Get some pork off your fork

Can the Australian Labor Party win the next federal election on a campaign of integrity, honesty and openness in government alone.

A lot of people are starting to pose that question seeing that Albanese and Labor have now jettisoned overboard all the major planks of the tranche of policies they took to the 2019 poll beforl they were swept away by a perfect storm based on lies and corruption.

And by that I mean the billions of dollars in revenue that could have done some really great things: stuff we used to expect federal governments to do.

The axing of the shameless franking credits policy giving rich people tax relief on money they didn’t earn went Davy Jones’ Locker earlier enough and now the other three biggies – limiting negative gearing to new properties only, halving the 50 per cent capital gains tax deduction and the party’s opposition to the third-tier income tax cuts that favour the rich (why would Labor oppose that, for fuck’s sake!) have been scrapped off the hull of the good ship Labor 2022.

Former Opposition Leader John Hewson is among those who believe the poll might very well be won on the integrity and honesty issue alone.

Another is former Labor Senator and attack dog Doug Cameron whose daily anti-government tweets alone make some in the Opposition frontbench look sound asleep below decks after their daily tot of rum.

We now know, of course, that widespread and in some cases probably illegal porkbarrelling was done on a scale before the May 2019 election that made Clive Palmer’s $90 million plus black and yellow advertising assault on Bill Shorten look like a school kid spending his pocketmoney trying to win a huge toy green snake at the local show’s knock -em downs.

These former pollies on either side of the political divide are entitled to hold out hope that an Australian electorate might have suddenly discarded self-interest and indifference and developed some sense of decency and concern as to why Australian democracy is listing badly and why younger voters have no interest whatsoever on getting on board.

Okay, I’m sick of the maritime analogies.

So let’s just get stuck in with a dose of land-locked reality.

There is no greater example of supposedly democratic governance gone sickeningly wrong than when taxpayers’ money is abused for personal and political party gain. When some funding for community projects is corruptly redirected from communities who thought that putting up the best possible application for those funds would see them rewarded for their hard work.

The sports rort of course is probably the best known example but others have been disclosed over recent months that lifted the porkbarreling before that poll to a gold-standard of despicable behaviour never seen in Australian politics before.

Australian now has a “do whatever it takes to win” mentality that this ranter suspects might never be cast aside by the ship of state.

Shit, sorry.

But it’s true. The sports amenities scheme was designed to try to prevent meddling by people with self-interest and self preservation in mind: namely the ministers who’ve had their big fat arses comfortably submerged (shit!) in ministerial leather seats courtesy of winning what have been two very close elections of recent years.

The sports funding scandal only became the notorious, coloured spreadsheet rort it’s now recognised as because of the concept of ministerial responsibility – someone in power has to have final responsibility of signing off on all these projects. After all, where is the fun in being in power if you can’t wield ultimate power.

Bridget McKenzie was the perfect example of that, doing exactly what Prime Minister Scott Morrison wanted and telling communities who had put in a pitch perfect appeal for funding that they unfortunately were in the wrong part of Australia, namely not in a Coalition seat or one the government wanted to win.

Silly, silly communities. Their bad.

So what did Anthony Albanese have to say as these rorts came to light.

He was disgusted, of course. But he defended the system of government where a minister gets the final say. Otherwise, who have ministers, right?

He may as well have grabbed a megaphone and shouted to the Australian electorate. “We’ll be back in power one day and we’ll then get to decide who gets pork-barrelled and the manner in which that pork-barreling takes place.”

If the electorate even partly believes that, Labor’s in trouble.

I’m no lawyer although I’ve often wished I could get a practising ticket out of a morning cereal box just like many solicitors and barristers clearly did by watching them in action as a court reporter for three years.

I can’t frame the words for some fancy, fool-proof (that’s ministers by the way) legislation but surely it can’t be hard for when the final submissions for help lob on a minister’s desk from whatever government department or public sector assessment panel process they’ve been subjected to, that the minister is legally bound to put into the public record in real time the final decisions that he or she takes, clearly showing if any or all the original recommendations approved for funding have been set aside and why.

Or in other words: if you want to wield the ultimate power, wear the responsibility at the time.

Simples? Surely?

If such a process had been in place last election, we could have watched an image of Georgina Downer brandishing her own personal cheque to the Hardfuckingyakka Bowling Club and rest easy, knowing the club had won that grant fairly and squarely.

Only in the last day, Albanese says he is about to announce policy that hopefully will put an end to the shameless, self-serving, corrupt pork-barreling practices that Morrison and Gladys Berejiklian see absolutely nothing wrong with because “both sides do it”.

Will it put an end to this democracy-corroding criminality?

If he doesn’t do something to torpedo (sorry!) this “minister must have the final say” rubbish – and I’m sure my simple idea can be vastly improved on by real legislators all lawyered up with slick, fancy words – then the poor chap might as well grab a microphone and shout to the Australian people:” “We’ll be back in power one day and we’ll then get to decide who gets pork-barreled and the manner in which that pork-barreling takes place.”

Try winning a close election with that one.

Don Gordon-Brown