Keeping the bastards honest

By October 4, 2021Australian Politics, Society

The catch-phrase ‘keeping the bastards honest’ originally came from disaffected former Liberal member of Parliament, Don Chipp, who created the Australian Democrats in 1977, which he led as a senator from 1978 until he retired from parliament in 19861.

Like Don Chipp, Bill Stefaniak is a former Liberal, but was a member of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Legislative Assembly from 1995 to 2008. He became the leader of the ACT Liberal Party in May 2006 when he ousted Brendan Smyth. In December 2007 he was replaced as leader by Zdenko ‘Zed’ Seselja, who is now a senator2.

In 2008, Stefaniak quit politics, but in 2020 came out of political retirement with his own party, the Belco (short for Belconnen, a district of Canberra) Party, supposedly like Chipp, to ‘keep the bastards honest’. He ran in the 2020 ACT election on a platform of being “fundamentally interested in Canberra getting good governance”. He, of course, added: “Over the last few years, I have been increasingly concerned that this Labor-Green Government has neglected large parts of Canberra, including Belconnen.”3 Many of the voters in the ACT disagreed with him, as he failed to get elected and the Labor-Green government was returned with an increased majority4.

Stefaniak’s latest foray into the political realm came in response to the resignation of the New South Wales premier, Gladys Berejiklian after it was revealed she was being investigated by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). He wrote a letter to the editor which was published in the free magazine, the Canberra Weekly on October 3rd. It began with: “I was saddened to see Gladys Berejiklian resign due to the totally unnecessary and mistimed announcement by the NSW ICAC that she was under further investigation. It was unnecessary at this time as we are in the middle of a pandemic and also as ICAC will, if true to form, investigate it at their leisure. ICAC could have waited.”5  One could ask Stefaniak if he understands what the word ‘Independent’ means in the title of the organisation, and if it is meaningless, then who gets to decide how long ICAC should wait until it investigates corruption. Would it be the government? The premier?

Stefaniak continued “Her resignation deprives the people of NSW, and indeed Australia, of a much respected, well liked and able leader at a crucial time in our history.” This is open to debate. Her reluctance to lock down Sydney when she should have, likely led to the dramatic increase in Covid-19 case numbers and deaths in that state, and facilitated its spread into Victoria and the ACT. This is only the most recent debacle. The previous debacle, the docking of the Ruby Princess in Sydney and allowing its passengers to disembark, spreading Covid-19 far and wide in 2020 was laid at the feet of the NSW government. At the time, it was estimated that in the first Covid-19 wave to hit Australia, passengers from the Ruby Princess and those infected by them formed 10% of the infections and deaths in Australia6.

Astoundingly, Stefaniak goes for the poor ‘wronged woman’ story, with: “Gladys fundamentally seems guilty at worst of making a bad choice in forming a relationship with Mr McGuire [sic] and on the information to date may well be cleared of any wrongdoing.” The ‘wronged woman’ is a desperate ploy that Gladys tried herself, and is something which may seem normal only in the bizarre 1950s attitudes of a conservative. As for Gladys being “cleared of any wrongdoing” the information to date makes it appear that Berejiklian intervened directly to have the grant to the Australian Clay Target Association reassessed after it initially failed the assessment process7. If Berejiklian was confident of being cleared, I suspect she would have stepped aside from the premiership temporarily. The fact that she not only resigned from the premiership, but also from parliament, indicates how seriously she takes this ICAC investigation.

Stefaniak then states “I am suspicious of ICAC and it has always worried me that Nick Greiner (himself an innocent victim of it) set up a star chamber answerable to no-one where people are presumed guilty and have to prove their innocence”. The use of the epithet ‘star chamber’ is a common trope used by those who fear being investigated in NSW and in the federal coalition. The allegations levelled at Greiner were that he misused his position as Liberal Party leader to secure independent MP Terry Metherell’s resignation from state parliament by offering him a government job; this was considered to have been done to achieve political advantage. This adverse finding was overturned on appeal. Despite this, Greiner still defends ICAC (he was premier when it was created)8.

Stefaniak takes it further by quoting federal MP Jason Falinski who told the Weekend Australian (who else?): “ICAC continues to perpetuate gross injustices. It is an organisation who openly threatened the parliament if it did not get a budget increase. It is an organisation that could not find any corruption in the Carr and Keneally government until they were voted out of office and then refused to investigate any activities going back two years.” Joe Tripodi, Ian Macdonald, Eric Roozendaal, Tony Kelly and Eddie Obeid, might disagree with this statement. All were members of the Carr, Rees and Keneally governments, and two of them have been sentence to gaol time9.

