Mud flies in a tit-for-tat tussle

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LABOR’S John Hargreaves has the propensity to put his foot in his mouth. He is no longer a minister. He is no longer Government whip.

Demotion and the loss of $12,102 is a steep penalty for an inappropriate homophobic comment he made in a note passed to the Liberal Alistair Coe in the Assembly 18 months ago.

It came as Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher, had applied the torch to Opposition Leader Zed Seselja. The Liberals were able to return fire because of a stupid “larrikin” lapse by Hargreaves.

Coe had been biding his time. With his boss cornered, the inappropriate note suddenly took on a new level of importance. Instead of the Liberals being slowly roasted, the focus changed to a tit-for-tat battle.

Misuse of taxpayers’ money is a serious matter and one that will be investigated thoroughly by former Royal Commissioner, Ron McLeod.

However, the debate in the Assembly provided an insight into the carelessness in the Liberal Party, which was last year forced to repay $10,000 of taxpayers’ money in another matter. They did not learn the lesson and now stand accused of having Liberal Party staff paid for by the taxpayer.

“The principles of Parliamentary purity”, was how Hargreaves argued at the beginning of the sitting fortnight, calling for an “independent audit of staffing arrangements”.

“This parliament is supposed to be an example,” he said, but at that stage, of course, it was not about him.

As the debate continued over the sitting period, Seselja expressed frustration.

“It is simply part of a political witch hunt in an election year, making grubby allegations in the Assembly under parliamentary privilege that you are not prepared to back up outside,” he complained.

Then Seselja switched to a witch hunt of his own. It was time to sic Coe on to Hargreaves. Tit-for-tat!

The homophobic note, written in August 2010, that Coe had been sitting on for just the right moment, had the Chief Minister describing it as “in very poor taste, a lapse in judgement and another embarrassment”.

It certainly was not in the spirit of “parliamentary purity”!

It was hard to see through the Legislative Assembly windscreen for the mud thrown up over the last sitting period. The Treasurer introduced an Appropriation Bill for additional monies – a matter that should have received serious attention. Liberal Vicki Dunne tabled the report of the Justice and Community Safety Committee on prostitution. There was legislation tabled by the Liberals, the Greens and the Government. Legislation was debated on food, children and young people, transplantation and anatomy, and a range of other important issues.

But they disappeared in the quagmire. In politics, the negatives work and the real effort gets lost in the mud slinging.

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Michael Moore
Michael Moore is a former member of the ACT Legislative Assembly and an independent minister for health in the Carnell government. He has been a political columnist with "CityNews" since 2006.

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