep having a bob each way, as it makes the kind of “magic pudding” pronouncements Kevin Rudd was so fond of which promise many things to many people, but likely amount to nothing.

It’s not unusual, whenever there is a lot of activity, for polls to record a high degree of flutter, which is what we’re probably beginning to see; despite the considered, quiet way in which the Coalition commenced its term and the Indonesia issue this past week, we’re actually seeing a relatively normal political pattern resume after years of latent voter anger running in one direction.

My sense is that an election this weekend would see the Coalition re-elected. By how much I don’t know, other than to say it wouldn’t be close.

But it would be less than it won by on 7 September, something reflecting the day-to-day development of political issues since the election rather than any solid move back to Labor.

I had an almighty brawl with some ALP apparatchiks last night on Twitter; filled with smug triumphalism about the Nielsen results, the ALP was as pure as driven snow. Abbott, by contrast…well, even daily running sheets find their way to Twitter one way or another.

The point they couldn’t answer was my response to a barb about Abbott “increasing debt by 66%” (by raising the debt ceiling from $300bn to $500bn): when I pointed out these fellows knew quite well that the debt “increase” was recurrent ALP spending that was locked in and legislated, they changed the subject.

It’s a point Shorten would do well to heed: he’s been running around in the past couple of days playing the same semantic game; it’s the kind of duplicity that helped get Labor booted from office, and if he’s not careful, it will cost him the next election too.

In both polls — even the Nielsen one that ALP types are cock-a-hoop about — Abbott leads Shorten on the “preferred PM” measure: by 44% to 33% in Newspoll, and by 49% to 41% in Nielsen.

Newspoll finds Shorten’s disapproval rating continuing to chase his approval number higher; 39% (+2%) approved of his performance, whilst 27% (+3%) disapproved. By contrast, Abbott scored 42% on both measures, down from 45-38 a fortnight ago.

Neither of them are all that popular; nothing new for Abbott, although Shorten’s rating in Newspoll isn’t worth celebrating either.

Yet looking at Nielsen’s other numbers, I just wonder if there’s a rogue element to them: they are so far out of kilter with Newspoll (and Newspoll is the more recent survey) as to be difficult to believe.

According to Nielsen — in its first post-election survey — Shorten is on his way to being a messiah, with 51% of respondents approving of his performance as opposition leader and just 30% disapproving.

It begs the question of how two weighted polls taken within a couple of days of each other (and both since the Indonesia ruckus started) could find such different things.

The same question arises over primary voting intention, with Nielsen finding the ALP on 37% (+2% on its Newspoll number), the Coalition on 41% (-2% on Newspoll), the Greens on 11% (+1% on Newspoll) and Independents/”Others” on 11% (-1%) on Newspoll.

I’m asking the question of Nielsen rather than Newspoll because Newspoll, over the past few years, has been very consistent, and twice now has been the pre-election poll closest to the actual result on polling day.

I’ll also point out (in case anyone thinks I’m picking on Nielsen from political preference) that Nielsen was the most strongly pro-Coalition of the polls for much of the last term of Parliament.

But its differences with Newspoll are at the outer limit of what might be written off as sampling error; its approval figure for Shorten defies all other available evidence.

And in terms of the likely effect of the Indonesia crisis, I have expected the Coalition would take a hit in the short term — the Indonesians don’t exactly seem able to make the distinction that Abbott wasn’t in government when the phones were tapped — before recovering.

This is why I tend to think neither of these polls is correct. Newspoll is probably closer, but even then I wouldn’t bet tens on it in such a febrile political environment.

Diplomatic crisis or not, I think we’ll see quite a bit of fluctuation in the polls over the next few months as the government beds its program down, and the ALP plays trivial politics.

(Sorry, but the ALP will. And it does).

But if you vote Labor, a cold shower is probably better than a bottle of plonk as a reaction to these latest surveys.

 

Indonesia Crisis: ALP Demonstrates Why It’s In Opposition

AS THE SCANDAL over “revelations” of intelligence surveillance conducted on Indonesia in 2009 drags on, Labor is proving why it is back where it belongs in Opposition; appeasement and cheap politics do not amount to constructive diplomacy, and are no solution to this crisis.

The suggestion by deputy Labor leader and shadow Foreign minister Tanya Plibersek that Kevin Rudd might somehow be able to play a part in neutralising diplomatic tensions with Indonesia is laughable to the point of ridiculous.

Her assertion that because Rudd has “personal relationships with senior Indonesians” and that “it does no harm to be talking in that personal context to them” is a bit like saying that if you poke the proverbial bear long enough and hard enough, it will overlook the provocation in a collegiate sense of cordiality.

Rudd might not be attracting blame for the surveillance of Indonesian figures that occurred on its watch, and the fact Indonesia appears determined to kick hell out of new Prime Minister Tony Abbott over the issue does not publicly suggest the Indonesians have singled him out as the culprit.