Stefaniak finishes off with asserting that ICAC is a ‘tarnished organisation’ which is politically biased, and that the NSW parliament should get rid of it. He also says that the AFP and state police forces should handle such cases of corruption. Given his statement above about failure to investigate past corruption, it is ironic that he states the federal parliament would be mad to create a federal ICAC. While there is no chance that the federal Coalition government would institute such a federal ICAC, a body like this was announced by Scott Morrison in late 2018 as a Commonwealth Integrity Commission. However, Morrison’s proposed integrity commission was to operate outside of public view, with the investigative body to make no public findings, hold no public hearings and would not be allowed to have retrospective investigations (i.e. would not be allowed to investigate any corrupt behaviour in the past). Morrison said “This is a real proposal, with real resources, real teeth.” Of course, even after three years, the body does not exist. It was just another Morrison announcement10.

Given that this federal government is the most corrupt in living memory, one can see why Morrison does not want any retrospectivity, and perhaps why many don’t want any sort of federal integrity commission. Apparently, the group of bastards that Stefaniak wants to keep honest, doesn’t include Liberal bastards.




  • Jon says:

    Opposition to corruption bodies such as ICAC indicates but one thing – an acceptance that corruption is only intolerable when your opponents are involved, or when you/your colleagues are publicly exposed for corrupt practices. It’s no coincidence that NSW, federal and SA conservative governments are either publicly undermining anti-corruption bodies or in the latter’s case actually legislating to reduce their effectiveness (link below).

    Stefaniak is interesting. At the last election he attempted to present himself and his group as a more moderate version of the ACT conservatives. I checked his answers to the smartvote app and was surprised at how moderate he appeared to be. No sooner had he been rejected than he showed his true spots. Climate change, China and now ICAC. His ignorance, or more likely a combination of that and his ideology, drives his opinions – opinions that obviously the smarter Canberra electorate obviously saw through. If Bill wants to supplement his generous superannuation (something else he complained about) he’d do better by moving to Queanbeyan and trying his hand in the state with a long history of corruption – NSW, or perhaps the backward state further north. It’s more than a little ironic that Stefaniak criticises ICAC for not investigating past corruption (without stating whether or not they gave reasons for not doing so). Apparently he hasn’t bothered to look at Morrison’s proposals to cripple a federal anti-corruption commission by, among other things, preventing it from doing just that. Ignorance and hypocrisy is bliss.

    • admin says:

      Yep. These conservatives seem to be incapable of understanding their inconsistencies, or indeed the concept of irony. They drive me to distraction.

  • Mark Dougall says:

    My head hurts. Many years ago, in my former life, I worked in a job that had, as one of it’s functions, identifying and preventing corrupt behaviour, and the systems that allowed it to exist, in a fairly large organisation. This was a public sector organisation. All employees were obliged to follow a code of conduct which explicitly identified some of the behaviour that could be regarded as inappropriate, or even corrupt. This included not giving advantage to family, or friends, in any way, through the position that the employee held in the organisation. Over a number of years we had a few people who crossed the line with this by doing things that, although they personally did not seem to gain from them, they did help members of their family, or close friends. Most of these people were not highly paid people. They were supervisors who gave family, or friends, a job without an interview, or without due process. They were mid level managers who disregarded legislation to make payments to people without following the correct procedure. They included people who used credit cards incorrectly to reward people, or to entertain clients. All of these people broke the rules. All of them suffered the consequences. Some were demoted. Some lost their jobs. So why the fucking hell do these scum bucket, overpaid sleazebag politicians not understand what corruption is. They have so much access to money, and influence, and power, and they constantly abuse it, and then these pathetic people get annoyed when their appalling behaviour is questioned. They seem to think that seriously dubious behaviour, using vast amount of taxpayers’ money,should not even be questioned and yet much lesser behaviour for much smaller amounts of money, is not tolerated in those who work for them. They seem to not even comprehend what corruption actually is. They truly sicken me.

    • admin says:

      It is a long queue of people who are disgusted by the corruption of those in government. The thing that gets me is that these people don’t just break the rules, they ignore them; they even ignore the constitution. We desperately need a federal ICAC, and one that can look at every bastard in parliament going back to the time they entered parliament. Some of these bastards should be in gaol.

