Sophie Mirabella's fistful of dollars

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The Sophie Mirabella bribe scandal shows up the tenuous nature of Australia's democracy, writes contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence.


SOPHIE MIRABELLA'S "LIGHT BULB" MOMENT was blown to oblivion on Sky News last month, when she shoved a middle finger in a live socket, sabotaging her delusion that the good people of Indi would ever consider re-electing this political harpy as their Federal representative.

The shameless admission, that had she beaten incumbent Independent Cathy McGowan in the 2013 federal election, locals would be rewarded with $10 million for a much needed extension to the Wangaratta Hospital, provided yet another squalid example of the contempt in which voters are held by toxic politicians, in this instance, the Coalition.

Sure, she may have won pre-selection by her party but Mirabella has little hope of unseating Cathy McGowan in the pending 2 July Federal election.

Tell her she's dreamin'!

Her outburst was supposed to make "Indians" regret not voting her back in. Alas and alack for Soph, her imprudent boast backfired. It was an own goal and the studio audience of Indi locals at least, clearly regretted rien, as you will hear and see.


Aside from exposing Mirabella's personal capacity for malevolence and lack of political discretion, her dopey disclosure about the secret millions has serious ramifications that challenge the integrity and ethics not only of the Credlin-Abbott regime at the time, but also Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's nemetic coalition.

The revelation of this tawdry bribe spewed forth from Mirabella's own busy lips and although there was initially a frisson of outrage and several best-ignored facile attempts by frenemy colleagues to ameliorate the catastrophic blabbing, her outburst proved yet again that governments and politicians largely hold we voters in utter contempt and continue to cannibalize what little trust remains between us and them.


Independent Australia has often discussed the pervasive culture and undermining corruption, fraud, political and corporate thuggery that has insinuated our various instititutions, including police, judiciary and regulatory bodies. At times, some or all aspects of these seem endemic to our social and corporate culture.

This is but one of the reasons why nothing short of a Royal Commission into banks and the banking industry will suffice.


Given that the industry's regulatory body, ASIC is itself implicated in sevaral instances and for whatever reason has remained compliant or inert to fraud, corruption and unconscionable conduct, it is farcical to suggest ASIC should be given any role, other than that of a witness.

None of this is histrionic conjecture. We can lay before you a tableau of evidence in the back issues of this journal alone.

Today we make a random forensic incision into the Mirabella bribe scandal, to illustrate the extent of the contamination, the wheels within wheels and the shocking priors of the players, the "actors" and their venal motives — power and money.

Make no mistake, Mirabella's vituperative revelation was not about conscience-cleansing, truth-telling or anything as noble as whistleblowing.

It was an unseemly and ugly performance motivated by revenge from a graceless loser who has learned little from her tottering in the wildnerness.

We know this type of "filthy payback" happens, as anAge editorial rightly describes, such muck but here is the bellicose Sophie Mirabella actually mouthing off – not only admitting to it but also literally broadcasting it to the world – putting Abbott and the Turnbull Government right in the excreta.

The Age:

Ms Mirabella was responding to a question from Brendan Schutt, a local businessman, who is the chairman of the board at Northeast Health Wangaratta, which operates the local hospital. She said: "I had a commitment for a $10-million allocation to the Wangaratta hospital that, if elected, I was going to announce the week after the election. You know that." (Mr Schutt nodded and appeared to say, "Yes".) Ms Mirabella then said: "That is $10 million that Wangaratta hasn't had because Cathy got elected."

This is stunningly arrogant and remarkably gormless. Ms Mirabella's comments might be infected with rivalry and spite, but they also raise serious questions.......

They do and, indeed, the video shows Northeast Health Wangaratta's (NHW) embarassed chair Brendan Schutt nodding and looking as if he'd just swallowed a flagon of cod liver oil.

So here we have not only a categoric and public admission by a politician (Mirabella) that she made a secret electoral bribe to the chair of a major regional health/hospital network but, also, that Mirabella's statement was apparently publicly verified and admitted by the witness himself.


And here we have yet another senior executive admitting to being aware of what is arguably a bribe/inducement/offence offered by a politician on behalf of the Government to garner votes.

Given the number of NHW's employees, families, friends, suppliers et cetera, there is certainly a potential to influence thousands of voters.

There is no suggestion Mr Schutt did any such thing, but he should at least have reported Mirabella to the Australian Electoral Commission. Did he?

Did he notify the Australian Federal Police (AFP)?

Did he discuss Mirabella's multi million dollar offer with any of his peers/work colleagues and/or officially note the offer in the hospital network's files and in his work diary?

Was the offer made by Mirabella/the Coalition in an attempt to enhance/benefit Mr Schutt's personal standing?

These are all questions we are entitled to ask of our politicians, our public guardians and regulatory bodies


The outbust exposed the Abbott Government, like its counterparts, to be little more than political stockbrokers; carpetbaggers buying and selling votes and people, investing in their own junked bonds by backing the likes of Mirabella the wannabe Wahine of Wangaratta; except she ain't queen no more.

Perhaps Abbott made Soph wait until after the election for the hospital money to induce her to try harder to win the once safe seat she had endangered; that her absenteeism had reduced to an empty chair.

Despite her 12 years as their representative, there had been a growing dissatisfaction with Mirabella.

A former barrister, she seemed to have all but abandoned advocating for her own constituents and their domestic concerns in exchange for the neonic political pole dancing endemic to Federal politics and those well skilled in the genteel arts of sophistry and hypocrisy.

