Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Superb Article from Niki Savva

Dirt threatens to sink ship of state

Sturt Krygsman
Illustration by Sturt Krygsman Source: The Australian
JUST before question time began in the House of Representatives last Wednesday, Liberal backbencher Mal Washer slid into the empty seat beside the embattled Craig Thomson to ask him how he was getting along.
Washer, who is a doctor, was concerned about Thomson's health. Thomson has managed to maintain his composure but he sounds like he has been hollowed out, and without the television make-up he looks like a ghost.
Thomson told Washer he was OK and was feeling happier, less pressured somehow since he had moved to the crossbenches. Washer makes no judgment about whether Thomson is a good or bad person, whether he is innocent or guilty. As a GP he just wanted to find out how a man with a young family was coping, physically and mentally.
It was one of the few displays of cross-party civility in politics in recent days, weeks or months. Others fear Peter Slipper is not coping well. And even more of a worry is the impact of these scandals on their wives and families

Rumours circulate almost daily about the private lives of politicians. The most persistent recent rumours have centred on Tony Abbott. The Opposition Leader has chosen to ignore them, hoping they will wear themselves out.
Bill Shorten and his wife Chloe took a different course and tackled the rumours about them pre-emptively at the weekend.
MPs are entitled to feel sorry on a human level about how much Thomson and Slipper and their families have suffered, but they should not allow their empathy to cloud their reason or their political response. There is no comparison between those sagas and their impact and the kind of stinky gossip, hurtful as it is, wthat smudges many high-profile figures. Thomson and Slipper are not the subject of nasty tittle-tattle or innuendo, much as the government wishes or pretends they are.
An exhaustive inquiry by Fair Work Australia has made the most serious findings against Thomson involving massive misuse of union funds.
Sexual harassment allegations have been lodged in court against Slipper by a former staff member, and police are investigating charges that the Speaker misused entitlements.
As a result, enormous damage has been inflicted on the reputations of all politicians, the institution of parliament and their own parties. There is a near-unprecedented level of public fury, and it has another layer to it. They now feel ashamed too.
Parliament cannot and should not expel Thomson or Slipper. Expelling individuals would be inappropriate and inadequate. It needs to act in a way that screams its intolerance of a deplorable situation. A new code of conduct will not do either. Much more dramatic action is required.
Meanwhile the court of public opinion has already made one decision, and that is on Julia Gillard's handling of scandals and government generally.
If Thomson gave the Prime Minister the same explanation months ago that he gave to Laurie Oakes on Saturday, it is no longer a case of what did she know and when did she know it, but how could she stick by him for so long, knowing what she knew.
Alternatively, if Gillard didn't know, why didn't she? She would have been able on any day at any time to question Thomson in the same forensic way that Oakes did, and for a lot longer.
There were any number of actions the Prime Minister could have taken, any number of words she could have spoken, short of passing judgment, to convey her understanding of the gravity of the situation, and to try to distance herself and the government from it. She did not do or say any of them until it was too late.
Rather than looking like it was doing everything possible to rid the place of sleaze, the initial strategy was to pretend none existed. Now the strategy is to try to spread it around by recycling decades-old disproved allegations against Abbott, referring to Sophie Mirabella's personal life and threatening to dump dirt on others, none of which excuses promoting Slipper and protecting Thomson, and none of which will diminish public anger towards the Prime Minister, the government and the parliament.
Rather than appealing to Australians across the board, the government narrowcasts with repeated references to its Labor budget and its Labor values. If it works, it could see Labor's vote rocketing into the 30s, but it needs to pitch to a much wider audience.
Rather than concentrating on selling the budget on its merits -- and they actually had good material to work with -- Gillard blew a hole in her own sales campaign by accusing Abbott of not getting out enough, and spending too much time on Sydney's north shore, to know what real families were experiencing.
This would be the same Abbott who has driven us bonkers every day for roughly 547 days with picfacs from the Pilbara to Brisbane to Dandenong with butchers, bakers, and chicken sexers as he prosecutes his campaign of fear against the carbon tax.
Gillard recycled the rhetoric not of the last century but the century before. Even if it worked then, it is unlikely to work now. It cheapened the government's economic arguments at a time it mattered most, and gave Abbott an invitation and a free pass.
Gillard's attack, and the events leading up to it, gave Abbott the opening to respond as he did in his budget in reply speech by inviting people to compare and contrast his values with hers, between his life experience and hers, and to avoid policy detail.
