Dog Act: Scandal A Metaphor For Daniel Andrews’ Government

THE UPROAR over a piddling minister in Victoria’s loathsome state government using taxpayer-funded transport for two dogs is not only justified, but speaks to everything wrong with “modern” Labor and its charade in office: Steve Herbert refuses to resign; Premier Daniel Andrews refuses to sack him. This fiasco is the latest in a long list that marks the ALP as unfit to govern. An election loss, two years hence, is beginning to look distinctly possible.

Before we get started, I should just like to reference the gnome who accosted me on Twitter on Wednesday night when this story broke, effectively accusing me of double standards — something about the Liberals (under Ted Baillieu and Denis Napthine) and Geoff Shaw — and to observe that such a blatantly partisan (and patently brainless) barb could only have originated from the foul brigade that leapt into action at the ALP to defend their maaate by going on the attack; regular readers know I am hellbent on finding ways to improve the pitiful standards of parliamentary behaviour, on all sides of politics.

I campaigned volubly for the expulsion of Geoff Shaw from Parliament; so, too, did the current Premier, when he was a “principled” leader of the opposition. Shaw left the parliamentary Liberal Party of his own volition and was subsequently expelled as a member once the proper constitutional processes of the party had rightly been followed. Yet Corrections minister Steve Herbert will suffer neither humiliation. He won’t even be sacked from Daniel Andrews’ ministry.

And this — for reasons of Andrews’ petulant, puerile and hypocritical insistence that Liberals had no “principles” and were a “circus” in office, as much as anything else — merely shows that the Victorian ALP is unfit to hold office.

It’s hardly as if more evidence was needed to show that, however.

But the scandal that erupted this week over Herbert using his taxpayer-funded chauffeur to transport his two pet dogs from his home in Melbourne’s Bayside to his “primary place of residence” in rural Trentham — 120km away — on multiple occasions eclipses the dubious record set by Bronwyn Bishop a little over a year ago as the most outrageous abuse of parliamentary allowances by any Australian politician in recent times; at least Bishop’s notorious charter helicopter was used to transport a real person (even if some in the ALP trench dispute the fact Bronwyn is actually human), and a person who has in fact been elected to Parliament.

(Regular readers also know I called for Bishop to be stripped of both the Speakership and her Liberal Party endorsement over that, too).

But two dogs?

Those who want to read up a bit on what’s been going on can do so here and here — I don’t intend to bog down on the specifics of this matter, although I do note Herbert appears to have been something of a recidivist miscreant, based on what Melbourne’s Herald Sun turned up yesterday — but to say Herbert should be permitted any option other than an immediate and involuntary departure from the ministry is an understatement.

But bleating about an “inadvertent” error cuts no ice; even a complete imbecile would comprehend that taxpayers do not fund the routine regular transportation of politician’s pets. Herbert clearly fails that test. In refusing to sack him yesterday, now-Premier Andrews — previously (and appropriately) lambasted in this column as “a complete imbecile,” among other fitting epithets — obviously possesses a level of understanding that doesn’t even extend that far.

Offers to make full repayment for “the cost of the petrol” simply rub salt in the eyes of betrayed Victorians who have, excuse the pun, been taken for a ride; Herbert simply doesn’t get it. This isn’t about the price of petrol. It is an abuse of privilege. It is a sacking offence. And Herbert, simply, must be sacked.

Given Herbert traded his ultra-marginal, Melbourne metropolitan lower house seat of Eltham at the 2014 state election for a guaranteed spot at the top of Labor’s upper house ticket in rural Northern Victoria — and with regard to the fact the ALP does not control the upper house, even with lemming-like Greens to prop it up — it remains to be seen whether the Legislative Council, which is already a seething viper pit of cross-party hostility, might see fit to take some form of censure action into its own hands. I would strongly support such action being taken. But regrettably, even if Herbert were to be suspended for a while, in the longer run nothing would change.

Andrews is content to allow filth like Herbert sully and besmirch his government. Unlike Baillieu and Napthine, he doesn’t have the wafer-thin margin in the lower house to imperil his government if Herbert were to go rogue. Quite simply, Andrews is a spineless, irresponsible moral vacuum. Voters are watching closely.

It could well be that either Herbert grows a brain and quits, or Andrews belatedly behaves like a responsible Premier instead of an adolescent oaf and simply sacks him; either outcome would be warranted, although in either case, the horse has bolted: the damage is already done.

