While Tony Abbott has done spectacular work to get the Coalition into a competitive, and perhaps even a winning position federally, the Liberal National Party has been quietly — at least in national terms — but effectively undoing all his work in Queensland.
The new party, which was only created in 2008, had its first defectors recently, with new state MP Aidan McLindon and Rob Messenger becoming independents. Two LNP candidates have since followed. Meantime, there’s been controversy over the party’s preselection process — the most democratic of any major party — which threw up 19-year old Wyatt Roy for the winnable seat of Longman. Warren Entsch, the gay-friendly former MP for Leichhardt who is making a comeback after retiring in 2010, has faced accusations that he is using his entitlements as a former MP to fund his election campaign. Not to mention the continuing series of stuff-ups by Peter Dutton, the future Liberal leader who seems to entirely lack the most basic political judgement.
And then there’s Michael Johnson, a long-time Crikey favourite, whose “Khemlani Kapers” kept Christian Kerr’s readers entertained for so long. Johnson has committed the unforgivable sin, for a conservative MP, of earning the ire of The Australian, doubtless fuelled by Johnson’s many and varied party enemies.
Johnson’s most notable appearance in recent months was in Question Time earlier in the year when, given the privilege of asking a question, he responded to Labor jeers by offering to say it in Mandarin. “Got a branch stack coming up have you?” Daryl Melham instantly bellowed back. While most of Johnson’s shenanigans have revolved around his Australia China Development Association, which funds his extensive overseas travel, a new front has been opened up by The Oz on the issue of seeking a finder’s-fee-style commission to broker a deal between a local coal company and a Chinese firm.
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Tony Abbott, who has been around long enough to know exactly what sort of quality MP Johnson is, was asked about him on Brisbane talkback radio three weeks ago, and admitted “there’s been a few hiccups there. I think Michael is a good local Member, and I certainly think he’s been a significant contributor to our team in Canberra. So, um, I’d like all that to be resolved and I’d like to see Mike returned.”
Johnson has Abbott’s full support, Abbott said.
Reckon that falls within the “non-gospel truth” category of Abbott statements, if not now, then very shortly, as Johnson’s career gets on a slow boat to China.