A tale of two Commissions

Shut the gate, the chutzpah has bolted…

“I am not prepared to allow this to become a distraction for the party or the government,” Baird said in a statement.

This is the NSW Premier talking, on the day that he lost his 10th Liberal MP for dodgy dealings. There they are. One more and we can have a cricket match: Barbarians v. NSW.

Perennial Liberal drinks waiter, Arthur Sinodinos, seems chuffed to think that because Geoffrey Watson didn’t fly across the lectern and strangle him on the spot and that he left on his own two feet and not in a paddy wagon, he’s been cleared by ICAC. But however confident his kerbside doorstops make Arthur out to be, Howard’s bovver boy, the standover man who terrified half a generation of Public Servants, is now finding out what the blowtorch feels like, when applied to his own belly.

He teamed up with a bunch of Catholics from St. Pat’s, Strathfield, in the form of the Sinodinos clan, and that other St. Pat’s boy, Nick di Girolamo, only to be put on the skewer by yet another SPC Old Boy, Geoffrey Watson SC, Counsel Assisting ICAC. Arthur is only just starting to find out that a Greek lad from Newcastle went to all the wrong schools (and came from the wrong town) for the Liberals to offer him anything more than the odd bone from High Table. He was never really one of them. Useful, true. Feared, certainly… but never part of the inner Liberal “Our Thing”.

Arthur should have listened to another St. Pat’s Old Boy, School Captain emeritus Rod de Aboitiz, when he complained to Arthur that something was crook with AWH, and in particular with his large investment in the aforementioned firm. Arthur should have realized a lot of things, like you don’t get paid $200,000 and get to hold lofty Party positions given as Liberal favours just because you’re a good bloke.

In short, there is a difference between giving evidence, smugly denying everything, and the judge believing you.

To be fair, Julia Gillard is technically in the same holding pen. The media has cleared her, but not Dyson Heydon… yet.

Some of the (now) “Nothing to see here” press brigade weren’t so charitable back in 2013, when they wrote up the AWU business as Labor’s “darkest hour”. But swift and seemingly random changes in direction and focus are what you expect from a herd. The Press Gallery’s new-found decency and committment to fairness is just a passing fad for them. Like yo-yos, or hula hoops, facts for the hacks will end up in the back of the media garage with all the rest of the fetishes, crackpot ideas and issues-of-the-hour they told us they were experts on.

The difference between Gillard’s “I can’t recall” and Sinodinos’ was a case of chalk and cheese: Gillard couldn’t remember whether she had the meat or the fish at a dinner on a Wednesday night in 1992.

Arthur couldn’t remember whether he noticed that $700,000 dollars had passed through his own finance committee just a couple of years ago. Even if it had, Arthur boldly asserted, it wasn’t his problem. He was only Chairman of the Finance Committee.

But of course that leads to Arthur’s REAL problem. Can you imagine him in charge of billions of dollars, not just hundreds of thousands?

“Oh, I dunno. Yeah, there was some money went in and out of the Reserve bank, but I wrote a letter to someone, so it’s none of my concern that it disappeared.”

I guess it all boils down to how you define “stupid”.

To put a guy like this in charge of a large swathe of the nation’s finances would be a very stupid mistake. He seems to think his various job descriptions, for which he naturally expects to be paid a very large salary, are primarily ceremonial. No question of them being hands-on, or anything coalfacey like that. Arthur “has people” who look after the details.

He’s read Management For Dummies, where it specifically states that the job of The Manager is to pick the best people, and then let them get on with their job. The only problem is that Arthur seems to have dredged his own people from direct descendants of the Rum Corps.

I’ve heard of “delegation” but to make Arthur Sinodinos the Assistant Treasure for the Commonwealth of Australia would be an insult to the voters. Especially when his boss, Joe Hockey, is floundering at the next level up as well, and the Finance Minister struggles with an uncannily box-headed resemblance to Boris Karloff. All they need now is the Eager Boy from the ranks, fresh from a round of self-delusion at ICAC (and the delusion that Tony Abbott is his friend), who sheds memories and responsibilities like confetti brushed from a shoulder at a big fat Greek wedding.

