Unions: Huge CFMEU Fine A Win For Decency and Democracy

THE HEFTY $1.25m FINE handed down to the CFMEU today in the Supreme Court of Victoria — along with convictions on a range of criminal and civil charges — strikes a smashing blow against union thuggery and bastardry; the trade union movement in Australia (and building unions especially) have for too long gotten away with behaving as a law unto themselves, and today’s developments come down hard on the side of the law, and what is right.

I should like to open my remarks on this matter by pointing out that whilst the story of the penalties handed out in the Supreme Court is being prominently covered in the Murdoch press, Fairfax appears not to have bothered reporting on it in its online portals (or if it has, it has opted to hide its coverage somewhere in those portals that is not conspicuously apparent).

Fairfax does little to live up to its charter or its hype about “independence” by kicking own goals like this, and a cynic would be entitled to say that it quite independently decides to ignore anything that goes against the grain of a left-wing editorial agenda. It would rather publish divisive crap about Australia being a country “without honour” for electing a Catholic Liberal as Prime Minister than incline to balanced, impartial reporting  of national events (or, in this case, even acknowledge the existence of those events at all).

So anyone from the Left who objects to the Murdoch version should really direct their anger toward Fairfax Media.

And there is plenty to be angry about here, at least insofar as decent folk are concerned; I’ll share The Australian‘s version of today’s events with readers, who will mostly (I’m sure) agree that it’s high time the kind of lawlessness and bastardry that unions like the CFMEU routinely engage in is thumped away by the full weight of the law.

The penalties meted out to the CFMEU today are among the heaviest ever awarded against a union in Australia; the headline figure of $1.25m is just the fine, and as there is a costs order also pending against the union the final hit to CFMEU coffers could be well in excess of $2 million.

I think it is an affront to decency that militant unions like the CFMEU — where union labour is neither desired nor hired — have for decades been able to raise merry hell in obstructing the work of construction firms that want nothing whatsoever to do with them: as The Australian‘s article notes, the CFMEU blockades against Melbourne construction giant Grocon at the heart of today’s court proceedings were “retaliation for the company’s decision not to bow to union pressure to gain control over its building sites.”

The article also notes the CFMEU position that the blockades were in fact over safety issues on the Grocon sites in question; it is common knowledge that unions for years (and especially in the face of declining membership) used “safety issues” as a gold-plated pretext to obstruct large builders who refuse to have union labour on their sites, and to drive smaller firms out of business.

The developments in the Supreme Court are appropriate, and the penalty suitably substantial to send the clearest message possible to unionists across the country that illegal acts will not be tolerated. Even so, there are some that simply don’t get it.

Victorian ALP leader Daniel Andrews is on the record as saying the CFMEU blockades were “appalling,” and making noises about nobody being “above the law.” Even so, it’s fairly clear the CFMEU believes it is above the law — today’s fine was comprised entirely of penalties on contempt of court provisions — but it is Andrews who saw to it that the CFMEU’s place in the Victorian ALP stable continues to be, under his leadership, secure.

The point is further underlined by the fact the CFMEU faces a move to deregister it in Victoria, in moves reminiscent of those taken against the BLF 31 years ago by the Thompson government. Andrews, for all his principled talk, refuses to distance the Victorian ALP from the CFMEU, and this is the true test of the sincerity of any of his utterances on the matter.

There is no law that says union labour must be used on large-scale commercial construction projects in this country.

In the absence of any such ghastly edict, militant thuggery, bastardry and intimidation are no substitute, reasonable or otherwise.

Contrary to the views of some within the union movement, there is no “mandate” for unions to behave in such a fashion; there is never a legitimate mandate to excuse illegal actions of the kind the CFMEU has been found at law to have engaged in on Grocon building sites.

And “concerns” about “safety” on building sites — once the honourable and substantial bedrock on which the industrial aspect of the unions’ legitimacy rested — has been so patently and flagrantly abused so many times over too many years for most reasonable people to be swayed by them.

If anything, the incessant obstruction on the grounds of fictitious concerns over safety issues that do not exist have become tantamount to crying “wolf,” and anyone at the CFMEU (or any other union) who actually cares about their members’ safety ought to contemplate the fact that such tactics might be counterproductive.

The only quarter from which opposition to the Abbott government’s move to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission emanates is the union movement, and — by extension — its patsies in the federal ALP and fellow travellers on the broader Left.

If the matters that are at the nub of the penalties handed down today are any indication, it is no surprise that ordinary folk are — based on the available evidence — unmoved by the unions’ protestations of pending victimisation at the hands of the Abbott government and its Employment minister, Eric Abetz.

