Monday, February 23, 2009

CRIKEY: Mafia scandal should make O'Farrell and Turnbull very nervous ...

Well it’s been a bad few weeks for the Federal Parliamentary Liberal Party.

Brendan Nelson decided to POQ, his parting message to many of his more senior colleagues to join him. Julie Bishop was effectively demoted. Former leader John Hewson wrote op-eds in Fairfax papers telling Costello to also POQ. Joe Hockey reckons Costello’s refusal to POQ makes him resemble Prince Charles waiting for Queen Lizzy to kick the bucket or abdicate. Both Phillip Ruddock and Bronwyn Bishop are facing pressure from their branches to POQ. And just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, it now seems the Federal Police have been investigating links between the Liberal Party organisation and a local franchise of the Calabrian mafia.

The Party has seen better days. Who could forget that famous scene when John Howard told a packed hall of Liberal Party faithful on the eve of the 2001 federal election: "We will decide who comes into this country and the circumstances in which they come". If allegations raised in The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald today are anything to go by, it seems the Howard government had decided who (persons with links to organised crime) would entered and remained in Australia and the circumstances (political donations) in which they would come.

It shamelessly lied in accusing asylum seekers of throwing their children overboard. John Howard and Phillip Ruddock, in the name of "border protection", happily took a cue from Saddam Hussein and Donald Rumsfeld by locking up in detention centres ordinary Iraqis and Afghans (including children) fleeing persecution, all the while boasting of a "war on terror" designed to liberate Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yet the Liberal Party Division in both John Howard’s and Malcolm Turnbull’s home state was happy to accept donations from people allegedly close to the Calabrian mafia. Liberal MP’s happily lobbied to keep a man accused of having mafia links in Australia and happily received donations of up to $150,000 from his buddies.

Vanstone denies donations affected her decision to intervene, which she claimed was made on humanitarian grounds. Vanstone had evidence of the person’s links to organised crime. She overruled her Department’s recommendation and exercised her discretion to allow the individual to remain in Australia, overturning the decision of her predecessor. Fairfax also reports that the man was subsequently arrested in relation to his alleged involvement in the world’s largest importation of the illegal drug ecstasy.

This was supposed to be the government which prided itself on its national security credentials. This is the party which wants to form the next State Government in New South Wales. Barry O’Farrell should be more than a little nervous And Malcolm Turnbull must be on the verge of a cardiac arrest.

First published in Crikey on Monday 23 February 2009.

Words © 2009 Irfan Yusuf

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