Forget the multiculturalism. There’s an old Aussie phrase for Arthur: “Tell him he’s dreaming.”

Baird must be amazed that the polls haven’t tanked as far as they might have, yet. That’s why he still thinks his government has spare capacity to be further distracted by the ICAC findings. It’s distracted alright. Has been for months now, as a conga line of developers, lurk merchants, sleeve tuggers, commission agents and dodgy MPs do the Walk Of Shame onto the Castlereagh St. footpath outside ICAC.

Baird only got his job because his erstwhile boss, Barry O’Farrell, crashed and burned after “misleading” ICAC.

That’s not a bad basis for distraction, right there. While Barry was pontificating about how naughty Labor was, and about how he was going to clean up NSW, he and his troops had their snouts in the trough so deep that pigs gave them standing ovations.

As Mike Seccombe posits: why did they bother? They were going to win in a canter.

Mike then answered his own question: greed.

It’s what they do.

In this tale of two Commissions – and the two slush funds they are investigating – we have one that was run by a couple of union chancers who couldn’t believe their luck, and another, from the other end of town, that shovelled hundreds of thousands of dollars through an elaborate conduit of trusts, dodgy companies, false invoices, and a spivocracy that reaches to the heart of the Liberal Party.

No-one in either case is accepting responsibility for the ultimate results of their actions, but we have already seen how one of the slushy scandals broke a government, even though the case is at heart circumstantial. In between various scraps of paper, documents with faded signatures and the equally faded memories of those alleged to be involved over two decades ago, a snail’s trail of inference and innuendo has been drawn that might add up to something.

Whether it does – or does not – is up to Dyson Heydon. But even Julia’s enemies are conceding it’s not looking good for their own demented wet dream of Jail Time For Julia (or should that be “Jail-iar”? You wouldn’t put it past them). They had their chance, several of them. The “Who? Us?” media joined in the kicking. Each time they ended up claiming that there were more questions that needed to be answered they only highlighted their own inability to ask them. Hedley Thomas, Ace Investigative Reporter for The Australian was a no-show on both occasions. He had to resort to texting Sid Maher the questions. You can see why The Oz is losing so much money now, can’t you?

However lazy and unprepared the Press Gallery has been, however aggressive and now sympathetic their hive mind ever was, the time for “more questions needing to be answered” is past. They’ve had their go at getting the facts and they botched it each time. Pub talk and Photoshop isn’t enough anymore. The time for answers needing to be printed, and for this issue to be put to bed, once and for all, is nigh.

Baird, on the other hand, has yet to see his own government fall. So far it’s only lost some skin in the polls (not counting the Terrible 10 languishing in the Sin Bin).

Unfortunately for Baird, the trail of documentation that might lead in a more downhill direction is better decribed as “superhighway” than as “snail’s trail”. The unlawful funding of a simultaneously morals-campaigning and money-grubbing Liberal Party by avaricious developers and polluters with Bentleys and helicopters gives the phrase “Public-Private Partnership” a whole new meaning. The superhighway has been well and truly funded, complete with credibility by-pass.

The difference between the two Commissions is this: call it the ubiquity of email, or just changing times… the Liberal rorters couldn’t resist not only bragging about their exploits, but bragging in writing… electronically, archived and precisely dated.

Wilson and Blewitt were far more discreet. The chain of evidence in their case is a lot more uncertain and open to doubt. Compared to your average Milennium Foundation or Eight-by-Five email saying “Here’s another $50k from a property developer. Who-hoo!”, Wilson and Blewitt are the ones who look like the professionals, with the Liberal Party’s wide boys showing up as rank amateurs. Wilson and Blewitt kept their heads down, while the Liberals have been yodelling from the rooftops. That’s what I mean by “chutzpah”.

We are yet to see how much of a distraction ICAC will ultimately be to Baird’s, and even Abbott’s re-election chances if there’s any justce, but if we’re talking “distraction”, I get the feeling the Born To Rule gang ain’t seen nuttin’ yet.

