I couldn’t agree more with FOI expert Peter Timmins about the latest Wikileaks “disclosures”. I have no idea whether Assange is a rapist or not, but he’s certainly succeeded in setting the cause of public sector whistleblowing back by a decade or more. The documents so far disclosed indicate little or no public misfeasance by the US or anyone else, so there is simply no legitimate public interest in their disclosure.
Old leftie columnist Ken Davidson reckons Labor’s Victorian defeat is all down to its failure to invest in suburban rail infrastructure. Not being a local I have no idea whether he’s correct, but as far as I can see there’s no other obvious explanation for the defeat of a mostly competent government, apart from a generalised “it’s time” factor and perhaps Justin Madden’s arrogant handling of the Planning portfolio. The latter at least is arguably symptomatic of a government needing a spell on the Opposition benches to vanquish accumulated hubris.
Davidson’s hypothesis brings into focus Nicholas Gruen’s proposal for an independent RBA-style body to certify responsible levels of public debt, thereby making borrowing for productive public infrastructure politically feasible. It’s difficult to see any other workable way of ameliorating the simplistic public perception fostered by Howard and Costello that public debt is always and for all purposes evil. On the other hand the Gillard government’s refusal to agree to a Productivity Commission cost-benefit analysis of the National Broadband Network inspires no confidence that it could be trusted to exercise responsible stewardship over infrastructure spending if that public perception is ever broken down.
Sinclair Davidson’s posts are often worth reading. It’s a shame his compulsion to play the Coalition apologist so often gets the better of him.
This post about rumours that a Baillieu government might sack Police Commissioner Simon Overland is a case in point:
In the event that Overland loses his job after a change in the Victorian government (expected to be conceded at 3pm today) he will not be a victim. The victims are those people who have been assaulted in the street or on public transport while Overland did nothing about it.
In fact crime in Victoria has been falling steadily for the last several years in just about all categories, including assaults if you ignore domestic violence, where the increase is generally considered to be an artefact of changed reporting rather than a real increase. Moreover it’s difficult to see what measures Overland could take to reduce domestic violence rates short of stationing police in every household, which I suspect Sinclair like the rest of us would not support. Basically his post was just a cheap shot.
Finally, readers may recall my post late last week about allegations that NT CLP leader Terry Mills and federal leader Tony Abbott had offered Lingiari candidate Leo Abbott (no relation) a public service job to withdraw as the federal candidate. Supposedly it was a Machiavellian strategy hatched by former Federal Liberal President Shane Stone to help the CLP’s Solomon candidate Natasha Griggs to defeat incumbent Damien Hale by focusing on domestic violence allegations against the latter. It was a problematic strategy while Abbott was the candidate for Lingiari because he had rather more serious domestic violence issues than Hale!
Anyway, the Australian Electoral Commission has apparently now decided not to pursue charges or even an investigation into the complaint by NT A-G Delia Lawrie that the alleged job offer to Abbott constituted a bribe under s 326 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. Their reasons appear to be twofold:
- There is no admissible evidence of such an offer being made, because Management Committee members were required to leave the telephone hookup while Mills and Abbott had a private discussion;
- No offer could “influence” Abbott’s candidature in a formal legal sense in any event because nominations had closed so that Abbott had no choice but to remain the CLP candidate whether he liked it or not.
The first ground is fair enough and confirms what several commenters suggested last week, namely that it would be surprising if Mills and Tony Abbott had been naive enough to put themselves at risk of being slotted for bribery. However, I’m not at all sure I agree with the AEC’s reported interpretation of s326, although I haven’t researched th point beyond perusing the cases listed under AustLII’s Noteup function. The section refers to offers made “with the intention of influencing or affecting” candidature. While inducing Abbott to step aside, cease campaigning and announce his withdrawal (albeit informally) may not have effected any formal legal change in his status as candidate, there is a plausible argument that his candidature would at least have been “affected” by such a move.