John Howard is standing behind Ross “of the desert” Lightfoot – not with any
enthusiasm but purely because he needs his Senate seat, especially after 1
July. Senior minsters giggled at Lightfoot’s absurd adventure as the PM told
parliament yesterday that the rogue senator’s latest explanation of his
behaviour was “credible”.

“Credible” is the last word one could apply to the behaviour of Western
Australia’s Walter Mitty during this affair. But while the facts are one thing,
the politics are another. On 1 July, the Coalition will hold a one-seat
majority in the Senate. Up until now, the Nationals have been claiming the
balance of power, and throwing around ultimatums like a $7 billion bush optic
network dream in return for the full sale of Telstra. (See report here.)

Suddenly, rogue Nationals making ambit claims aren’t so annoying to Howard, and
Lightfoot becomes very important. The PM will protect his Senate majority with
everything he’s got. And if that means holding his nose and defending Lighfoot,
that’s what he’ll do.

Today’s revelations by Nicolas Rothwell in The Australian that Lightfoot admitted carrying in the cash will add to pressure on Howard.
But it will take more than even the might of the Murdoch empire to activate a
serious inquiry into the affair, especially with parliament shutting down
yesterday for seven weeks and pollies scattering to the four corners of the
earth – although presumably not to Kurdistan.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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