In fact, this kind of conduct merely reinforces the imperative for the Heydon Royal Commission into the union movement: today’s outcome in the Supreme Court is welcome, to be sure, but the matters it relates to are by no means isolated or the exception when it comes to conduct typical of construction unions in Australia.

If a builder wishes to undertake work without capitulating to all manner of unproductive union demands, it should be free to do so, and in that sense today’s fines strike a blow for democracy.

But in the wider context of precisely the kind of tactics that led to that outcome eventuating at all, it is a win for decency also: unions that seek to survive and prosper in the long term must accept that neither the business community nor — increasingly — the general public is prepared to tolerate the insidious outrages that are the bread and butter of Australia’s more militant unions.

It is to be hoped those in charge at the CFMEU take those messages on board in light of the huge fine doled out to it today. More — and worse — will surely follow if it chooses to ignore them.

 

 

SA MP’s Brain Tumour Terminates ALP’s Legitimacy

NEWS TODAY that South Australian Independent MP Bob Such is being treated for a brain tumour is very sad, and he is to be wished a speedy recovery; the revelation — in wake of an inconclusive state election which Labor technically lost — destroys any shred of legitimacy to govern the ALP may claim, and sees Labor continue in office by virtue of an arcane numerical calculation that hardly constitutes the confidence of the House of Assembly.

First things first: I will retract my description of Dr Such as a bastard; quite clearly, if Such is suffering from and receiving treatment for a brain tumour — including a surgical intervention — then all bets, in terms of his attendance to his parliamentary duties, are off. If he or his family read the original column that described him as a bastard, I apologise to them. The revelation makes sense of his sudden disappearance from view a week ago, and I wish Dr Such a full and rapid recovery.

Even so, I do believe the Such camp should have been upfront about the nature of his condition; notwithstanding any considerations of privacy, Such stood for his electorate of Fisher and was re-elected, and had a duty to fulfil by virtue of the hung result South Australia’s recent state election delivered. A brain tumour is not a condition he would ever have been able to keep secret, and on account of the fraught political environment that applied it would at least have been reasonable for all players in the situation to be properly informed of the nature of his illness.

All of that aside, today’s development shows the agreement between the other Independent, Geoff Brock, and the ALP to govern together in a renewed and distasteful light.

The final outcome of the state election was 23 ALP seats to the Liberals’ 22, with two Independents elected to traditionally ultra-safe conservative rural electorates, and given the indefinite absence of Dr Such from Parliament this means the only possible numerical permutation to produce a majority (short of some kind of “grand coalition,” which obviously isn’t going to happen) is the 23 Labor Party MPs, plus Brock.

In other words, Premier Jay Weatherill remains in government not because of the confidence of the House, but because an unforeseen and highly unusual circumstance — Dr Such’s illness — has made it impossible for the House to fully express its will.

With the numbers as tight as they are, this is no moot point. It is publicly unknown who Dr Such might have preferred to lead South Australia, and even had he thrown in his lot with the Liberal Party then Brock could still have restored Labor to office on his own.

But we’ll never know: it may have been that both Independents might have been prepared to back the Liberals. But with one of them missing, for the other to do so would have deadlocked the South Australian Parliament, and that — rather obviously — is the worst conceivable result of any election.

Knowledge of the reason for the absence of Dr Such amplifies the judgement that Brock is a bastard, however; not for supporting the ALP, consulting Tony Windsor, or defying both the statewide result and the clear wishes of his own electorate (although those reasons are bad enough), but because the disgusting cloak and dagger game he indulged in — telling Liberal leader Steven Marshall that his decision was several days away whilst finalising an alliance with the ALP that secured him a ministry and a pay rise — is, in hindsight, a disturbingly amoral way to operate given Dr Such’s condition.

South Australians now have a government that a majority of their number voted against, that failed to secure a majority of seats, and which holds office only on account of the latest turncoat Independent MP to thumb his nose at conservative constituents by sealing the ALP in government for four years.

It has a government that will now carry the taint at its genesis of the tacky, tasteless manner in which its numbers were cobbled together, using the cover of a serious illness suffered by Dr Such to engage in deception, deceit, and misleading conduct.

Not that such qualities are unique to SA Labor; the ALP nationally seems to be predicated on them these days.

The fact that Labor plus Brock constitutes the only viable majority that could be constructed does not equate to an election win, an expression of the will of the people, the confidence of the House, or any kind of moral endorsement. It is simply the government South Australia will have because there is no other option possible, when in ordinary circumstances there may well have been.