He gave people an outline of his objectives and goals without telling them how he would reach them. It did not please the financial aficionados, but he would be mad, in this climate, to release an alternative budget or anything like it, or to throw out billions in lures to attract votes.
People are simply not in the mood. They are too angry and too cynical -- a mood not helped by Michael Kroger's jaw-dropping denunciation of his former close friend Peter Costello.
Kroger's public hyperventilating -- the behaviour of a man untethered -- was as tragic as it was spectacular. A friendship that spanned 35 years, and that has delivered so many personal rewards and political dividends, has fractured in the most destructive fashion, leaving mutual friends distressed and dismayed.
Kroger also hurt Abbott, not only in a direct sense but because of the inevitable "They're all the bloody same" kind of reaction that was bound to follow.
They aren't all the same. It is a point I have been obliged to make often lately, and not unwillingly, to people who despair about the state of national politics and its participants.
The worst characteristics of some of the people and the place have been accentuated and exacerbated by minority government. It is time to end it.



  • disgusted of Australia Posted at 12:33 AM Today
    Congratulations Nikki an excellent and thoughtful article which examines the dmage this whole episode is doing to our parliamentary insitutions and the genuine people there.Please keep pressing the point Julia must go and quickly before she does irrevocable harm to our country and its institutions...
    Comment 1 of 41
  • Peter Simpson of Perth Posted at 1:08 AM Today
    A sorry, sorry saga. As much as Julia Gillard, the stink of this clings to Oakshott and Windsor. Have they no concern for how they will be viewed by history?
    Comment 2 of 41
  • Spin Baby, Spin of Brisbane Posted at 1:30 AM Today
    The longer Labor leaves it to an election, the angrier the electorate will get and the longer they will punish the ALP. Personally, I'm quite happy to wait the 18 months to the election because I know that 18 months will set in the minds of all Australians what a dreadful, sleazy, government this is and we don't want to risk it again any time soon. 18 months is really not that long to wait now... and it's fun to see the electorate getting angrier by the day!
    Comment 3 of 41
  • Michael Buchanan Posted at 2:20 AM Today
    Mr Oakshot should resign for health reasons....no other.
    Comment 4 of 41
  • Fuzzy logic Posted at 2:35 AM Today
    What a lot of rubbish this article is.
    Comment 5 of 41
  • Reg of Perth Posted at 4:06 AM Today
    Frankly Nikki you are doing a service to the rumour mill yourself. You keep mentioning the Abbott rumours and that has not been mentioned until Insiders on Sunday.Naturally now the talk has begun and we all want to know what the rumours are. Pretty sleazy stuff from the media in my opinion. Stay out of their family affairs unless like Shorten they bring them to the publics attention.Disappointed in you as one I have always admired for integrity in the media.
    Comment 6 of 41
  • Denis Brown Posted at 5:16 AM Today
    Would somebody please but Nikki a new watch as she struggles with time. The Liberls have admitted they had a dirt file on Thompson knowing about his so called transgressons before the 2007 election, They have known about Slipper for decades, now Nikki wants us to believe that the libs are as pure as the driven snow, couple this with the ute gate affair, the wheat scandal, Abbott, Bishop and Pynes vicous personal attacks on the P.M and one can see why the stndards of parliament have gone thu the floor.
    Comment 7 of 41
  • Samuel DiGiovanni of Australia Posted at 6:29 AM Today
    Niki It is sad that the media concentration on issue like Thompson and slipper is appalling why dont you write about the real concerns that effect the Australian people like the economy, social; policies the underprivileged in this country ,hound the government and the opposition why they don't to raise the unemployment benefits ect and not the waffle
    Comment 8 of 41
  • Barry Teal of Swan Hill Posted at 6:30 AM Today
    The course that will be charted around Thomson and Slipper in the immediate future will be strewn with political hazards. Hopefully the next week or so will present ultimatums to both to subject themselves to whatever tests are required to exonerate or condemn and lift this blight upon Australia. We need to learn from this and in the aftermath attend to the defiicient political processes that could put us in the same stew again. We need a constitutional trigger to break the nexus arising from a hung parliament. This Government has defrauded the Australian people of vision, constructively debated progress and attention to our place in an economically dangerous world. The consequences of this political impasse are well recorded in History; we will not be the first nation to have been looking the other way when we should have been focussed on the real issues of creating wealth, not just making money.
