What is it about Canberra that turns politicians into arrant hypocrites?

We have had a number of incidents of unbelievable hypocrisy in Canberra recently.

The first involves serial offender Tony Abbott  who, inflamed with righteous indignation, anger and later a thirst for revenge, railed against the party replacing an elected Prime Minister, namely him. There was no such righteous indignation and anger when he voted to replace an elected Prime Minister, having worked assiduously for his downfall during the lead up to the leadership spill.

You can call it poetic justice, what goes around comes around, whatever if you like. But if it’s a principle that you hold dearly, then you should hold to it.

The second involves the ex-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.  While Prime Minister, Turnbull voted against referring one of his ministers, Peter Dutton, to the High Court over whether Mr Dutton has a conflict of interest under Section 44 (v) of the constitution.

Now, no longer the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull is lobbying members of the Parliamentary Liberal party and new prime minister to refer Dutton to the High Court.


Why this sudden change of heart?

If Dutton were to be disqualified and lose his seat, the government would lose its one seat majority in the House.  Dutton holds his seat of Dickson by a slender 1.6% majority Given that the government is trailing labour by 8% in the polls, there is a strong likelihood that Dutton would not be returned.

If  this scenario were to prove true, and Liberals lose Wentworth which is a distinct possibility, then the Morrison government would lose its majority on the floor of the house.

Poetic justice, what goes around comes around.

The third reported in the SMH  involves Sussan Ley and Sarah Henderson and their support for a ban on live sheep exports.

“They threatened to cross the floor to stop the trade they felt was so heinous. But when it came to a vote on Monday, Liberal MPs Sussan Ley and Sarah Henderson staged a change of heart and used their deciding votes to prevent a debate on a ban on the live animal export trade.”

The vote was lost 70 – 72 meaning that if Ley and Henderson had stood by their principles live sheep exports would have been banned.

Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories Sussan Ley, with ministers Kelly O’Dwyer and Melissa Price during a division on the live export bill on Monday. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

It was clearly an example of the pressure to conform to the party line that made them change their mind. Who knows what threats were made if they crossed the floor and voted with Labor and the Greens?

As one correspondent to the SMH wrote “Ley and Henderson are disgrace to woman and sheep all over the world.”

What these three sorry incidents demonstrate is the difference between private  conscience and party loyalty. It also demonstrates that party loyalty would appear to win   in almost all cases.  To paraphrase an old saying, “In the race of politics, put your money on party loyalty ahead of individual conscience every time.”

Is it because the stakes are so high? That the government will lose power if there is the slightest deviation or defection from the party line?  Undoubtedly, this is the case.

It would appear that the days when people were elected to parliament because, as individuals, they were a reflection of the views values and beliefs of their communities, are now long gone.  Such people were elected on the assumption that they would hold to the principles.




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