And should Dr Such be forced to retire from his seat, prompting a by-election in Fisher likely to be thumpingly won by the Liberals, even that will fail to destroy the numerical coalition that now exists between Brock and Weatherill although it will certainly add to the almost overwhelming case against Labor continuing in office in South Australia at all.

What shreds of credibility Labor and Weatherill might have claimed existed to justify their arrangement with Brock — certainly on the grounds of any ethical consideration or moral imprimatur — have been rent asunder by the news of Dr Such’s condition this morning.

Still, it could have been worse. Had Weatherill not threatened to quit on election eve over a key preselection, South Australians would probably have defeated Senator, union puppet master and factional numbers henchman Don Farrell as their Premier today; and if we’re talking about moral vacuums and the obscene illegitimacy of the results thrown up by the state election and its aftermath, Farrell as Premier would be an infinitely worse proposition altogether, and would make a mockery of having had an election in South Australia at all.

 

 

We Called It First: Nathan Rees To Leave NSW Politics

THE MAN WHO might have led NSW Labor out of the wilderness in 2019 is instead to leave politics, his two-term political career in tatters, in the wake of a highly inappropriate affair with a constituent and on the run from an extremely unfavourable electoral redistribution that made his western Sydney electorate unwinnable. Rees deserves a fresh start, but should ponder the smoking ruins of a career hastened in its demise by his own actions.

It’s hard to believe almost six months have passed since the highly inappropriate affair between Nathan Rees — then NSW’s shadow minister for Police and Emergency Services — and a constituent he advised on matters pertaining to his shadow portfolio first became public; I said at the time that the affair had cruelled Rees’ career permanently, and that he should resign from Parliament (or be expelled from it if he refused to so so) as his political career was, in effect, finished.

Now, it seems, he is going.

Those who didn’t see my article at the time can access it here; I stand by what I said at the time and in some respects, those words have proven prescient.

The great irony — as I said at the time — is that present Labor leader John Robertson should be a dead man walking, given his acknowledgement of the fact he was offered a $3 million bribe (he declined it) but failed to report the matter to Police; by a combination of factors he stands every chance of leading the ALP to the next state election in NSW and possibly beyond, when Rees was viewed as his logical replacement, and perhaps even Labor’s next Premier.

There isn’t much to be done about a redistribution that turns your seat into one held safely, on paper, by your opponent, and even less to be done about it when your party holds so few seats in Parliament that a replacement can’t be found for you.

Yet for whatever successes and failures Rees takes away from Macquarie Street, he must also accept that the terminal blow to his career was inflicted by the affair he willingly engaged in that overlapped with what, in effect, was ministerial business: a total no-no for any politician in the kinds of governments we have in Australia.

Rees, in announcing his resignation, stoically claimed that it was time for “new challenges” and cited an involvement in politics — both in and outside Parliament — spanning some 20 years; we do wish him well in his private life.

He can rightly claim (as he has done) to have made some attempt to confront the corrupt culture that is endemic within the NSW ALP; he could have done more, and many would have done less.

But any legacy will forever be tainted by improper conduct of another kind altogether, and whilst Rees leaves the NSW Parliament on his own terms and in his own time, even the suggestion of sexual favours in return for rendering assistance to a constituent will be a blemish that will never entirely be erased from any objective consideration of his time in politics.

 

 

Just Desserts: Former HSU Boss Michael Williamson Jailed

LITTLE SYMPATHY and a lot of contempt should befall former ALP President and Health Services Union boss Michael Williamson following his incarceration for a minimum five-year stint at Her Majesty’s pleasure; Williamson has shown no remorse for stealing $1 million from the union or for obstructing the Police investigation into him, and whilst he reportedly contemplated suicide when caught, he deserves to live to be punished.

If there is any satisfaction to be derived from the fact Michael Williamson will spend at least five years behind bars, it lies in the fact that a filthy specimen who has preyed on the membership monies of honest working folk has had the book thrown at him, but in truth there are few winners in the outcome that was played out in a Sydney court room this morning.

It is perhaps a regrettable sign of the times where unions and the leeches who illicitly profiteer from them that all readers — in Australia at least — will be well and truly familiar with the case; even so, for those wishing to view a news report on this morning’s proceedings, they can do so here or here.

I am fed up with the “defence” that has become fashionable for crooks like Williamson to seek to deploy that their fathers touched them when they were children; readers know what I think should happen to paedophiles, and it doesn’t extend to their continued consumption of oxygen, to put it mildly.

