(Above: more Wilcox here).
First the pond would like to apologise to the cat and the partner.
They are absolutely not at fault in the matter of Tony Abbott and chaplains, and it was wrong of the pond to threaten the cat with a rolled up newspaper and call it greymalkin.
And now to other matters, as the steam settles for the moment, though the outrage is certain to continue, and both sides deserve eternal shame for their behaviour in this sordid affair ...
Thanks to the pond's partner smuggling home a copy of the AFR - lordy, lordy, do punters really pay $3.50 a pop for the tree killer edition? - the pond had the chance to read Hannah Low's analysis in yesterday's rag under the header Ashby is no David, Slipper no Goliath (behind the paywall but linked for the punters who pay for their pleasures).
Low was wrapping up an analysis of why Ashby would rack up an estimated some $1.4 million in legal expenses, in pursuit of a claim the Commonwealth reckoned to be worth maybe $50,000, if proven, using a deferred fee arrangement - not, as Low points out, a pro bono deal, but a deferral until settlement or a damages award:
Mr Ashby this week said part of his reasoning in settling the case was a "fundamental" injustice where one side had unlimited access to funds, as the Commonwealth had undertaken to assist Mr Slipper in his legal costs.
Taxpayer support of an unknown "quantum" for Mr Slipper made the case financially very one-sided, Mr Ashby said, and deep pocket litigation against an ordinary person was unfair.
The inaccuracy of this assertion is gross. True, the federal government has now agreed to assist Mr Slipper financially, but that support was not always forthcoming, nor is it unlimited.
At the outset, Mr Slipper personally racked up nearly $250,000 in legal costs with the firm, Maurice Blackburn, acting for him.
Not only could he not pay these then, but the firm also has an outstanding judgment debt against him and still hasn't successfully recovered the bills, which are now two years old.
The irony is that when the litigation was first commenced, Mr Ashby, buoyed by his deferred fee arrangement, was the one with significant, and seemingly never-ending resources.
Exactly what has changed now is unclear.
The pond can think of several things that have changed, but isn't inclined to speculate, given Mr. Ashby's penchant for litigation.
And moving right along, another thing the pond overlooked this week was a variant on 'the dog ate my homework miss', which turned into 'I lost my exercise book with all my work in it miss'.
The pond has no dog in the HSU fight - indeed it is the pond's proud boast that it was once declared black and a scab by a union - but had to admire the sheer cheek and style of alleged whistleblower Kathy Jackson:
Health Services Union whistleblower Kathy Jackson claims she could only guess at what payments of up to $50,000 from a $250,000 union fund were used for following the loss of the exercise book detailing the account.
Now call the pond canny - the pond always had a deep sympathy for Ebenezer in Kidnapped and Shylock in The Merchant of Venice - up against the mealy mouthed pieties of the wastrel heroes, but 50k is the sort of sum that sticks in the pond's mind.
And Jackson then offered up a further defence - everyone else was doing it (likely enough, everyone else kept their account reckonings in exercise books):
She said the HSU was not alone — unaudited “offline” accounts dealing in large amounts of cash were common across the union movement.
“Other unions such as the AWU, the NUW, the SDA etc also had accounts that were run by the organisation but not audited by the branch auditors, they were offline sort of accounts,” she said. (Kathy Jackson's book of secrets: Struggles to answer questions at HSU corruption inquiry at the HUN and elsewhere).
It's remarkable stuff, all the more so as the ATO used to drop in routinely on the pond whenever there was an accounting error of maybe a hundred bucks in the BASS statement. You couldn't get away with an exercise book excuse with those electronic devils.
So this is the person presented as an heroic whistleblower - lost exercise books, as if the keeping of slush funds in an exercise book wasn't an issue in the first place, and the mantra that everybody else was doing it, so I had to do it too ...
No wonder the average punter looks askance at unions:
Yesterday she confirmed she controlled a slush fund, which she called a “fighting fund”, financed from more than $250,000 of unpaid members’ entitlements money paid to the union by the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.
Ms Jackson said she was given carte blanche to use the money for union purposes such as election funding or Christmas parties, and $4000 a year for personal use. But as Mr Stoljar went through the bank records for the National Health Development Account, into which the entitlement money was paid, Ms Jackson struggled to recall what the payments were for.
When Mr Stoljar asked what withdrawals of $5000, $8000 and even $50,000 were used for Ms Jackson repeatedly replied “No” or “They were used for either political or industrial purposes”.
She said she kept a tally of all payments from the account in an exercise book. “If I had my exercise book every transaction would have been recorded,” she said.
Yes, that's members' money - poor bloody hospital workers - being slushed around, and never you mind because it's allegedly being used for good, or at least Kathy Jackson's good.
The pond can remember once being made, by a righteous union, to send out cheques to workers who had lost out as a result of a minor accounting error. It involved five cents here, ten cents there, maybe a dollar or two in a few epic cases, and never mind the cost of making good. Those were the days.
Moving right along, and peaking of whistleblowers, Senator Ian Macdonald is carving out a new career as as thorn in the side of the government.
Well you can guarantee that when any kind of poppy sticks its head above the parapet, there'll be a reptile at the lizard Oz ready to lop it off, and Peter van Onselen takes hold of the hand sickle, and labels Macdonald "disgraceful".
Which immediately made the pond think that van Onselen was himself a disgraceful, and his column, Liberal senators ponder disgraceful use of conscience vote a total, shocking, hideous disgrace (but happily the disgrace is locked behind the Oz paywall, wouldn't want a free public shaming).
