Turnbull is trying to turn Emma Husar story into a Bill Shorten narrative

  • Written by Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Malcolm Turnbull is breathing political fire about the Emma Husar affair. But one thing he hasn’t done so far is say there should be a byelection in the Labor MP’s ultra-marginal New South Wales seat of Lindsay.

Of course the government couldn’t force a byelection even if it wanted one, but after the fallout from its failure to wrest a couple of potentially vulnerable seats from Labor on Super Saturday, it has had its fill of such contests for now.

A byelection is the last thing the NSW Liberal party would welcome, on top of the state one it has in Wagga Wagga, after its MP resigned in a corruption scandal, and an expensive state election early next year.

If any Liberal call does come for Husar to quit parliament immediately - rather than at the election, as she’s announced - rest assured it would be made on the comfortable expectation that she wouldn’t do so.

The bad publicity around Husar, accused of bullying and misusing her staff and much else (all of which she denies) and the associated Labor party infighting, should help the Liberals in Lindsay, other things being equal. But that’s for later, at the general election.

Read more: Emma Husar falls on her sword

Meanwhile Turnbull is weaving the extraordinary saga of this first term MP into the government’s familiar narrative about Bill Shorten. That the opposition leader doesn’t tell the truth. And that his workers-friend credentials are phoney.

Shorten repeated on Thursday: “I had no knowledge of these complaints. I’ve gone back and asked my staff, they had no knowledge of the complaints or the process until we heard it leaked to the media.”

But the government declares he must have been aware much earlier – on the grounds that everyone else seems to have known.

Turnbull said on Thursday that Shorten “needs to tell us what he knew and when”. As well, Shorten “claims to have been a great champion of the workers … So where was the champion of the workers when people were being allegedly mistreated?”

This week one former Husar staffer alleged that complainants had been talking to Shorten’s office for months. Shorten responded that a check had been made and “none of my staff have confirmed that.”

Undoubtedly, there’d been plenty of long-running rumours about Husar and her office, which had a huge staff turnover. Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said again on Thursday he’d heard rumours about issues with staff “for a while. There were various rumours around the building”.

Whether Shorten has closed ears – an opposition leader does have a lot on his mind - or is splitting hairs, we simply can’t be sure. Some in Labor believe he is resorting to literalism. Albanese said pointedly, “what I think has been said there is a matter of when he was formally notified.”

On the subject of “what he knew and when” and rumours, consider some parallels with Malcolm Turnbull and the Barnaby Joyce baby rumour.

In his book Weatherboard and Iron, released this week, Joyce writes that throughout the campaign for last year’s December 2 byelection in his New England seat, there was “the threat that my private life would become a public debate … I believe many knew or had at least heard the rumour that Vikki was pregnant”.

Read more: Politics podcast: Barnaby Joyce at his provocative best

An exuberant Turnbull celebrated with Joyce on byelection night, hailing “getting the band back together”. But after the scandal burst into the media in the new year, he publicly excoriated Joyce, deploring ministers having sexual relationships with staff and announcing the so-called bonking ban.

The obvious question was, when had Turnbull first known about Joyce’s relationship? On that happy December night, was he aware of the rumours that Joyce says many had already heard?

Turnbull told 3AW in February, shortly before Joyce quit as Nationals leader and deputy prime minister: “Barnaby at no time said to me that he was in a sexual relationship with this woman.” He said he could not recall when he first heard a rumour - “but probably … about the same time, possibly later than others.” As for asking Joyce, he would not be drawn on private discussions.

Whether the government can make political mileage with its claim that Shorten knew about Husar’s behaviour earlier than he admits is yet to be seen. While voters don’t have a high opinion of Shorten, they also have such low regard for politicians generally that they are more likely than not to assume many of them are lying much of the time.

Labor needed Husar to fall on her sword before parliament resumes next week. She did so ahead of the release of the findings of the NSW Labor-commissioned inquiry into her behaviour, expected imminently.

There was no way she was going to be retained as the candidate, but the timing limits the damage. Still, within Labor there is some nervousness about what other fallout there might be, and this goes beyond the government’s attacks.

Having an angry and distressed Husar within Labor ranks will be difficult. And will the disgruntled former staffers be satisfied that the matter has been handled adequately? The government is encouraging them to take their complaints further, as well as calling on Shorten to refer the material for independent scrutiny.

As always happens with scandals, they’ve been calls for changes to the system - in this case, more rules around treatment of staff.