Even so, the notion that such an assault renders the judgement of the victim so defective as to assuage any pangs of guilt or conscience over the perpetration (in this case) of a million-dollar fraud, committed systematically and with forethought over a lengthy period of years, is grotesque, and so distasteful as to be dismissed from any consideration of Williamson’s culpability.

If nothing else, the efforts he went to to conceal his crimes and obstruct official investigations into his wrongdoings — readers might recall his arrest at HSU premises a couple of years ago, during which he was apprehended trying to remove computer drives and cases of incriminating documents before Police arrived — should dispel any doubt over what is, despite guilty pleas, a total and utter lack of remorse.

I contend those guilty pleas were entered into only to attempt to mitigate the penalty handed out this morning, and the same can be said of psychologist reports suggesting being molested as a child and/or a story about abandoning acting out a suicide that were tendered in Court on his behalf.

A cynic would certainly be entitled to laugh, wryly, that all manner of sins cause people like Williamson to stick their fingers in the till: it’s almost always money when the “consequent” offences are committed, and almost always lots of it — irrespective of the misdeeds of the past that were allegedly wrought upon the perpetrators.

Had he followed through on his planned suicide, he might have saved the taxpayer some money in keeping him, for sure; yet this would have been a selfish, self-serving outcome rendered by Williamson in his utter obsession with his own welfare that would have denied his victims — those HSU members who paid their dues in exchange for what they were reasonably entitled to expect would be union representation — the natural and legal justice his criminal activities entitle them to.

Justifications — such as Williamson’s desire to see his five children educated privately, and that they didn’t “go without” — simply don’t wash; I would like to send my kids to private schools that I have no idea how I will afford when the time comes, and certainly don’t want them to “go without.” I would never help myself to a million dollars of someone else’s money to make it possible, and neither would any other decent, fair-minded and law-abiding citizen in the same position.

The sense of entitlement that goes with Williamson’s offences is an insult to the ordinary folk who either struggle and scrimp to afford such things, or accept that they must go without.

Not that Williamson was poorly remunerated by the union before he ripped it off.

The comment of sentencing judge David Frearson that Williamson had developed a “reprehensible sense of entitlement’’ is a succinct and deadly accurate assessment of Williamson’s attitude.

Still, in being jailed for a five-year non-parole period of a seven and a half year sentence, I am satisfied the punishment fits the crime; it would fit even better if Williamson were forced to repay, in full, the monies he stole from the HSU by way of restitution, and to the best of my knowledge he isn’t being compelled to do so (any readers with more up to date knowledge in this regard should feel free to comment).

And that sentence contrasts with the veritable slap on the wrist administered to fellow HSU miscreant and general grub Craig Thomson on Monday, who was handed a twelve month prison term with nine months of it suspended; like the piece of shit he is, Thomson walks free even now: pending an appeal, too arrogant and conceited to even acknowledge or show remorse for his crimes, and still clinging to the spurious defence that as HSU chief he had the ultimate sanction over what union monies could be spent on and therefore should not be punished for spending them on prostitutes, cash advances, and God alone knows what else.

In closing, I should point out that whilst I do not like unions and am implacably opposed to most of their tactics, objectives, and the methods they use to pursue them, the bulk of union figures are generally good people, if misguided; it is the odd rotten apple that gives the rest of the barrel a bad name.

So it is in this case, and Williamson and Thomson are excellent advertisements for the Royal Commission into the wider union movement that is soon to commence.

The pursuit by unionists of union objectives is one thing, but the criminal fraud, theft or otherwise abusing the power entrusted to union officials is another matter altogether. Alas, there are too many rotten apples in too many union barrels, and the Heydon commission should rid the wider movement of much of the insidious filth that perpetuates the poor name unions wear in the eyes of most people who choose not to join their ranks.

Williamson can rot in hell for all I care, and if he still wants to top himself when he gets out of prison then nobody should stand in his way.

But it is imperative he be punished first, and this alone means that the sentence handed down to him in Sydney today is a win for his victims, the rule of law, and what is right.

 

 

At 89, Jimmy Carter Reminds Why He Was A Poor President

HE MAY BE DECREPIT, but he remains lucid enough to be a menace; Jimmy Carter — at an ominous and dangerous point in global affairs — has served up a salutary reminder of why he was such an ineffectual, impotent and downright dangerous President of the United States. His vacillation over a hypothetical pardon for traitor Edward Snowden is typical, and shows that 34 years after losing to Ronald Reagan in a landslide, Carter still doesn’t get it.

