Santorogate bites

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In a further sensational outcome from the government’s now notorious character attack on the opposition leader, Queensland Liberal Santo Santoro appears to have been sacked from the Howard ministry. Three other Liberal MPs in Queensland remain under police investigation for Printgate.

Update: Yep, it’s official: the Howard government’s minister for ageing, Santo Santoro, has had his throat cut.

Update: Matt Price reports that senator Santoro had failed to disclose other shares. More detail at the ABC (tks Rex), which reports that he had neglected to disclose between 50 and 60 other share holdings over 15 or 16 months! Just a danged bad memory, huh? The senator wouldn’t reveal the value of his trades. So, still no full disclosure? There may be a lot more to come on Santorogate. Did anyone see the precient John Clarke and Brian Dawe last night?

Update: Alan Ramsey’s columns are recommended, unless you’re a die-hard, rusted-on, right-wing LNP tragic. Mr Ramsey has dug deep; yet I must be inflicted with battered-voter syndrome, for I cannot help but imagine the smell of a plotting rodent in this apparent government crisis, somewhere.

Update: Begging for attention, Tim Blair features yours truly in a column in the Daily Telegraph, in a Kevin Rudd-related way. The column is typically small-minded, self-amusing and unfair. If you’re interested, read it for yourself. I only wish to refute the description of me as Mr Rudd’s “ALP mate”. As I occasionally reference my personal knowledge of Kevin, the truth is that I knew him as a colleague on the national steering committee and associated working groups behind the 1990-91 special premiers’ conferences, when I was employed in the WA and NSW cabinet offices under governments of different colours. We’ve bumped into each other now and again since those days. He was, for instance, a contributor to a book I edited on Australia and globalisation published in 2001. I’ve long admired Kevin’s abilities, hope that he’s successful and like to think of him as a friend, but we’ve never been close. I haven’t spoken to him in over five years, and have never spoken to him in an ALP context. Now, can we get back to discussing policy and the apparent decline and fall of the Howard government?

Update: (18 March) Santorogate continues to widen. On top of 72 share trading violations and 14 sub-underwriting violations (it’s still not clear how many shares were purchased from those activities), comes news of nine more undisclosed conflicts, including shares in a company that provides software to aged care homes, in a seniors accommodation firm and a retirement village firm. Following the senator’s sacking, Mr Howard said the former minister’s dealings didn’t include companies that conflicted with his ministerial responsibilities. On Friday, Mr Howard said the senator’s only sin was not to have declared the share dealings either to the Senate or to him. Oops. At what point does this scandal crossover from the ex-minister to the pm directly, as the incompetent or culpable custodian of the cabinet code of conduct? Is that a call for a full and independent inquiry into the Santoro Affair & Related Matters I hear in the distance?

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34 Responses to Santorogate bites

  1. Robert says:

    So what’s the timeline?

    It comes to light. Howard refuses to sack him. Wait for public response. Public response is what? Varied? Continued Disgust? Question Time next week: too much ammunition for Labor. Resign.

    What’s wrong with this? Something is missing. Firstly, Howard would know QT would be dangerous with this ammunition for Labor, resulting in even worse pressure for him to be sacked, becoming inevitable, that Howard would’ve dismissed him earlier. (Through resignation). Why didn’t he?

  2. David Rubie says:

    Is it just me, or do all these strange little conservative lobby groups come across as a David Lynchian underbelly of twisted alliances, desperate back yard money deals and weird links with cults?

    I will no longer be surprised if David Clarke is discovered to be a big fan of Frank Booth

  3. Bring Back CL's blog says:

    I am told Kevin Rudd believes in Santoro claus

  4. cs says:

    Gees, it’s sure getting hard for a poor old beaten down voter not to get carried away with these events, despite all best efforts. This sure sounds like death rattles.

    But, like Robert, I can’t help wondering where the mean and tricky bit is …?

  5. Rex says:

    Apparently the new information that has come to light is that there was 50 or 60 other shareholdings that Mr. Santoro failed to declare.

    “Everybody can from time to time be guilty of inadvertence” said Mr. Howard.

    Evidently Mr. Santoro inadvertently continued to inadvertently overlook and that’s one inadvertency too many.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200703/s1873761.htm

  6. Robert says:

    It’s only two, cs. I want the lot. And there’s a distinct lack of quality in the ones dropping off the rambling cart.

  7. Mr Z says:

    If Howard is cutting all the duds, Petro Georgiou might be getting a bit nervous.

  8. Rex says:

    Petro isn’t a Minister

  9. Mr Z says:

    Yet :-)

  10. Link says:

    Where did they find these slimy types? (I can imagine funnily enough, that actually there are quite a few.) But really, its gross its almost too tedious for words. Oh well. On with the show. Off with more heads.

