As we enter the final days of the public hearings of the Trade Union Royal Commission I find myself in the peculiar position of agreeing with John Howard.
John Howard told Janet Albrechtsen in an interview of his unease with the way Tony Abbott and George Brandis used the Royal Commission process as a means to achieve a political end.
Howard explained: “I’m uneasy about the idea of having royal commissions or inquiries into essentially a political decision…”
“I don’t think you should ever begin to go down the American path of using the law for narrow targeted political purposes.”
I believe there is no doubt Abbott is using the law to achieve a political goal and his agenda is clearly to smear the Labor Party, both its former leaders and its current one.
However, as we have seen, Tony Abbott has a habit of failing in the public’s eyes on anything that does not involve the military. The only things that have propped up his plummeting opinion polling have been his response to the Malaysian Airlines disasters, and the ‘war on terror’.
Home grown issues like the budget, broken promises (of which there have been too many to count), soaring unemployment, and a skyrocketing cost of living, have seen the public perception of Abbott sink rapidly and it’s fair to say he started out as one of the most unpopular Prime Ministers ever elected, if not the most.
Let’s face it, the only reason Abbott won the election is because he was not Julia Gillard or Kevin Rudd.
So if Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd had become so unpopular, then why the need to try to publicly humiliate them in Royal Commissions?
We have all seen those CCTV clips on the news and current affair programmes of someone lying unconscious on the road after being bashed by a gang of drunken louts. In those videos there is usually one gutless lowlife that will come and put the boot in, kicking the unconscious victim in the head while they are down.
This is what Tony Abbott and George Brandis are doing, putting in a kick to the head while Kevin and Julia are down. Rarely has there been such a display of cowardice and sheer gutlessness from an Australian government.
As John Howard’s comments would indicate, the Abbott is failing. Let’s face it, if you can’t win over your former Liberal leader than your plan is backfiring on you, as Royal Commissions often do.
So what did we learn from the Pink Batts Royal Commission?
We learnt the government that claims we have a ‘budget emergency’ was happy to throw millions of dollars at a Royal Commission in the desperate hope to further damage Kevin Rudd.
That’s about it. No new information of any note came out. I guess the previous eight inquiries into the matter must have done their job, leaving the Royal Commission to end up a hellishly expensive failure.
Which brings us to the Trade Union Royal Commission which has actually had some success.
The success of the Trade Union Royal Commission, however, has not given Abbott and Brandis ammunition to go after Labor, far from it. Instead they have shot themselves in the foot.
The only success of any note to come from TURC, as it is known, has been the total and utter destruction of the credibility of the Liberals’ new best friend Kathy Jackson, the self-proclaimed whistleblower who, as a result of TURC, is better known for her charity shags and her quarter of a million dollar personal spending accounts.
Aside from Abbott and Brandis, the one who was hoping to gain a massive boost to his credibility from this Royal Commission was the right-wing blogger Michael Smith, who coincidently had Brandis as a guest speaker at his wedding.
Nobody has done more to promote Kathy Jackson’s innocence and Julia Gillard’s guilt. As it turns out, Smith himself has seemingly been on the receiving end of the charity of Kathy Jackson.
Smith, who has staked his reputation on Kathy Jackson, has been living in a granny flat at the home of Kathy Jackson and Fair Work Commission vice president Michael Lawler.
It turns out Smith won’t have a lot to lose by the time Jackson dons the orange overalls many expect her to end up wearing if the expected criminal investigations result in charges being laid. This is because Smith’s relentless attack on Julia Gillard has resulted in nothing but egg on his face.
Julia Gillard spent almost a full day in the TURC witness-box answering question after question regarding her time at Slater and Gordon over 20 years ago.
Gillard never changed her story once. Something the Commissioner even pointed out during the hearing by interrupting desperate failed attempts to trick her into contradicting herself and saying, regarding Ralph Blewitts lawyer: “What you say is correct but Mr Galbally is entitled to seek to get the witness (Gillard) to change her evidence. It may not be easy, but he is entitled to try”.
In the end, for all the right-wing theories and controversy we once again learned absolutely nothing new in the flimsy case against Gillard. Gillard has faced press conferences and now a Royal Commission on the matter and has come out unscathed.
Of course there will be those that are convinced Gillard is guilty and continue their calls for another style of witch hunt, yet the fact remains there is no concrete evidence showing wrongdoing by Gillard.
We have recently seen more evidence regarding the citizenship of her main attacker Tony Abbott than we have ever seen about allegations against our first female Prime Minister and the leader I believe was the last Prime Minister of integrity.
Aside from these two leading acts in the Royal Commission circus there have been repeated predictable attempts to drag Bill Shorten into the fray, but once again these have failed to lead anywhere.
The Commission itself has integrity issues within the submission process, what is being made public, and the use of different practice directions for different hearings. All of these matters have been explored in a brilliant article by Andrew Casey who has been at every single hearing since the Commission started.
In fact, other than Kathy Jackson’s questionable behaviour, nothing has surprised anyone or done the union movement any damage whatsoever.
It would seem all of the real political damage is being inflicted just around the corner from TURC.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has become a wrecking ball swinging through the NSW Liberal Party and proving one point that nobody can argue against: if a Royal Commission into anything is needed it is political donations and their influence.
Tony Abbott must be desperately seeking corruption, but only if it within his political enemy’s ranks.
Where ICAC has succeeded in uncovering corruption, Tony Abbott has failed.