Tag Archives: ICAC

Why People Of Conscience Cannot Vote For Abbott

1 Jun
Illustration: Rocco Fazzari

Illustration: Rocco Fazzari

Doubtless some, perhaps many readers of this blog have an inclination to vote for the Liberal Party at the next election.

Your humble blogger will not be one of them.

Here is why (my emphasis added):

When two tribes go to bed

The electoral funding deal was the bad side of that rare commodity bipartisanship, as the public reaction made clear.

Tony Abbott began his public backdown on Thursday morning by saying: “Well, it is pretty clear the people have spoken and the electoral funding bill is dead.” But which people? It’s true that quite a few voters had spoken over the previous two days, phoning and emailing their MPs. “The phones were ringing off the hook,” said one.

Voters were angered to learn that there was a Liberal-Labor agreement to help themselves to nearly $60 million in taxpayer funds to pay for elections. There’s already public funding to the political parties – the taxpayer gave the parties $2.31 for each vote they received at the least election – totalling $53 million at the 2010 poll.

But the news first emerged late on Monday night, and not fully until Tuesday, that the parties had cut a deal to add a further $58.7 million over four years.

The people whose voices rang loudest in Abbott’s ear were not the voters but members of his own party, at every level. And everyone, from the public to Abbott’s own inner circle, was affronted that they’d heard nothing about it until the agreement had already been struck in secret between the national secretaries and leaders of the parties.

Abbott’s shadow ministers were upset that they had sat through a shadow ministry meeting on Monday on many matters, but no one had mentioned this. His backbench was cranky that they’d sat through a party-room meeting on Tuesday where nothing was said.

And then, in the decisive moment, he consulted the senior officers of his own party on Wednesday night.

In a phone hook-up with the Liberal national executive, Abbott met a unified chorus of opposition from the party’s state divisions. The presidents of the Liberal party in every state spoke against the deal.

Even the man expected to be keenest to get more money, the official responsible for raising funds for the Liberals at the national level, the party treasurer, opposed the deal.

“I would rather treble my efforts than agree to this,” businessman Phillip Higginson told the conference call. By the time Abbott went to bed that night, he knew the funding deal was finished. The next morning he convened a meeting of his inner circle, the Liberal leadership group, and reports emerged that the group had “rolled” Abbott on the funding deal.

After news of the deal emerged, [Liberal Party federal director, Brian] Loughnane and Abbott’s office had repeatedly assured Liberal MPs that there had been discussions with Labor, but no deal.

Technically, they were protected by the fact that there could be no final, formal deal because the government had not yet shown the Liberals the final bill that it would be submitting to the parliament.

So Liberals were even more outraged when the Attorney-General, Labor’s Mark Drefyus, released to reporters a copy of a letter signed by Abbott the previous Friday that said:

“Thank you for your letter dated 16 May 2013 regarding the government’s intention to introduce and pass the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Political Donations and Other Measures) Bill 2013 in the current winter sittings.”

In the letter, Abbott said he had been briefed on the agreement Loughnane had struck with Labor and “I am satisfied with the agreement reached and indicate the Coalition’s intention to support the legislation and to deal with it, as requested, before the end of the sittings. I note that I have been provided with a near-final draft of the bill.”

One of Abbott’s shadow ministers remarked: “The mood across the party was feral. I’ve never seen the grassroots react so strongly against anything they way they reacted against this.”

Why is it that people of conscience cannot vote for Abbott?

It is a simple matter of integrity. And prudence.

When no one knew about it, Abbott supported the parties’ funding deal.

He only backed down, when folks spat the dummy.

Your humble blogger simply does not accept the rationalisation — the attempt to excuse his first action — that “at least he listened”.

That’s fine when you’re in opposition.

What about when you’re in power?

We have already seen Gillard demonstrate the corruption of power.

“There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead”

I think we have now seen Abbott present us all with a vivid glimpse of his true character.

“Whatever it takes.”

Or perhaps more accurately, “Whatever I can get away with.”

And what of the Labor Party?

Needless to say, they are, with the exception of two, even worse:

Labor, on the other hand, was much more thoroughgoing in its internal consultations. Labor’s negotiator and national secretary, George Wright, had not only won the approval of his leader, the Prime Minister, but he had also put the deal to Labor’s national executive for formal approval. The executive passed it unanimously on March 13. It then went to the caucus committee on electoral matters.

And for Labor, this was where the trouble began. As soon as the detail was explained to the committee on Monday morning, two of its members objected forcefully. John Faulkner and Daryl Melham spoke against the bill, and they carried their objections into the full Labor caucus meeting on Tuesday.

Faulkner is a party elder and a long-time campaigner for transparency and integrity; Melham is former secretary of the caucus who has been a fellow campaigner.

They couldn’t believe that the party on trial in ICAC for corruption, the party of Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald, the party whose former national president Michael Williamson has been charged with fraud, the party led by a prime minister whose biggest liability is public trust, could propose a bill that would help itself to tens of millions of public funds yet preserve many of the opacities and loopholes of funding system. Melham told the caucus: “You don’t need $10 million a year to do administration work, and the punters won’t wear it.”

Faulkner won widespread media coverage for his remark: “I am no longer angry or disappointed. I am just ashamed of this bill.” They were the only voices raised against it in the caucus. It was reports of the Faulkner-Melham objections that first rang the public alarm bell, the bell that then sounded so loudly across the way in the offices of Liberal MPs.

They had broken the conspiracy of silence and it foreshadowed the end of the deal.

Neither of the major parties can be trusted with power.

That much is crystal clear.

So, do you vote for (what you hope is) the lesser of two evils?

Do you look for alternatives; perhaps Katter’s Australia Party, or Clive Palmer’s PUP?

Or do you act on principle and Conscience, recalling that your vote is a legal expression of your desire for a particular person/party to represent your wishes, and, that you are only required to attend a polling booth and have your name crossed off … and vote for none of them.

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