Tuesday June 27, 2017

#BattleRort Reloaded

Written by David Marler
Hits: 3639


#BattleRort Reloaded  

Who is this man Abbott who would be PM?

Perhaps new media has been approaching #BattleRort from the wrong angle.  After all, it's difficult enough to get journalists to listen and take interest in an issue at the best of times.

The conversation between new media and old media has generally been along these lines:

NM: "Tony Abbott used tax payer funds to promote his book, Battlelines."

OM: "Yeah, but he's paid it all back, since."

NM: "But... shouldn't you take a further look at his other travel expenses history?"

OM: "If we did that, we'd have to look into all politicians. Besides, it all happened 2 years ago. It's ancient history."

NM: "It's a travel rort!"

OM: "They all do it. Tony Burke paid back some expenses too."

NM: "What about Peter Slipper!?"

OM: "Calm down, Bridie. He's paid his back too."

NM: "No he hasn't! He's having to go to court.  The James Ashby case..."

OM: "Oh, you're one of those citizen journalists."

At this point, OM is thinking NM is part of a group of Leftie crackpots.

However, the key to understanding #BattleRort is 'The Minchin Protocol'.

Let's start here.

In 1998, the then Howard Government Senator, Nick Minchin was forced to repay $3,150 in travel allowances that he admitted to incorrectly claiming during the '96 election campaign.

As Minchin was special secretary of state, it was a somewhat awkward position for himself and the government.  He devised a new convention that said all MPs could silently repay expenses that were found by Finance to have been incorrectly claimed.

An example might be, say, a cab fare.

While the exchanges between the department and the MP are confidential, any documents relating to repayments are still accessible through freedom of information (FOI).

This new system was dubbed, "The Minchin Protocol".

There have been many cases over the years of MPs repaying various sums of money from all sides of politics; Labor, Liberal, National, Greens and Bob Katter.  MPs are generally given some sort of warning and an explanation why it was inappropriately claimed.

While former Prime Minister Julia Gillard was forced to explain her repayments to parliament, none of these instances were ever referred to the Australia Federal Police (AFP).

Enter Peter Slipper and the sexual harassment case being brought against him by former staffer, James Ashby. When Justice Steven Rares threw out the case, he also threw out $14,000 worth of repayed travel expenses.

At some point after this, an unknown person alerted the AFP to more incorrectly claimed travel expenses. When Slipper found out from journalists that this had been reported he contacted Finance and attempted to repay the debt.

However, as the case was now under investigation, it was no longer permissible.  The Minchin Protocol was denied to him.

Peter Slipper was charged with misuse of $900 worth of car travel and now faces an expensive court case.

Questions remain. Who called the cops on Peter Slipper?  What was their motive; given that the Minchin Protocol allowed a clear precedent for such an error of this nature to be corrected? 

Now contrast and compare. Tony Abbott has repaid $9,400 in travel expenses claimed incorrectly when touring Australia to promote his book, Battlelines.

In a 2010 piece at ABC's The Drum website, journalist Glenn Milne first asked questions about how this book tour had been funded.  No journalist followed up on this until this year when NoFibs editor, Margo Kingston decided to find out through FOI if any repayments had been made.

They had.

When Peta Credlin became Tony Abbott's chief of staff, she claimed she noticed the error and contacted Finance to make the repayment.

The FOI report was picked up by Fairfax journalists Bianca Hall and Jonathan Swan who ran a story the next day. As it hit the mainstream media, it prompted a question to Tony Abbott at a presser. He denied misusing taxpayer funds on the tour despite his CoS making a repayment.

This prompted The Guardian's Bridie Jabour to publish a piece, also.  The next day at a pie shop, she repeatedly questioned Mr Abbott about his use of taxpayer funds and why he denied misuse of funds.

"It was fully dealt with last year," he repeated.

Clearly annoyed, finally he told Ms Jabour to, "Calm down."

In the following days, Sun Herald columnists Andrew Bolt and Rita Panhi charged in to attack Ms Jabour and frame her as a Leftie activist journalist.

Why such an effort from them to discredit a fellow journalist?

Had she exposed a raw nerve amongst the conservative press?

So, we have two MPs. Mr Slipper and Mr Abbott. The first was denied the Minchin Protocol and faces court. The other was allowed to, 'fully deal with the matter last year'.

At this point, we can begin to analyse the MP who would be PM.

You can begin by drilling down into other activities that Tony Abbott claimed travel expenses for. When he partakes in 'pollie pedal', the travel expenses he incurs are claimed back from the taxpayer. So to are the expenses from various beach swimming carnivals he has attended. You can read more examples in the link below.

Parliament post election 2010, was dedicated to countless hours questioning the character of former Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Endless opinion pieces flowed from the press gallery.

She had to endure hours of questions from both the Opposition and the media over her involvement as a lawyer and the AWU. To date, nothing has ever come from it.

Given that Tony Abbott represents the party of low government spending and may go on to become the next Prime Minister, shouldn't he receive the same level of in-depth analysis from the media?

Given his history, why not investigate all of his expense claims?

Is there something the 4th estate is afraid of finding or is it just laziness?

Why is the media so reluctant to scrutise his character to the same extent as Julia Gillard?

The questions, not only challenge the character of Abbott but the very nature of the media in Australia.

The #BattleRort Scandal   Ultimately, #BattleRort goes to the core question of the conscientious voter. When confronted with that ballot list of politicians on election day, we must ask; who really is this person that desires to represent me?

Click left to read more in-depth articles and view the live twitter feed on #BattleRort

The Big Wet: Bundaberg Flood 2013

Qld School Closures

#Qldpol Manor

#Qldpol Manor  Saving Qld's School Closures Ovals from sell-off   The Pay Rise Qld MPs Had To Have

S5 Box