673 thoughts on “A tale of two Commissions

  1. Frances Abbott scholarship: whistleblower pleads guilty

    Current state and federal whistleblower laws did not allow Newman to raise a defence that accessing the restricted records was in the public interest. Professor AJ Brown, a legal expert at Griffith university and a board member of Transparency International, said this highlighted shortcomings in Australian whistleblower protection regime.

    “If somebody is getting prosecuted for having disclosed public interest information, they should at least be able to raise that defence,” he said

    “This is a case where it’s at least arguable that there was a public interest in knowing what the relationship was between the college, the prime minister and the Liberal party.”

    Brown highlighted that if Newman had been working for a public university, she may have been shielded by public-service whistleblower laws.

    “But because it was a private college she was working for, it’s very difficult to see how anyone would have been able to raise that kind of defence,” he said.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/18/frances-abbott-scholarship-whistleblower-pleads-guilty?CMP=soc_567

  2. Aguirre

    They’ve been there and done that. Would something like that cause fear and terror as this present outrage is? I guess they’ll probably just rotate what they have been doing the last four/five years. Hopefully everyones hip pocket will be hurting enough to make a better decision at the next election. Thanks for playing my quiz, I appreciate it.

  3. Thanks all, he was alright.

    In better news over the past few weeks, the wife’s aunt will receive her Bill McKell award for services and loyalty to the ALP next Friday night and we’re going to the dinner!

  4. Cliff

    I gave up on him over two years ago. Once, I used to refuse to socialize, answer phone, do anything on a Sunday morning just to watch Insiders. Haven’t watched it for well over two years now.

  5. BB

    Your area certainly is unsafe. I think I’d seriously consider moving away from those strange characters.

    But I have to live near myself no matter where I live.

    “Now THERE’S yer problem!”

  6. leonetwo,

    [ BB
    Take care in the war zone. I hope you stocked up on bottled water and toilet paper, just in case. ]

    Notice that BB had the foresight to get a copy of the Daily Telegraph to cover for the toilet paper issue! 😉

  7. I TOLD youse so… AGL states “No reduction in electricity bills after Carbon Tax repeal.” Apparently the CT is so intricately intertwined with all the rest of that business stuff – markets, whole sales forward projections, complex purchasing arrangements – that it’s just TOO HARD to take it out of bills.

  8. Notice that BB had the foresight to get a copy of the Daily Telegraph to cover for the toilet paper issue! 😉

    Already gone through my Daily Telegraph, am now onto The Australian. Next up, the SMH and then the local rag. The Saturday Paper being kept for a special occasion.

  9. But I have to live near myself no matter where I live.

    I can see a dilemma there, indeed. On top of it, I believe you live in a Chateau … With all the old ghosts tying you down … Not to mention the relics … You really should get out more, BB, – maybe out of your skin …

  10. Well, it’s not really a chateau, more a chez, but we like to *think* of it as a chateau.

    When the Muslims come to get us it will be more like a dog kennel.

  11. Check-out chick down at the local IGA said that “ammunition” was dug up from the Beecroft raid site. This seemed somewhat overstated, but I will investigate.

  12. Well, it’s not quite “League star named”, in the classic sense, but at least we have an “Underbelly actor” on the woofta list of arrests today. He’s got a beard. He’s got a funny name and, of course, he has “a trusted position in the operational command of the al-Qaeda-linked group.”

    So much for the judgement of Underbelly’s casting associates. I demand a Royal Commission into Underbelly!

    http://www.theage.com.au/nsw/sydney-man-arrested-in-terrorist-raids-conspired-with-senior-isil-figure-mohammad-baryalei-court-hears-20140918-10is7i.html

  13. Do I put away my spade and the sandbags?

    They’ve known about the fatal phone call, where Omarjan Azari was “directed” to find a random innocent person and behead them, for some time.

    Makes the “immediate urgent” nature of all this start to look like a stunt.

    The court heard the evidence took the form of an intercepted phone call between May 8 and September 18 to which Mr Azari was a party.

