Crikey editor Misha Ketchell writes:


Victorian Government enforcer Rob Hulls has got himself into a quite
a tangle in the past 24 hours defending his Government’s efforts to dig
dirt on new Opposition leader Ted Baillieu after a diary from a
Government staffer revealed plans to conduct a search on Baillieu’s
wife and children.

Saying black is white is one of the dirty tasks delegated to political
head kickers, and Victorian Attorney General Rob Hulls has been wheeled
out to quarantine
Premier Steve Bracks’ nice guy image from this mess. Given that
this is one of his assigned roles, he might have been expected to do it
better.

We all know that governments have dirt units, but it’s probably not a
good idea when you’ve been caught red-handed to act as though your
dirty laundry is nothing to be ashamed of.
Contrition is called for. Instead Hulls has been acting as though
prying into the wife and children of a senior political is ordinary
business. The Australian quotes him thus:

Let’s be frank about this: politicians are always subjected
to public scrutiny … Whether it be me or the Premier, or Mr Baillieu,
or anyone else, we
are all subject to public scrutiny, and it is an obligation upon all of
us to declare any private interest we have or any interest that our
family members have that may cause a conflict or a perception of a
conflict.

Come again? There’s an unwritten rule in politics and journalism
that not only are families of public figures off limits, so largely are
their private lives – unless there is an over-riding public interest.
If Hulls honestly believes what he’s saying, we’re quite happy to
oblige
by probing his family and private life. I suspect if we did that,
he’d quickly change his tune. Meanwhile this morning we received an
interesting tip on dirt unit operations from a Spring Street insider:

Is the Bracks Government properly
scrutinising its staffers? On the day that Tom Cargill’s dirt
unit
inside Attorney General Rob Hulls’ office was uncovered by a misplaced
diary and the day after two spewing Sheryl Garbutt advisers screamed “unfair
dismissal”
, it now seems that Minister for Consumer Affairs Marsha Thomson
has hired the distinguished Pete Marcenzko, former acting General Secretary of
the bankrupted Melbourne University Student Union. Marcenzko comes fresh from a
protracted bout of legal wrangling with litigious
MUSU liquidator Dean McVeigh and often boasts of his involvement in the
post-Soviet sale of student assets to himself. Alongside beleaguered CEO John
Gunn, he proudly presided over a spate of dodgy deals detailed by
Crikey
in 2004. They sure do pick
‘em down Spring Street way.

Business as usual?

Peter Fray

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