Random thoughts and gripes

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:

  1. 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;
  2. 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.

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.
This entry was posted in Law, Politics - international, Politics - national, Politics - Northern Territory. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Random thoughts and gripes

  1. Patrick says:

    I never agree with Kenneth Davidson. But I might just have voted single-issue on suburban rail and level crossings!

  2. Kropotkin says:

    The US supports the PKK, the leaks reveal. This group is considered a terrorist group by the US government, so we finally have proof (as if we didn’t know) that the US supports terrorism.

    I can’t wait for the juicy bits about Israel to come to light.

  3. The Beverage Curve says:

    Sinclair Davidson’s column was not a cheap shot but just another example of him being inaccurate.
    Very irritating but very consistent.

  4. Mel says:

    “Sinclair Davidson’s posts are often worth reading.”

    Really? I think he is one of the most intellectually dishonest pundits I’ve ever read. I take a shower after reading his stuff. Tim Lambert has successfully exposed a number of Davidson’s half-baked pork pies.


  6. Fred says:

    At the last election Brumby campaigned that unlike the opposition, they wouldn’t build a desalination plant. Suddenly without any real consideration of the alternatives, Victoria starts building the second biggest desalination plant in the world. It’s all a “commercial in confidence” Public Private Partnership and the Government couldn’t tell the public how much water from the desal plant will cost. Good old Kenneth Davidson has done some sleuthing and uncovered the fact that the taxpayers will be paying about $575 million a year for the next 27 years even if we don’t take any water from the desal plant.

  7. conrad says:

    “It’s all a “commercial in confidence” Public Private Partnership”

    Hopefully Baillieu gets rid of all this number hiding — I think it’s one of the reasons Labor got booted.

  8. Peter Patton says:

    What the new government is Assanging.

  9. Jacques Chester says:

    The NT News today are publishing what they say is a transcript of the ‘secret’ conversation between Mills and Leo Abbott. My guess is that this might pull the AEC back into the mix.

    Nigel Adlam has been pushing this story along in dribs and drabs. It definitely suits the government, as Wicking’s Tombstone Territory on the weekend pointed out.

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  11. Ken Parish says:

    Here is the article and transcript on the Mills/Abbott conversation. There is nothing in it that even remotely resemble any form of offer that would constitute bribery. The whole thing is clearly a complete beatup and the fact that Adlam is still running it in these shrill terms tends to confirm suspicions about his capture by ALP spin merchants including his missus.

    I don’t even think there is anything ethically or morally wrong with anything Terry Mills said to Abbott let alone legally.

  12. Jacques Chester says:

    I think the key bits are:

    Your name is more important than anything and to have a narrowly contested vote that, perhaps, could win endorsed – the Labor Party will still run the idea, false ideas, because I’m already receiving them. I don’t take everything on face value. But they will still run more stories about your record. There are stories that are going around. They don’t even have to be completely proved true. They will say all sorts of things. If you win this vote and you are continued to be endorsed as the candidate they will unleash and release all sorts of stuff and there is very little room for that to be dealt with this side of a campaign.

    I had experience with exactly this when I ran in 2007. Labour circulated what I considered to be flat out defamatory material to journalists and had their editorial flunkies run with it (Syd Stirling’s son in particular).

    But that’s politics, I guess. Not that a micro-party candidate is in a particularly strong position to start with.

    Now to the meat of the matter. Labor and Adlam have been running the line that there was an attempt to offer a job in exchange for standing down.

    In the entire four thousand word exchange, this is as close as it gets:

    I have his word that if [Tony Abbott is] the Prime Minister, we will be in a strong position to look after you.

    No specific offer. Just traditional vagueness; and if you read in the context of later remarks about defending Leo Abbott’s character then the case gets weaker.

    All in all a bog-ordinary beatup to distract from the report on the Montara oil spill.

    Tangentially, my guess is that Terry didn’t know this conversation was being recorded — mightn’t this make the recording individual liable for prosecution under the Telecommunications Act?

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