It was not only the shameful pork-barreling – the trademark of the Nats – but the arrogance coupled with ignorance exhibited by Nats’ leader and deputy PM Mark Vaile over the Auditor-General’s report on the Regional Partnerships rort that indicates just why this government is so on the nose.

The cynical contempt for democracy and accountability is truly breathtaking.

No government has ever politicised the public service to the extent that Howard has done, nor has any government ever stacked public body boards with such outrageously partisan appointments, like the right-wing extremist at the ABC, Janet Albrechtsen, whose economic and social views are equivalent to Al Qaeda’s rewriting of international relations theory (but this might not be fair to Osama).

But for Vaile to seek to slur the Auditor-General and suggest somehow the timing of his important report was itself political is to compound his and the government’s venality and amorality many times over.

Indeed, had the Auditor suppressed the report until after the election, simply because it was politically inconvenient, he might well have faced some justifiable critical scrutiny of his own actions.

The Auditor, for a start, is not a public servant; he does not take his orders from politicians. But the rustic Mr Vaile, it seems, does not know the difference between a public servant and an officer of the parliament. (Shades of Joh perhaps, when asked if he knew what the separation of powers meant?)

Mr Vaile just might be in contempt of parliament.

The underlying morality (or lack of it) is that you can try to buy off the voters, and even try to buy off staunch independents like Tony Windsor with shabby offers and subsequent denials, and when all else fails, go for intimidation.

But then political sophistication is hardly a Nats characteristic. After all, these were the people who meekly followed the Liberals’ economic rationalist program that carved such a swathe through rural Australia as services and facilities disappeared.

So much for sticking up for the bush. (And this, in part, explains the solid votes over the years for the late Peter Andren, the incorruptible Tony Windsor, and the inimitable Bob Katter.)

They will die unmourned.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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