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.