Politics Analysis

More lying, rorting, taunting Coalition capers with Josh, Bridget and Sussan

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(Image by Dan Jensen)

Managing editor Michelle Pini considers more Morrison Government "heavy lifting" on lying, rorting and taunting in the lead up to the Federal Election.

LIBERAL Member for Kooyong Josh Frydenberg is feeling cornered and it’s showing.

While we covered Josh in last week’s list, it’s been a hard week for the Treasurer and he has really lifted his game in the Coalition taunting rorting criteria.

1. WOULD-BE PM JOSH FRYDENBERG

First, the polls indicated the would-be PM will likely lose his seat — to an Independent, no less!

Then his warm and fuzzy campaign materials featuring cute puppies alongside the CEO of Guide Dogs Victoria turned out to be illegal and caused the said CEO to be stood down. Who knew?

This was followed by the mysterious disappearance of his opponent Dr Monique Ryan’s campaign materials casting a suspicious shadow over the source of the vandalism. 

And finally, his attempts to dodge a meaningful debate with the Independent favoured to win the seat of Kooyong have backfired.

Of course, Josh put paid to all the nasty rumours about his lack of character when he stood up and agreed to participate in the Kooyong candidate's forum, like all the other political candidates. Just kidding! He is still dodging it, of course.

Scuttling hard to save face and still manage to sidestep a genuine intellectual debate based on the issues in favour of a partisan show where his talking points will be given free rein, Frydenberg did the only thing he could do. Since Murdoch’s fair and balanced Sky News and former chief of staff to Tony Abbott Peta Credlin had already hosted the prime ministerial debate last week, Frydenberg agreed to front a debate hosted by Channel Nine and presented by Chris Uhlmann.

For those playing along at home, that’s the media forum run by former Liberal Treasurer Peter Costello and presented by the Liberal Party PR director — sorry, journalist Chris Uhlmann.

And why wouldn’t Frydenberg employ this option? It’s not as though the public broadcaster is going to make a fuss about hosting a debate or even televising one. And even if it did, chances are such an event would be presented by Liberal Party insider — sorry, Insiders host David Speers. So, tomato, tomahto.

The best part is, not only did Josh try to worm his way out of an open and public assembly and engineer a specially curated forum, instead, he actually accused political opponent Dr Monique Ryan of refusing a publicly televised debate with him.

Questioning Ryan's independence, Frydenberg tweeted (IA emphasis):

'Following a request from Ch 9, I agreed to debate so-called “Independent” Monique Ryan this Thursday. I welcome a fair debate in a non-partisan forum about important issues facing my community. Monique Ryan has declined Ch 9’s invite.'

Fair and non-partisan, you say? Let’s suspend our disbelief and let that one go for now and focus on the Treasurer's suggestion that it was Ryan who declined. 

The non-partisan Uhlmann immediately supported Frydenberg's accusation (shocker!), tweeting:

Just heard back from Dr Monique Ryan's @Mon4Kooyong team. She has declined the invitation to debate the Treasurer @JoshFrydenberg on @9NewsMelb at 3pm on Thursday. The offer stands.

 

Given the call for more transparency in public life, Dr Ryan should reconsider.

Unfortunately for Josh and the impartial Uhlmann (ahem!), Ryan was having none of it.

The Independent tweeted:

Since @JoshFrydenberg pulled out of the ACTUAL Kooyong candidates forum, I'd relish the opportunity to debate him on Ch9. If it's in Kooyong (not Docklands!), in front of people of Kooyong, with Qs asked by the people of #Kooyong.

 

That's why I’m running — to represent Kooyong!

Dr Ryan also told IA in a statement:

Mr Frydenberg needs to stop hiding from his constituents. He should be prepared to meet with the voters of Kooyong, as I am tonight at the Kooyong Candidates Forum. I look forward to discussing the important issues of this election with the people of Kooyong, in the electorate of Kooyong. I’ll share my views and respond to their questions. 

 

It’s a real pity that Mr Frydenberg isn’t prepared to take part in the candidates’ forum and hear the voice of those local residents.

Oops! Frydenberg’s media manager — apologies, fair and impartial adjudicator Uhlmann should have seen that one coming.

Then there’s the question of, why, if it is supposed to be a fair, impartial and open political debate, the other Kooyong candidates were not invited to Josh's little soirée. Could it be because Ryan is the candidate that’s consistently out-polling the Treasurer?

2. SUSS ENVIRONMENT MINISTER SUSSAN LEY

(See the full editorial here.)

3. MINISTER FOR NON-RECOVERY BRIDGET MCRORTER

This week also sees a return from the original sporting rorter Bridget McKenzie.

Readers may remember the Nationals Senator as the person blamed for the sports rorts fiasco. That’s the scandal in which $100 million in sports grants were deliberately used by the Coalition as an election tool. 

According to the Auditor General's report:

‘…McKenzie’s office ran a “parallel assessment” to that undertaken by Sports Australia, leading to hundreds of projects that were deemed to be more meritorious missing out in favour of those in Coalition “target seats”.’

After Morrison faced much heat on the issue and despite the unlikelihood of this occurring without his express knowledge, McKenzie was the only minister made to stand down from her portfolio, but not Parliament — of course.

But that was at least half a dozen scandals ago, each one more shocking than the last. And so it wasn’t long before McKenzie’s impropriety was seen as no biggie and she was reinstated into Morrison's Cabinet alongside other fellow rorters.

However, now in charge of the Emergency Management and National Recovery and Resilience Ministry, Bridget brought new meaning to the word “recovery”. Following the latest catastrophic flooding event, McKenzie insisted money set aside for disaster relief would not be assisting recovery but would be used “as intended”: to remain untouched and gain interest for possible unforeseen events in the far off future. Such as the end of the Earth, perhaps?

McKenzie was also found to have used a taxpayer-funded trip to Melbourne to buy property plus a private jet to watch ice hockey.

Perhaps the latter was actually for research purposes ahead of the upcoming ice-age disaster for which the recovery fund might be required?

Today, McKenzie told the National Press Club:

“We’re not seeing that sort of systemic, um, political corruption that you can see in other places.”

She also claimed to belong to the side of politics:

"...that has done the heavy lifting on developing and integrity commission."

Once again, for those playing at home, that’s the side of politics that has voted against a federal anti-corruption commission 31 times. You really couldn’t make this stuff up.

The Morrison Government has, indeed, done the heavy lifting on an integrity commission: it has prevented an anti-corruption commission 31 times and counting.

We will attempt to cover the key rorters in our rorting, taunting Coalition series each week in the lead up to the Federal Election. 

This is an abridged version of an editorial originally published in the IA weekly newsletter. Subscribe now to read the full version online in the IA members-only area.

You can follow managing editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @vmp9. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter at @independentaus, on Facebook HERE and on Instagram HERE.

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