Even so, it’s a fair bet that privately, Rudd is the last person Jakarta wishes to deal with.

This regrettable situation — triggered by a so-called “whistleblower” who would be facing the death penalty in the USA were he not holed up in Russia — has the real potential to spiral out of control if the correct formula for mollifying the angry Indonesian leadership isn’t found and enacted, and quickly.

And as we have discussed before, it is imperative that such a solution does not contain a formal apology, nor close off Australia’s ability to conduct intelligence gathering operations in the future — thus compromising, at an unforeseeable future juncture, the ability of this country to act in the interests of its own security.

At the time of writing, Abbott has responded by way of private letter to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a reply to which has not as yet been forthcoming.

Plibersek at least implicitly acknowledges that with the letter’s contents remaining private — at least for now — Labor should wait for evidence of its repercussions before the party starts to criticise it. But she has nonetheless capitulated to the urge to aim a kick in the Prime Minister’s direction, suggesting Abbott’s statements to Parliament on the issue have been inflammatory.

But if inflammatory statements are a concern to Plibersek, she ought to look no further than the leadership — past and present — of her own party.

I direct readers to a column published by Andrew Bolt in today’s editions of News Limited papers across Australia which rounds out the point I am making today, and ties back into my point a couple of days ago that providing an apology would effectively put Australia right over a barrel.

Gillard — one of the most cluelessly inept figures to ever hold the Prime Ministership — has once again demonstrated her complete lack of finesse where international policy is concerned, advocating that Abbott simply capitulate to Indonesia’s demands.

At first glance, Bolt’s assertion that Gillard has sided with Indonesia in doing so against the government of her own country might be interpreted by some as inflammatory and provocative.

Yet that is precisely the upshot of her intemperate remarks, and her naive justification of Barack Obama’s ill-advised apology to Germany over a virtually identical incident shows just how poor her judgement in such matters really is.

Meanwhile, opposition “leader” Bill Shorten continues to cast around for a coherent position that appeases Indonesia, sinks the boot into Tony Abbott, absolves the ALP of any responsibility as a party to the incident and dumps Abbott squarely in the crosshairs of a tacky retail political attack: collectively, the kind of “magic pudding” approach deployed so regularly, and so counter-productively across a raft of issues, by Rudd as Prime Minister.

Oh, and Shorten advocates an apology to the Indonesians too: never mind that at the very least — were he ever to realise his ambition to become Prime Minister — he, too, would have to deal with the repercussions of doing so.

Bolt is right to observe that by giving in to Indonesia’s demands, Abbott would be free to rip into the ALP — and that it’s a mark of his quality as a leader that he has declined to do so.

But although Abbott at least is approaching the issue with a modicum of responsibility, the same can hardly be said of the ALP and its reckless, foolhardy carping from the sidelines.

It’s a very good thing Labor finds itself in opposition at a perilous point in what is one of Australia’s most important, and most difficult, international relationships.

Indeed, this episode is more proof — were it required — that opposition is exactly where the ALP belongs.

 

Disgusting: Outrageous Indonesian Newspaper Hypocrisy

INDONESIA may well believe it has legitimate grievances to pursue in the wake of the diplomatic fallout from revelations of Australian surveillance activity undertaken in 2009, but disgusting personal attacks mounted in state-sanctioned newspapers are not the way to resolve them.

There has been no attack made in this column on either Kevin Rudd or his government over the “spy scandal” that has rapidly enveloped Australian relations with Indonesia, and there won’t be: I have already made it clear that I regard the work of the intelligence services to be of critical importance, and — in any case — figures in or near the Indonesian government have admitted their country undertakes similar activity in relation to ours.

In fact, about the closest I am going to go to it is to simply observe that it was on the watch of the previous government, in 2009, that the surveillance activity in question occurred.

That is not to be construed as an attack on the previous government; even so, it makes the Indonesians’ response to Prime Minister Tony Abbott — who is attempting to sort the whole mess out — all the more puzzling.

I’m only going to write briefly on this; far from generating a full-blown discussion on the progress or otherwise of such efforts, this is a short post to highlight just how far Jakarta apparently seems prepared to go to damage Abbott.

In a classic case of “shoot the messenger,” a state-sanctioned Indonesian newspaper has today made a disgusting personal attack on Abbott, publishing an abhorrent caricature of the Prime Minister in his budgie smugglers and half-mast shorts, “spying” on Indonesia through a door left ajar, and apparently masturbating and sweating and gasping.

Indos depict PM as deviant

Symbolism be damned, frankly — it is deliberately and dangerously inflammatory.

This is not the act of a country that bears Australia good will, nor seeks to repair a relationship seemingly disproportionately damaged by what should be a minor diplomatic incident.

The newspaper — Rakyat Merdeka — is a Jakarta-based broadsheet that almost exclusively covers politics and economics, and is apparently a state-sanctioned mouthpiece for the policies and views of the Indonesian government.