  11. Fred Argy says:

    Chris, I wonder what it says about Howard’s ‘judgment’? You recall he and his fellow Ministers deplored Rudd’s lack of judgment in appointing someone like Thomson to the AG position – and it was a fair point. But what about the PM’s judgment in appointing someone who conceals or overlooks 40 to 50 shareholdings? Even Andrew Bolt says that this is “the first unmistakable whiff of decay”

  12. Robert says:

    Hear that? A stampede? No! Damn that’s frenetic typing. Ah… happy weekend papers…

  13. Robert says:

    Look, I’m just buggered on this. This resignation trumps today’s attempt at Howard’s terrorism reclamation, and ruins it for the weekend. Could Santoro have resigned on the weekend, to miss the heavyweight damage and get the terrorism run? Now Howard will have to go back to Afghanistan on a second surprise visit.

  14. zoot says:

    I love the feeling of schadenfreude in the morning.

  15. cs says:

    I wonder what it says about Howard

  16. Mark U says:

    I notice Howard downgraded the number of shareholdings to a score!

  17. Robert says:

    Indeed, Mark U. That’s Howardspeak of course, taking the sting out of it. But he did add this “and I don’t think anyone would believe that [in the context of it being inadvertent]”. That Howard quote is interesting and we’re entitled to read into it because Howard is so very careful with what he says. We could rightly take from what Howard said as an admission that “I can get people to believe one inadvertency”, meaning he could get away with it. Whether Howard was talking about something else not covered in the clip, or whether he was caught out on a slip because he was in unfamiliar, politically unguarded media territory, or whether he’s losing his touch, is unknown.

    In considering some points by Chris, we could remember that Howard went hellbent on a massive policy implementation agenda since winning control of the senate, and would have been very thinly spread.

    The fact Howard didn’t call Santoro sooner makes me wonder if he himself has taken full control of strategic duties and was out of touch being away. Who the hell knows. He’s the lost a minister, he’s lost enormous weight to the media cycle, and he’s lost the initiative. Clearly the Howard regime is cracking from serious problems within it.

  18. mick says:

    Robert’s question is a really good one. Why resign on a Friday? I think that Howard hopes that this will end with this news cycle and they can start the week with a cleanish slate.

    It’s a gamble to be sure, but if it was announced on Sunday they could find themselves dogged by this issue all week with parliament sitting.

  19. Robert says:

    Mick, the thing is it’s so close to QT that they’re going to be dogged by it anyway, by reference. Saturday afternoon would have been better than this, which makes me really wonder what is breaking down, if Howard made the call to rid him.

    Howard as we know does two things when he’s facing it: he acts within minutes, or he awaits public mood. He’s immaculate with the media cycle, usually, and this today indicates systemic error.

  20. Geoff Honnor says:

    “Could Santoro have resigned on the weekend, to miss the heavyweight damage and get the terrorism run?”

    I wondered whether it might have been strategically placed to avert the gaze from Debnam’s sobbing concession this morning – 8 days out from the NSW election. Extraordinary.

  21. mick says:

    Yea Robert, I don’t disagree. I was just stumbling around for an answer. My first instinct was to think, “why not Saturday?”.

    Did Howard blow his gasket, or is there more to this story? I’d like to see more columnists asking that question over the next couple of days.

  22. Robert says:

    Geoff, what did you see of Debnam’s coverage? The two were separated, federal and state, and Debnam from what I saw got a pasting. Blew me away re the Libs.

    I’d be interested in how you view what’s going on.

    My question, by the way, was rhetorically placed. The better time than Friday for Santoro to resign is Saturday, when it’s a sporty slow news night. This would allow the otherwise Howard shots to get a good run in the big press on Saturday, and keep the biggest news night, Sunday, free of the heavy damage as well. But they’ve gone and lost the lot.

    I maintain the Rudd sledging will occur per previous comments, and would suppose this today might be regarded not only as indicative of serious systemic problems, perhaps even Howard’s personal loss of way for the moment until he pulls it back onto his territory, and that these things could be rectified more than sufficiently within the Coalition programme.

    Do you feel, for instance, that there’s something amiss, systemically, in the Coalition process as the days unfold? Apart from the trashing madness of it, today, where do you sense the Coalition is at?

  23. wbb says:

    It doesn’t matter when Santoro went. Nobody cares. And he’s a nobody. The election is yonks away. The only thing that matters currently is that the Brian Burke thing is finished and Rudd is still upright.

  24. derrida derider says:

    What a disaster Howard’s “integrity” offensive against Rudd has turned into. The whole idea of a long-standing government going on a mud-slinging offensive against the opposition was a silly one. Long-standing governments in their nature are more likely to have shady things that will be uncovered in the bunfight than the opposition will. John Major, f’rinstance, also found this out the hard way.

