Behind the curtain, a view to the wedge

The union movement’s hard men are babes alongside John Howard’s mob. Really. Profanity in a blue singlet is meaningless, comparatively. The real goons in public life are mostly in parliamentary politics, whatever their ideological allegiance, and not on the shop floor. There is a stunning quote in the book The Hollow Men that says: We assume politicians are without honour. Not that men in high places lie, only that they do so with such indifference, so endlessly, still expecting to be believed. We are accustomed to the contempt inherent in the political life.

The quote comes from a woman, Adrienne Rich, and is quoted by Nicky Hager in his book on New Zealand politics published last year. It is Hager’s book which details how involved in the 2005 New Zealand election were Australia’s Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor, Howard’s two favourite political machine men for hire. Crosby Textor’s New Zealand client, the National Party, failed only narrowly to defeat Helen Clark’s Labour Government.

Three days ago, on the eve of our Federal Parliament going into its winter recess for six weeks, Labor’s Anthony Albanese tried to force an urgency debate the instant the House of Representatives assembled for the day’s business. What the Opposition wanted was the Government to come clean on the secret propaganda machine of six to eight taxpayer-funded staffers whom that morning’s issue of The Bulletin claimed have worked “under the radar” for seven years in the Sydney CBD ministerial office of Howard’s Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock.

It was the same day the Herald’s Phillip Coorey wrote a front-page story headlined, Exposed: the secret business plot to wreck Labor. Coorey told of a confidential three-page document which outlined how the Coalition’s chief pollster, Mark Textor, had been hired by the Business Council of Australia to devise and co-ordinate an advertising campaign costing at least $6.5 million to support the Howard Government’s contentious industrial relations laws.

In Parliament, Albanese’s attempt to force an urgency debate listed 10 key points the Opposition wanted Ruddock to detail to Parliament, including the relationship between the secret political unit in his office and the federal secretariat of the Liberal Party and the Crosby Textor political research organisation. The Government would have none of it.

It used its numbers, in a series of three votes, to kill the debate. Later, during question time, Howard batted away three questions on the Coorey story without answering any of them. Instead he spent his time trashing the union movement and insisting that Crosby and Textor, as heads of a private business, are entitled to do work for clients other than the Liberal Party — via The Sydney Morning Herald

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