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Jun 15, 2012

Dirt files OK if taxpayer funded; Labor.

Cartoon: By Pickering.

Towards the end of last year, the media were full of outrage over what was called the LNP’s dirt files on Labor politicians. Labor was livid enough to almost convince unenlightened observers that it didn’t have its own set on the opposition. Fairfax’s ‘Brisbane Times’ led the media charge:

A Liberal National Party dirt sheet detailing a minister’s epilepsy and childhood adoption reflect the attitudes of the 1950s and have no place in political campaigns, Premier Anna Bligh says.

The government today stepped up its calls for the LNP to sack the party officials who commissioned research on Labor MPs by former ALP staffer Robert Hough, whose work reportedly included claims about some politicians’ sexuality, sex lives, drinking habits and health matters. …

However, The Courier-Mail today published extracts from the documents, which it said it had edited to remove salacious or defamatory content. The LNP said it was not the source of the leak to the media. Most of the edited documents appear to generally contain simple factual background on the history of MPs or opinions about their strengths and weaknesses. …
The LNP files were compiled by a former Labor staffer acting as a consultant and paid for by the LNP out of its own funds. Now it has been revealed that PM Julia Gillard has her own dirt-digging unit under the direction of a senior staffer working out of her own office. This one though is taxpayer funded:
JULIA Gillard has defended taxpayer-funded information-gathering on Labor's political opponents amid reports one of her senior staffers was running a dirt unit from her office. The Prime Minister said she had not seen a document, allegedly distributed by her director of strategy Nick Reece, instructing ministerial staffers to gather sensitive political information on shadow ministers.

But she said scrutinising opposition MPs, including on their financial dealings, was a legitimate part of the political process. …

The ABC's AM program said the alleged Reece document was a "to do" list for gathering information on Coalition frontbenchers, including on their "younger days", their pecuniary interests and "potential issues" such as litigation. It was reportedly accompanied by a spreadsheet on where to get the publicly available information. …
There can be no argument as to the reasonability of scrutinizing MPs on both sides of the aisle and the cross benches; to use Don Chipp’s “let’s keep the Bastards honest.” (Don never explained how to ‘get the bastards honest’ in the first place and may have been a bit optimistic with his goal.)

Taxpayers though, should be demanding greater accountability from their various governments as to the division between that which is public interest spending, and that which is party political interest and as result should be paid for out of party funds. The channeling of taxpayer funds into spending done for the benefit of the ruling party is gross misappropriation, no matter which party is doing it.

The LNP dirt files were compiled ethically using their own resources. Gillard’s dirt files are the result of an unprincipled looting of treasury funds acquired for the purposes of public administration and their diversion to Labor Party use. Labor should repay this money to Treasury, along with the $36 million being used to sell the carbon tax.

The fact that all parties tend to do it when in power does not make it right.

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