Newsletter 410

Published October 11, 2021
Government announces plans for new CIC

It seems the sudden martyrdom of St. Gladys has sent shock waves through members of the Federal government, who have been quick to reveal their antipathy for a Commonwealth Integrity Commission (CIC). Since Gladys left, with a parting shot with the ICAC, (which she’ll be confronting within the next two weeks), the pollies have fallen over themselves to denounce the anti-corruption watchdog.

It’s a “monster” says Amanda ‘Bram’ Stoker, the Assistant Attorney-General, who warns the ICAC has gone “rogue”. It’s “the Spanish Inquisition”, says Beetroot Barnaby, always ready to display his incisive wit. Madcap Michaelia Cash wails that the NSW ICAC “has destroyed lives over trivialities”. I mean, what’s wrong with a little corruption and pork-barrelling? Everybody does it. Scummo himself claims the ICAC doesn’t “assume people are innocent before they are thought to be guilty” – which must be news to the ICAC. Needless to say, the Murdoch press has joined in the pile-on.

Finally, and tellingly, comes retiring Labor member, Joel Fitzgibbon, (or as he’s known among friends, “Coal Fitzgibbon”), who says the ICAC is “a kangaroo court”.

All of this is intended to smear the ICAC, and justify Scummo in refusing to honour his 1,000-day-old promise of starting a CIC. As every state in Australia has such a commission already, the Federal government is suspiciously slow off the mark. If he does manage to introduce legislation before Christmas it will be for the toothless tiger CIC that he and former AG, Christian Porter, have put forward. Ideally, he wants a body that looks like the ICAC, but has none of its powers. It will not be able to consider retrospective charges, it will only be able to investigate cases referred by government, and so on. It will be nothing but a façade – a Potemkin ICAC. This is perfectly consistent with Scummo’s well-documented beliefs that appearances are more important than realities, and the electorate is dumb enough to accept anything.

According to former judge, Anthony Whealy, the Chair of the Centre for Public Integrity, Scummo’s model is “a complete failure, a farce”. He says “it would be better to have no integrity commission than one that is totally ineffective”. But for Scummo, nothing could be more effective than a totally ineffective CIC.

Last week Crikey published a casual list of government ministers who might have a case to answer if called before a genuinely independent commission. That list included Angus Taylor, Bridget McKenzie, Peter Dutton, Josh Frydenberg, Paul Fletcher, Michael Sukkar, Alan Tudge, Sussan Ley and Scummo himself. One wonders how star performer, Stuart Robert, missed the A-team. And what about Michaelia Cash’s raid on union headquarters that was mysteriously announced to the media? Or indeed Christian Porter accepting an anonymous payment of his legal fees?

The Joker in this pack of cards is definitely Coal Fitzgibbon, who apparently likes to imagine himself the Joe Manchin of the ALP. Having succeeded in turning one of the safest Labor seats in NSW into a marginal one, by losing 14% of the vote in the previous election, Coal is now set to retire, and probably look for a seat on the board of a big resources company, either Australian or Chinese will do.

He likes to blame his declining popularity with voters on the ALP’s ambivalent attitude towards coal mining, but many people in Cessnock – where I was born – unkindly say it was because he was a useless, self-serving droog who did nothing to alleviate the really big problems of the region, such as a healthcare system sliding into an open cut bigger than anything they’ve dug in Singleton.

Why, oh why would Coal feel moved to attack the ICAC, in lockstep with his Coalition opponents? He’s also joined Gladys in telling us that “pork-barrelling is pretty common in politics. It’s not a form of corruption.” It sounds like he’s chosen a good time to get out of parliament. It’s just a shame about his annointed successor, one Daniel Repacholi, who has been a member of the ALP for only a couple of months. A former Olympic shooter with a bushranger beard, Mr. Repacholi is considered a bit of a “larrikin” by Albo and the gang in head office. As part of his larrikin humour he has described India as a “shithole country”, allegedly posted links to sites with pictures of topless babes, and listed his favourite quote as an obscenity in the “size doesn’t matter..” genre. Talk about laugh! He also runs a business selling “projectiles” and is presumably opposed to any further restrictions on firearms. I imagine he’ll be first in the queue to see Nitram.

The local ALP brass are suitably incensed at having an interloper imposed on them, let alone one who has had to swear he’s not a racist and sexist “prick”. Several malcontents are getting ready to stand in the next election, which will have the likely effect of splitting the vote and handing the seat to One Nation or the Nats. If Albo had imposed Kristina Keneally on Cessnock it might have been a different story, but then she probably didn’t fancy living there. I can sympathise.

It seems that we urgently need a CIC to keep the Coalition in check, while the ALP should invest in a collective brain scan which might help explain how they keep spraying bullets over their own feet. If Labor is to take back federal government they’ll owe it to the state governments in QLD and WA, who have become Scummo’s latest targets of villification, even though they are highly popular with the locals. It seems our Dear Leader has forgotten that losing QLD would mean losing the election. We can only hope he perseveres with this brilliant crash-or-crash-through tactic.

Oh, one last note of praise should be reserved for the bright idea of sending Drone Teehan to help the French overcome their “disappointment”. Well, our intrepid envoy made it to France, but apparently the French don’t want to meet with him (They must have heard one of his radio interviews!) – it’s a bit like Macron not answering Scummo’s phone calls, which he probably thinks is just someone from a foreign country trying to scam him. At least Drone has the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre to kill a bit of time.

This week’s art column is devoted to The Dance of Death. It’s got nothing to do with Gladys and the ICAC, being a famous medieval motif that has echoed down the centuries in art, music and literature. It promised to be a relatively compact topic, but as usual it expanded by the minute – at least until the present day. I imagined the pandemic would throw up ample opportunities for works based on the Dance of Death but we’ve been strangely reluctant to come to the party.

The movie being reviewed is Nitram, Justin Kurzel’s controversial bio-pic of the Port Arthur killer, Martin Bryant. It’s one of those bleak but compelling films that a whole lot of people will be studiously avoiding. They needn’t do so if they’re worried about blood and gore, as these things don’t feature in the story. However, anyone who has trouble with concepts such as chilling, disturbing and creepy, might do well to stay away. It’s all-too-easy to be repelled by an atrocity such as a mass murder, but we need to get a bit more shocked and disgusted by the “trivialities” that have become so commonplace in political life.