I’ve never been a big fan of scandals, but occasionally you can’t ignore them. That’s true of the scandals currently afflicting the Labor government. As regards the Thomson accusations, if he is guilty he should resign his seat and will in any case be forced to do so if convicted. That will probably end the government if it happens, but there’s not much I can add in the way of political analysis.

The accusations against Julia Gillard published, and quickly retracted, by The Australian under Glenn Milne’s byline are a different matter. Not only has the content of the retracted article become public knowledge, but News Limited appears to be walking back from what at first appeared to be an unreserved apology, notably in comments by Hartigan and in Andrew Bolt’s column on the topic.

In these circumstances, Gillard has no alternative but to disprove the allegation that she derived a financial benefit, even unknowingly, from the fraud committed by her former boyfriend. That seems like a pretty clear-cut question of fact, which should admit a resolution even nearly 20 years after the event.

On the other hand, if the falsehood of the allegation can be proved, the case that News Limited in Australia is playing the same dirty tricks as its UK and US operations becomes all that much stronger, as does the case for treating the entire organisation as a political propaganda/lobbying operation rather than a newspaper publisher in the traditional sense. And, of course, Gillard would have a very strong case for defamation.

All of this pretty much kills my suggestion for a graceful exit by Gillard after the passage of the carbon tax. Until she can put this one to rest, a resignation would look like an admission of guilt.

72 thoughts on “Scandal

  1. and the caucus won’t dump Julia Gillard

    I wouldn’t be too cocky about that claim. A week is a long time in politics.

  2. @Ron E Joggles
    Exactly. You would think some of these commenters have never seen a media beatup before. Or are they just excited about joining in? So many examples of wishful thinking like “the police will commence a formal criminal investigation”? Maybe and maybe not, they had already previously decided not to bother. And you never know, they may only uncover wrongdoing by others instead. In my day it was always a basic working class principle to never call in the rozzers if only because the result can be so uncertain.

  3. @Ian Milliss

    So many examples of wishful thinking like “the police will commence a formal criminal investigation”?

    Excuse me? How do you read that as wishful thinking? Why would I wish for a formal investigation? Try reading the thread before weighing in, next time.

  4. @Ron E Joggles

    And in the very unlikely event that charges are laid, the matter won’t come to court before the next election anyway.

    Funny you should say that. I said more or less exactly the same thing on another thread the other day. I didn’t reply to your comment immediately because I thought you were agreeing with me, but after Ian Milliss’ confused remark, I now realise your comment was intended as a retort. Try reading for meaning next time.

  5. @Tim Macknay
    Settle down Tim, neither retort nor agreement, just my opinion on what is likely to happen, and a comment on the eagerness for controversy.
    If the govt is forced to an early election, it may be because the PM loses her nerve and pulls the pin, but that is unlikely too.
    The govt’s problem at the moment is the perception of illegitimacy, rather than a failure to manage the country’s affairs well – so that the polls are overwhelmingly bad despite continuing growth, low unemployment, low interest rates, improving business investment, etc….
    I’m sure of one thing – if Tony Abbott had won the support of the cross benches after the 2010 election and formed a minority govt, his govt would have been bedevilled by controversy and bad polls even more.

  6. @Magpie
    Magpie, why would Marx wish to save capitalism, the evil, neoplastic and anti-human religion of the greedy and vicious? The aim must be, if we wish humanity to survive the next fifty years, to be rid of the capitalists and their evil cult.

  7. @Mulga Mumblebrain

    Society needs to find an alternative to capitalism. This is not the same as getting rid of capitalists.

    Even if all wealth was publicly owned, and all incomes were equal, if this common fund then tried to extract a profit (after all costs), at a fixed rate, year after year, it too would collapse, (after spending several decades boosting the population and debt, to artificially construct profits and stave off crisis).

    Capitalism is no more evil than the prior forms of evil from Roman times, feudal times, colonial times, and in Dicken’s and Hogarth’s streets of London. In fact, welfare state capitalism, where the exploitation is shifted into the Third world, is the best of all possible worlds for OECD nations (for as long as it lasts).