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/sydney-man-arrested-in-terrorist-raids-conspired-with-senior-isil-figure-mohammad-baryalei-court-hears-20140918-10is7i.html#ixzz3DeQTZW5r

    So, up to three months prior knowledge.

  14. [ Public beheading fears: Tony Abbott confirms police … fear that IS Is targeting the Rabbott’s neck to demonstrate to the Australian public just how serious they take the LNP threats against them!

  15. BB

    Check-out chick down at the local IGA said that “ammunition” was dug up from the Beecroft raid site.

    They were digging up front yards on TV this arvo.

  16. Funny, isn’t it. Abbott raves on and on about beheadings and in the very same week we are told about a planned random beheading. It turns out to be something the spooks have known about since May but didn’t bother about. May. NOW they tell us? Now they act? Only now?

    This isn’t starting to look like a stunt. It IS a stunt. A scripted, planned, directed by Baz Lurhmann, just in time for Newpoll stunt arranged to give some credibility to Abbott’s outlandish scare campaign and boost his polling..

    What happens if Abbott’s polling stays where it is, abysmally low, after this stunt? Will Abbott have his cronies blow up a bridge or derail a train, just to prove there really is a terrorist threat?

  17. Will Abbott have his cronies blow up a bridge or derail a train, just to prove there really is a terrorist threat?

    I fear Abbott could be mad enough to try such blow ups.

  18. Baghdad Bill
    Lucky the tickets are able to be altered in case you get blown up.
    I will shed a small tear as I fly over the ruins of the chalet.

  19. bushfirebill,

    Notice that BB had the foresight to get a copy of the Daily Telegraph to cover for the toilet paper issue! 😉

    Already gone through my Daily Telegraph, am now onto The Australian. Next up, the SMH and then the local rag. The Saturday Paper being kept for a special occasion.

    Blimey! If I didn’t know better, I could think that you had a bad dose of the shits brought on by this latest development, most probably originating from LNP headquarters!

  20. HIliarious. Clarke and Dawe all about the way the Abbott government distracts us with phony war/terrorism stuff, followed immediately by Leigh Sales distracting us with phony war/terrorism stuff. Irony or what?

  21. Kirsdarke

    Wow, I would never have guessed that in a million years.

    Leone

    Hate to disappoint, but this will work well for Toxic Tony. My question is, will it continue to work for the next two years?

  22. No, but if it lasts longer than a month Abbott will call a snap DD election and he and Murdoch will scream “aaaraghagharble terror!! blallbghabglg death cults!! agharghagg Labor soft on terrorists” and by year’s end we can have the whole shit sandwich that is the budget passed through the new senate.

    Unless of course the Australian electorate is smarter than that.

  23. These tactics go back even further than Howard.

    In 1934 the role models of Abbott’s LNP burned down the Reichstag to scare people into supporting them.

  24. Howard had his ‘children overboard’, Abbott has his beheadings in Martin Place. both fiction, both intended to stir up hatred of Muslims.

  25. As an aside, I know I often go into a bit of hyperbole in saying this government are a bunch of nazis but more often than not they actually go further than I predict they would and that’s alarming and depressing.

    I just got back from visiting my parents, apparently my mum said this terror raid was on the news all bloody day, and by the 6pm news there was a wide-eyed anchor breathlessly talking about how this great evil was vanquished by the brave and valiant AFP and Abbott hosting a press conference in front of a friggin gun turret and it took everything I had to not go “Oh for feck sake” since I know my dad gets annoyed with me saying my opinions about Abbott out loud.

  26. They were digging up front yards on TV this arvo.

    Iff BB was smart enough, he could have made a discreet call & got enough yard dug up to start a good size vegetable garden by now! 😉

  27. 6Pack

    over the ruins of the chalet.

    Beecroft ? It’s a mere cottage in the hills near the sea.

    (I bet Gigi can supply the right French words)

  28. joe6pack,

    Baghdad Bill
    Lucky the tickets are able to be altered in case you get blown up.
    I will shed a small tear as I fly over the ruins of the chalet.

