Govern­ment is let­ting shady Shorten get away

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - MIRANDA DEVINE

AMID the Prime Min­is­ter’s ex­is­ten­tial cit­i­zen­ship cri­sis, Tony Ab­bott was mak­ing merry mis­chief on Fri­day night.

The oc­ca­sion was a trib­ute din­ner thrown by the War­ringah fed­eral con­fer­ence of the Lib­eral Party to cel­e­brate Ab­bott’s nearly 25 years (23, to be pre­cise) as the Member for War­ringah, and pre­sum­ably to mark his re­cent 60th birth­day.

Al­most 900 sup­port­ers packed the Ex­hi­bi­tion Hall in the old Eveleigh rail yards to hear Ab­bott, Lib­eral Party fed­eral pres­i­dent Nick Greiner, Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Peter Dut­ton ( the “very best min­is­ter in this govern­ment”, Ab­bott billed him), and for­mer- gen­er­al­likely- fu­ture- sen­a­tor Jim Molan take the stage in what had ev­ery ap­pear­ance of a re­vival meet­ing.

“I have now been in the par­lia­ment for al­most a quar­ter cen­tury,” Ab­bott said, sign­ing off a clas­sic stump speech.

“I fi­nally know what I’m do­ing, and I want to as­sure you I have plenty of pub­lic life left in me. So tonight I reded­i­cate my­self, I re­pledge my­self, to your ser­vice.”

A stand­ing ova­tion en­sued, and then this chant from a cou­ple of en­thu­si­as­tic ta­bles: “Come back Tony, Come back Tony.”

The air is thick with schaden­freude these days.

But, de­spite all the wish­ful think­ing in the room for an Ab­bott restora­tion, Malcolm Turn­bull has two things go­ing for him: a) party-room con­ser­va­tives don’t be­lieve in leadership spills; and b) no one in their right mind would want the poi­soned chal­ice of the leadership while the cit­i­zen­ship fi­asco is crip­pling govern­ment, and be­fore thorny is­sues such as same-sex mar­riage and en­ergy are dealt with.

Turn­bull-haters might be rel­ish­ing his col­li­sion with the karma train, but that won’t help the Coali­tion win the next elec­tion, which may come sooner than any­one thought.

As Molan tact­fully told the crowd: “Our en­emy is not our­selves (but) the Greens and La­bor. That’s who we have to fo­cus on.”

Cor­rect. The big­gest fail­ure of this govern­ment is its flat- footed- ness when it comes to the po­lit­i­cal dark arts, and never has that been more ob­vi­ous than in the cit­i­zen­ship saga.

Yes­ter­day, back­bencher John Alexan­der be­came the lat­est Coali­tion MP to an­nounce his res­ig­na­tion, af­ter con­firm­ing he is a dual na­tional, via Bri­tish cit­i­zen­ship in­her­ited from his fa­ther, and thus in­el­i­gi­ble to sit in par­lia­ment.

He will now have to con­test a by- elec­tion, likely be­fore Christ­mas, to win back his safe- ish seat of Ben­ne­long.

Alexan­der fol­lows sur­prise Kiwi Barn­aby Joyce, whose by-elec­tion on De­cem­ber 2 should see him win back his seat of New Eng­land.

This brings the Coali­tion’s num- bers in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives to 74 of the re­main­ing 148 seats, in­clud­ing the Speaker, ver­sus La­bor’s 69 seats, with more Lib­eral MPs, such as Alex Hawke, with cit­i­zen­ship doubts.

But why has the govern­ment al­lowed it­self to look in­com­pe­tent in its can­di­date-vet­ting pro­ce­dures for three months while Bill Shorten gets away with pre­tend­ing La­bor is squeaky clean?

On Fri­day Shorten brazenly brushed off me­dia ques­tions about dual-na­tional La­bor MPs by pro­fess­ing to be “stag­gered” by the Coali­tion’s “abysmal ig­no­rance of the Con­sti­tu­tion”. What a joke. At last count, as many as 17 La­bor MPs are un­der a cit­i­zen­ship cloud and refuse to pro­duce re­nun­ci­a­tion pa­pers. La­bor’s Jus­tine Keay last week ad­mit­ted she was still a Bri­tish cit­i­zen when she con­tested last year’s elec­tion.

Other La­bor MPs with sus­pected dual cit­i­zen­ship in­clude: Penny Wong (Malaysia-born, Malaysian fa­ther), Tania Plibersek (Slove­nian par­ents), Bren­dan O’Con­nor (Bri­tish-born, Ir­ish par­ents), David Feeney (Ir­ish fa­ther/Bri­tish rights), Pat Con­roy (Bri­tish fa­ther), Peter Khalil (Egyp­tian par­ents), Madeleine King (Bri­tish fa­ther), Su­san Lamb (Bri­tish fa­ther), Brian Mitchell (Bri­tish-born, Ir­ish mother), Maria Vam­vaki­nou (Greek born), Josh Wil­son (Bri­tish-born), Tony Zap­pia (Ital­ian born), Sen­a­tor Doug Cameron (Scot­tish born), Sen­a­tor Katy Gal­lagher (Bri­tish par­ents, mother born in Ecuador), Sen­a­tor Sue Lines (Bri­tish fa­ther) and Sen­a­tor Deb­o­rah O’Neill (Ir­ish par­ents).

Shorten’s pre­tence that La­bor has su­pe­rior vet­ting pro­cesses is falling apart. He is left look­ing shabby and shady.

The real ques­tion is: When did Shorten know his MPs were at risk and who has been telling them to keep quiet?

Other than Ab­bott loy­al­ist Eric Abetz, few Lib­er­als are ask­ing.

It takes a spe­cial po­lit­i­cal skill for the govern­ment to let La­bor get away with a cover-up while Coali­tion MPs are pun­ished for hon­esty.

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