Politicians, corruption and commissions

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The political theatre around corruption commissions is playing out in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, and at stake are the reputations of a raft of politicians and the electoral survival of three governments - with a sub plot around the fate of a long-awaited federal corruption commission.

These debates have a pantomime feel, as political players seek to set the narrative in line with their own self interests.

Gladys Berejiklian again played the woman wronged card - not just by her dodgy former boyfriend and colleague Daryl Maguire, but by the ICAC wanting to drag her through hearings when should be driving the state through its covid recovery.

The state needed certainty in this time of crisis, said Gladys, announcing her surprise resignation as NSW Premier. Cue commentators and colleagues protesting the loss of a respected leader and the abandoning of the presumption of innocence.

It’s true Gladys has not yet been found guilty for doing favours for and ignoring suspect conduct by her secret lover, but from private sessions she would have a fair idea of the evidence lining up against her. If you believe you’ll be pushed, jumping first and framing the reasons can be a smart tactic.

Scott Morrison wasn’t slow is speaking out in defence of Gladys, using her fate as an excuse to oppose strong powers for a federal ICAC. He would “certainly not be going down that path” of a commission with the power to investigate politicians and hold public inquiries.

The PM was using the sympathy for Gladys to justify protecting politicians from scrutiny, and he looks likely to prevail - so don’t expect action on ‘sports rorts’ type schemes or dodgy donations anytime soon.

And with the government’s backing, former Attorney General Christian Porter avoided being referred to parliament’s Privileges Committee for accepting an alleged, anonymous $1 million to pay his legal fees in a lawsuit against the ALP. Brazening it out must have been seen to have a lower reputational cost than revealing the donor.

Down in Melbourne Dan Andrews was again demonstrating his Teflon qualities. An inquiry into ALP branch stacking saw the resignation of one minister and the prospects of more revelations, but almost no mud seems to stick.

His confident, direct delivery style cuts through to voters, despite the inquiry’s main villain being a supporter and former “good friend” of the Premier.

A politician with less polish might be in more trouble. In some ways low expectations of politicians play in their favour - just sounding upfront, competent and having a clear message to convey can count a lot.

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