The sacking of Speaker Bronwyn Bishop is a significant blow to the hard right coterie supporting the “Mad Monk”, aka Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
She is a factional warrior and a bag lady for the Liberal Party’s NSW division. She joined the Liberals at the age of 17 and camped in the Senate from 1987 to 1994 before picking up the House of Reps seat of Mackellar.
A former NSW party president, Bishop helped organise the numbers for Abbott’s entry into parliament in 1994, supported his campaign against the 1999 republic referendum, helped assemble Abbott’s numbers for the overthrow of Malcolm Turnbull in 2009 and backed him again when his leadership was threatened by a party room coup in February 2015.
In 2005 Bishop, then a junior minister in John Howard’s government, called for a ban on Muslim headscarves in all public schools. She was supported by the ghastly Sophie Mirabella, then MP for Indi.
One of Bishop’s widely publicised travel rorts – which led to her sacking – was a plane trip to attend Mirabella’s wedding at Albury in 2006.
Bishop’s coven of right-wing operatives includes Mirabella (who is campaigning to recapture her Victorian electorate at the next election), Teresa Gambaro, federal MP for Brisbane whose wedding was also attended by Bishop, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells from Wollongong and NSW upper house MP Marie Ficarra.
Something to notice about all these Bishop associates is that are strident reactionaries from Italian backgrounds. Gambaro, from a family of fishmongers, was citizenship parliamentary secretary assisting Abbott when she suggested immigrants would be able to integrate better if they “wear deodorant”, learn to “wait in a queue” and are taught “what are norms in Australia”.
In dumping Bishop as Speaker, Abbott has rid himself of a rorts scandal. However, he has antagonised the Italian Mafiette in his own party room.
How will they respond to his disloyalty? Perhaps a stiletto between the shoulder blades?
Why was she sacked
On the eve of Bronwyn Bishop’s axing, News Ltd hacks were faithfully backing her and Tony Abbott. In a classic piece of mistiming, senior Telegraph foghorn Simon Benson wrote: “There are two reasons why Tony Abbott won’t sack Bronwyn Bishop. One is his acute and recently acquired sense of his own mortality. The other is loyalty.” (July 31, 2015)
Actually there was but ONE reason why he sacked her and that was his paralysing fear of the investigation into Bishop’s parliamentary expenses over a 10-year period.
The inquiry is being conducted by civil servants whose report will be handed to Abbott’s office. Now remember, Abbott loathes the Canberra civil service and, since he took office, almost 20,000 Commonwealth employees have lost their jobs. What would be the mood of civil servants when they started to dig into Bishop’s expenses?
They will find not only taxpayer-funded trips to weddings, but to christenings, birthdays and anniversaries. Then there is the wholesale use of the Speaker’s luxurious Parliament House offices for Liberal fund-raisers (a reported $10,000-a-pop to meet Bronny and Cabinet ministers), plus the first-class air travel around the world.
Faced with a mega-scandal that could drive him from office at the next election – it still might – the Hon Sir Madness decided to dump his most loyal factional supporter. And Bishop thought she was fireproof…
In London in the late 1960s an agent working for BOSS, the secret police of the South African apartheid regime, gave me an interview which seemed too far-fetched for words.
He was being paid to compile dossiers on anti-apartheid MPs in the Labour and Liberal parties, the Young Liberals and the trade union leadership, destroy their reputations and place their private lives under surveillance.
After weeks working on the story, the Sunday Times published a dramatic account of the undercover BOSS operation. There were follow-up articles in Anti-Apartheid News and Private Eye but ridicule and denials were plastered all over Tory papers like the Daily Mail and the Daily Express.
Last month British Cabinet papers were released confirming the BOSS operation. According to official records, Prime Minister Harold Wilson feared he was being targeted by BOSS and became so concerned that he ordered an official investigation into “smear campaigns, plants and bribery of witnesses” by Pretoria’s agents in the UK.
He wrote in a memorandum: “The employment of such methods could be directed to destroying particular political leaders and, for a time at least, their parties.”
Shortly after writing the 1976 memo, Wilson unexpectedly resigned on health grounds.
Blairism and hookers
Under the banner of “modernism” and “party reform”, British Labour Party leaders Neil Kinnock and Tony Blair marginalised the branch membership, trade unions and the left and installed the upwardly mobile middle class and hungry petty bourgeois. Hey presto, a new political class called New Labour was born.
Now we have a chance to measure the quality of the transformation.
Lord John Sewel was handpicked by Blair to take the ermine and become a junior minister and eventually deputy speaker.
One of his roles was overseeing standards of lords, ladies, barons and baronesses. He was awarded a CBE.
Recently he created front-page news snorting cocaine while wearing an orange bra and a leather jacket in the company of prostitutes. After a number of days he was suspended from the party (why wasn’t he expelled?) and resigned from the Lords (why wasn’t he chucked out by a vote?).
Blair sidestepped the Sewel scandal to attack left-winger Jeremy Corbyn who is leading the race to become the next Labour Party leader, telling Corbyn supporters to “Get a transplant” if they wanted to vote with their hearts.
Corbyn responded by suggesting Blair may stand trial for war crimes for dragging the UK into the invasion and occupation of Iraq on fabricated US-Israeli evidence.
Naturally, I hope the 66-year-old North London MP wins the membership ballot now in progress and that Blair is joined in the dock by others like George W Bush and John Howard.