Modia Minotaur

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

It's Just Not Done

There's certain things you just don't do in politics.

When former NSW Liberal leader John Brogden attempted suicide a few years ago, those on the Government side were just as dismayed by the tragedy as those in his own party (and in some cases, considerably more, given who it was who drove him out in the first place). The recent funeral of Sir Jim Killen, detailed in this beautifully written snapshot by David Marr, was one example of the way most politicians recognise there are certain occasions for which the weapons of politics simply need to be set to one side.

Not so one politician.

Peter Debnam's attempt to turn a welcoming address at a Sutherland Shire citizenship ceremony into an unpaid political advertisement for local Liberal candidates, an occasion to make policy announcements, and a broader platform for the dissemination of his own personal views on multiculturalism, immigration and integration - it's one of the least classy things I've heard in a while.

Kudos should go to Sutherland Shire Mayor David Redmond - a member of the Liberal Party - who himself put party loyalties aside, deploring Debnam's intention and demanding the excision of those parts of the speech which referred to local candidates. Debnam then endeavoured to spin the issue as a failed attempt to gag him on the topic of `co-operative multiculturalism', whatever that is. Should anyone have bought this, it's a terrible shame. If co-operative multiculturalism involves lecturing those who have chosen to make Australia their home on how they should feel, what they should think, and who they should vote for ... well, if it was me, I think I'd feel like handing back the certificate and going elsewhere.

The Sutherland Shire is a notorious battleground for the Liberal Party, with two key seats, those of Miranda and Menai, seen not only as essential to any chance of success but as `natural' Liberal seats that have accidentally fallen to Labor (one of which came complete with the scalp of then-Deputy Opposition Leader Ron Phillips). The hard work put in by local members Barry Collier and Alison Meggarity has been acknowledged as responsible for bringing these seats under reasonably comfortable margins. The Liberal Party have been lobbying fiercely for some time to change the state of affairs there - sometimes (as it appears in this case) with a subtle nod to the perpetrators of the Cronulla Riots.

The idea of hijacking a non-partisan ceremony to further a political aim is, quite frankly, revolting. It's the sort of thing people leave repressive countries and move to Australia to avoid. There are some things Debnam just doesn't seem to get. He crossed the line in his embarrassing and damaging pursuit of false allegations against the Attorney General, and he has crossed it again here.

I've been very critical of the attack-dog style negative campaign the NSW Government have been running against Debnam, but for one main reason - no one does it better than the man himself.

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