Parliament On A Knife Edge

A few thoughts while I’m still working on my next main article. You’ve heard me mentioning in the last thread the tenuous situation currently existing on the Australian parliament’s Lower House, the House of Representatives. Of the 150 seats, Labor holds 72, and has formed government in coalition with four non-aligned members: Adam Bandt, Australian Greens member for the seat of Melbourne, Andrew Wilkie, independent member for Denison (centred on Hobart), and two independent former National Party Members, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, who represent New England and Lyne reprectively, two conservative, rural NSW electorates. A majority of just one vote. And that including that of the speaker, Labor’s Harry Jenkins.

In such a circumstance, Gillard cannot afford to lose a single member—through retirement, death or resignation: forced or otherwise. I’m fairly certain Gillard is insisting on regular health checks on all her parliamentary colleagues. The aortic valve replacement operation Kevin Rudd is scheduled to undergo on 1 August has been described as routine and low-risk, but as I explained the other day, could give him the perfect pretext to resign from parliament, should he so choose; he has any number of reasons to want to do so, one of which I’ll be writing about shortly.

Scandal is another thing Gillard could well do without; but given the recent history of Labor, that may be too much to ask for. In the years leading up to this year’s NSW state election bloodbath, we saw a virtual parade of Labor members forced to resign in disgrace, each scandal more tawdry than the last: harassment of parliamentary staff, financial indiscretions, public marital infidelities, and worse; one former MLA, Milton Orkopoulos, is even currently a guest at Her Majesty’s Iron Motel, courtesy of a string of child sex and drug offences. It makes you wonder what it takes to become a Labor representative in the first place.

Which brings me to one Craig Thomson, Labor MHR for the electorate of Dobell, centred on Tuggerah Lake, about 100 km north of Sydney. The former Health Services Union official’s alleged misuse of union funds and credit cards went beyond the venal—a catalogue of over $100,000 in ATM cash withdrawls and payments for nightclubs, brothels and so on—when Victorian Liberal Senator Michael Ronaldson last Friday accused him in parliament of misusing HSU funds to finance his 2007 election campaign, then filing false returns with the Australian Electoral Commission: an offence which, if proven in court, could land him a berth in the same cell as the abovementioned Orkopoulos. It’s happened before in Australia. These accusations, originally made by Senator Ronaldson in the Melbourne Age, resulted in defamation proceedings by Thomson; the Age defended their story on the grounds the accusations were true, following which, Thomson filed a notice of discontinuance of his suit: an effective admission. Ronaldson then repeated his allegations in parliament; the full Hansard record is here.

Gillard has painted herself into a corner here: she has no honourable recourse whatsoever, other than to let justice take its course; if the matter is taken up by the Crown Prosecutor (and the Opposition has yet to recommend this) it will be out of her hands in any case. Who knows how long such a case would take to bring to trial? In the meantime, the credibility and legitimacy of this government, for this and many other reasons, hangs by a thread.

Update 4 August 2011 0500: Well, the Federal Opposition has indeed now called on the Crown Prosecutor to press charges against Thomson. If I followed the gist of the story correctly, Labor is going to get one of their own to act as Thomson’s fall guy. I guess it’s now down to the integrity and diligence of the prosecutors. We do live in interesting times.

Update 19 August 2011 1500: This thing is getting ridiculous; I’ve updated it in a new thread here.

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13 Responses to Parliament On A Knife Edge

  1. Tucci says:

    It’s hard to describe an elected or appointed officer of civil government as “corrupt” when corruption is the natural state of all such suckers-at-the-public-teat.

    We may merely speak of those who are flagrantly corrupt or treasonously corrupt or extortionately corrupt, or we can try to distinguish distinguish between those whose corruption rises to the level of felony (most of ‘em) and those whose crimes fall into the category of misdemeanors, but it can almost never be said that any politician now having attained success in any national government anywhere on the planet is not corrupt in some way.

    It’s a job requirement.

    What a depressing observation. And the most depressing part of it is, I feel totally incapable of arguing against it – Oz 😦

  2. Kitler says:

    Ozboy well it’s just as well the EU, the UK and USA governments are completely corruption free isn’t it.