  • Russell says:

    Corruption by politicians has become a way of life most unfortunately. Not just overspending allowances and other minor peccadilloes, but acts of brazen criminality deliberately entered into for the benefit of business cronies, corporations and of course, the felon him/her self. It is a blight on our society as we know, and the present execrable federal government is rife with under-the-table wheeling and dealing to obtain unfair advantage electorally or to grant largesse of various sly kinds to bosom buddies in the high end of town.
    And now we have an unambiguous set of documents revealed, which show the extent to which even a national leader will go – not only to hide money overseas from the prying eyes of tax collectors, but openly looting, misappropriating the resources of their own nation with no moral conscience. I refer to both the past Panama Papers and the most recent revelations of skullduggery in the huge dossier called the Pandora Papers. I just wonder how many of our notables in this country have stashes of cash hidden from view in the Cayman Islands or the Virgins or in Jersey. It’s high time corporate bosses and suss pollies were chased down for whatever inproper tax avoidance and nefarious financial dealings they have engaged in. I’m certain (without proof but from the stench of Canberra corridors of power) that forms of “looting the public coffers” are in operation by several major figures in Australia. Time to out them, then oust them, shame them. Time to grab their many properties and assets as recompense. Anyone like that should be forced to pay back criminal gains or huge unpaid taxes, by the state depriving them of any land, houses and business funds they possess. After all, the losers, the poor suckers being conned, are the public at large. We the voters put trust in too many slimy skunks and crooked scum who have nothing but contempt for decent ethics, and would rip the candy from a kiddy’s mouth at a malignant glance. Hi there, Angus and Barnaby!

    • admin says:

      Hard to disagree with any of that. The time is near when the rape and pillage merchants will have to pay their dues.

  • Glenn says:

    Our emperor appeared on Sunrise complaining that the ICAC in NSW has too much power. He doesn’t understand that that is its role – to hold politicians to account and force them to resign if they are guilty of corruption. Still. if SA politicians decide to dumb down their ICAC, then what hope do we have of getting one federally?

    • admin says:

      The only way is to vote this extraordnarily corrupt government out, and make sure that several, if not many of them end up in gaol, for that corruption.

  • Jon says:

    I see Labor time server Joel Fitzgibbon has also weighed in on NSW ICAC saying it was a “failed experiment”. Sure Joel, as an expert in the history of ICAC and its activities we can no doubt trust your opinion. Edie Obeid and his NSW Labor chums and the many NSW Liberals exposed breaking developer donation laws will however no doubt beg to differ. Fitzgibbon, who appears to be another Latham in the making, was put in his place very smartly by one of his Labor colleagues (Mark Butler?) who said that Joel didn’t know what he was talking about. Fitzgibbon and other detractors’ views can be summarised thus: “we shouldn’t have Royal commissions or enquiries, much less prosecute anyone because occasionally reputations might be tarnished or we might get it wrong.” Imagine the chaos if these fools had their hands on the levers of government.

    As retired Supreme Court judge and now chairman of the Centre for Public Integrity Anthony Whealy has pointed out – ICAC CAN NOT and DOES NOT prosecute anyone. You’d think people like Stefaniak (whose criticism displays a woeful ignorance of how the NSW ICAC operates and the structure which keeps it honest) and Fitzgibbon would either stick to topics they know something about OR apprise themselves of the basics before publicly exposing their ignorance, but ego no doubt prevents that.

    • admin says:

      While there is too much partisanship in politics these days, as Morrison and his cabal seem to want to politicise everything, even a pandemic (look how they maligned Victoria, but not NSW). Bizarrely, but only occasionally, there also seems to be a malignant ‘clubbiness’ about those in parliament and their staffers, especially when their probity is impugned.

  • Jon says:

    Did the Sunrise intelligentsia (lol) ask him what power ICAC actually has Glenn or did they, like most of their media mates, let him get away with more ignorant bullshit? Rhetorical question.

  • Jon says:

    Speaking of keeping the bastards honest – it obviously isn’t and won’t be conservative-light federal Labor under the insipid Albanese. In yet another case of spineless capitulation in the face of laughable attacks from government hacks they’ve announced that they won’t be making any attempt to recover the millions of dollars paid to companies whose profits actually rose during covid-19. Legally they may have difficulty in doing so but they could and should at least make it clear that the incompetence of Fraudenberg shouldn’t stop businesses doing the right thing by Australian taxpayers. Federal Labor did the same thing when challenged on the MRRT (hang your heads in shame Gillard and Swan), they’ve done it on share dividend credits and negative gearing, and now instead of making the clear point that companies which have subsequently found they didn’t need or deserve Jobkeeper should return their windfall, they’ve simply kowtowed to conservative wedging.

    I don’t know who their election advisors are but it’s pretty obvious that these faceless men (almost certainly men) haven’t got a clue about the Australian psyche let alone doing what is fundamentally right for the country and its citizens. And Labor wonders why its first preference votes continue to drop after years of corrupt and incompetent conservative government. They can count on being second last on my ballot paper. Pathetic doesn’t describe them adequately so I’ll initialise and leave it to readers to work out. Albanese’s opposition is a pack of p.w.c.

    • admin says:

      The main problem the Labor Party face is that the corporate media are against them, and that amplifies the wedges lobbed on them on a regular basis by the conservative nutters. If they do get in in the next election, I suspect they will do much. However I vote, I will be putting the Liberals stone cold motherless last. They have come close to destroying our democracy, aided and abetted by the corporate media.

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