I have read an article in The Age this evening that has me shaking my head, and it’s not possible for me to sleep on it without making some comment. Even in his dotage, Jimmy Carter seems to have learnt little from the passage of time.

The presidency of Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) might not have ever occurred, had Richard Nixon not fallen so spectacularly from grace — and office — in August 1974; certainly the 1976 presidential election was one of the closer races, with replacement President Ford and his running mate, Bob Dole, carrying a majority of states but not votes in the United States’ electoral college. The unfancied peanut farmer and former Governor of Georgia became President, and his shortcomings paved the way for the popular actor and national security hawk , Ronald Reagan, to win the Presidency in 1980 in a canter.

Carter’s presidency was marked by economic torpor in the United States, and characterised by confused foreign policy at a time (similar to that which exists today) of great international unrest, and flux in the order of global security; Carter was faced with a militarily resurgent USSR led by Leonid Brezhnev, which invaded Afghanistan on Carter’s watch in late 1979.

Under Reagan, of course, the USA and the USSR came arguably nearer to direct conflict than they had since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, although Reagan’s strategy of engaging in profligate military spending and expansion he knew the Soviets couldn’t match but were obliged to attempt to do so eventually achieved its aim of busting the USSR from within.

Even so, the seeds for what in retrospect was the dangerous decade of the 1980s were sown on Carter’s watch, with a passive and unconfrontational foreign policy that was tantamount to appeasement of the Soviets, and decades later it is clear that Carter still doesn’t get it.

In even considering a pardon — in a hypothetical sense — for US traitor Edward Snowden, Carter has neatly shown the world that the same shortcomings that cruelled his period in the White House persist today, and whilst he was at pains to specify that even as a hypothetical question he was unsure as to whether he would grant a pardon, the fact he would even consider it at all beggars belief.

Carter is right to point out that the question of pardoning Snowden is to some extent obsolete, given Snowden has neither been tried nor convicted for the allegations and accusations he faces. This, however, is where the rectitude of his position begins and ends.

Snowden’s alleged misdemeanours — that he leaked thousands of pages of highly classified material about sensitive internal processes and the intelligence activities of the United States and its allies — may not have found their way into a court of law. And they are unlikely to ever do so, with the fugitive traitor currently being shielded in Russia by the Russian government, which refuses to countenance his extradition to face what would be a certain death sentence for treason if he were to be convicted.

Snowden himself, meanwhile, has virtually admitted responsibility for the leaks he stands accused of, and has shown no remorse in those of his utterances that have been published.

It’s telling that Carter — who as readers will see from the Fairfax article I have linked — vacillates in the interview over the question of a pardon, but then says he would “certainly” consider one were Snowden to face a capital penalty despite initially trying to dismiss the question as a hypothetical.

Of course, the question is hypothetical. But Carter’s answers highlight the same pusillanimous confusion on national security matters that marked his administration and inform American voters, at the very least, of how fortunate they are not to have such a dangerous idiot in charge of their defence at a time their country one again faces a militarily resurgent Russia bent on mischief and expansion.

Not that Barack Obama is any better, mind; in fact, I can recall having quite a heated debate in London in August 2008 with learned friends who were starstruck by Obama and his soaring rhetoric. I said it was of “paramount importance” that John McCain beat Obama in November that year; he didn’t. And it is now that the US might truly rue the outcome of the 2008 election.

Carter, for his part, at least acknowledges that he thinks “Putin has to be stopped” but of course offers no ideas as to how this can be done beyond suggesting that Obama throw his weight behind whatever proposed course of action Secretary of State John Kerry (another dodgy Democrat, beaten to the White House in 2004 by a re-elected George W. Bush) cares to put forward.

But back to Snowden.

It has to be remembered that Edward Snowden has already caused the US enormous diplomatic embarrassment. His activities have also impacted America’s friends — the stoush between Australia and Indonesia over activities undertaken by the Rudd government is a case in point, the can for which is being carried by Prime Minister Tony Abbott — and Snowden has made it known that the material he has released to date represents a mere fraction of the total amount he was able to sequester from the NSA prior to going on the run.

And it must be remembered that the likes of Snowden and his Australian counterpart Julian Assange are quite capable of starting international incidents that can escalate into wars: there are good reasons the material they steal and leak are subject to secrecy provisions, and in most cases those secrecy arrangements are not incompatible with notions of open and accountable government.

