Keystone Copout: Labor Abuses High Court To Evade Rorts Probe

VICTORIAN LABOR’S ethically bankrupt 2014 campaign will drag on into yet another year, with the Andrews government to seek a High Court injunction to kibosh an Ombudsman’s inquiry into whether Labor rorted public resources by sending electorate staff to marginal seats to campaign for ALP candidates. The move is an abuse of process, further underlining the hypocrisy of a rotten regime elected on a premise that is tantamount to fraud.

There are those readers who object to my characterisation of the ALP — and the union thugs and henchmen who bankroll it — as “filth,” but when it comes to Labor’s Victorian division and the government it formed after the 2014 state election on a platform that has proven tantamount to a fraud, that loathsome party’s depravity appears to know few boundaries these days.

I am talking — this time — about the risible scheme cooked up and carried out by Labor from opposition, at the 2014 state election, to redeploy electorate staff in safely Labor-held seats to campaign for ALP candidates in marginal Coalition electorates, which on any reasonable interpretation cannot be said to pass the so-called “pub test” even if (as idiot savant and Premier Daniel Andrews claims) the grimy plot complied with Parliamentary guidelines.

First things first: for those unfamiliar with the background to this issue or with this latest development yesterday, some background reading may be accessed here and here; the obvious observation to make is that having been referred to the Ombudsman by Victoria’s Upper House for an investigation of the scheme to take place — an action upheld in the Supreme Court last year, and subsequently by Victoria’s Court of Appeal — the Andrews government’s mooted application to the High Court for an injunction has the distinct reek of corruption emanating from it.

(Having grown up in Queensland and watched the excesses of the Bjelke-Petersen regime play out in real time, it’s not an overreach to say so).

But the news that Victorian Labor is desperate to evade scrutiny over what any fair-minded individual could only describe as a rort ought to surprise nobody; after all, the present state government won power after waging one of the dirtiest and most ethically bankrupt campaigns in Australian political history, and having made it nearly two-thirds the way through a four-year term by governing with a similarly brazen outlook, any expectation it might conduct itself with a bit of decency now would be a forlorn hope indeed.

After all, this is a party that co-opted CFMEU brutes to masquerade as emergency services workers to harass and bully people into voting for it; had “nurses” telemarket the old, the frail and the sick to scare them shitless with jumped-up lies about the Liberal Party’s record and plans in the Health portfolio; and has to date saddled Victorian taxpayers with a compensation bill of more than a billion dollars for cancelling the contract to build Melbourne’s much-needed East-West Link, despite solemn promises the contract “wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on” and that “not one cent” of compensation would be payable for abandoning the road project.

And that’s just for starters.

But the running saga of another of the Victorian ALP’s power-crazed stunts — sending taxpayer-funded staff into marginal Coalition electorates as campaign workers — can only be viewed through the prism of the rest of its sordid, dishonest election campaign; Andrews has never explained how this was compliant with parliamentary guidelines despite his claims to that effect, and neither has a single member of his government.

Not even under parliamentary privilege, where they can evade prosecution for lying about it: the inescapable conclusion is therefore that no such compliance exists, and Andrews and his goons know it.

I’m not partisan enough or naive enough to insult readers’ intelligence by suggesting the Upper House’s decision to refer the government to the Ombudsman isn’t, viewed one way, a stunt of its own; after all, this is how opposition politicians play, and both the Coalition and the Communist Party Greens who between them control the Legislative Council stand to gain from any opprobrium that can be attached to Labor over this issue.

And it goes without saying that this entire episode — irrespective of who committed the offence, or who it is baying for blood over it — is merely the latest tawdry example in a seemingly endless recent sequence as to why politics, and politicians, are held in such contempt by the voting public.

But in a breathtaking hypocrisy, it was Labor — then in opposition under first the hapless John Brumby, and later the amiable boofhead Steve Bracks — which, in 1999, made the Kennett government’s emasculation of the Ombudsman an issue that rightly generated community outrage; yet today, Labor’s Attorney-General, Martin Pakula, is quoted in the Herald Sun article I’ve linked as saying that the Court of Appeal’s decision to allow the Ombudsman’s inquiry into allegations against the ALP to stand accords Parliament “too much power to require the Ombudsman to probe any matter.”

So let’s dispense with the mock outrage, and nudge the discussion back into the real world.

The simple truth seems to be that Victorian Labor — in its mad lust for power at any price imaginable, backed by the utter thuggery and bastardry of its Trades Hall chums — appears to have taken it upon itself to fortify its filthy campaign of lies and deceit by misusing the resources allocated to it for electorate purposes to provide an additional bulwark against Denis Napthine’s government in the seats it needed to win to secure office.

That’s the charge: and given Andrews and his mates have not only admitted the practice occurred, but insisted (without substantiation) that the practice was legal, those allegations must be tested.

To this end, Labor’s intended recourse to the High Court, in a desperate last stand to try to shut the Ombudsman’s investigation down, not only smacks of panic but can only be characterised as an abuse of process.

Like everything about the Andrews government, this episode serves to highlight the decaying and rotten foundations upon which it is built: and Victorians, and Australians in other states watching the goings-on in Spring Street, are justified in feeling disgusted by yet another elected government caught out playing fast and loose with resources paid for by an over-taxed public that has yet again been taken for granted.

As for the opposition Liberal Party, two points must be made.

One, if — as the Andrews government defence seems to imply — “they’re all at it too,” then miscreant Liberal MPs must also be subjected to rigorous scrutiny; if Labor has evidence of similar practices being employed by the Liberals or the Greens, as it claims, it must produce it. The fact it has failed to do so, however, is strongly indicative that “they’re all at it too” is just an attempt to deflect blame by smearing others, and Andrews has exhibited a contemptible lack of leadership by permitting such baseless accusations to be made.

But two, if — after everything Andrews Labor has gifted them to work with, the staff rorts probe we’re talking about today notwithstanding — they remain unable to puncture the ALP’s election-winning lead in reputable opinion polling, then the Liberals have a problem.

This column enthusiastically endorsed Matthew Guy as leader in the aftermath of the 2014 election, and we remain hopeful he can turn the Coalition’s fortunes. But if it continues to trail badly in another 12 months’ time, some hard decisions will need to be made.

After all, an honest assessment of the Andrews government already shows it unfit to hold office. To allow its re-election late next year through poor leadership and a misfiring political apparatus would be nothing short of unforgivable.

Labor has already reaped the fruits of the intellectual fraud it foisted on Victoria in 2014. It is the Liberals’ responsibility to ensure it doesn’t happen a second time.

 

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