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Polly Peck
21 November, 2007  
Capital Offences

Madness grips the campaign for Wentworth. Maybe it’s because too many lawyers are involved

imageWilliam Charles Wentworth (1790-1872), barrister, politician and explorer, and various of his descendants, have possessed more than a fair share of idiosyncratic tendencies and in some cases e.g. William Charles Wentworth 1V (1907-2003, pic), were decidedly dotty.

The dottiness seems to have infected the current campaign in the WCW 1’s eponymous electorate in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

Maybe it is the surfeit of lawyers who are contesting the seat that has contributed to the madness: Malcolm Turnbull (Lib), George Newhouse (ALP) and Dixie Coulton (Climate Change Coalition).

There’s a stack of green people who will make the difference. Dark Green (Greens), Lime Green (Climate Change Coalition) and Chartreuse (Dani Ecuyer, former consort to George Newhouse).

Newhouse is a Bondi Junction solicitor who acted for Vivian Alverez Solon and Cornelia Rau who, respectively, were illegally deported and incarcerated by the Department of Immigration.

imageTurnbull (pic) is frequently described in the tissues as a “barrister”, although his career at the bar was so brief you’d be forgiven for not noticing it. He once modestly told your correspondent that the entire Sydney bar (except for him) was “hopeless”.

Dixie Coulton is a barrister at Blackstone Chambers in Sydney, where her hubby Don Grieve QC also hangs out. She had a bit of a serious falling out with the Turnbulls in 2003, when as deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney she resigned from the Living Sydney party to take on Lucy Hughes Turnbull, Malcy’s wife, for the mayor’s job.

The trouble was that three months after she left she hadn’t notified the Living Sydneyites of her departure. When The Sydney Morning Herald asked her about this slip, she said she hadn’t got around to formally resigning, but she was “definitely” leaving.

Dixie and Don share chambers with His Frostiness, Lucy’s dad and Malcy’s father-in-law.

There were other barristers who held the seat, notably Bob Ellicott and more recently Peter King (knocked off in a bitter preselection struggle in 2004 by Turnbull).

* * *

imageNotice of quitting in a timely fashion also seems to have plagued Labor’s George Newhouse (pic), who held a nice little gig courtesy of the Labor state government as a member of the Consumer Trader and Tenancy Tribunal.

It’s no surprise that the Liberals leaked the information that there were doubts whether Gorgeous George had resigned his office of profit under the Crown before the Australian Electoral Commission’s formal declaration of his nomination.

Gorgeous was forced to take extreme measures – an opinion from Labor’s favourite Sydney silk John McCarthy. He advised that Newhouse was in the clear because of legislation that says a state government job is automatically vacated the moment a person is nominated as a member of parliament. McCarthy said:

“In the facts and circumstances briefed to me, I can firmly state the nomination of Mr Newhouse is legally valid pursuant to the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 as amended.”

None of which explains why the candidate won’t release his letter of resignation from the CTTT to the Minister for Fair Trading, Linda Burney, or why the Greens blocked a motion in the Legislative Council for the paperwork to see the light of day.

Anyway, now that the polls are showing Newhouse with Green preferences pulling ahead of Turnbull, 52 to 48 on a two party preferred basis, the Libs have produced an opinion from Sandy Street, which party hack Andrew Robb says …

“is absolutely categoric … that there would be a need for a by-election if Mr Newhouse is elected for the federal seat of Wentworth.”

Robb decided to make a meal of it and announced that nominations by another 12 Labor candidates were open to challenge. A nice try, but by the next day it had fizzled as a scare tactic.

There is no way Street’s opinion would be “categoric” without him having perused Newhouse’s undated resignation correspondence.

The important thing is the date at which the resignation is sent, not received – otherwise the law would be an ass. The Electoral Act requires resignation from a government job at least 24 hours before formal nominations are declared.

Newhouse says he resigned from the CTTT before October 30, the nominations were declared on November 2. The minister’s office has dated stamped the letter November 2.

At least McCarthy is likely to have been provided with the correspondence, which would put his advice in a stronger position.

If the aim of the statutory resignation requirement is to protect government agencies and departments from the taint of political struggle during elections then the insistence on strict adherence to resigning before nominations sometimes can be a little rich.

Take the case of the Greg Smith, who was deputy director of the NSW Office of Public Prosecutions and was preselected as the Liberal candidate for the state seat of Epping.

