Note – this column was written about a month before the 2007 Australia election, at a time when the Liberals were still claiming that their polls showed that they would retain the seat of Eden Monaro, despite every single other poll showing the opposite.
Australian politics has reached a new low in my opinion.
It is now a matter of public record that the Australian Labour Party candidate for the seat of Eden-Monaro, just on the borders of the ACT, has been compared to a Nazi concentration camp guard. And who made this documented and public accusation? None other than the Chief of Staff for the Special Minister of State, Garry Nairn.
Specifically, that Chief of Staff, one Dr Phelps, first compared the candidate, Mike Kelly, former Colonel in the Australian Army, and his service in Iraq with that of a guard at a Nazi concentration camp. He then suggested that Kelly was taking the Nazi Nurembourg defence i.e. just following orders.
It was Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Julia Guillard, who raised this matter in Parliament. Ms Guillard raised it and Mr Nairn agreed to respond. However his response was frankly pretty weak and entirely dodged the issue. Ms Guillard rose to her feet a second time, this time pointing out that the public debate where this accusation was made by Dr Phelps was recorded. Further that this recording was played on ABC radio, with a transcript now publicly available. Minister Nairn responded a second time. He now made a vague statement about such behaviour being unacceptable from anyone in Australian society and that he would speak to Dr Phelps.
Did Minister Nairn take this opportunity to assure the Australian public that such behaviour by anyone associated with government was unacceptable and would be dealt with? No. Just a vague suggestion to talk to Phelps. Pathetic Minister Nairn. Simply pathetic.
The really silly thing about this situation is the predicament that the Government finds itself in with respect to Nairn’s seat of Eden-Monaro. The Liberal Party claims that its polls show that it will retain the seat of Eden-Monaro. However no details of these alleged polls are ever released. Every other poll that has been conducted and published, shows that the Liberals will definitely not win the seat. The Libs definitely have a problem on their hands in that seat, but should they loose it as they will almost certainly do, it will be everybody else’s fault but their own. This was a gift of an opportunity to be seen to be a strong government, acting in a responsible fashion. Instead, Nairn, with clear support from his parliamentary colleagues, basically ducked the issue.
Say hooroo to Eden-Monaro kids.
Postscript – Eden-Monaro was an early Liberal casualty on election night, with a visibly upset Gary Nairn claming this was solely the fault of opposition campaign in the seat that started long before the election was called. Of course he naturally omitted to mention the significant resources poured into the seat by the Coalition. Yep – everybody else’s fault but their own.