These include fawning to leaders, double-dealing, double-dipping, stroking and lubricating swelling, needy egos and publicly holding in disdain those perceived as losers and marginalised, such as asylum seekers and supporters of same sex marriage.


Perhaps Mirabella and the AEC should revisit its own Candidates Handbook and check the Commonwealth Electoral Act of 1918, that refers specifically to hospitals, nursing homes and bribery.

IA is aware that some Coalition members want Mirabella scratched from the Indi race for her gaffes.

Yesterday is not soon enough.

She's carrying too much baggage and weight for some who don't want monies wasted on an already lost campaign. She shot herself in the hoof, and in the trifecta is a financial, security and political liability. This is politic body shaming. Big time.

IA has been told that the prime minister is reluctant to visit Mirabella on home turf and won't campaign alongside her.


Many of Mirabella's colleagues are furious with her for outing their backroom deals and now her accusations that the Collins St, Toorak cow cockeys are trying to undermine her and are leaking to onside journalists like a SIEV, has exacerbated their unease and justified calls from within the Liberal Party and its political partner, the Nationals, to cut her loose.

So, who might these Collins St types be? Give me an M! Give me a K! Give me a Michael Kroger — who helped to give you back Malcolm Turnbull. Mind you, it seems that Mikey has his own leadership woes and has had to tell the true non-believers to pull their heads in, warning he's still in the saddle and wearing spurs.

We deserve better from these arrogant power-obsessed loons. We should demand better from our political servants. We are neither their slaves nor their serfs; the Mirabella Scandal is a tawdry manifestation of much that's wrong with what laughingly passes as a democracy in Australia.

Yes, life's worse in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I get that. But we shouldn't measure ourselves against such failed states — especially since the colonising West so often facilitated such failures.

In Oz, we should set the benchmark higher, not lower it to accommodate our sub-standard conduct.


Questions about Mirabella's admissions need to be answered by Turnbull as well as his still-grieving predecessor Tony Abbott, out and about spruiking his self-serving Quadrant essay(s) and photo-shopped legacy in the hope of being relected to Warringah and ultimately restored to the prime ministership.

Tones has two simultaneous campaigns on foot. Like Mirabella, he's trying to reclaim a throne.

Tell him he's wet dreaming.

On his first day on the hustings he reminded Australia why he was dumped in favour of Turnbull.

"This is my legacy, this is Malcolm Turnbull's legacy, this is our legacy..."  Yeah, right.


Then there is The Third Man in Sophie's million dollar hospital scandal who must also face scrutiny – Peter Dutton – the ill-appointed former health minister that Abbott also appointed minister for immigration and border protection and whom Turnbull carelessly rolled over in the same portfolio, rebranding Dutton dressed up as spam as one of his "old for new" cabinet.

Ultimately, a fat lot of no good these shonky dealings did for Mirabella. She was not re-elected to Indi in 2013.

Mirabella's illuminating outburst prompted Shadow Health Minister Catherine King, to call for auditor general George Brandis to investigate what she described as "political retribution:.

That may not be enough. And not just because Brandis clearly has little time for political ethics, protocol or the humanities.


But because, hey, if he doesn't bother responding to regular pen pals like Lindt Cafe seige murderer Man Haron Monis then he ain't likely to respond to a shadow minister.

Whilst neither Halal nor Kosher, our wider community seems to have become enured to the prevelance of blatant pork-barreling (apols to piggies). For most, this is now the default mode of pre-election real politicking. At least it is upfront.

But hang on, there was something decidedly odd about Mirabella's ominous admission that night. Her inducement was strangely covert and provisional on her restoration to Indi, and would be announced after the election results. How so?

Our work here is not yet done.


Why should we tolerate unethical behaviour, either from Mirabella or others who think that votes can be bought with a manicured fistful of dollars?

We are entitled to know how many more secret bribes (a rose by any other name would not smell as sweet) were made, not only by Mirabella but also by other members of the coalition to anyone else, including multinationals, corporations, institutions, individuals and all those involved in the process of tenders.

A fat lot of no good these shonky dealings did for Mirabella since she was not re-elected to Indi in 2013.


She should be hauled from the hustings toute de suite and, further, stood down from her bizarre appointment as a non-executive director of the Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC), recently announced as builders of our new submarines.

What was Tony thinking ?

It's difficult to fathom why Mirabella was deemed eligible for this submarine gig.

At Captain Abbott's behest, mere weeks after Mirabella's squandering of Indi, the then Minister for Industry, Mathias "Arnie" Cormann, he of the girlie mantology jibe about Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, announced Mirabella's astonishing new role.

No doubt, the job helped salve Mirabella's bruised ego, enabling her to pocket at least $70,000 in annual voodoo doll pin money.

Perhaps it was also suppposed to keep her occupied and encourage the big noter to keep her trap shut about inducements. Silly Billy Tones.

The fact that she is a liability to the Coalition may be of little consequence, but while she sits on the ASC Board, she also remains a liability to Australia's local and global security.



In that excruciating televised performance before the nation, Mirabella proved that even under mild duress she is a security risk — both a threat and insult to our national intelligence, defence forces and international relationships.

Hanging out the Government's soiled budgie smugglers is one thing, but mouthing off about national secrets, as well she might, is quite another.

What role if any did Mirabella have in the tender process? Given her admissions on Sky TV, we are entitled to know if she had direct contact with any of the contenders — or with their agents and/or representatives.

Read Part Two: Loose lips sink ships! Submarine Sophie Mirabella a security risk

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