    Comment 9 of 41
  • Logical of Canberra Posted at 6:54 AM Today
    Politicians are a pretty sneaky lot and if, under pressure for being seen as a faceless man for example, thought they could milk a rumour (true or untrue) to improve their position and get nay-sayers to back off, they would even concoct the rumour themselves then come out in the press. Some of these politicians would sell their grandma's teeth for power, and for that reason they all remain fair game. If they don't like it the door is always there, but the job of these people is to manipulate public opinion, and we ought not feel sorry for them because they will use that feeling for their own ends.
    Comment 10 of 41
  • LM Posted at 7:03 AM Today
    Brilliant stuff. Best political writer in the country.
    Comment 11 of 41
  • philj of perth Posted at 7:09 AM Today
    Your last sentence says it all.
    Comment 12 of 41
  • farnarkel of Brizneyland Posted at 7:14 AM Today
    BUT...But...but...Niki, you have missed the whole point - move on, there is nothing to see here; QUICK look over there, at those fat Mining Billionaires that our Award Winning Treasurer keeps warning us about, that is what we should be worried about (and those silvertail not-real Australian Families on Sydney's north shore).
    Comment 13 of 41
  • Maggie of Qld Posted at 7:29 AM Today
    Nikki you certainly cut to the heart of the matter. It is disgraceful that the powerful in this government are considering a code of conduct, that is something bus drivers expect children to follow. If Gillard Government Members have no idea of what is expected and acceptable now they are wasting their time and ours introducing rules for the bleeding obvious. You mention the families of those under a cloud (or an anvil); I would consider the Members behaviour is the responsibilty of the Member along with protecting his or her family, there is very little anyone can do to ease the pain or lift the hopelessness of it all much of which could have been avoided if Gillard had not avidly and doggedly clung to power at the high cost of publicly putting Thomson in the equivalent stocks for the last three years. The humiliation must have weighed on loved ones. There is also the spectacle of our Prime Minister as she would be seen by the rest of the World. Who trusts or respects her?
    Comment 14 of 41
  • Peter J Brown of Brisbane Posted at 7:30 AM Today
    Thanks Nikki - always respect your perspective and look forward to reading your output. Looks like we will be drag further into the mud before we get to end it. Pity my Country!.
    Comment 15 of 41
  • BruceS of nswcentral coast Posted at 7:31 AM Today
    Thank you for an informative and accurate article with which I fully agree. The "Traditional Labor Values " include class warfare, treason and total loyalty to the 1848 ideology and not to the Nation of Australia.
    Comment 16 of 41
  • dexxter of melbourne Posted at 7:46 AM Today
    Some good observations. The old 'fish rots from the head' saying is true in this case - the PM should have stomped on these issues and sorted them out way before they came to where they are. It really shows poor management and judgement. It is no wonder people have lost faith and trust in an inept and divisive government and that election day will be such a relief for so many when we finally have our say....and which cannot come soon enough.
    Comment 17 of 41
  • Ann of Sysney Posted at 7:56 AM Today
    A great article Nikki. I feel such a sense of despair and anger about so many things associated with parliament. 1. Most of us care about the environment but the Carbon Dioxide Tax isn't the way to go. 2. The Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper sagas. If they were in private enterprise they would have been through the courts and long gone. 3. Our lack of Border Security. I am not convinced that they are all genuine refugees. 4. Asking people to take them into their homes before complete security checks have been carried out. I wonder how many of the people who have applied to take them in are family and friends. 5. All the half-baked ideas this Labor government has had . 6. Tim Flannery frightening people with his Climate Change rhetoric. Not enough room for me to continue. We need an election now and get back a majority adult government who knows what they are doing.
    Comment 18 of 41
  • Mandy Macmillan of South Mission Beach Posted at 8:02 AM Today
    "It is time to end it". Indeed it is Niki, but in reality, the question is when? The Gillard Government can't limp along like this, nor can Australia, waiting for an election to be called sometime next year. Something's gotta give, e.g., a Thomson or Slipper resignation so that we may go to the polls as soon as possible.
    Comment 19 of 41
  • mikem of Brisbane Posted at 8:18 AM Today
    The solution to the problem of some of the appalling behavior we have witnessed laterly would be to give Parliment the power , through a joint sitting , to declare a seat vacant and to order a by election. This would allow the voters in the electorate to decide who should represent them. A code of conduct for parlimentarians should not be necessary.
    Comment 20 of 41
  • anthony of Brisbane Posted at 8:26 AM Today
    The anger in the community is palatable. I have never seen anything like it my 30 years of following politics. The economy may seem robustish on the surface but underneath it is very difficult and people are generally very nervous. Throw in the current on going political sideshow and it all adds up to a very, very angry electorate. We need/want to punish someone and that someone is Gillard. She may be unlucky to be PM in this environment, but most of what she has done to alienate the country is self inflicted. We needed a strong Keating type leader. Wrong PM for the times.