    And yes, there’s more than a whiff of the last days of the UK Tories in all this.

  25. Link says:

    “John Howard has thrown the kitchen sink at Kevin Rudd, trying to do what he did to Mark Latham – destroy the man’s character. In trying to invent something with Kevin Rudd he has singularly failed. I think character is possibly going to be an election issue in this next campaign. But it’s not Kevin Rudd’s character.

    “It is John Howard’s.

    From Alan Ramsay.

    cs writes,

    . . . how many other areas of government are now occupied by individuals and interests who basically treat their responsibilities to the prime minister with contempt, confident he

  26. Amanda says:

    I’d like to know if people think Howard can stay above all this, because as long as he does, I am far less confident of it cutting through. The SMH coverage today was all about “furious and embarrassed” Howard, as if he has nothing to do with it. If it stops here, a couple of non entitities no one has hardly heard about, I think it starts square with the campaign proper. All this will cancel out.

  27. Robert says:

    Amanda,a few thoughts for my bobs. Howard did well to do the anger and disappointment thing, and the press default to that being “news”. However, the impact of a minister in extremely odious circumstances bringing the government down is what the punter gets. The shares dimension of this one stings with the money management picture, too. How the PM reacts doesn’t define the out-take. That impact is all the more damaging as people relax into their papers on their weekend. And the coverage was given in the context of not only more likely coming up but also in that it has damaged Howard’s credibility to go Rudd for “judgement”, as Harry says. On top of all that it has thrown Queensland fairly on the hotplate for the Coalition, to a wider audience. That particularly will play out for months.

    This, is in your face stuff, still up at the end of Saturday.

    This coverage today lays the bedrock for next week’s context, as well. It has certainly cut through, but that doesn’t mean people are likely to be engaged, that is, to necessarily respond.

    The tension in the Coalition must be building, too, which adds to potential problems and press hunger.

    You’re right, though, that it all starts much later on. This is preliminary groundsetting, though some of it at the very least will linger on. Discipline and on-Rudd and on-Coalition attack issues rise up from this context. So it’s now about what further damage is done and to whom, until the economy and security come on down.

    For a long shot idea, having considered this today, I’m going to throw down a wild card and say Howard will later focus not on the economy, but security, as his winning strike.

    Behind this is the supposition that Rudd will hit Howard on the economy, reframe it and at the very least muddy the waters for Howard. The talk “the economy is going well enough to hand over” is quite powerful, coming from the commentariat along the way. There’s also a tiredness in Howard speaking of the economy, which could take some exemplary announcements to overcome. Talk of Howard resigning later also throws up the issue of who will be Treasurer.

    So if Rudd and his team don’t crack or stumble, Howard will be under enormous pressure. Even if it’s lacklustrre from Rudd, I’m tending to wonder that Howard will go hellishly low with some divisive, fear, bolt-you-to-the-seat security dogwhistley filth which gets him home.

  28. Robert says:

    Chris, I don’t think Howard gives a shit about whether he can stay above it. That’s not to take away from what you’ve said there (which speaks fairly of other models). Only that there’s an element to Howard’s ph’ship which accepts politicians are regarded poorly and from there he can create the punter vote bites. Enough, for him.

  29. Robert says:

    p.s. Not pretty is it mate. Rudd posits forward as a human being, complex and built upon human reasons for which to lead, frail and inspired as they be, and Howard, who has done none of that himself, wishes to annihilate those relevences within the Australian punter psyche and diminish him to what Howard regards himself to be, electorally: a mere politician, and all those low things that entails (from his perspective).

    Of course, that’s not to tell of the complexity of how Howard sees himself.

    But it tells something of the public, electoral, battle.

  30. Amanda says:

    “battered voter syndrome’ is an extremely distateful term but I do feel it, too many false dawns. Ratty will pull this one out and get a landlside.

  31. Robert says:

    It is easy to feel that way, Amanda. The longer a mob stays in power, the more the public come to learn about what tricks and tactics get them there. It gets harder and harder for the tricksters to pull it off. I believe there’s reason to be confident that the public will call Howard on what he does this time around. The question is whether they accept what they see, or not. But I don’t believe he’ll pull the wool over peoples’ eyes again.

  32. Pingback: Club Troppo » So, who started it?

  33. orang says:

    I think I know Tim Blair’s weakness. Tie him up and whisper “The turkey was plastic” and he will tell you anything. Forget about WMD’s, the reasons for war, global warming or not, does God exist,..there’s one he KNOWS for sure. At his death bed he will utter to those around him, “……the turkey was …..real..” (croak)

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