Yes, on one level, the pond is simply outraged at the shocking, disgraceful abuse of the English language by an alleged academic and a professor no less. If we might revert to the dictionary:
1. disgraceful - giving offence to moral sensibilities and injurious to reputation; "scandalous behaviour"; "the wicked rascally shameful conduct of the bankrupt"- Thackeray; "the most shocking book of its time" scandalous, shameful, shocking immoral - deliberately violating accepted principles of right and wrong
2. disgraceful - (used of conduct or character) deserving or bringing disgrace or shame disgraceful - (used of conduct or character) deserving or bringing disgrace or shame; "Man...has written one of his blackest records as a destroyer on the oceanic islands"- Rachel Carson; "an ignominious retreat"; "inglorious defeat"; "an opprobrious monument to human greed"; "a shameful display of cowardice" (and more here, with links to shameful, shocking, scandalous, mean, low, infamous, degrading, unworthy, ignominious, disreputable, contemptible, dishonourable, detestable, discreditable, blameworthy and opprobrious).
And so voting against a dumb, hypocritical and contradictory Abbott police is disgraceful ...
You see it doesn't have anything to do with the actual policy or considerations thereto.
Instead it's rally around the flag, because the uncertainty of the vote poses a dire threat to Abbott:
...The uncertainty stems from an internal revolt that is brewing. Some Liberal and National senators are increasingly voicing their concerns about the policy, for a range of reasons. It may turn out that even if the Greens support the legislation, as they have indicated they will (although I’m not certain they will continue to do so), the combined blocking votes of Labor, sections of the cross-benches, and dissident Coalition senators could sink the Prime Minister’s PPL policy.
That would be an enormous psychological blow to Abbott, and a political embarrassment which could easily bake in the PM’s unpopularity, which Newspoll again this week highlighted as a problem.
It probably won’t come to that, and the PPL policy will pass into law soon enough. But not before internal divisions play out publicly in the weeks and months ahead.
Coalition senators threatening to cross the floor on Abbott’s signature policy represents a disgraceful misuse of the conservative right to exercise a conscience vote on issues even when party policy has been set. And I write this despite being very much alive to the criticisms we see levelled at the PPL policy.
That's it? Abbott's popularity is in the toilet, so rally around the flag troops and hold your noses and vote for a policy of privilege and culture of entitlement at a time when we're supposed to be in an existential budget crisis, and never mind the greenies rallying around the flag with you?
News flash. Abbott's popularity is always going to be in the toilet. Live with it.
But it seems his acolytes and forelock tuggers won't allow for any disgraceful dissension.
And so to the business of the excoriating, and the naming, and the shaming of anyone who dares to hold an alternative disgraceful opinion.
Here's how it's done:
Were Abbott to break his signature policy, walking away from the PPL, he would match Gillard’s broken promise on a carbon tax and Rudd’s capitulation on an ETS all in one.
It is true that some senators have previously expressed mild reservations with the PPL policy. But it is one hell of a leap to go from that to open dissent resulting in crossing the floor. Especially when the PM has already capitulated on the original design principle of the scheme, reducing the upper limit of what women receive over six months from $75,000 to $50,000.
Among the names being bandied about as willing to cross the floor on this issue are Senators Cory Bernardi, John Williams, Dean Smith and Ian Macdonald. There are others too, apparently, but they are yet to be named publicly. Among those who have been named, Macdonald stands out as motivated by spite, not policy purity. He is deeply bitter about being dumped from the frontbench after the election, having admitted as much himself. Worst of all for Abbott, Macdonald has just been re-elected for six more years, starting his new term on July 1.
Macdonald’s spite sees him opposing all manner of Coalition policies, with inherently contradictory rhetorical reasons when doing so. He said he opposes the debt levy because businesses, not individuals, should foot the bill for paying back debt, but went on to say that he opposes the PPL because it is paid for by a tax on business. Work that one out.
The Senate process ahead of the vote on PPL saw Macdonald question his colleague and finance minister, Mathias Cormann, on the PPL with cross examination skills he rarely put to use when questioning Labor ministers over the past six years. If Macdonald had operated with a similar passion a little earlier perhaps the good senator wouldn’t have been dumped from the frontbench. And why weren’t similar concerns with the PPL raised by him internally before now?
Dealing with the Senate over the next two years is going to be hard enough for the Abbott government without rats in its own ranks worsening the situation. I would rarely discourage Coalition senators from exercising their right to cross the floor on policies that concern them. But on the PPL issue any opposition should have come to a head well before now.
What a disgraceful commentary on a disgraceful policy, and how petty and spiteful to personalise the matter rather than consider the policy.
It's the pond's view that the entire parliament in both its houses should be in revolt ... and not just on the minor matter of the PPL, but more importantly, in the way the Abbott government is doing its best to kill off a consideration of climate science around the world ...
The reality is that van Onselen's piece could have been issued as a press release, authorised by Peta Credlin in the PM's office.
Rats in the ranks, bitterness, spite, support a foolish PM and never mind that he's a fool, and into the valley should the five hundred ride ... don't worry about the strategy or the guns on either side ... and so forth and so on ...
It's a measure of the desperate situation Abbott now finds himself in that even minor quislings like van Onselen should now be demanding everyone should rally around the flag and the greenies and the age of entitlement, and don't you go worrying about that dire existential budget emergency which justifies screwing everyone else and which routinely sees the Murdochians defame anyone on welfare, with the Daily Terror at it again today ...
Uh huh. Two bucks for an alarmist fear mongering tree killer. Why it almost makes the AFR look like a good deal ...
Never mind, yummy mummy, Tony Abbott will save you from the jihadists on welfare ...
But back to the disgraceful van Onselen - how easy that word "disgraceful" trips off the keyboard.
David Pope has been on holidays of late, but some of his old cartoons linger on in the mind, and this one seems to capture the logic of van Onselen (and more new Pope when he returns here):