Very simply, and to simplify the point, if governments are unable to conduct certain business and engage in certain conversations behind closed doors then of course international ramifications will folllow. Yet that doesn’t bother these idiots, and the proof in the pudding of their despicable actions is the fact that the leaks they perpetrate are targeted against selected governments: their objectives of “open government” are not universal, with the political Right in democratic Western countries almost invariably being the primary targets of their activities.

Snowden and Assange are not heroes. They are not agents of liberty and freedom, or openness and accountability. They are traitors, enemies, and what the North Koreans might call “despicable scum,” a commodity North Korea is well and truly familiar with the perpetration of itself.

I would say to Jimmy Carter that if Snowden, Assange, or anyone else who sees no problem peddling national secrets with a view to creating international trouble and otherwise compromising the host country are ever brought to justice and tried for treason, then a capital penalty is exactly what they deserve.

Treacherous dogs of their kind do not merit leniency, or sympathy, or indeed forgiveness, and the question of pardoning Snowden for his crimes against the USA — if he is ever able to be convicted for them — should be an open and shut exercise in outright refusal.

The fact a death sentence might be involved, to me, is neither here nor there. Yes, I support capital punishment, and I accept many others worldwide do not.

But if the penalty for treason in the United States is execution, then so should it be: and the grotesque spectacle of a one-time holder of the Presidency even contemplating the prospect of a pardon should send a shudder down the spine of any American citizen who cares whether or not their country survives, prospers, or indeed progresses.

Cater hasn’t changed. And whilst I have close to nothing favourable to say about Barack Obama as a leader in any way, shape or form, at least he isn’t Jimmy Carter.

Eyeball to eyeball with a nuclear-armed Russia whose renewed expansionist objectives remain unclear, Americans — and everyone else in the free world — can at least be thankful for that tiny mercy.

 

 

Vice-Regal: Bryce To Depart A Dame Unlamented

THE IMMINENT replacement of Quentin Bryce as Governor-General by Sir Peter Cosgrove warrants national pride, with the ascent of the distinguished General coinciding with the overdue restoration of knighthoods and damehoods to Australia’s honours system. It’s a reminder that reputations can be easily shredded: Bryce departs as just another Labor hack, a grub, and does not deserve the damehood bestowed upon her by the Prime Minister.

First things first: I think the re-introduction today of knighthoods and damehoods to Australia’s honours roll is overdue, highly appropriate, and something that all Australians should support; it is important to be able to single out individuals in our midst of the highest standing and achievement for recognition, and the elite category Prime Minister Tony Abbott has restored to the Order of Australia today fills a gap in that Order that has been missing since the Hawke government abolished it in 1986.

It is important to note that contrary to popular misconception, these awards are neither British nor Imperial in nature; these are Australian awards, made under the Order of Australia, and as such very different to, say, being called “Sir” on account of being made a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) which is, ultimately, a British award.

Republicans, therefore, can have no complaint against it on anti-monarchical grounds.

And I contend some of the noisier and outraged members of the lobby of the downtrodden can have no gripe with it, either: just as I have no problem with their advocacy for and on behalf of the poorest and most disaffected members of society, they in turn should have no problem with individuals having something like this to strive for: a recognition of excellence and achievement.

Just as the poorest should be lifted from their circumstances, so too should the best and brightest be encouraged and rewarded and spurred on to greater heights, and it is an indecent view of society that would have one to the total exclusion of the other.

These awards have been reintroduced to coincide with the completion of the present Governor-General’s term in office, and her replacement by a true Australian hero and living national treasure in the retired General, now Sir Peter Cosgrove.

To me, the timing is exquisite; the departure of Bryce doesn’t completely close the door on what has more or less been a dominant Labor generation* in terms of its prominence in Australian politics — that can only happen once the balance of power in the Senate changes in July — but I have to say that the arrival of Gen Cosgrove at Yarralumla will signal a break with Australia’s recent Labor past, and restore some much-needed dignity to the highest office in the land after the disgraceful precedent set by Bryce.

The fact Bryce was a woman in vice-regal office is no precedent; after all, she wasn’t even the first female governor of her home state of Queensland.

I actually think her gender makes no difference at all; in my view, the only considerations are a) can she do the job? and, b) how well, with hindsight, she did the job.

Only a fool would argue Bryce wasn’t up to being Governor-General; she is no idiot, and in fact, that was part of the problem.

Readers will recall that in November last year — when she foolishly waded into domestic politics, advocating in favour of gay marriage and a republic — this column slammed her interventions, pointing out (very correctly) that it was entirely improper for the holder of the office of Governor-General to be intervening in the political issues of the day. For those who didn’t see my article at the time, it is here.

