Features Australia

Fleeing Danistan

Democracy dies as the factional warlords thrive

18 December 2021

9:00 AM

18 December 2021

9:00 AM

When flying out of the Soviet Union – before glasnost – pilots on airlines other than Aeroflot would announce to spontaneous applause that the aircraft had left Soviet air space.

The cheers that erupted were always a reminder that the passengers and crew knew that they’d reached the Free World and escaped the totalitarians who had stolen democracy from their people.

Leaving Victoria by car recently there was something of the same sense of relief. Fleeing Danistan was almost impossible during the tyrannical reign imposed by Labor Premier Dan Andrews using the cover of the Wuhan flu crisis for 262 days, confining residents of Melbourne in their homes except to buy necessities, take minimal exercise or undertake essential work. Lockdowns longer than any other city in the world suffered.

Chief health officer Brett Sutton relished his role as the primary source of expert advice relied on by Andrews and with some 1,240 deaths – more than double the combined total of the rest of the states and territories – he deflected much of the opprobrium Andrews deserved.

Andrews, with no scruples about tossing ministerial colleagues under passing trams when it suited his purposes, made Sutton the scapegoat for Victoria’s multiple Covid failures and framed the now infamous Pandemic Management (Amendment) Bill to reduce the CHO’s future role. That ill amended Bill was to pass only with the support of the Green-Left crossbenchers who won drug injecting rooms, four-bin recycling systems, the declaration of wombats as protected species, the right of pet groomers to reopen before hair, beauty and home maintenance businesses, abolition of the Lord’s Prayer before the opening of state parliament and redefining pets as ‘family members’ under the Family Violence Protection Act.

A coalition of legal experts, QCs, the Victorian Bar Association and State Ombudsman Deborah Glass agreed it remained flawed without any truly independent oversight. It’s typical of Dan Andrews’ tendency to overreach.

But the issue has served to hide an even greater scandal existing in the state – the theft of democracy from the rank-and-file ALP membership. This occurred in June, 2020, when Andrews called for Labor’s national executive to place the Victorian branch in administration after the disclosure of industrial-scale branch-stacking by the Right faction.

Andrews’ move was supported by former senator Stephen Conroy, just one of many former politicians from both sides of politics swilling at the trough as they swell the ranks of consultants.Thanks to the intervention of Andrews and Conroy, federal Labor now controls all of Victoria’s state and federal pre-selections in the run-up to the national election early next year and the state election in November. Democracy may not be returned till 2023 or beyond if the national committee believes the state branch isn’t fit to resume normal operations.

Nominally, nominations for Victorian pre-selections are received by an interim committee to pass on to the national committee but federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese has control of the national committee, with a majority of one, effectively giving him oversight of all federal and state pre-selections.

There is no doubt that he would defer to the wishes of Andrews in pre-selections for Victorian Parliament though, after all it was Andrews who proposed the national intervention.

The rank-and-file members, the True Believers who hand out the how-to-vote cards on polling day and who still turn out (albeit in lesser numbers) for local branch meetings aren’t permitted to vote to pre-select their candidates for state and federal elections.

One Victorian Labor figure pointed out that the involvement of Conroy, now a high-profile lobbyist, mirrored the situation in the Liberal party’s NSW division where pre-selections are effectively run by former state Liberal MP Michael Photios, now the pre-eminent party powerbroker, who with the support of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his numbers man, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, place their candidates ahead of those who’ve been selected by local branches.

After a long struggle for reform by former prime minister Tony Abbott, members of the NSW division of the Liberal party were permitted to install their own candidates but that right has been stripped by the top-down diktat.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet stared down his Health Minister Brad Hazzard in mid-November when Hazzard sought to extend emergency health powers though the proposal had unwisely been accepted by the NSW Cabinet.

Numerous Victorian MPs, state and federal, told me Andrews’ ‘overreach’ had contributed massively to the erosion of the Victorian branch, highlighted by the last-hour rebellion by former Labor minister Adem Somyurek.

One state minister said a number of MPs experienced such a seriously heightened level of concern for personal safety following an unprecedented spate of threats from those outraged by the extraordinary sweeping powers contained in the Pandemic Management Bill that they were struggling over whether to remain in Parliament. Factional adversaries echoed Somyurek’s charges that they were ignored by the Premier and their views ‘counted for nothing’ in the party.

Lack of media scrutiny in Victoria has enabled Andrews to act as imperiously as China’s President-for-life Xi, and Xi has modelled his leadership on that of the murderous Mao, who took as his role model the despised Russian despot Stalin.

Authoritarian Andrews seems to be reading from the same playbook on power and how to exercise it. Fortunately, and despite almost non-existent media criticism, the scandals sanctioned by Andrews are becoming too obvious to ignore.

No amount of bluster and obfuscation can cover the $31 million the Andrews government has permitted Victorian police to spend on consultants and lawyers fighting to hide its failures from the deplorable inquiry into the illegal activities of the Labor-hired public servants who operated as Labor party election staffers in the Red Shirts fiasco to the Lawyer X scandal and the abominable persecution of the innocent Cardinal George Pell.

The move to crush the Right faction through the examination of branch-stacking only exposed its ubiquity – and Andrews’ Left’s engagement in precisely the same practises.

The rank-and-file, ultimately, are coming to see how they’re being played as their candidates – with actual knowledge of local issues – are rejected in favour of placemen and women for Andrews and Conroy’s big-end-of-town contacts.

Top-down leadership models can never match the authenticity of a local candidate, that’s why revolutions falter when party bosses not the people are the only voices heard.

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