Tony a briber?

This NT story might bear watching for its possible national implications:

The Northern Territory’s attorney-general is seeking an investigation into claims Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and his NT counterpart tried to bribe a candidate not to run in the 2010 federal election.

NT Attorney-General Delia Lawrie has tabled in the NT parliament her letter asking the Australian Electoral Commission to investigate allegations that Tony Abbott and NT Opposition Leader Terry Mills had offered Country Liberal candidate Leo Abbott a job if he withdrew from the election.

Ms Lawrie’s letter referred to a recent report in the Alice Springs News alleging the job offer came during a bitter party dispute over Leo Abbott’s candidacy due to his domestic violence record.

Lawrie cited section 326 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act as the provision that may have been breached.  It relevantly reads as follows:

(2)  A person shall not, with the intention of influencing or affecting:

(b)  any candidature of another person; or

give or confer, or promise or offer to give or confer, any property or benefit of any kind to that other person or to a third person.

Penalty:  $5,000 or imprisonment for 2 years, or both.

No doubt governments frequently make such offers to induce lame-duck MPs or candidates to walk away quietly, but they’re invariably done behind closed doors with only loyal insiders present.  However in the current situation there’s a disaffected former CLP Management Committee member by the name of Steve Brown who apparently claims to have been present during the phone hookup when the offer was made.  Brown is gunning for the political carcass of the party’s current parliamentary leader Terry Mills and seems prepared to do whatever it takes to achieve it.  Brown is rumoured to have significant support within CLP ranks in Alice Springs though less so in Darwin.

The possibility that these yokel machinations might even inadvertently pull down Tony Abbott as collateral road kill should not be completely discounted.  Some may remember that former NSW Liberal Premier Nick Greiner lost his job in not dissimilar circumstances in 1992, though corruption charges against him were later dismissed.  Terry Mills has kept his head down to date, and as far as I can tell the story hasn’t yet registered with the Canberra Press Gallery so Abbott hasn’t been questioned.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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7 Responses to Tony a briber?

  1. Jacques Chester says:

    It also helps that the NT News, under the editorial stewardship of married-to-an-ALP-staffer Nigel Adlam, have been prepared to give unlimited runs to Steve Brown or any other disappointed CLP pissant on the faintest of pretexts.

    As with most internal drama to do with the CLP, it will be tied back to somebody questioning somebody’s grilling technique during a BBQ circa the jurassic period and never being forgiven.

    However if Terry Mills did this, then he has to resign. It’s a pity because he is smart and generally decent.

  2. Ken Parish says:

    I’m much more interested in the Tony Abbott ramifications than in Mills’ future, to be frank.

    BTW Are you seriously suggesting that any newspaper would decline to run a leak like this one given its possible dimensions and nature? I don’t have a terribly high regard for Adlam and I agree his marital links are a bit problematic, but this is a story that would be running irrespective of that facotr

  3. Jacques Chester says:

    Tony Abbott I can take or leave. If he fell Turnbull might get back in, or maybe Andrew Robb. Or god help us, Rob Hockey. OK, now I want Abbott to stay.

    But out of the CLP MLAs, Mills would the best pick for Chief Minister (good balance of intelligence, decency and aggression), especially now that Jodeen Carney has quit.

  4. Jacques Chester says:

    Joe Hockey, even.

  5. derrida derider says:

    I can maybe see the story causing embarrassment if it gets legs, but think it unlikely it could lead to resignations and legal action. Only one participant in the phone hookup is saying this is what happened, and he has an obvious ax to grind.

    Nothing can be proved, and anyway Abott will, after his Hansonite experience, be very aware of what is in the Electoral Act. I’d be very surprised if the offer was any more strongly put than some eminently re-interpretable hints.

  6. Peter Patton says:

    Give the story to Pauline Hanson. Maybe she’ll start a slush fund…

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