Tony Abbott certainly doesn’t deserve this kind of thing; whether you agree fully, partly or not at all with the calibre of his efforts, he’s the one attempting to undo the damage the Snowden revelations that triggered this crisis have caused.

Rudd, for once in his life, doesn’t warrant an attack of this kind either.

It underlines the gravity of efforts being undertaken to restore the relationship between the two countries to an even keel; earlier today it was revealed that direct correspondence between Abbott and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has now been exchanged, and it remains to be seen what effect this has in lowering the temperature and tone of relations.

In the meantime, the kind of thing published by Rakyat Merdeka is absolutely disgusting, and given the high moral ground is indeed the terrain Indonesia’s leaders have sought to occupy, I would suggest it tears the ground out from beneath their feet.

Gay Rights, Republic: Pull Your Head In, Governor-General

IN A FLAGRANT abuse of office, Quentin Bryce has made an inappropriate, tacky public foray into politics, using a lecture series convened by the ABC to advocate gay marriage and a republic. The Governor-General has shown cavalier disrespect for the sovereign, and compromised her position.

It is an utter disgrace that a serving Governor-General should opt to intervene in issues that have nothing whatsoever to do with her role, let alone divisive matters that politicise what is and should always be a strictly impartial role at the apex of Australian governance.

Yet for someone who was a social activist as a prominent Labor figure prior to assuming vice-regal office it comes as no surprise, not that that excuses or justifies her actions.

Quentin Bryce has used the last in a series of lectures orchestrated by the ABC to outline “her vision” for a country “where people are free to love and marry whom they choose and where…(a) young girl or boy may even grow up to be our nation’s first Head of State.”

To be clear, my remarks today have nothing to do with my positions on the issues the Governor-General has raised, although readers will know that I am opposed to both and have outlined my reasons in this column several times in the past.

Very simply, Quentin Bryce has politicised what is an apolitical post, and for that she deserves contempt.

Providing vice-regal imprimatur to contentious social issues probably sounds like a brilliant idea to a socialist, but that’s the point: it’s the one office in Australia that “has no opinion.”

The views of Quentin Bryce on these matters is irrelevant, although the reaction from predictable quarters is an object demonstration of the irresponsibility of airing them.

Communist Party Greens leader Christine Milne was quick out of the blocks, taking to Twitter to express her congratulations “for strong advocacy of marriage equality, a republic and an ethic of care. Real leadership.”

The former Labor Premier of Western Australia, Geoff Gallop — now chairman of the Australian Republican Movement — used the speech as his cue to declare that it was time to revisit the issue of “an Australian head of state.”

But Liberal MP Kelly O’Dwyer — also a republican — was, properly, more circumspect, declaring “It’s highly unusual for a currently serving Governor-General to advocate for a republic.”

Quite.

It is not indelicate to point out that since her appointment as Governor of Queensland in 2003 and subsequently as Governor-General in 2008, Bryce has been content to pocket millions of taxpayer-funded salary dollars as the representative of the Crown.

It is entirely reasonable to therefore hold her to the consequent expectation that she would adhere to the clear convention that her offices should not interfere in political issues.

Past Governors-General have done so; even Labor appointees such as Bill Hayden and William Deane performed their duties admirably and with distinction, although Deane had a mildly controversial reputation at the time for his advocacy on Aboriginal disadvantage.

By contrast, however, Bryce has revealed herself as nothing more than a grub.

As I said at the outset, my remarks have nothing to do with my own stand on the issues Bryce has elected to interfere in, and they don’t.

But the principle of the independence of the Governor-General has been violated in a calculated and deliberate fashion, and for that Bryce should be condemned.

Her comments do not legitimise one side of the debate on such issues o’er the other, nor invalidate the contrary position.

But the reactions from elements campaigning on the same side of those debates shows why the convention of independence exists at all: now, they will parade and trumpet Bryce’s intervention as the provision of official sanction where none should exist — either way.

There is, not to put too fine a point on it, also the issue of disrespect for the monarch who remains — irrespective of the wishes of some to the contrary — Australia’s head of state.

For its part, the institution itself maintained the admirable neutrality that Bryce clearly lacks the self-discipline or principle to display, saying in a statement that “in response to any questions about the future of the Monarchy in Australia, Buckingham Palace has always maintained that this is a matter for the people of Australia.”

Which is how it should be.

In closing — and to address any charge of hypocrisy that readers opposed to my views might level — I should point out that my remarks in no way disrespect the office of the Governor-General.

In my view, its current occupant was an unsuitable appointee who was also an inappropriate selection as Governor of Queensland, and I said so on both occasions at the time (and had this column been in operation in 2003 and/or 2008, I would have published remarks to that effect here then too).

Bryce has shown, by her contempt for conventions of appropriate conduct as the holder of that office, that she is not entitled to any respect: indeed, I look forward to her pending replacement by a more suitable candidate.

It is because of my respect for the office that I make the points I do here, and the sooner Bryce ceases to sully it, the better.