    Comment 21 of 41
  • Dave from Perth Posted at 8:29 AM Today
    It would only take one or two Labor politician to break ranks and scream, "Enough!" Obviously they are all the same Nikki. At least on that side of the floor. Next time a vote to suspend standing orders arises, this could be dealt with immediately. Sadly, holding on to power is more important to Labor than giving Australia a strong uncomprimised government.
    Comment 22 of 41
  • NevilleW Posted at 8:42 AM Today
    Firstly, it was good Washer showed concern for Thomson, I am also concerned, he looks like someone fighting to keep going. But Nikki you will have to do better than that to counter the damage being done to all politicians (especially labor). We see and hear every day politicians obfuscating the issues, as only they can, just to remain in power, I can tell them it is not worth it, whatever happened to honesty? No Nikki, your sympathy falls on deaf ears, let them earn our respect and not expect us to believe them just because of the position they hold. Thank you for your insight on Washer, but it will take many times that concern to lift the rabble in Canberra in the public eyes, they are damned by their own rhetoric and lack of honest action.
    Comment 23 of 41
  • Robert Webb of Brisbane Posted at 8:45 AM Today
    You are spot on Niki. Being a leader means that you take preemptive action when it is necessary. Nelson may have gotten away with the blind eye strategy, but it does not wash any longer. I am pleased Mal Washer showed concern about Craig Thompson but the fact that the incident was even referred to demonstrates how blighted our political system has become. Craig Thompson could end this tomorrow if he had the slightest interest in the national good. I suspect his desire to prolong his parliamentary days as long as he can to maximise his post political entitlements mirrors Julia Gillard's desire to simply hang on to power. This nation, that sends it soldiers into harms way where they may be called upon to make the supreme sacrifice, deserves so much better from it civilian leaders. As an Australian I feel a mixture of embarrassment and shame about the second rate behavior that is regarded as normal and acceptable in the highest political institution in our land.
    Comment 24 of 41
  • Monty of Brisbane Posted at 8:52 AM Today
    Gillard has protected Thomson and Slipper, regardless of their emotional, mental and physical well-being, so she can keep the numbers. The outcomes of these scandals, including the well-being of these two men, must reside at her feet. She sits in the highest office in the land. She has authority to do the right thing by these men, the parliament and the electorate; but, instead, she chooses her own self-interest and power over anything else. Now, not everyone will agree with my opinion, but many will. Please post this comment.
    Comment 25 of 41
  • Ivor G Williams Posted at 9:11 AM Today
    Niki Savva's article misses the real reason why all this dirt is being thrown around. Tony Abbott's continuos sexist attack on Julia Gillard has encouraged like minded Evil Doer's in the media, and the end result within the community, If they can do it so can we, and we find an increase of abuse and violence against females acreoss the nation
    Comment 26 of 41
  • Dolly The Sheep Posted at 9:11 AM Today
    They are all the same! They are lawyers or lawyer wannabees.
    Comment 27 of 41
  • mags of Queensland Posted at 9:23 AM Today
    We expect our you to respect our legislative institutions and all they see are people mud slinging for a nebulous political gain. The childish and destructive behaviour is worthy of a pre school playground. These are the people we re holding up as honourable? Not on your life.
    Comment 28 of 41
  • Peter C of S A Posted at 10:12 AM Today
    Well said Niki. There is no solution short of an election and Gillard will not go there unless the polls change. In all this debate it is forgotten how quickly the Liberal Party has dumped candidates for the slightest whiff. Labour could have done this with Thompson before the last election.
    Comment 29 of 41
  • Nil Barstardum Carborundum Posted at 10:15 AM Today
    Well put Niki ...... as always.
    Comment 30 of 41
  • Right Said Fred of Sydney Posted at 10:24 AM Today
    Nikki, at the end of your article you make comment about Michael Kroger and the colateral damage he inflicted on Tony Abbott "They're all the bloody same". I would have to disagree with your conclusions in one significant respect, nearly all the memebrs of both houses are what would a reasonable person would call "professional/career politicians" drwan from political party apparatchiks, some more so than others. As such, their perspective and life experiences are not those of the ordinary person in the street and I would postulate that this is one reason for the disgraceful goings on with respect to Messers Slipper and Thomson. These "gentlemen" are members of the "club" and no amount of hand wringing or chest beating will change the fact and that nothing of any import will be done to clean up the proplem(s) will eventuate. Its time we took a very hard look at those standing for election and imposed some "qualifications" upon them, not being a "professional/career politician" would be a good start along with demonstrated abilities to sit on the Board of Australia Incorporated.
