The sideshow of Malcolm Turnbull and Godwin Grech dominated the Saturday papers, to a level of unusual saturation. All this, and federal parliament is not even sitting. The howls will get louder next week, when sittings resume.
First causality upon resumption will be the government's emissions trading scheme (or "climate change" legislation), a basket-case piece of legislation that no one supports, not even the Greens.
Turnbull and co will vote it down, at least first time up, which will handsomely reward Rudd, who can then carp and wheeze over the lack of environmental credentials within the coalition. It won't be true. Bad legislation with long term and damaging consequenses should not be passed by the coalition or anyone else. That's not the story or the spin Rudd and our intrepid Aussie journalists will place in it though.
Second casualty will be the entire country, as the ALP moves to send the Utegate affair off to a senate privilages committee, thereby requiring that Grech eventually be dragged from his bed in the local psychiatric ward, from whence he currently can't even take a stroll around the hospital corridors, let alone outside, because of the rabid public and press interest in his person.
Rudd isn't motived by a new chance to pillar the pitiable Grech; he's after Turnbull, which, quite frankly is superflous to requirements. Kicking a dead man, even a dead politician, is a waste of parliamentary time, money and public oxygen. Turnbull is his own worst advertisment. Rudd doesn't need to, and shouldn't, do anything more. If Turnbull has persistently shown lack of judgement at every step over the Grech collusion, Rudd and everyone else is showing equal lack of judgement by refusing to drop the whole thing, by insisting that the story drag on and on and on and on with a privilages committee. Unseemly doesn't come close to describing the twadry and unnecessary action. We already know as much as we need to. Another commitee isn't going to uncover useful or actionable information.
Knowing that he'll promptly be hauled before another senate committee upon release from hospital can't possibly be a soothing thought for Grech.
There's still time for Senator Fielding to again reject the senate inquiry, but it's looking as though he will support it when proposed a second time, which is unfortunate for all of us - Fielding had it just right the first time around.
Notably, two articles in The Weekend Australia caught up, days late, with my thinking - woot! How nice to see that our top journo's are avidly reading and appropriating from this little blog, albeit, it takes them some time to get with the program.
For what it's worth, senior Labor strategists reckon they'll be fighting Abbott at the next election.Well, yeah. Said that already, and one hardly needs to talk to a Labor strategist to come up with a bleedin' obvious outcome. The Monk will lead, one way or another. All he has to do is wait until the others fall over and skate to gold. Bit of a no brainer.
Another opinion piece referenced Grech as being from "central casting", which was a turn of phase tossed out on this little blog some days ago.
And, of course, every opinion writer has now jumped on board, after weeks of having to think long and hard, to question Turnbull's capability as a political leader. Two months of thinking about it! But, hey, that's OK. Many online commenters are praising our slow journ's for their balanced and accurate portrayal of Turnbull's performance, vigourously agreeing with what should have been (but apparently wasn't) slap-in-the-face character short-comings in the man who would be prime minister.
Forget government debt, rising unemployment, the education revolution that won't be bought about by overpriced school halls, the price of fuel and groceries (oh how they continue to outstrip inflation by ten country miles!), hosptials, healh, childcare, immigration policies, terrorism activities, interest rate rises, housing affordability. Forget anything of significant meaning and consequence for the proletariate voter, in other words. The whole lot will be drowned out by Turnbull & Grech and the climate bill - specifically it's rejection - and a Labor-induced insistence that an early poll will be needed on that one issue. The whipping up of hysterics over a bad piece of legislation, will dominate politics during the next six months. Despite the fact that there's no chance of the Rudd government losing the next election and pretty much no chance that Turnbull will be leading the coalition to the next election.
Scrutiny of government policies and implementations will be forgone over these diversions.
One wonders what this government would have done in it's first term, what would have been achieved, if not for the diversionary bliss of the global financial crisis, and now the Grech affair.
A cursory glance suggests that the lack luster performance of Labor, who had promised so much during the election, has been saved by two fairly small crisis: one has barely grazed Australia, and the other should be left to bleed out in the quiet suburbs of Canberra.
But let's get back to the Turnbull narrative, which is turning out to be one of significant consistency.
Geoffrey Cousins has jumped in to give Turnbull a big whack to the head and ego, claiming that Turnbull is a tad useless in politics because he stands for nothing (true, by the way), and that his vaunted business credentials are overblown. Oh, he also suggests that Turnbull sits on the unethical side of the divide.
"In a discussion about political ideology, he says he doesn't have any; that he has had all this experience as a businessman," Mr Cousins said yesterday. "Therefore he is saying to the Australian people: 'I can't say what my political ideas are; I am a practical person' and he's really asking people to vote for him on the basis of when he gets in they'll discover how he provides practical solutions to problems."
He even takes issue with Mr Turnbull's central selling point: his business success. "His business experience is not all that impressive -- he is someone who happens to have made a bit of money because he invested in OzEmail, but that is not running a company," he said." [Ouch - ed.]
