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BATT BLAZE SPREADS: Arbib in firing line now because Garrett couldn’t spark a human reaction to an absurd charge

insulation Federal Liberals are so happy with the Minister Peter Garrett’s horribly politically inept handling of the botched handouts for home-owners insulation scheme that they’ve decided to go hunting anyone else with involvement.

That’s not good news for Mark Arbib who did his best on the weekend to rescue those workers who were sacked as a result of the government’s sudden scrapping of the programme. But it wasn’t a good look, never has handing out billions in largesse looked so mean-spirited and lethal. Gleeful Liberals sent VEXNEWS a link of no fewer than 52 photographs maintained on the financially pressured Star News Group photo library of Arbib posing in various manly postures at a marginal seat insulation factory in happier times.

The Libs will be desperately keen to fit him up. He’ll be just as keen keen to more stridently resist the proposition – an outrageous and contemptible one from Tony Abbott – that ministers responsible for the scheme were responsible for “industrial manslaughter” and that four young workers were electrocuted because of the minister.

Abbott was Minister for Health and on his watch many thousands of people died as a result of medical negligence. While he was federal Health minister, it was estimated that 8000 deaths by medical negligence occurred per annum. He was minister for over 4 years, shovelling billions into hospitals and to doctors who quite directly killed in excess of thirty thousand patients. Even Pol Pot would be impressed by those killing fields. A bit silly and unfair to blame him – even his successor Nicola Roxon – for all those corpses who would have been healthy citizens but for the “assistance” of their federally funded Health practitioner. It’s the same logic. Blaming politicians for every error that occur in programmes they administer or in funding allocations they make isn’t consistent with any modern or traditional conception of the Westminster system. If it was, there’d be so many political casualties everyone would get a chance to get be a minister, even Maria Vamvakinou.

But when these claims are made they must be responded to, not just with facts but with ‘how dare you’ emotion that seemed to be beyond the over-programmed Minister Peter Garrett. A celebrity politician so determined to be a “team-player”, to be “on-message” that he has looked recently likes he’s found his brief but lost his own soul.

Albo showed them how it was done yesterday.

It might be too late for Garrett. By reacting stonily as he did, he’s absorbed all the blame and appeared like a big bald kangaroo frozen in the spotlight.

He was accused of being responsible for the deaths of four people.

We haven’t once heard him name the people really responsible, the bad bosses who sent them to their deaths. Let’s hear the names of the directors and operators of these businesses. Parliamentary privilege protects even the most vicious denunciation.

We haven’t once heard any Midnight Oil passion about his anger over what happened and his determination to bring the wrongdoers to justice. The Commonwealth ought to have outed and sued these bad bosses.

We haven’t seen a single bureaucrat fired over the scandal. They led the Minister into this oblivion. If they’d done it to us, Departmental meets would have had more bloodshed than a scene from Scarface.

We haven’t seen any of the parents being arranged to complain about Abbott’s cynical political exploitation of the tragic deaths of young workers. Perhaps the Hollowmen are already on to that. They should be.

Our human desire to blame someone – anyone – for things that go wrong is a natural if sometimes not a greatly edifying one.

Four people died while installing insulation. And the celebrity politician seemed so scripted, so predictable, so emotionally unresponsive that Tony Abbott has somehow got away with the Big Lie that Peter Garrett effectively led them to their deaths.

With all the smug certainty of the retrospective armchair quarterback, greatly relieved we will only sit on the green leather in our capacity as closely supervised guest, we say that if anyone had accused us of having such blood on our hands, and we possessed a physical presence as prodigious as Peter Garrett, we would have exploded at the suggestion that we’d been responsible for the deaths caused by bad bosses. We would have demanded Abbott’s scalp and gone about physically collecting it until he apologised for his despicable smear. Better to be seen to over-reacting than not caring and being an oversized ventriloquist dummy for a department that has forever tainted his once impeccable do-gooder credentials.

Only the most strained logic leads to the conclusion that Peter Garrett or Mark Arbib are responsible for deaths resulting from the negligence of bad bosses cashing in on the latest government subsidy racket.