    Comment 31 of 41
  • Vaughan Posted at 10:49 AM Today
    A good article Niki, the current crisis surrounding the government is not about an individual, it is more about the crisis and malaise that surrounds the entire government. Craig Thompson and Peter Slipper are just symptoms of a greater sickness. The minority government is not working, notwithstanding the indefatigable support provided by Windsor and Oakeshott who appear to be the PMs most loyal and trusted supporters. But now they too are enmeshed in the scandals. Perhaps the experiment may have worked without the greens involvement in the government, but the coalition of ALP, Green and independents all pushing different agendas has been a disastrous failure.
    Comment 32 of 41
  • Boomer Says It's Time! of Portland Posted at 10:58 AM Today
    I certainly agree! The Australian people have had enough! Bring on the next election now.
    Comment 33 of 41
  • Barry Wakelin of Kimba 5641 SA Posted at 11:15 AM Today
    Thnkyou Nikki Sava for showing us via Mal Washer what he alays did best - deliver the human compassion that is as vital to our society as our freedom to elect our representatives. As a former federal MP as most in the media described as inconsequential one of the harder times was being stripped of my local indentity and portrayed as one of those Canberra creatures - the Port Lincoln Times editor of the day was as cruel as any at her task. Many in the ABC were very effective at the demoralising game. Simon Royal was probably the most effective, although only by a short head to many others. Most of my political opponents both within and outside my party were mild compared to the media. Regards Barry Wakelin
    Comment 34 of 41
  • Raymond of Sydney Posted at 11:57 AM Today
    Great article, it certainly is time to end it. How long will Oakeshot and Windsor allow our nation to suffer social and economic ruin in the quest of their own survival. The call for a code of conduct points to the fact that morality has almost disappeared in our society. Christian or even decent secular values are ignored in a "do what you can get away with" society, affecting all levels of government in our nation.
    Comment 35 of 41
  • Judithb of Mooloolaba Posted at 12:28 PM Today
    With all the current criticism of the media this year this article despite the subject content is one of the most honest,in touch,relevant articles to hit the print. It totally addresses a situation,although not a matter we are too proud of re the MP in the hot seat,but it is brave in saying what most of us think. This matter of faith and trust in our leaders is the elementry and basic values of the government and the people of this nation. Budgets,policies,promises,national security,health,education,and the list goes on must be in the hands of those we respect and trust. Nikki you have penned the thoughts of many.This article speakes volumes.
    Comment 36 of 41
  • Ken of Australia Posted at 12:52 PM Today
    What should happen next week is that Craig Thomson gets to his feet and announces his retirement from the parliament. Of course he won't and this dismal apology for a government will stumble along for as long as Windsor & Oakeshott wish.
    Comment 37 of 41
  • Martin of Sydney (not the North Shore) Posted at 1:03 PM Today
    @ Samuel DiGiovanni 6.29AM The media write about it because....YOU READ IT!
    Comment 38 of 41
  • Paulie D of Beaconsfield Posted at 1:04 PM Today
    Any forward thinking Labor person knows that the inevitable end to all of this shall be seizmic shift in the way people think about Labor. Abbott must be put under the spotlight and his weaknesses will surely show...instead Labour are mesmerised in the headlights of office and the "crack" of an election shall seal their fate.
    Comment 39 of 41
  • Reality Posted at 2:43 PM Today
    The state of Australian politics at the moment, is simply appalling! The level of their deceptive self serving conduct is staggering and yet there are people out in the community who see no wrong in any of this. There is nothing wrong with having a preference, that is democracy in action, but when you condone this type of behaviour and are completely blind to this type of conduct, then you are no better than the persons who perpetrate it. The objective reality is, that this Labour/Greens/Independents coalition has done more to damage the conduct of parliament and the reputation of Australia internationally, than any in Australia's short history and that is simply reality!
    Comment 40 of 41
  • Geoff Seidner of East St Kilda Posted at 2:45 PM Today
    I am sorry 'Spin Baby': it is already essentially impossible to absorb the scores of disasters Gillard, Rudd and the socialist acolytes have created, And worse- this morning 3 - 6% of the luvvies have already forgotten, basis latest Newspoll! All for pieces of Budget 'silver.'
    Comment 41 of 41

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