Follow up stories on the scandalous claims in The Age about Victorian senior cabinet minister Theo Theophanous continue to be printed by newspapers today, but government media strategists think “they’re trying to squeeze blood from a stone.”
One adviser, paranoid about the dark presence of Alison “Rottie” Crossweller, told VEXNEWS that “Theo is safe providing he isn’t charged. It’s that simple. Until then, there’s no political value in cutting him loose, it would make Brumby look like he’d panicked in the most unprincipled way. Anyone who knows JB knows he’s not a panicker and is never that worried what yapping Gallery prancing poodles think in the short term.”
“Ferg (John Ferguson of the Herald Sun) made a compelling practical political point today when he wrote about the dangers of setting precedents about sacking ministers purely because of allegations. I’m just one person here but I don’t think we’ll be doing that. Not now, not ever,” they said.
CHANGE IN RHETORIC? NOPE
Curiously though, the well regarded News Corp duo Ferguson and Rick Wallace at The Australian seem to have asserted a change in rhetoric about the Minister’s future. Government sources say there is no shift in the view about what can and should be done and that the two were simply desperate to get a story – any story – up. That’s what they’re paid to do, of course.
With the foot flat to the floor in reverse, The Age’s Comrade David Rood, once a PhD candidate in gay whales social theory or some such thing, reported in the fairest and most balanced way possible that Premier spoke for many Victorians in demanding the Police proceed with interviewing the Minister and referring the matter to proper authorities for a decision about whether he’ll be charged.
ROOD IN REVERSE
Rood didn’t detect the imagined shift in the Premier’s rhetoric. Rightly so, there’s no change of any significance. As in so many things, John Brumby is not for turning. He has taken a highly principled stance in dealing with the issue and ensuring that none of his team can be taken down randomly by the sole, untested claim of a psychiatrically disturbed woman with an axe to grind.
Ferguson in an excellent oped on the issue spoke for many Victorians when clearly condemning The Age’s reporting on this Greek tragedy:
It was a scoop, but the ethics of trashing a minister’s reputation via an unknown source before the MP has even been interviewed by police are dubious.
That development has had the perverse effect among some Labor figures of turning the minister into a victim.
Which, under the circumstances, is some achievement.
Indeed it is. The Age’s unique capacity for own goals is perhaps only rivalled by a few bent cops in the orbit of The Age’s multi-millionaire crime reporter John Silvester. Ferguson lines them up too:
Dumping Theophanous altogether would create an awkward precedent given that political figures are constantly accused of wrongdoing.
There is no doubt that, so far, Theophanous has been treated unfairly, in the manner police have leaked details of the case and the way the woman’s story was told.
Less than a week after the Office of Police Integrity rang alarm bells about bent police shopping around secrets, police moved this week against a member of State Cabinet with impressive speed.
Some details leaked to rival media were wide of the mark, casting questions about the standard of the investigation and the motive for information being shopped around.
It is likely Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon will be watching closely. Don’t be surprised if these issues aren’t of interest to the OPI.
These leaks must be investigated, as should the bizarre eighteen month delay in the Police investigation. It’s simply not good enough to leave these highly damaging allegations, in their completely uncorroborated form, hanging over any public figure for nearly two years. This can never be allowed to happen again.
That’s why Theo Theophanous will not be – cannot be – removed from the Ministry until this matter is resolved. It’s not just a question of setting dangerous political precedents in the event of untested allegations, it’s a question of common decency.