AFTER A week in which dubious expense claims have rocked the government, Health minister Sussan Ley has quit; PM Malcolm Turnbull has again proven spineless, failing to sack her once she admitted breaching guidelines, and a host of MPs — notably ALP “leader” Bill Shorten — have been hauled into the muck over their own iffy claims. Nobody is to blame; nobody admitted fault. Next time a similar scandal erupts, the storyline will be identical.
It’s a reasonably quick post from me tonight; I have had the unpleasant duty today of having one of our cats put down — he had total kidney failure — and in any case, the “real event” will come tomorrow, when I tip a bucket over turncoat Queensland LNP MP and contemptible shitbag Steve Dickson, who has jumped ship to One Nation ahead of that state’s looming election. Stay tuned.
But the resignation this afternoon of Health minister Sussan Ley — after a week of needless trauma her questionable travel expenses claims have caused the Turnbull government — was too little, too late, graceless in nature and arrogantly defiant to the end.
Ms Ley, a likeable and highly intelligent figure, has nonetheless exhibited appalling judgement and a complete dearth of political insight, first by judging some of her foibles to be refundable by the taxpayer to begin with, and secondly by maintaining — even in resignation — that she has done nothing wrong.
The same Ms Ley who mere days ago admitted some of her claims probably failed to meet guidelines has nevertheless today declared her confidence that she “followed the rules:” an obvious, and total, contradiction.
How anyone could think it appropriate to personally fly a chartered plane along busy commercial trunk routes, at roughly ten times the cost to taxpayers of a business class airfare on Qantas, beggars belief, but Ms Ley clearly did: and far from commercial timetables being “unsuitable,” it is a telling thought that this commercial pilot who was also a Cabinet minister might also have had the less noble motive of needing to fly a certain number of hours to maintain her accreditation.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull should have sacked Ms Ley on the spot when she admitted breaching ministerial guidelines; by failing to do so, he has (again) proven himself a spineless wonder, and more concerned with maintaining fealty to those who have voted for him in leadership ballots than with any credible enforcement of worthwhile standards in public office.
In this regard, his bluster about being careful with taxpayers’ money, and achieving value for money, can only be regarded as histrionic nonsense: Turnbull’s own actions (or lack of them) betray these words as just another serve of waffling Turnbull bullshit.
This episode has caused great damage to the government, for whereas scandals based around so-called parliamentary entitlements have typically been brushed under the carpet — sometimes with the token mounting of a scapegoat if the alleged transgression is deemed serious enough — people really are at the point where they are fed up with what they see as the coddling of politicians at public expense, and fed up with it to the point of voting with their feet.
This anger is fuelling the rise of populist, opportunistic protest fronts that are unviable as prospective parties of government: One Nation is one of these; more established bandwagons like the
Communist Party Greens are another. The latter is ironic, given the supposedly environmental Greens not only rank among the heaviest parliamentary users of air travel, but have also joined in the chorus baying for blood whenever Coalition identities have found themselves in self-inflicted difficulty with their expenses claims.
Turnbull’s failure to sack Ley simply means his government has taken the full hit in terms of the opprobrium this episode has generated, and is unlikely to benefit from the clear air (if any) the obfuscating, heavily qualified and downright defiant resignation offered up by Ms Ley today might otherwise have generated.
And it should not go unremarked upon, given Turnbull’s leadership of the Liberal Party is quickly becoming a week-by-week proposition, that the outrageous farce over Bronwyn Bishop’s charter of a helicopter to avoid a 55km drive was among the final few nails hammered into the coffin of Tony Abbott’s leadership: if Turnbull hoped to deflect any leadership implications of the Sussan Ley affair, his inactivity has also put a stop to that.
But as ever, when these things happen, a predictable rash of tit-for-tat “revelations” have found their way to a willing press pack in the wake of the Ley bombshells; ALP frontbencher Chris Bowen, with holiday expenses for his family to Ayer’s Rock. Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop’s trips to the Portsea polo and the AFL Grand Final with her partner. Perhaps most damningly, Bill Shorten’s $55k bill for family travel, fully five times the nearest comparable equivalent: Tony Abbott’s spend on the same line item in 2013, at $11,000. One ALP stooge suggested to me on social media that Shorten’s tally was justifiable because he had little kids, whereas Abbott’s children were adults. Yet two of Tony’s kids, in 2010, were still in high school.
There goes that theory, but it does show that some people never learn.
It is encouraging that Turnbull will move (or says he will move) to establish an independent commission to administer and oversee MPs’ travel expenses.
But the recommendations for reform of this area — delivered to the government last March — have never been implemented. This timeframe is entirely contained within Turnbull’s stint as PM.
Malcolm is also now confronted by the need for yet another ministerial reshuffle — a task at which he has thus far repeatedly proven spectacularly inept — and if yet more scandals engulf yet more ministers after yet another of Turnbull’s hand-selected reshuffles, what little credibility he currently enjoys as Prime Minister will be further eroded.
But the big story out of all of this is that whilst Ley has finally bowed to the inevitable, nobody has taken any blame for anything, and nobody has admitted fault; Ley resigned but escaped disciplinary action from her leader, who has talked about a lot of seemingly principled action he intends to take but whose past record, especially in the aftermath of the Bronwyn Bishop scandal, suggests nobody should be holding their breath.
The lack of decency and the contempt for the tax-paying public among the so-called political class, when it comes to travel perks and other goodies, is as endless as it is an affront.
It’s a fine old world when a select clique can piss millions of dollars of other people’s money up against a post with nary a care: and if the going gets too hot, one token sacrifice keeps the gravy train rolling along for everyone else. No-one, it seems, is responsible for anything.
But past form suggests any move to bring MP entitlements into line with community expectations will be doomed before it begins; self-interest is a powerful motivator, but the entitlement mentality that makes these scandals possible in the first place trumps everything else in sight.
As sure as night follows day, at some point within the next year, we will no doubt be discussing some other travel rorts scandal, and some other token patsy will be thrown to the wolves as the “penance.”
When it happens, the storyline then will be identical to the one we have followed now. The expectation of anything different, or better, is simply too much to ask.
Especially, it seems, with Malcolm Turnbull in charge of the whole shebang.