"Mr Cousins said Mr Turnbull "exhibits a significant lack of understanding of ethics and what I would call proper behaviour". He cited Mr Turnbull's boast in the Quarterly Essay about his betrayal of Kerry Packer during their joint Tourang consortium bid in 1991 to take over the Fairfax Media group.
In the piece, Mr Turnbull admitted that after falling out with Packer he leaked damaging notes by ACP intimate Trevor Kennedy to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, leading to Packer being thrown out of the consortium.
"At that time he was still a director of Tourang and his actions were a breach of a director's duties. I conclude that he is not a person into whose hands you should consider placing government, based on his own words," Mr Cousins said"
Turnbull decided not to "dignify" these "personal attacks" with a response. Lame. Very, very lame. Turnbull is the leader of the Liberal party, and man putting himself font and centre, yet he won't define his beliefs, policies, ideology, nor defend past behaviors that are so well documented that they're almost folklaw in Oz. These matters are not personal attacks, they're legitimate lines of inquiry into the future intentions of a member of our parliament, one who only recently and recklessly attacked, quite personally, the current Prime Minister and Treasurer.
Now some more on the mysteries of Godwin Grech.
Grech is convinced that he did receive an email from the prime minister's office on February 19. That's the email that couldn't be found by forensic search. That's the email that Grech reconstructed to show Turnbull.
How does Grech recall so clearly the date of the alleged email?
Why has a response to the email never been mentioned, by a man who obsessively responds to correspondence, most often with Treasury executives copied in?
Was this the one and only email in his lifetime to which Grech failed to provide a response, not even a courtesy "request noted", or "I will let you know progress", or something?
Even Grech has not claimed that he replied to the email. Seemingly, no one has put the question to him.
Possibly the date, the specifics and insistence, is nothing more than a red herring.
Anyway, the faked email is a matter for the Australian Federal Police to handle, and is out of bounds for the proposed senate committee. The committee will have its attention trained on Turnbull and Abet, and whether they should, perhaps, be jailed for contempt, which would be a lively outcome.
Grech would be a key witness, even though his email inventions would not be be part of the fodder. Pretty much everything else would be up for grabs and Grech has already documented, with ferocious detail, his dealings with the Liberals and his contempt for Rudd.
And there's the kicker.
Grech is one bitter puppy.
A Rudd hater in the midst of The Treasury, who just might relish the chance - and with nothing left to lose - to sit in front of a senate committee and dump on Rudd, Turnbull, Treasury and anyone else against whom he has festering negative thoughts and big or small grievances.
"The key witness would be Godwin Grech (if medically able to testify), whose distaste for the Rudd government and all its works is visceral, despite the fact that Turnbull dumped on him this week. Creating another forum for Grech would be high risk.
Government advisers reading Grech's extraordinary reply of several thousand words to the Auditor-General's report (at Appendix 1) will find one of the most lethal critiques of the Rudd government.
Grech feels unappreciated, badly treated by Treasury, unsupported in his efforts to manage the OzCar program, resentful at the Rudd government's style, angry about what has happened to Treasury, still keen to implicate Rudd's office in the John Grant affair and only too ready to reveal that an effort was made to influence his previous evidence to the Senate, and that this came not from Turnbull or Abetz but from the Rudd government in the form of a senior Treasury officer.
In his written and considered statement Grech says that about 11.30am on June 19 he was told by Treasury deputy secretary Jim Murphy that "if you are asked any questions in the Senate this afternoon about John Grant and the Prime Minister or the PMO (Prime Minister's Office) you should simply say that you've confused the Grant case with some other case. It is very important that you do not make any trouble."
... if the issue becomes contempt, then Grech has already laid his own accusation against the Treasury and the Rudd government.
The wider point is that Grech is a political missile fuelled with resentment towards the Prime Minister, now rebuffed by the Turnbull opposition, facing the likely end of his career but possessed of a sharp brain still able to do damage."
The humiliation for Turnbull is that he was made a goose by Grech, a sickly public servant with a penchant for self-pity, hard work and political manipulation, who claimed to be his friend. This is Turnbull's sin. The leader universally assumed to be street smart in a Kerry Packer fashion was exposed as lacking in political and human judgment.
... The Rudd government has moved beyond spin: it has succeeded in making the opposition the issue while scrutiny of its own policies is negligible. Watch for the coming debate on the government's emissions trading scheme; this is a deeply flawed bill unacceptable to nearly every group yet observe how the issue will become Turnbull's failure to support it."
If the senate inquiry goes ahead (the proposal needs to be put again, and passed with Fielding's help), the whole country will be watching, on the edge of our collective front row seat, if Godwin Grech provides a return performance. If so, he will be beholden to no one and no Treasury officials will be handling his responses to questions.
On second thoughts, it could be one of the most fascinating pieces of political theatre we've ever seen, rivalling even the outcomes of the Latham meltdown.
Get well soon Godwin! Get very well, very soon!
From bad, to much, much worse
Senate's 'please explain' over fake email
Carmakers left without any say
Ute affair inquiry ignores mysteries
Quest for the perfect trap
Turnbull 'lacks judgment' for national leader