He was still hanging about the DPP’s office well after preselection, reprimanding staff for putting up “Rights at Work” posters on the ground that the DPP is a “non-political workplace”, which didn’t stop him pushing his views in the NSW Right to Life newsletter, while holding the job of deputy DPP.

Smith was preselected on September 16, 2006, he went on leave from his job on November 5, 2006 (still on the payroll, while organising his campaign), resigned as deputy DPP on February 2, 2007 and the election was held on March 24, 2007. DPP Nicholas Cowdery’s announcement of September 25, 2006 has the details.

Of course, he resigned just before being formally “nominated” as the Liberal candidate for the seat, but he hung on to his job for over four and a half months after his nomination was all but a reality and during that time was fielding calls from the likes of Sub-Lieutenant Debnam and Wild Bill Heffernan, who were trying to put in their oar on prosecution policy.

* * *

imageThe Wentworth campaign turned spicy when a journalist from The Australian, Caroline Overington (pic), entered the fray. Media Watch, which has been in a state of relentless trench warfare with the Oz, in its last show for the year, revealed emails passing between Overington and the anti-pulp mill candidate Danielle Ecuyer.

On the morning of the Media Watch outing Overington was merrily bagging Ecuyer in The Australian:

“She is blond, ambitious, and losing friends faster than she’s winning votes.”

Ecuyer got a whack for having the temerity to stage a stunt which involved a gaggle of shirtless and oiled Muscle Marys carried her around the beach front of Bondi on a surfboard. It was supposed to appeal to gay environmentalists.

What Media Watch revealed was that only a fortnight or so before that article there had been a flurry of luvvy-duvvy emails between O and E.

image”Have you decided how to preference yet??” Overington asks on October 26.

“No sweetie it is way too early, let’s see what happens on policy from the major parties – if anything!!!!!!,” Ecuyer replies. And back came this one from Overington:

“Too early! My girl, you’ve got four weeks!! Please preference Malcolm. It would be such a good front page story. Also, he’d be a loss to the parliament and George – forgive me – would be no gain. ;).”

Ecuyer (pic), or as they say in the classics, “someone close to her”, must have assisted Media Watch with its inquiries.

Rupert Murdoch declared that “disciplinary action” would be taken against any reporter who tried to influence candidates in the name of the company’s publications.

If she was acting in a private capacity then that was hunky dory, according to the Dirty Digger.

“It’s a free world and a reporter is entitled to his opinions as much as anyone else. I’m sorry about that,” the ancient, fuchsia-haired, reptile said.

The editor-in-chief of The Australian, the swivel-eyed Chris Mitchell, was standing by his woman and said Rupert didn’t have all the facts.

Overington added:

“Journalists use a range of different ways to get their stories.”

Another of her ways is to suggest she might toss a leg over her “victim”. It emerged two days after the Media Watch exposé when The Sydney Morning Herald published another clump of emails, this time between Overington and Newhouse.

Here the Big O was threatening in early October to get the very candidate who’d be “no gain to the parliament” into the cot, in exchange for a photo.

Overington: Hey there … Let’s chat today, shall we? I could come out to Bondi, since I live there. And now you are single, I might even make a pass at you.

Newhouse: You describe me [previously in an article] as short, dark and Jewish so why would you do that? And I know you are married [and I know who too] so why would I reciprocate?

Overington: Not married, me. Separated five months ago. I might like short, dark and Jewish, you never know. My grandfather is Jewish. But he married a Polish blonde. Perhaps we are related.

Overington (20 minutes later): Either you say yes to a photograph smiling and happy and out campaigning, or we stake you out at [street name and number deleted] and get you looking like a cat caught in a trap, in your PJs. Your choice.

Newhouse: Now that doesn’t sound like burying the hatchet. Sounds more like hatchet … What is the story?

Overington: Because we ran a piece today saying you’re a scaredy cat that needs ALP minders and can’t run your own campaign. You’re saying it ain’t so. So why are you still hiding from us? Let’s be pals. We’ll come over, get a pix of you on the streets in your new footwear, marching along, getting on with business of winning the seat, not down in the gutter with the muck rakers. It will be sweet. Otherwise, we’ll stake you out and get you looking like a scaredy cat that needs ALP minders and can’t run your own campaign.