Abbott hasn’t questioned the politics of hand-outs to home-owners while the government pledges action on homelessness. He’s gone for the thrill kill and it scarcely matters now what Garrett does, he’s body number five.

Just because a minister doesn’t resign after one of these disasters doesn’t make them any less politically dead. Carmen Lawrence and Peter Reith come to mind as examples.

Senator Arbib will need to not only the get the detail right but also – unpleasant a prospect as it might seem – channel Anthony Albanese in terms of the emotion.

We don’t like Peter Garrett’s politics much. We certainly didn’t want him in Parliament. But he’s surprised most of his colleagues by being so disciplined and determined to make a go of it. Now he’s paying the price of being so programmed that there wasn’t much left of him to respond emotionally to a highly damaging and completely false charge.

With the notable exception of the equally tall Victorian Minister Justin Madden, celebrity politicians don’t work. Arbib is the consummate political professional and will need to draw on all those qualities to avoid him becoming body number six.


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  1. It’s the state health ministers responsible for managing hospitals and it’s fair to say they should all be scked after each case of stuff u in their portfolio.

    Posted by addy | February 23, 2010, 9:45
  2. I agree… I want to see the anger at these ridiculous claims!

    Posted by Anonymous | February 23, 2010, 9:49
  3. Unions have been fighting for generations to implement safe work practices. How about they investigate these unfortunate accidents and tell us who is to blame. To me it appears like some is just plain bad luck and some of it is probably lack of training and poor supervision.
    Abbott is clinging to the old tried and true method of Liberal fear tactics and just keep throwing enough mud and some will stick.

    Posted by The truth | February 23, 2010, 10:04
  4. The Minister for Health is not the Minister for Immortality. The Environment Minister has the responsibility to structure programs in favour of occupational health and safety and to balance that requirement with ‘shovel ready’ rebates. Garrett failed this and his belated actions and the suspension of the program only prove it. Garrent did not commit industrial manslaughter but the families of those young dead workers are entitled to feel like that when the tragedies were foreseeable.

    Posted by don't over egg it | February 23, 2010, 10:25
  5. It seems much of right wing politics in recent times is characterised by fact-free smear campaigns – the media follows along with wildly inaccurate headlines; whilst the right-wing electorate hears only what they want to hear.

    Posted by sg | February 23, 2010, 10:47
  6. “With the notable exception of the equally tall Victorian Minister Justin Madden, celebrity politicians don’t work.”

    Exception, really? I would have thought Madden proves the point.

    Posted by Walter Plinge | February 23, 2010, 12:36
  7. Arbib’s promise to secure the jobs of the insulation workers is a good thing, however cannot take the heat off the fact the a Minister, in this case Garrett, HAS to be responsible for his or her portfolio and HAS to do the right thing, and sometimes that means falling on your sword.

    Garrett has failed in this and Rudd has failed too in not recognising that it in politics it is all about perceptions, and the perception is Garrett is a weasle. Four workers have died, many homes have burnt – all because of a scheme HE was in charge of.

    Posted by tHE jOKER | February 23, 2010, 12:43
  8. The ongoing problem for Peter Garrett and the Rudd government in general is the public “assumption” that if a house burns down anytime now it was probably the fault of the insulation installed in the government’s programme. Add to that, the Coroner’s reports on the 4 deaths are yet to be handed down. Garrett might survive for now but he really is the walking dead. In fact it is better for Rudd to have Garrett dealing with this up to the election than tar someone new with having to deal with the ongoing problems.

    Posted by Harry Lime | February 23, 2010, 15:47
  9. Arbib is OK.
    KRudd has admitted it is all of his fault.

    Is that why Julia is grinning like a cat on heat?

    Posted by Anonymous | February 24, 2010, 22:47
  10. Garrett’s new band Midnight Foil

    Posted by Anonymous | February 24, 2010, 22:49
  11. Good Friday is comming will there be a paasion play in Canberra as Gillard makes her move to Crucify KRUDD?

    Posted by Games on, Gillard prepares her move to dump KRUDD | February 25, 2010, 19:14