(First published by Independent Australia)
For a long, long time the Liberals have wreathed their enemies in the odour of criminality. Boat people have been called ‘illegals’. Union corruption’ is almost a single word, and ‘the friends of Eddie Obeid’ a definition of Labor in New South Wales.
The initials ‘CFMEU’ seem now, in themselves, defamatory. Shorten is routinely called a ‘two-time assassin’ though he did no more than Abbott did, in 2008 and 2009, to Nelson and then Turnbull. Craig Thomson’s vote in the House was ‘tainted’, Abbott told us, and should not be accepted by the Government or the Speaker, and his constituents thereby disfranchised. Because of one word in a private communication to a friend, Peter Slipper was said to be ‘unfit to be Speaker’, and was overthrown by the Abbott forces on account of it.
So…the odour of criminality served Abbott well in Opposition, and he prevailed, in part, and achieved the highest office, because of it.
But lately the same aroma is coming after him and his government, and may well, in Canning , bring on a result, at last, that is catastrophic to him.
Let me count the ways.
In the week when we learned of sexual abuse in Geelong, alma mater of Prince Charles and Packer and Murdoch, we were told by Dutton there is no sexual abuse on Nauru, though a Senate Committee has reported there was, and given instances. It’s a ‘Labor-Green fabrication’, Dutton protests. Sexual abuse of youth occurs in Catholic institutions, and Anglican institutions, and Salvation Army institutions, and state institutions, and foster homes, and orphanages, and reform schools, and juvenile prisons, but never, never, never on Nauru. Whoever says it does is lying.
In a week when Dyson Heydon declared himself innocent of bias, and gamely awarded himself eleven thousand eight hundred dollars a day for six more months of just and thoughtful deliberation, we hear of a Liberal official who took 1.3 million dollars from his party. We hear, too, of Abbott’s ‘union hero’, Kathy Jackson, embezzling 1.3 million dollars, somehow undetected by Heydon’s Royal Commission into union corruption, and of some hitherto unindicted 7/11 bosses exploiting foreign students, paying them half what they were owed and working them, illegally, round the clock, and getting away with this modern, secret slavery for years.
We have learned as well in the past few months that Morrison paid people smugglers to return, illegally, refugees to Indonesia, which did not want them, and Dutton took back, illegally, refugees to persecution, and possibly imprisonment, in Vietnam. We have seen no-one arrested for the murder of Reza Barati, though it is known which twelve people did it, and we have heard a Wilson guard declaring that there was waterboarding, or something like it, on Nauru.
The taint of Liberal criminality has grown too as we hear more and more of Man Monis and the Lindt Café siege. Why did Abbott not take the hostages’ calls? Why did he say he was ‘too busy’? Why did Baird not accept Mamdouh Habib’s offer to go in and talk his old friend Monis ‘out of this nonsense’? Why were so many bullets fired after Monis was clearly dead? Why did twenty-three of them, if that is the figure, hit Katrina Dawson? Why was so little money offered in compensation to a siege survivor, fifteen hundred dollars, and not the seventy thousand dollars survivors get from sieges overseas? Why does Dyson Heydon earn almost that much every hour? How much will the other survivors get? How much will go to Katrina’s family, since it was the police, not Monis, who killed her? Has an offer even been made? What was it?
Bronwyn Bishop’s expenses have deepened this taint also. So has the three hundred and twenty dollars a night Joe Hockey pays, as rent, to his wife when he is in Canberra, sleeping in a house co-owned by her and his father. So does the billion dollars Transfield was given on Tuesday for impounding and tormenting women and children, and covering up what is done to them on Nauru.
In Western Australia, it transpires that Andrew Hastie has been investigated for his complicity, if any, in two war crimes, the shooting of two shepherd boys (how much was their family paid? anything?) and the bizarre posthumous mutilation of three Taliban. So questionable is his war record, it seems, that no campaign biography of him has yet appeared on the hustings, a world first, probably, in elective politics in the past twelve hundred years.
Abbott, we learn, got a Rhodes Scholarship from a committee on which Dyson Heydon sat. And he may have got it before he was an Australian citizen, before he was eligible for it. We are told he may not be an Australian citizen even now, and be holding his office, Prime Minister, illegally.
It seems to me wrong that the Labor Party has not emphasised some of these things in its daily round of propaganda. How Man Monis asked Brandis’s office how he could contact DAESH, and no bells rang, and so Tori and Katrina died. How agents of Dutton spied on Hanson Young in her motel room, in the shower perhaps. When one considers how much was made of nine hundred dollars misused by Slipper, and five thousand by Craig Thomson, on wine and cigaretes, one wishes Labor, frankly, tried harder.
The Abbott aroma has been worsened, lately, by international events. The great migration of fugitive Syrians, of which Merkel will take eight hundred thousand in the next year, and Abbott none, and Julie Bishop’s bizarre view that ‘these people’ can be made to go back to Syria if we bomb that country a bit more, show some of us how crazy and rattled and cruel this government is, and, in their defense of Bronwyn Bishop and Dyson Heydon, how unfair. The aroma around them is deepening as we speak.
And the result in Canning will show, soon, how foul the abiding stench of Liberal criminality has come to be.