Overington (about an hour later): Okay, we are sending a bloke out at 1pm. We do not have all day, George.”

Overington (about two hours later): We’re out the front of your house, and your office, just so you know.

Traditional Murdochian bovver girl tactics. Since then it’s been impossible to find an Overington story in the newspaper. She has done a mild bit of blogging, with Tuesday’s (Nov 20) contribution still plumping for Turnbull to win Wentworth. But no Caroline in hard copy, no full-blooded defence from swivel-eyes and silence from the scrofulous old rogue of a proprietor.

The paper had a pro-Turnbull beat-up today (Wed. Nov. 21) saying that one of Newhouse’s campaign workers has espoused anti-Zionism.

* * *

Meanwhile, the reinvention of Turnbull from bumptious bully to suave saviour of the nation, continues apace. Many have been conscripted into spinning the new fully-hinged version of Malcolm, some unwittingly, including Ms O herself.

Mrs Turnbull has taken to issuing cloying missives to the electors about “the Malcolm I know and love”.

The Daily Smellograph even reported that Malcolm “has been described as the only fully sane candidate for the Eastern Suburbs seat”.

Things really are upside down.

The same paper headlined on Monday (Nov. 19) that ministers are furious at Turnbull privately writing off the government’s prospects, leaking his unsuccessful plea to Cabinet to sign the Kyoto protocol, and bad mouthing other ministers behind their backs, including Howard.

Someone was pretty steamed-up about the Malcolm we “know and love” and had briefed the Smellograph about the ill-feeling within the party towards the adorable member for Wentworth.

There were plenty of quotes from miffed party colleagues, such as: “Malcolm’s for Malcolm” ... he’s a “rambunctious outsider” who has used his wealth to muscle his way to the top … “he is too blatantly ambitious” ... his view is “get Costello out of the way, get Howard out of the way – and I’m going to run the show.”

It’s a bit late for Liberals to wake-up to the fact that Turnbull has his treacherous and divisive side. My fearless predication is that if he retains his seat he’ll tear them apart trying to get what he wants.

In 2003 there was this piece in The Sydney Morning Herald, canvassing Turnbull’s judgment, including the famous instance where Justice David Hunt said he’d poisoned the “fountain of justice” in a case in which the young thruster acted for Packer against Douglas Meagher of the Costigan Royal Commission.

An even more spectacular instance of the quality of his judgment concerned a book by Coral Lansbury on Anthony Trollope’s legal fiction, which Malcolm glowingly reviewed in The Bulletin. It must have slipped his mind to let readers in on the tiny detail that Coral was his Mum.

Effrontery of pachyderm proportions.

* * *

And hasn’t Howard been looking and sounding madder and madder with each passing day?

Humourless, witless, unprepossessing and leaden. Devoid of any literature, theatre and suspicious of creativity. A small-minded, cackling dwarf tirelessly lauded by an ugly cacophony of claqueurs (Akerman, Albrechtsen, Devine, Pearson, Sheridan, et al).

imageHoward’s entire view of the country is that it is simply “an economy”. Not once has he exposed a bigger vision of what we could be as a people.

In the last few days Howard has frantically claimed that Rudd, if elected to government, would end the mining boom in Western Australia, restore political correctness and, heaven forbid, “change Australia”. He squawked:

“There’s no such thing as changing the government without changing the circumstances of the country. It’s not like a Christmas present you didn’t want and you can take it back at the Boxing Day sale.”

He’s even tried to foist the notion on us that the awful thug Peter Costello is a “good bloke”.

One of Paul Keating’s earthy metaphors is that it’s impossible to be rid of Howard because he’s like the “nasty turd in the toilet” that refuses to be flushed. “You keep flushing and flushing and still he bobs up every time.”

Come on now. One more gigantic flush.


Reader Comments

Posted by: Anonymous
Date: November 21, 2007, 1:44 am

Great article!
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: November 21, 2007, 3:16 am

I agree - great article - and I would just like to add a tribute to Malcolm Turnbull's highly intelligent mother, Coral Lansbury, who had the good taste and foresight to abandon him at the age of 9 - (or so he and Lucy have shamelessly informed the electorate).
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: November 21, 2007, 10:34 pm

Thank god we have an accurate description of the Current Prime Minister. He has tried to reduce everything in our culture to a dollar value, but we are much much more than that and the truth is bursting to get out.