    Mind you don’t run into BB’s Drone as you pass over. It would be a shame to miss you! 😉

  29. scorpio6to2

    Iff BB was smart enough, he could have made a discreet call & got enough yard dug up to start a good size vegetable garden by now! 😉

    I was thinking the same thing, I’ve got all 3 seasons of Porridge on DVD.

    Can’t find the clip on youtube though.

  30. They’re going to have to keep upping it and upping it if they think they’re going to get an election win out of it. I keep thinking back to 2001. Howard was already on the way back in the polls when 9/11 happened. Tampa had done a bit, but it all dovetailed into 9/11, and the polls flipped immediately from modestly behind to a large lead. And yet in the wake of it the polls drifted back and back toward parity in the election campaign itself.

    We haven’t had a 9/11 in this case (maybe that beheading photo was supposed to do it), and I still don’t think the will is there to believe Abbott. A lot will depend on how overseas interests handle Iraq, but it still won’t give the big shock that 9/11 gave us. If these raids and the announcement that we’re sending troops constitute the big ‘shock’, then it’s a pretty paltry one, and there’ll be a lot of analysis in the aftermath. People will start digesting it and assessing it fairly soon, and it won’t be long after that that it’ll be seen for the stunt it is.

    The trouble for Abbott is that people don’t trust him and, worse for him, he’s nothing nothing to cultivate any trust. At least Howard bothered to do that, and made himself available for any media appearances. Abbott has to be manufactured away from prying eyes, and nobody can have faith in something as constructed as that.

    Political entities that are purely media-supported have a tendency to collapse quickly. The bullshit builds up so much that it eventually breaks the wall down. The bullshit has built up at incredible speed with this government. They’ll never be able to tiptoe through a war/terrorism situation without damaging themselves. They’ve taken plenty of lazy shortcuts to get to this point, and they’ll continue to do it from here on. They’ve already run through all the set-plays right up to combat itself, and they’re barely a year into one term.

  31. And here’s the kicker: if the left-wingers and moderates on social media are already picking holes in it, that’s going to flow into the rest of the electorate. I’d be worried if they were just afraid of what’s happening, but most are onto it being deeply cynical and shoddily put-together.

  32. @Gravel

    Nothing special, mum just seemed annoyed and dad was like “Oh, so that’s what this is about”.

    Thankfully nothing like picking up torches and pitchforks and running to the nearest mosque as the LNP-Murdoch machine was intending.

  33. Aguirre

    Very well put. There hasn’t been a huge shock like 9/11 was to justify this suddeness. The beheadings were news, but unless you personally know the people, don’t sink in. We were living in Tassie when Martin Bryant did the mass shooting. That rocked the whole state, and made Howard look heroic by banning guns. I remember laughing at him wearing a bullet proof vest in Sale. I grew up there and couldn’t think of a less violent place.

  34. Kirsdarke

    So they don’t sound like they are too fussed. It will be interesting to see the polling, although I do expect a bump for Toxic Tony.

  35. Thanks for that analysis, Aguirre. I feel a bit better about this situation after reading it.

    Yeah, Abbott has never really ever humbled himself, and until he does, it’s hard for someone to change their minds about him, even if the news all over the country is screaming in their ear that they must or muslims will eat them or something.

  36. I’m starting to think the more progressive type of Australian really needs to find a more effective tool for dealing with these ‘stunts’. I was reminded recently that people who bully others (as a certain Federal politician has had a reputation for so doing) dislike intensely having factual information about them known, and being laughed at.
    Somehow I have to find a way to remember to laugh AT these stunts in a suitably mocking manner.

    I will add that I am intrigued by the notion that Greg Combet had a little list of Latin/Greek words that could suitably be applied to that Federal politician, the only one mentioned in “The Fights of My Life” is pseudologia, which is seems totally appropriate some how.

  37. Thank Dog Alan Jones’ core demographic are big users of Zimmer frames. Listened to him with Tim Priest and the demonising was in full swing. Rabble Rousers-r-Us will be 2GB’s news name.

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