From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …
The first leak? One of the notable signs of how dysfunctional the Abbott government became toward the end of its short, yet overlong, life was the frequency and detail of leaks from cabinet, which meant media reports looked more and more like the minutes from the official Cabinet Note Taker as fights seamlessly shifted from the cabinet room to the press — that is, of course, when Abbott himself wasn’t running to News Corp with cabinet submissions before taking them to his colleagues. Malcolm Turnbull’s government has been less like a colander than its predecessor, which is why it’s an alarming sign that someone in cabinet saw fit to leak against Attorney-General George Brandis to The Courier-Mail. And not just any old leak, but one on the button-pushing topic of paedophiles: Brandis allegedly argued against laws that would ban convicted paedophiles from travelling overseas without permission, as to do so would be a form of double punishment imposed by the legislature, not courts.
While it’s interesting that Brandis — after years of undertaking outrageous impositions on basic rights, like his mass surveillance data retention scheme — is belatedly discovering his inner civil liberties advocate, our attention was drawn to a comment from Brandis’ spokesman to the C-M that “it is not appropriate or lawful to comment on cabinet discussions”.
Oh, really? Since when was it unlawful for cabinet ministers to comment on cabinet discussions? Public servants can’t, but cabinet ministers can comment on whatever they like. It’s merely a convention — albeit one of the stronger ones within our system of government — that ministers don’t leave cabinet and go discuss what happened with journalists. Plenty, of course, do, on both sides, although Labor’s period in opposition has been highly unusual in there being very few leaks at all from shadow cabinet, though that might have something to do with the departure from politics of certain high-profile former Labor MPs. But we found it rather amusing that the office of the first law officer invented a new criminal offence to justify not confirming a leak against him.
More than 10 years of homophobia. This weekend’s controversy over the Dads4Kids advertisement, which wasn’t shown on television after the group refused to put a political authorisation message at the end of the TV commercial, isn’t the first time the group has caused headaches for a government. Dads4Kids is also known as the Fatherhood Foundation, which was founded by Warwick Marsh and his wife, Alison, and has been in existence since 2002, with tax deductibility status since 2006. In 2008 Warwick Marsh was appointed as a men’s health ambassador by then-health minister Nicola Roxon — but he lasted just two days in the position after it was revealed the Fatherhood Foundation had published a document called “21 Reasons Why Gender Matters”. The document labelled homosexuality, bisexuality and transgender people as preventable and treatable conditions, and also linked homosexuality and paedophilia. The group has taken down its website and Facebook page since then, but documents submitted to the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission show that Warwick Marsh is still the principal officer of the organisation.
Preselection whispers. Spring is in the air, and so is preselection, with a tipster telling us the Labor members in the seat of Corangamite are getting ready to cast their votes for who will take on the Liberals’ Sarah Henderson in the marginal seat, which includes areas of Geelong. Our source tells us the likely challenger will be either Libby Coker, who polled 46.9% (two-party preferred) last election, and local businesswoman Diana Taylor. Taylor is on the Geelong Football Club board — a useful connection for anyone trying to make it in that town. Preselections are happening at different levels across the country — got some goss? You can share it with us here.
Doctor, doctor, give me the news. Concerned mum of the No campaign Dr Pansy Lai has become the target of a GetUp campaign. The left-wing group has called on the Australian Medical Association to deregister Lai for “violation of its code of ethics and violation of the Declaration of Geneva”. Lai also told The Australian she has been the subject of phone and social media “threats” including being told she would be shot “this week”.
Destroying the joint. NSW MP and leader of the Christian Democrats Fred Nile has made a new appointment to his staff, with Edwin Dyga taking on the role of chief of staff, a Crikey tipster tells us. Dyga is the convener of the Sydney Traditionalists Forum, which describes itself as “the first explicitly paleoconservative-leaning association in Australia. We are the only local group that embraces the political currents of contemporary dissident reaction.”
Dyga wrote for Quadrant last year that:
“Effeminate abstracta are the reason for the reflexive patheticism that characterises public responses to entirely avoidable catastrophes, from the New York World Trade Centre and London tube attacks, the Bali and Madrid Bombings, and onwards.”
He also quoted fellow Sydney Traditionalists Forum member Michael Tung in the piece, approving of the sentiment that politics is a male arena:
“As Michael Tung emphasises in the 2015 Symposium of the Sydney Traditionalist Forum:
‘This is because the State and the political sphere are inherently masculine. To deviate from this is to feminise politics and detach the State from its higher, supra-individual aims […] it is precisely since the Hearth of Vesta has encroached upon the altars and debating chambers that these institutions have taken such a turn for the worse.'”
The piece rails against social justice and soft power and seems to blame terrorism on women in politics, name-checking Penny Wong, Peta Credlin and Angela Merkel. We called Nile’s office to see how he feels about these views — Nile’s wife, Silvana Nero-Nile, was a candidate for the party last year, as were a number of women. We called Nile’s office to find out what he thought and who should answer the phone but Dyga himself — we sent an email with our questions confirming just how Dyga is employed, and if Nile stands by his views on women in politics. Dyga told us he would “entertain your email”. We haven’t heard back by deadline.