    I know, I know. I’d just like to see a little integrity displayed, even if only once in a while (sigh) – Oz

  3. Ozboy says:

    OT, but way too funny to leave out.

    This is what is meant by leading with your chin:

  4. Dr. Dave says:


    I’m glad you enjoyed that little video clip. Contessa Brewer is 37 years old and her claim to fame is that she’s pretty and has a broadcast journalism degree (sandbox and naptime?) from Syracuse University. Rep. Mo Brooks is 57, he graduated from Duke University in 3 years with a double major in political science and economics (highest honors in economics) and then went on to earn a law degree from the University of Alabama. He has spent most of his career as a successful business attorney. He was just elected to the US House of Representatives in 2010.

    MSNBC is absolutely despicable. They’re hyper-left wing and no longer even attempt to feign any semblance of objectivity. Contessa Brewer is supposed to represent their “straight news” component of reportage. This gal got the most most polite and biting smackdown or her career to date. Other conservative pundits are wondering if they ever ask Democrats what their educational credentials are. Perhaps she should explore Obama’s credentials…or rather, the lack thereof.

  5. Kitler says:

    Ozboy looking at your parliament photo why did they construct the chamber out of Lego?

    Nah, you’re just seeing the seatbacks in the press gallery.

    The chamber itself is modelled after the British House of Commons, and lots of the accoutrements (Despatch Boxes, mace, sandglasses, Hansard etc) are copies of those at Westminster. They conduct tours when parliament isn’t sitting and it’s actually pretty bloody swanky – Oz

  6. Kitler says:

    Ozboy the whole place looks art deco to me or has been influenced by that style it is a rather plain functional building. Well could be worse the state capital building in Nashville a smaller copy of the Capitol building in Washington, impressive on the outside, inside the debating chambers resemble 19th century drawing rooms.

    Have it your way; the design of our Parliament is something I actually will defend; though politicians know no limits when it comes to spending taxpayers’ money on themselves. At over a billion 1988 dollars, it bloody well better be good! And in fact, it is. I’ve been there many times, both as a visitor and on business, and I believe it perfectly expresses our society and culture, particularly to the foreign visitor (though it was actually designed by some Italian bloke). Modern, carpeted throughout in Australian wool, lots of natural light, marvellous local stone, massive woven wall hangings depicting our history, lots of aboriginal artwork, the whole Aussie shebang. Even the green of the House of Reps furnishings you can see in the picture at the top, has been muted from the darker green of the House of Commons, to resemble the colour of gum leaves. One of the few of our government’s projects that came off really well, even if massively overpriced – Oz

  7. Kitler says:

    Ozboy so at least we know where the mother ship landed.

  8. Ozboy says:

    G’day everyone,

    I seem to have relapsed somewhat, as have my family. Damn chest infection just won’t go away. So the promised new thread may be some days off yet. In the meantime, I’m following doctor’s orders and getting some rest. I’ll stick my head in from time to time 😡

  9. Luton Ian says:

    Hope you’re all feeling better soon.

    I’ll go burn some endangered species and some non renewable resources to see if I can warm the world up a bit…

  10. Tucci says:

    Oh, great, some unspecified kind of “chest infection.” Lower respiratory tract (bronchitis and/or pneumonia?), chest wall, skin abscess, bacterial or viral mediastinitis, some kinda mycosis, what?.

    Ozboy, you’re like every third patient I’ve ever managed. Just what the hell does it take to get a complete history of the presenting complaint out of you, a crowbar?

    A complete history? You mean like all forty-eight years of it? Mamma mia! Oz

  11. Dr. Dave says:


    Sounds like a routine case of pulmonary glanders to me.

    (sigh) OK – Mrs Oz says to tell you it’s a combination of upper respiritory tract infection and man flu 🙄 Ozgirl (13 months) still has a bit of her croup cough, Oz Jr (4 yrs) is a snot factory and has a congested cough like me (boy flu?). Mrs Oz has much the same. It’s going round the district, Oz Jr almost certainly brought it home from kindergarten. Go figure.

    You can both e-mail me your bill – Oz

  12. farmerbraun says:

    On the basis of no cases having occurred in N.Z. , it must be Q-fever.

  13. Pingback: Parliament On A Knife Edge Part II: End This Nonsense Now | Be Responsible – Be Free!

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