On Lateline last night Hockey was squirming, refusing to answer relevant questions and repeating Turnbull's breathtakingly arrogant analogy between their 'special friends' (or is it 'little mates'?) in the Australian Public Service and a journalist's sources. This brings yet another dishonest ploy into the utegate fiasco. The two are clearly different and both Hockey and Turnbull know it.
If politics and journalism rely on members of the Commonwealth Senior Executive Service to breach their contracts, their code of conduct, their responsibilities to the sitting minister and ultimately the public, while being paid at least $150,000 per annum, then this sits in what might be described as a grey area of law and ethics. It is not something to simply sneer and dismiss as a concern in every case.
Whistleblowing in the face of overt concerns about breaches of ethics by others, or manifest public interest, is quite different to merely helping your ideological mates and acting as an ongoing mole. That is dishonest and unethical. For the journalist or politician who receives such information the matter may be less clear, as it is accepted that they use virtually everything they can get their hands on in the course of their work.
However this case is clearly different.
Allegations remain largely speculative and piecemeal, but with the following presently in the public sphere:
- That the email was a piece of fraud, designed as a direct attack on the holders of the two highest offices in this land;
- A strong relationship between the upper echelons of the Liberal Party and Godwin Grech going back years;
- Bucketloads of circumstantial evidence swirling around that suggests Grech may have been involved in the creating or proliferation of the email;
- Bucketloads of circumstantial evidence swirling around that suggests Grech is inconsistent with the truth, and has not met (to put it at the minimum) basic expectations that come with being a very highly paid member of the Senior Executive Service of the APS;
we deserve and are owed a full explanation of why the obvious joining of the dots should not take place.
Turnbull's patronising tone towards the reporter last night was vintage truffles: the arrogant, unrepentant spoilt brat whose contacts, blue ribbon background and sheer bullying prescence have always got him his way.
Surely he looked at that footage later, in the overall context where he is fighting for his political life, and thought: What Was I Thinking? It was as if Latham, a day after grabbing Howard's hand too hard, turned and put Brendan Nelson in a bearhug.
Rudd's decision to avoid a night of the long knives in the APS was in some ways admirable, but this affair has surely damaged the careers of those who want to be able to move between working for the political party of their choice, and working for the public service.
A tribute to Fred Gruen - A few weeks ago, I gave the FH Gruen lecture, on the topic After reform: the economic policy agenda in the 21st century. Thanks to sound editor Simon Kravi...
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