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Friday, November 17, 2006

Is This The End of Peter Debnam?

Peter Debnam's appalling behaviour in NSW Question Time yesterday must be unprecedented. For backbenchers to pursue their own grubby tangents and vendettas is one thing, but for a party leader to abuse parliamentary privilege in such a way is jawdropping - not only for its audacity but its ineptitude. This time last week, the NSW Government were in damage control with an issue that all conceded had the potential to bring down the government. The Opposition not only fumbled this opportunity but have now managed to drag itself into the line of fire instead.

Will this be the end of Peter Debnam?

If his accusations prove false - and Channel 9 has already been reported that they relate to a PIC investigation that was dismissed and closed over three years ago - then it should certainly do. In any case, using parliamentary privilege to draw attention to an accusation rather than a statement of fact should cause Debnam's party to seriously question his ability to be anything more than a shrill attack dog more interested in nipping at the heels of the government than producing alternate policies.

Though the party would be better served by another leader, my fear is not, as Morris Iemma suggested, that Barry O'Farrell would take over - had the party not been so riven by infighting, O'Farrell would already be Opposition and, I am reluctant to admit, would probably be doing a very good job - but that this may allow the far right to leverage one of their own puppets into the leadership.

Whatever occurs, Debnam should follow the example of Bill Heffernan, who moved to the back bench once his ridiculous scuttlebutt about Justice Michael Kirby, also made under parliamentary privilege, was proven incorrect. Neither the Liberal Party nor the greater public are well served by someone who cannot understand the responsibilities of his position, or put aside his party-political zeal to realise the seriousness of making an unfounded accusation against any public figure.

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