Is this really necessary? MPs’ offices are hot houses of pressure and tension, and staff often have testing bosses, very challenging jobs and punishing hours. But bad circumstances in one office don’t necessarily mean the whole system needs overall. Anyway, the fall of Husar will send a powerful message to other MPs on being careful about how their offices run.

Unfortunately, however, the sorry tale has also sent another message. That one is to the voters about their politicians – and, as so often, it’s a negative one.

Authors: Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Read more http://theconversation.com/grattan-on-friday-turnbull-is-trying-to-turn-emma-husar-story-into-a-bill-shorten-narrative-101342

Australia Today

What sea creature can attack and win over a blue whale?

Wally Franklin, Researcher and co-director of the The Oceania Project, Southern Cross University

Blue whales are the largest creatures to have ever lived on Earth.ShutterstockThis is an article from Curious Kids, a series for children. The Conversation is asking kids to send in questions they’d like an expert to answer. All questions are welcome – serious, weird or wacky! You might ...

Read more

how leadership instability and revenge became woven into our political fabric

Frank Bongiorno, Professor of History, ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-NDBack in 2012, a major study on the selection and removal of party leaders in Anglo parliamentary democracies was published. The book contained a section with the inviting title of “Machiavellian tactics”. Most of the authors’ examples came fro...

Read more

How to move energy policy models beyond bias and vested interests

Shirin Malekpour, Research Leader in Strategic Planning and Futures Studies, Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Monash University

Modelling should be a chance to test your assumptions, not just confirm them.ShutterstockThe Turnbull government’s flagship energy plan, the National Energy Guarantee, was intended to end a decade-long stalemate on energy and climate policy in Australia. Ironically, since its unveiling in Octo...

Read more

University staff and students are at high risk of ill health. Here's how to make sure they can cope

Brad Wright, Sessional Academic (Health & Physical Education), Charles Sturt University

Students and staff at universities have many of the same health risk factors, including poor mental health and alcohol consumption.www.shutterstock.comUniversity students are an at-risk population for many health issues. These include mental health, alcohol and substance use, sexual assault and hara...

Read more

What do your earliest childhood memories say about you?

Penny Van Bergen, Senior Lecturer in Educational Psychology, Macquarie University

The experience "this happened to me" is stronger than "this happened" in memory formation. epicharmus/flickr , CC BY-SAWe experience thousands of events across childhood, and yet as adults we recall only a handful. Some might be “firsts” (our first ice cream, our first day at school), or...

Read more

what is loss aversion and is it real?

Brendan Markey-Towler, Researcher, The University of Queensland

You may still feel losing a wallet more than finding it.ShutterstockA recent study claims a core idea in behavioural economics – loss aversion – is a fallacy. Loss aversion is the theory that the pain of losing something is greater than the pleasure we feel by gaining something equivalen...

Read more

Holidays & Travel

Guide to Travel Necessities for 2018

Sure, it sounds like quite an adventure to hit an open road with nothing but a one-way ticket and an open mind, but the harsh reality is – you won’t...

Top Sightseeing Spots in New Zealand

New Zealand is one of the most fascinating locations for anyone to visit in the world. After all, it’s a place with a variety of unique landscapes, but it isn’t...

Must-Pack Items for a Travel Blogging Boss

As a travel blogger, you get to see and explore so many wonderful destinations and meet various interesting people, but before you embark on a new adventure you need to...

Luxury Camping Adventures Around the World

Perhaps in direct response to the dominance of technology in the modern world, many travelers are feeling a strong draw towards nature. While some are able to fully embrace their...

Dredging works underway Plantation Island

Tourists and workers travelling to popular tourist destination Plantation Island, Fiji, are set to benefit from safer access when marine channel dredging is completed at the end of June 2018...

Top 5 Tips for Traveling With Dogs

Travelling with your dog can be thrilling, but sometimes it can turn into a real nuisance. Unless you know how to properly restrain the pooch, whether it’ll be able to...

Top Island Destinations for 2018

When we picture island destinations in our minds, we often imagine a tropical beach of white sand, a sun lounger laid out in the shade of a line of palm...

Why Car Rental Excess Insurance is a Smart Choice

Some car rental agencies include basic damage cover in the standard rental fee, with the option to add on liability reduction, or excess insurance. The addition of excess insurance normally...

More Than a Third of Australians Feel 'Too Busy' With Work to Take a Holiday

New research from InterContinental Hotel & Resorts has unveiled a large number of Australians (32 percent) are simply too busy with work to take some much-needed rest and relaxation. Almost...

Fashion & Beauty

Groom To Do List

Sorry Aussie Men, you no longer just pay for the alcohol, flowers and marriage license. Times have certainly changed. Wedding Expert shares what Australian Grooms are now expected to do before...