Until that outburst, I had previously opined (the few times the Governor-Generalship even surfaced as a topical subject) that Bryce, by and large, had rather surprisingly made an excellent Governor-General, serving with distinction and aplomb.

What had been so “surprising” about these observations had nothing to do with Bryce’s gender and everything to do with her background, based as it is in the radical activism of the social Left. It surprised me she had been able to keep a lid on these prejudices in her official capacity. I had spoken too soon. My observations had been premature.

And in direct answer to those who might refer to Abbott’s comments at the time — that he had been “comfortable” with what Bryce had said — I would simply point out that those comments are words from a man with a vested interest, as Prime Minister, in offending as few people as possible.

No true interpretation of responsible government in Australia and the role the office of Governor-General plays in it could ever excuse such a divisive foray into rank partisanship by its occupant.

Conventions around roles such as the Governor-Generalship exist for good reason; in this case, the political impartiality and strict neutrality of the role are essential if the office is to remain uncompromised as an instrument of the system of constitutional monarchy, or to enable its holder to act properly and fearlessly if a situation similar to the events of October-November 1975 should ever again arise.

The higher the office, the higher the expectation; and in this vein, what might have been regarded as the rendering of meritorious vice-regal service was ripped apart by a few cheap cracks Bryce simply lacked the self-restraint or discipline to keep quiet about.

She leaves the office of Governor-General ready for her successor to restore it to the propriety and dignity it deserves; whilst not perhaps a complete failure, the kindest judgement of her term at Yarralumla is that is was unremarkable — save for the offensive partisan statements she made in a speech that quite literally should never have been uttered by somebody in her position.

Nobody should mark down the period spent by Quentin Bryce as Governor-General as a time to be remembered with any affection. She was not a great holder of the office. Her tenure was not remarkable or distinguished. In contexts such as these, reputations are hard-earned over long years and may be destroyed in an instant. Her time in the role has left a great stain of partisanship on a great office of state. She does not deserve the damehood the Prime Minister has bestowed upon her.

 

*To clarify, whilst the Liberal Party governed for 12 years under John Howard, federally, from March 1996 to November 2007, it must be remembered that his election took place at a time when Coalition state governments were early in an overall process of falling from office across the country; Labor has had the better of Australian politics over the past 20 years or so when the states are included for consideration, and it is this dominant Labor generation to which I refer.

Bastards: SA “Independents” Have Some Explaining To Do

IN FAIRYLAND, the stunt orchestrated at the weekend by South Australian “independent” MPs Geoff Brock and Bob Such to prop Labor up in office might pass muster; in reality — in the face of virtually every political indicator — it simply doesn’t cut it. The public is entitled to a genuine explanation, or confession; and hospitalised Dr Such might well be, but these matters go to the heart of his legitimacy as an MP too, and he must account for them.

Two things at the outset: one, readers will know I have been heavily critical of the marginal seats campaign conducted by the Liberal Party in South Australia and the consequent poor return in terms of seats gained from the ALP, and I stand by my assessment; today I am obviously looking at the outcome of the SA state election from the alternative perspective, but my remarks today are entirely consistent with my criticism of the poor showing the Liberals managed in failing to win marginal seats from the ALP.

And two, “independent” MP Bob Such is reportedly unwell, having been hospitalised late last week, scheduled for surgery today, and apparently now absent for “a couple of months” from his duties as an MP. I have always emphasised the human nature of politics, and that people should remember that MPs are human too, and in this spirit we wish Dr Such a full and speedy recovery.

Even so — at the risk of being called all kinds of things — I’m afraid he comes in for a kicking today every bit as hard as his crony Geoff Brock does: it’s either that, or he should have resigned his seat and forced a by-election, even this soon after the votes in it were counted. He can’t have it both ways.

Notwithstanding any criticism I have directed at my own party over its lacklustre (and frankly abysmal) gains at a state election that should have been a lay-down misere, I ask readers to consider the following points.

At the state election nine days ago, the Liberal Party recorded a primary vote of 44.8%, an increase from 2010 of 3.1%.

At the same election on 15 March, the ALP achieved a primary vote of 35.8%: a decrease of 1.7% on its 2010 result.

After preferences on a statewide basis, the two-party vote for the Liberal Party — remembering the count is still to be finalised — was a shade under 53%.

On a statewide basis, there was a swing after preferences to the Liberal Party — again, with the count still to be finalised — of about 1%.

It is true that the ALP won more seats than the Liberals, by 23 to 22 in the 47-member House of Assembly. Yet both major parties were able to be supported in government by the “independents” elected in the remaining two seats.