    Naturally capitalists want to save capitalism, so they have to understand Marx, who after all was the direct continuation of Smith and Ricardo, pointing out the real structural essence of their theories.

    The article linked by Magpie (also printed in Canberra Times) was a Tocsin for tomorrow.

    Its 5 points are nothing but attempts to find new countervailling tendencies to fix the contradictions already destroying the previous set of countervailling tendencies (ie per capita debt and population expansion).

    Marx is probably chuckling to himself quietly in his grave.

  8. Bill it appears is at odds with the ‘facts’. how you you know he had no receipts?

    Current MPs such as Thomson are not on the old generous Super scheme. Even if he was getting an untaxed $100k a year is much better.

  9. I’m really surprised by the tone of Professor Quiggin’s post. Ms Gillard is holding a minority government together, getting legislation through, and all in the face of a feral News Ltd/shock jock media.

    That said, I personally think she lacks moral authority, for not abandoning mandatory detention for refugees. Rather than attacking the High Court, she could welcome the decision as a basis for letting refugees out in the community like every other advanced democracy.

    But to suggest she resign after getting the carbon tax through? I’m new here, and will have to read up on older posts, I guess.

  10. The attack on the High Court was quite right. They were in the game of rewriting the law and for a variety of political reasons. Some seemingly as support for young Tony (even if that introduced inconsistency) and others as support for their idea of what the law ought to be if they were legislators (which they are not). The minority was the only one that bothered to give the ruling according to law as legislated.

    Very American like, where the Supremes (and the courts below them) interpret law as they see fit, and are even inconsistent with their past rulings, if, as needs be, inconsistency is required to put their party’s candidate into the oval office. (In the US, the right constantly accuses those they consider left judges of rewriting the law, but the truth, sadly, is that left and right, they are both at it whenever it suits them.)

    None of this is to say that the Gillard position and the Malaysian solution are anything other than morally bankrupt. I imagine I am not the only one sick of hearing about the ‘evil’ people smugglers ‘business model’. The business model which is to use expendable boats to transport those wanting transport because the Australian government will confiscate the boat. Of course, if they didn’t want asylum seekers transported in unsafe boats the Australian government could give the ‘people smugglers’ boats back after they delivered their cargo. If they did that they wouldn’t be using throw-away boats. But then, there would be a higher volume of transport of asylum seekers, and the asylum seekers would not have to pay as high a price for transport (both in monetary cost and lives lost). This, of course, is not what successive governments want.

    Instead of all the hypocrisy the Australian government should simply unsign the international refugee agreement it signed. Clearly Australia, or at least the Australian government, doesn’t want to live up to it obligations under the agreement. So unsign it and be done with it.

    As for The Australian’s attack on Gillard, as Robert Manne wrote in a piece in The Age, something has to be done about the Murdoch relentless attack on democracy. Only the Greens seem to be pushing for something to be done. Of course, the coalition are happy with the way things are (at the moment) and Labor is too scared that they might lose votes if they take a stand. Why they should be scared, given how few they have left to lose, is difficult to fathom.

    The latest is the lengthy beat up of the Labor backbencher, and his alleged misuse of a credit card, when a Lib backbencher has been at least as deserving a target, and much further along in a judicial process, but ignored for a beat up. In both cases, rather than the media and unscrupulous politicians doing a beat up, the legal system should simply be left to run its course (without political interference to either ensure prosecution or to withdraw prosecution). But that is too much to expect.

    But generally, the behaviour of politicians and others, who have done well out of our society is rather poor. And not only here but in plenty of other countries as well. No wonder the English had their English Summer. Although, no doubt, not the only component motivating the rioters, it is difficult to believe that the mini-insurrection didn’t have at least something to do with the loss of legitimacy of the so-called establishment and their instruments of control, the police and judicial system. The reaction of those three, establishment, police, and judiciary, would have done nothing to have restored that legitimacy. Indeed, the heavy handedness of the sentencing, and the protestations of moral outrage from politicians (who have proven themselves to be somewhat flawed) is more likely to have simply sown the seeds for further strife. Lets hope similar problems do not reach our shores. And lets hope our politicians, and others, do something quickly to restore their legitimacy.