Simple Secrets To A More Confident Smile

We all know just how important first impressions are. After a handshake, what’s one of the first things people will notice about you? It’s your smile. A friendly smile is...

Improve Your Body Confidence and Feel Great

No matter how good you feel about yourself, sometimes you just can’t help but see a few little flaws that seem gigantic to you and make you feel self-conscious. Whether...

First-Timer Tips For Your First Lip Filler Appointment

Getting injectable lip fillers can be a quick and effective way to plump up your smile with minimal drama. They’re a cost-effective and safe way to boost the natural shape...

The Most Common Skin Conditions and How to Deal with Them

We often underestimate the importance of our skin, but as the largest organ in our body, and our primary layer of defense, it is constantly affected by many environmental factors...

Beach Babe Basics: Everything You Need to Look Stylish at the Beach

Summer is right around the corner, and this year, we all should make the best of it. Right now, it is not just about looking stylish on the streets, it...

HEALTH

National Action Plan For Endometriosis Is A Game-Changer For Australian Women

Heba Shaheed, The Pelvic Expert, shares her personal story and expert tips for living with endo... First National Action Plan For Endometriosis Is A Game-Changer For Australian Women   The announcement of the first...

Pre - summer pampering: Australian women are detoxifying themselves in the most “kind-Ly” fashion!

In today’s society we are completely exposed to materials, products and chemicals which we unfortunately have no clue if it’s origins, meaning and purpose. Getting back to basics...

Eye Health Dos and Don'ts

Most people take their eyes for granted and spend little to no time thinking about their eye health until they notice something wrong. This leads to plenty of common and...

Non-invasive Cosmetic Treatments

In a world where everyone is chasing perfection, plastic surgeries have become more and more common to the point where it’s odd if you don’t get one during your life...

My Health Yoga

Carrie-Anne Fields of My Health Yoga has taken her Gold Coast yoga teacher training worldwide. She started her health business 20 years ago aged 22 and has grown into a...

Fit Body 101 - Increase Your Fitness Effectiveness

You have to find some space for physical exercise in your weekly schedule in order to live a good life. Embracing this way of life is very beneficial because it...

LIFE STYLE

Add a little colour to your move - and life!

How a little ‘colour’ and planning can take your Move, and make it a more enjoyable one Colour plays a huge role in our lives, it can take us up, or...

6 Simple Rules for Redesigning Your Kitchen

How do you feel about your kitchen? Well, if you feel like your home needs a bit of lifting up, one of the best and most effective places to start...

Dog Flea Allergy

Severe itchy skin disease in dogs causes Flea bite hypersensitivity. The itch is as a result of an allergic reaction to the saliva of the flea which is injected into...

5 Ways to Turn Your Bedroom into a True Zen Retreat

The bedroom should be our little sanctuary where we come to relax after a long day of work. However, in order to be able to unwind all the accumulated stress...

Things to Consider when Deciding on your Wedding Flowers for the Big Day

Choosing the wedding flowers is a complicated process where you have to take into account many elements, from the wedding dress to the wedding theme. You can discover in this...

Renovating tips for your house

There are very few property owners who move into a house where they don’t want to make any changes. Alterations are almost inevitable every time you move-house, but alterations can...

FOOD & DINING

Morning greens: the breakfast skincare regime

It’s safe to assume that most Aussies fail to eat enough greens. Although this was momentarily resolved with the rise and popularity of the green juice movement, the lack of...

Best Hidden Gem Hong Kong Restaurants

You finally find yourself enjoying the endless beauties of China and this fascinating city. In a place with so much variety, all your senses will be wide awake, and your...

JOHNNY DI FRANCESCO NAMED OFFICIAL AMBASSADOR OF EAT STREET MELBOURNE

Johnny Di Francesco, world champion pizzaiolo and owner of Melbourne’s Gradi Group of restaurants, is excited to announce he has been named official ambassador for Eat Street Melbourne 2018. As Ambassador...

The best Mother's Day gift EVER!

Whether it’s to celebrate a special occasion, or just wind down at the end of a long day, there’s nothing much better than pouring yourself a glass (or two…) of...

Sing for Your Supper at Chargrill Charlie’s

To celebrate the final curtain call of the Barden Bellas, Chargrill Charlie’s is giving you the chance to Sing for your Supper! Show off your best acapella vocals to win...

MAKE IT WINE TIME, ANY TIME

Whether it’s to celebrate a special occasion, or just wind down at the end of a long day, there’s nothing much better than pouring yourself a glass (or two…) of...