If Coalition pond scum were flushed, parliament would be empty

The heat continues to rise on Coalition pond scum, via Domain:

A former adviser to Population Minister Alan Tudge has lodged a formal complaint that alleges he engaged in workplace bullying and intimidation that left her “anxious and afraid” in a system that failed to support her and other staff.

Rachelle Miller, who had an affair with Mr Tudge while working in his office, tells of his “belittling” and “humiliating” behaviour in an explosive document that widens a political storm over the treatment of women in Parliament.

Ms Miller calls for a systemic change to create a “zero tolerance” approach to bullying after contrasting the failures among politicians and their staff compared to the stronger rules against harassment in the private sector.

“The strong expectation and culture in Parliament was that to be a good staffer you needed to keep quiet, ignore and bury bad behaviour and protect the Liberal Party at all costs,” she writes in the complaint to the Department of Finance.

Via Bernard Keane at Crikey:

The rush by the government and its media supporters to attack last night’s Four Corners as not in the public interest is not merely wrong, but offensively so.

The campaign was led by Liberal minders in the weeks before the program went to air trying to prevent the ABC from broadcasting it, including by contacting the board, then Liberal senators in a special Senate estimates sitting yesterday attacking it, and then News Corp’s bloviator-in-chief Paul Kelly tried to argue on Q+A last night that Four Corners had gone beyond normal standards of what was in the public interest in covering politicians’ personal lives.

Kelly and the Liberals he was trying to cover up for couldn’t be more wrong. The revelations about Alan Tudge and Christian Porter were very much in the public interest.

When the Barnaby Joyce affair broke in 2018, Crikey was virtually alone in the media in criticising the revelations on the basis that they had no public interest value. I called it “shameful non-journalism”. It was not, to put it mildly, a popular stance. But Four Corners revealed things very much in the public interest in a way that was never the case for Joyce.

First, Tudge. Four Corners reporter Louise Milligan’s point that he was an opponent of marriage equality isn’t the half of it.

Tudge has form in using personal information for political purposes. He authorised the release of confidential, private government information about Andie Fox, a critic of the government’s illegal, immoral robodebt scheme, so that a blogger could attack her in The Canberra Times. He then defended his actions as not just legal, but fair.

He thus set the standard down in the gutter: the use of private, confidential information is perfectly legitimate for partisan purposes. He can have no complaints whatever after the shameful thing he did to Fox.

That’s even before you get to Rachelle Miller so bravely wanting to tell of the hurt and pain she experienced as a result of her relationship with Tudge, and deserves a platform to do so.

Tudge has issued an apology. Will he think twice next time before using private information held by the government to smear a critic?

As for Porter, the public interest case is even stronger.

Porter denies the claims made by Four Corners, despite their corroboration and despite — according to Miller — Tudge’s furious efforts to force a journalist to erase photographic evidence of his public intimacy with a staffer.

He also complains — using very careful language — that he wasn’t contacted specifically by Milligan, even though he was repeatedly contacted by the ABC about the story.

But if the allegations — many corroborated — about Porter’s public drunkenness, unwanted sexual advances and affairs have any truth, his conduct is utterly inappropriate for a cabinet minister and certainly the attorney-general, supposedly the first law officer of Australia.

But it’s much worse for Porter. If there is any truth to the allegations, he is clearly a security risk in a key position in Australia’s national security apparatus. His alleged behaviour — again, allegations corroborated by more than one party — would place him at grave risk of compromise by foreign intelligence services or organised crime.

Even the potential for compromise is grounds for suspension or dismissal inside intelligence services. Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who admitted he would have vetted Porter more if he’d been aware of the Four Corners material, was remiss to promote him without more due diligence on the potential security risk.

Porter, remember, is the man who authorised the prosecution of Witness K and Bernard Collaery, who has attempted to keep their prosecutions secret on the pretext of national security, and who has systematically delayed and dragged out Collaery’s trial for years — also on the pretext of national security.

The idea that this party boy, while allegedly engaging in such compromising behaviour, is persecuting and harassing two patriots who have served their country so well on the basis that they are a threat to national security is utterly sickening.

What else do we not know about Christian Porter? What do third parties know about him that he would prefer to keep secret?

In a government that insists it’s all about national security, Porter must be sacked.

Imagine what John Howard would do to these clowns. But John Howard is gone, at the ABC:

When asked whether the report raised concerns about either man’s fitness for office, Mr Morrison said he believed the issues it touched on were “very important”.

But he said the behaviour occurred under, and was dealt with by, previous prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, and he would not be taking disciplinary action or investigating the matters further.

“They relate to circumstances that occurred that were pertinent to the Prime Minister at the time, and put to the Cabinet and the Ministry, and those matters were dealt with then,” he said.

“It raises considerable cost and hurt, we are all accountable for our own behaviour.

“My ministers are in no doubt about what my expectations are of them … and I expect them to be lived up to.

“But, you know, when you get past all the other issues around this issue, all I know is there are a number of families that have been broken, and there are some people who are really hurting over this.”

There’s that misfiring empathy gene again. Then there is this:

A second inquiry has been launched into revelations that the Premier’s office shredded documents relating to the controversial approval of $250 million in council grants.

The State Archives and Records Authority has confirmed it would assess the destruction of documents, while the Information Commissioner has also launched an inquiry.

The Stronger Communities Fund, established after council mergers in 2016, has emerged as a major headache for the government after more than $250 million in grants were handed out in Coalition-held electorates in the lead up to last year’s state election.

They should all go of course. But then, if they played by the rules, there’d pretty much be nobody left.

David Llewellyn-Smith
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