  11. @Freelander
    I don’t really have time to research the past careers of each of the High Court justices, which I assume is what you’re getting at. Why not just put up a quick precis of the basis for your claim?

  12. Gillard is only getting support on this point from someone in the Oz like Kelly because she is entirely correct.

    If the decision was simply consistent with prior decisions and nothing more than a standard interpretation it wouldn’t have come as a great surprise to everyone. Of course, courts making ‘surprising’ decisions is unfortunately not unknown. The idea that a valid criticism of a judgement or of the inconsistency of the decision with prior decisions smacks of lèse majesté. If she made a completely unjustified spray at the court that would be different. But she didn’t. She simply and calmly pointed out the inconsistency.

  13. The really painful criticism is when someone points out that you have gotten it wrong.

    There was no ‘attack’ on ‘separation of powers’ in relation to the ruling of the high court. However wrongly thought out and inconsistent with prior rulings, it stands. But judges shouldn’t be some protected species that cannot be criticised when they make mistakes or simply start making it up.

  14. I’m not really concerned about Julia Gillard’s criticism of the Court. It’s hardly surprising for a politician to be critical when a court makes a decision that is both unexpected and very damaging to the politican’s agenda. That’s par for the course. Also, her claim of inconsistency was directed at Justice French in particular, not the whole bench.

    What I am interested in is your contention that the Court’s decision was based on political bias and other illegimate considerations. That’s what I’m asking you to provide a precis for, not a defence of Julia Gillard’s outburst. I am assuming you have something more than a Paul Kelly column to support this view. Surely, you have something more substantial than a Paul Kelly column .

  15. I don’t have to convince you or prove anything to you. If you are too lazy to do your own research, or even read what Gillard said with care (which your precis indicates you have not) any attempt would be a wasted effort. I find it much better, and of more educative value, if people work things out for themselves.

    The odious Phillip Ruddock was more direct (during a previous episode of judicial whimsy) in articulating the obvious; what Gillard did was simply lay out the facts. When judges do a piece of legislative interpretation and do the equivalent of finding that 1 plus 1 does not equal 2, but instead equals some other number that happens to be convenient to their current purpose, they know what they are up to, especially when they have managed to get the number ‘2’ more than once in the past.

  16. If you are too lazy to do your own research, or even read what Gillard said with care…

    I admit I haven’t read all of Gillard’s comments – only the bits reported in various news articles. As I said before, I am not particularly concerned with her comments. The bits I have read indicate a general view that the High Court has changed its view on how the relevant parts of the Migration Act 1958 operate, and a specific comment that the Chief Justice, in particular, has departed from his previous interpretations of section 198A. But that’s neither here nor there.

    Your accusation of laziness is a transparent evasion, from which I surmise that you have no basis for your assertion that the Court’s decision was politically biased. This puts you on roughly the same level as Brian Heffernan when he falsely accused Michael Kirby of trolling for prostitutes in Kings Cross – although at least Heffernan had some evidence which turned out to be false, rather than nothing at all.

    I’m a bit disheartened. I used to enjoy your comments. My opinion of you has plummeted.

  17. I meant Bill Heffernan, obviously. No idea why I wrote Brian. Come to think of it, my last comment is a little bit hostile. But then again, you did accuse me of laziness, so I suppose that explains it.

  18. Tim Macknay :

    If you are too lazy to do your own research, or even read what Gillard said with care…

    … My opinion of you has plummeted.


  19. I’m calling a halt on this one. I haven’t got time to go over the thread and sort out rights and wrongs, but Tim and Freelander, please stop commenting on this post, and don’t engage with each other in other threads unless you can do so in a civil fashion.

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