While the festive season has brought a spate of incidents involving Parliamentarians, their antics sadly go on all year round. Some MPs are definitely the gifts that keep on giving.
Up in the Sunshine state, Gold Coast MP Phil Gray has the frail, aged and media running for cover. The Member for Gaven threatened to sue two of his elderly constituents for voicing their opinion along with a local publisher if it reported his clangers. In a hopelessly inarticulate letter he told one of the women, a 74-year-old pensioner, she’ll face legal action if she doesn’t stop slights on his character that are ‘patiently’ untrue.
“I care not why (sic) you say about my opponent but I care deeply about slights on my character and I ask that you desist from making such comments. If I am informed that this has occurred in the future I will have no hesitation is (sic) pursuing my defence (sic) in the courts,” he wrote.
Days later, a 63-year-old woman revealed Gray had already launched litigation against her for a casual reference to his “exile” from the ALP in an internal Party memo. Bedridden after major surgery the Labor volunteer said a letter from Gray’s lawyers claimed the MP wanted $10,000 for the “hurt and embarrassment” caused by the remark.
“Politicians seem to have less civil and legal rights in this country than others” whined the former teacher who clearly forgot he and other state and federal MPs enjoy what is called parliamentary privilege – immunity in the parliament from the charges with which he menaced his victim. Just months out from a state election Premier Anna Bligh has warned Gray to consider his political future that resumed as Bligh assured the women the litigation was off and they could expect nothing from Gray other than an apology.
Rockhampton MP Robert Schwarten is also a shoot-from-the lip intractable who recently gave one more rendition of his “blokey behaviour” at another late-night sitting in the House. A couple of months back he denied asking ALP defector Ronan Lee to “step outside” the parliamentary dining room but this time he fessed up to menacing LNP front-bencher Jann Stuckey with an “I’ll get you” as she left the chamber. Over the years Schwarten’s pumped-up performances have been well-documented including his post Labor Day Picnic dustup with federal MP Kirsten Livermore’s husband and fallouts with other MPs including Jan Jarratt and Ray Hopper. Schwarto’s now on notice over his ‘light-hearted digs’ that this time left Jann Stuckey “visibly shaken”.
Nationals’ MP Andrew Fraser also traumatizes colleagues by going ballistic on the floor of the NSW House. Last month in a melee around the dispatch box he shoved a fellow MP trying to comfort him and let fly with laced invective. Back in 2005 he lost the plot and his Party’s deputy leadership for trying to throttle Labor’s Joe Tripodi.
This time the hostilities followed Christmas drinks during debate on legislation aimed at reducing alcohol-related violence. But it’s not just the silly season that sends them off.
In 2006 Len Kiely was stood down as the NT’s Deputy Speaker after making obscene suggestions to a security worker in a government corporate box. As host to business and community leaders during an International cricket match Kiely said he regretted telling the woman he had “a very long tongue and could use it to make her a happy woman”. He also admitted he’d lost count of his alcohol consumption although event organisers reported an estimated 107 Crown Lager stubbies had been consumed in the box over the day. A brief backbench exile followed his crass act but after a ministerial reshuffle he’s now back as the Minister for Natural Resources.
Queensland’s former Emergency Services Minister Pat Purcell is sitting out his last days as the Member for Bulimba. When he was found guilty by a CMC Inquiry of slogging a couple of senior bureaucrats police charged Purcell with two counts of common assault. After months of denying the offences Purcell clinched a pre-court deal whereby he confessed to the attacks as the aggrieved were compensated. Premier Bligh consented to him departing public life “at a time of his choosing’ and he went back into the House to max out his retirement package on a promise he’d not stand at the next election.
Former Olympic aerial skier and now Victorian Labor MP Kirstie Marshall remains on thin ice over allegations she assaulted a Melbourne taxi driver outside Crown Casino earlier this year. The Victorian Taxi Association is dealing with two complaints from drivers about Ms Marshall. One alleges she was “just plain rude” and the other says Ms Marshall stepped in front of his moving cab and tried to pull the keys from the ignition. A senior Labor Party source says the stoush started when Ms Marshall and her electorate officer were refused service by the hailed cab with passengers inside. Ms Marshall believed the taxi driver couldn’t refuse to take the pair as her friend was on crutches.
A sexual harassment scandal temporarily stalled State Victorian Liberal Richard Dalla Riva’s political career in 2007 but he’s back as Opposition spokesman for State Development. Described by his Party as a “knock-about bloke” the former police officer was reported to parliament for comments made and text messages sent to an 18-year-old woman he drove home from a Party fundraiser. The matter was settled with an apology, confidentiality agreement and six months on the back bench.