Those seats, in turn, are traditional rural conservative electorates in Frome and Fisher; indeed, Dr Such was originally elected in Fisher as a Liberal in 1989.

Both are two-candidate contests between the “independent” MPs and the Liberals, and whilst both Brock and Such were re-elected last weekend, both seats swung sharply back toward the Liberals in line with the overall statewide trend.

Polling — both of the formal variety and the kind of half-arsed straw poll you might expect these blokes to conduct off their own bat as a “survey” of their electorates — was undertaken in both Frome and Fisher; the reputable variety found voters in both seats split roughly 60-40 in favour of their MPs supporting a minority Liberal government with Steven Marshall as Premier.

And to cap it, Brock at least said he would listen to the opinions of his constituents before making any decision. He may have listened but on any objective assessment, he still went ahead and did whatever he liked.

Against all of these facts, where is the compelling case for a discredited, exhausted and bankrupt 12-year-old Labor government to be propped up in office?

Why did Brock see the need to consult with — of all the clowns on Earth — former federal “independent” Tony Windsor, a man whose visceral hatred of the Coalition parties is palpable? He has admitted as much himself in the past, at least where Prime Minister Tony Abbott is concerned. But Windsor is singularly and totally irrelevant to state politics in South Australia. Brock must state publicly why he regarded Windsor’s counsel as in any way valid or relevant.

Why did Brock see the need to tell Liberal leader Steven Marshall that he would make a decision in the middle of this week, whilst engaging in subterranean final negotiations with Premier Jay Weatherill? His conduct in doing so doesn’t show Marshall up as being gullible or naive; rather, it reflects extremely poorly on Brock himself. Shabby, underhanded, and treacherous.

What inducements were offered for the electorates of Frome and/or Fisher in return for support of a Labor government? This is a clear matter of public interest. We already know Brock gets a 40% pay rise and a ministry in Weatherill’s government. But what else? If the case was so compelling, it must be made public — again — to dispel public scepticism over the decision that has been made.

If Dr Such is so sick as to be away from Parliament for two months then I feel very sorry for him, and trust he recovers swiftly. But was there any attempt made to explore the option of gaining a “pair” during Such’s illness to neutralise the effect of his absence on parliamentary votes? If not, why not?

Such — according to the statements that have been issued by his camp — is due to return to Parliament within “a couple of months.” The decision on who should form government after the election, theoretically at any rate, is a decision for four years. What is the basis for Such abrogating the discharge of his duty in this critically important aspect of a hung Parliament over a four-year term on the basis of a two-month absence?

Why couldn’t he, at the minimum, made a statement of his support subject to the confidence of the House?

If Such is so sick as to warrant the abandonment of his duty in this matter, why has he not resigned his seat in Parliament?

This entire episode — the reinstallation of the ALP on such a questionable pretext — is a public disgrace. Brock, at least, can kiss his re-election prospects goodbye right now; his voters are said to be furious, and rightly so. Whilst I don’t condone it in the slightest, it’s not hard to see why he’s received death threats since the announcement yesterday he would back the ALP. He can hardly feign surprise at the outrage he has generated.

 

Weatherill crowed on national radio today that the only thing that matters, in the end, is the seat count: the number of seats won by the respective parties in the lower house of Parliament.

That count was skewed by one “independent” leaving his mate to carry the can, who promptly filled it with a ministerial salary and agreed to put Labor back in government. I’m not sure most people would see the soundness of this strategy.

Brock needs to make a public statement outlining in every detail why — apart from pocketing a pay rise — he thinks Labor should govern for four years. Forget “stability;” that could be delivered in the context of the numbers by the Liberal Party. Forget “care” about regional SA; Labor has never really cared about the bush, and if Brock thinks it does now then he is as gullible as he attempted to make Marshall look. And forget the “careful consideration” bullshit: it’s fairly obvious Brock simply wanted to ensure Labor continued in office. He must substantiate his reasons beyond the nefarious claptrap he has offered up to date.

Simply stated, what gerrymandered boundaries couldn’t quite manage to achieve on their own Brock has finished, thanks to the questionable pretext given by Such for his abandonment of his duty and against the overwhelming backdrop of the clear public desire for a Liberal government in South Australia.

If this is simply a matter of personal political preference, Brock should say so.

But for any other justification, a detailed and complete disclosure of the reasons and any inducements is required. Otherwise the Weatherill government will limp on as just another morally bankrupt Labor government that lives well beyond its use-by date, with neither legitimacy nor public consent to sustain it.