But worryingly, this latest obscenity is not the first to be committed by the Andrews government, and nor is it likely to be the last.

This is a government that swore to voters that it could tear up the contract to build a sorely overdue piece of road infrastructure without paying a cent in compensation. The contract wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on, Andrews said. Almost $1bn in compensation and make good payments later, Victorian taxpayers are ten figures in the red — with nothing to show for it.

This is the government that decided, with an eye to the $57bn white elephant desalination plant the previous Labor outfit saw fit to saddle Victorians with, to order water from the plant for the first time since construction was completed almost a decade ago. Yet Victoria has had one of its wettest winters in decades, and Victorian households will pay $14 each next year for a relatively insignificant quantity of unnecessary water. But the Andrews mob won’t learn; last week, it flew a kite around the Melbourne press about the “need” for a second desalination plant.

This is a government that effectively ceded control of the Country Fire Authority to the ultra-left wing United Firefighters Union in repayment of an election debt, risking the loss of decades of firefighting experience from thousands of volunteer firefighters just to mollify a few undesirable union thugs.

It’s the same government that allowed the apparently principled minister responsible — genuinely principled, not all blather and hot air and bullshit — to be bullied out of her job for failing to force the takeover the unions wanted through.

This is the government that has all but ceded control of the building and construction industry in Victoria to the militant, lawless CFMEU (another election debt), whose minions are so cock-sure they run Melbourne that they now spill out into city streets in front of heavy traffic, without so much as looking, in the arrogant certainty everyone will get out of their way.

It’s the government that — despite well-founded community outrage over the so-called “safe schools” program leading to the federal government cancelling its funding — took it upon itself to not only restore the funding at cost to Victorian taxpayers, but which has thumbed its nose at the legitimate objections from parents who don’t want their kids taught left-wing social engineering bullshit in state-run primary schools (and if I sound pissed off about it, it’s because one of my kids goes to a state-run primary school too).

Now, ministers apparently escape scot-free for flagrant and outrageous abuses of parliamentary entitlements, and even the reprinting of sanctimonious rants Andrews directed at Shaw from opposition by the Herald Sun — which could be applied, verbatim, to Herbert — are still insufficient to motivate an appropriate response.

It says something about the loathsome junta running Victoria at present that this list, extensive as it is, barely scratches the surface of the anti-democratic, inappropriate and/or downright illegal machinations that are tolerated on its watch, and any of Labor’s filthy slugs who want to point fingers and engage in name calling are no better than the tsunami of scum they seek to defend.

One will say something nice about John Cain for a change; once the scale of his government’s economic incompetence was laid bare in 1990 — and once the carnage revealed he had presided over a regime that had all but bankrupted Victoria, to say nothing of the mums and dads who lost everything they owned in the calamitous collapse of the state’s financial institutions — he at least had the grace to resign, and to do it quickly, although it goes without saying that it didn’t absolve him of an iota of responsibility.

There seems to be no such weight of principle burdening Andrews, who appears content to literally allow Victoria to slide into lawlessness at the whim and behest of union thugs, ministerial miscreants, and anyone else whose antics attract the protection racket that is Victorian Labor simply because they’re a maaate.

To say Herbert’s pet transport rort — and Andrews’ response to it — is a dog act is a masterful understatement.

But this latest brouhaha simply underlines a reality that Victorians, in rapidly increasing numbers, are quickly becoming awake to: Labor is unfit to hold office, and unfit to govern.

This time last year, albeit three years from another election, the conventional wisdom (which I shared) was that barring too many indiscretions, the Andrews government was set to be easily re-elected in 2018, probably with a sharply increased majority, even if for no better reasons than the inertia of the electorate and the cheer squad Labor unfathomably attracts in swathes of the media (Fairfax, Crikey!, the ABC) that have more influence here than anywhere else in the country, and certainly more than is justified.

Now I’m not so sure, and I think the early signs that Victoria may yet have consecutive single-term governments are becoming clearly visible.

Just as I was adamant Shaw should have been expelled from Parliament (even if it triggered an election, given the razor-thin numbers the Coalition governed with between 2010 and 2014), I gave ample warning to readers before the 2014 election that the shenanigans we have witnessed during the first half of the Andrews government’s term were precisely what Victorians could expect if they were silly enough to elect him to office.

Today — if we’re talking about a scandal involving two dogs — their names might as well be Steve and Daniel. And if calling the dastardly duo “dogs” offends anyone — especially over at the ALP — I would simply observe that if the shoe fits, they must wear it.