Managing the stench of the growing Abbottaroma

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The Liberals have liked to wreath their political enemies in the odour of criminality but now the same aroma is coming after them. Will the Canning by-election result show how foul that stench is, asks Bob Ellis.

FOR A LONG, long time the Liberals have wreathed their enemies in the odour of criminality. Boat people have been called “illegals”, ”union corruption” is almost a single word, and “the friends of Eddie Obeid” a definition of Labor in New South Wales. 

The initials “CFMEU” seem now, in themselves, defamatory. Shorten is routinely called a “two-time assassin” though he did no more than Abbott did, in 2008 and 2009, to Nelson and then Turnbull. Craig Thomson’s vote in the House was “tainted”, Abbott told us, and should not be accepted by the Government or the Speaker, and his constituents disfranchised. Because of one word in a private communication to a friend, Peter Slipper was said to be “unfit to be Speaker”, and was overthrown by Abbott on account of it.

So ... the odour of criminality served Abbott well in Opposition, and he prevailed in part, and achieved the highest office, because of it.

But lately the same aroma is coming after him and his government, and may well, in Canning, bring on a result, at last, that is catastrophic to him.

Let me count the ways.

In the week when we learned of sexual abuse in Geelong, alma mater of Prince Charles, Packer and Murdoch, we were told by Dutton there is no sexual abuse on Nauru, though a senate committee has reported there was, and given instances. It’s a “Labor-Green fabrication”, Dutton protests.

In a week when Dyson Heydon declared himself innocent of bias, and awarded himself $11,800 a day for six more months of just and thoughtful deliberation, we hear of a Liberal official who took $1.5 million from his party. We hear, too, of Abbott’s “union hero”, Kathy Jackson, embezzling $1.3 million, somehow undetected by Heydon’s Royal Commission, and of some hitherto unindicted 7-Eleven bosses exploiting foreign students, paying them half of what they are owed and working them, illegally, round the clock, and getting away with this form of slavery for years.

We have learned as well in the past few months that Morrison paid people smugglers to return, illegally, refugees to Indonesia, which did not want them, and Dutton took back, illegally, refugees to persecution, and possibly imprisonment, in Vietnam. We have seen no-one arrested for the murder of Reza Barati, though it is known which twelve people did it, and we have heard a Wilson guard declaring that there was waterboarding, or something like it, on Nauru.

The taint of Liberal criminality has grown too as we hear more and more of Man Monis and the Lindt Café siege. Why did Abbott not take the hostages’ call? Why did he say he was “too busy”? Why did Baird not accept Mamdouh Habib’s offer to go in and talk his old friend Monis “out of this nonsense”? Why were so many bullets fired after Monis was clearly dead? Why did 23 of them, if that is the figure, hit Katrina Dawson? Why was so little money offered in compensation to a siege survivor — $1,500, and not the $70,000 survivors get from sieges overseas? Why does Dyson Heydon earn almost that much every hour? How much will the other survivors get? How much will go to Katrina’s family, since it was the police, not Monis, that killed her?

Bronwyn Bishop’s expenses have deepened this taint also. So has the $270 a night Joe Hockey pays, as rent, to his wife when he is in Canberra, sleeping in a house co-owned by her and his father. So does the $1 billion Transfield was given on Tuesday for impounding and tormenting women and children, and covering up what is done to them on Nauru.

In Western Australia, it transpires that Andrew Hastie has been investigated for his complicity, if any, in two war crimes, the shooting of two shepherd boys (how much was their family paid?), and the bizarre posthumous mutilation of three Taliban. So questionable is his war record, it seems, that no campaign biography of him has yet appeared on the hustings, a world first, probably, in elective politics in the past thousand years.

Abbott, we learn, got a Rhodes Scholarship from a committee on which Dyson Heydon sat. And he may have got it before he was an Australian citizen, before he was eligible for it. We are told he may not be an Australian citizen even now, and be holding his office, Prime Minister, illegally.

It seems to me wrong that the Labor Party has not emphasised some of these things in its daily round of propaganda. How Man Monis asked Brandis’s office how he could contact DAESH, and no bells rang, and so Tori and Katrina died. How agents of Dutton spied on Hanson-Young in her motel room, in the shower perhaps. When one considers how much was made of the $900 misused by Slipper, and $5,000 by Craig Thomson, one wishes Labor, frankly, tried harder.

The Abbott aroma has been worsened, lately, by international events. The great migration of fugitive Syrians, of which Merkel will take 800,000 in the next year, and Abbott just 1,500 a year. Julie Bishop’s bizarre view that “these people” can be made to go back to Syria if we bomb that country a bit more, show some of us how crazy and rattled and cruel this government is, and, in their defense of Bronwyn Bishop and Dyson Heydon, how unfair. The aroma is deepening as we speak.

And the result in Canning will show, soon, how foul the stench of Liberal criminality has come to be.

Many IA readers will be aware that Bob is suffering from as serious illness. If you'd like to help, you might like to consider making a contribution by subscribing to his blog, Table Talk, here.

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