Would anybody care to explain to me why ACT Chief Turnip Jon Stanhope’s verbal attack on former opposition leader Brendan Smyth in question time today has received so little media coverage?
The lead story on 2CC news for most of the afternoon was Jon Stanhope calling Brendan Smyth a slime ball who enjoys being in the gutter and subsequently being reprimanded by the speaker of the assembly Wayne Berry MLA. 2CC reported that Brendan Smyth was disgusted by the outburst.
This was question time, and all of the news outlets had reporters at the assembly today, so why has there been no mention of this outburst on the television news bulletins? I’m not sure about ABC Local Radio but as there is so far nothing on their news website about it I don’t think they’ve covered the story, and I’m almost certain that RiotACT would have covered it if the story had appeared on ABC Local Radio’s news bulletins…so what’s going on? Why has such an unusual (for the Legislative Assembly at least) and newsworthy event gone unnoticed by so much of the local media?
MR STEFANIAK: My question is to the Chief Minister. Chief Minister, where were you on the night of 17 January 2003 when the head of the Emergency Services Bureau was trying to get in touch with you, and what were you doing?
MR STANHOPE: I have to say that I was interested in the contribution that the member for Tuggeranong, Mr Smyth, made to the no-confidence motion last week, in which he dwelt very much on this subject, comfortable as Mr Smyth is with the selling of innuendo, of scuttlebutt and of slime.
MR STEFANIAK: Answer the question.
MR STANHOPE: Well, it is not that simple, actually. It is a question in relation to which one really should provide some context around the degree of comfort that Mr Smyth has in getting into the gutter, the slime— Mr Slime Ball from Tuggeranong. He loves it down there in the gutter.
MR SPEAKER: Order! Refer to the member by his name, please. Withdraw that and refer to the member by his name.
MR STANHOPE: I refer to Mr Smyth as Mr Smyth and—
MRS DUNNE: Mr Speaker, he still hasn’t withdrawn.
MR SPEAKER: Withdraw it.
MR STANHOPE: I withdraw it; I was withdrawing it. But it of course does not change my opinion of the member at all, and he knows it.
MRS DUNNE: Mr Speaker, this is entirely disorderly. When a member is asked to withdraw, they have to withdraw, and that’s it— simpliciter, without embellishment.
MR SPEAKER: He has withdrawn.
MR STANHOPE: Mr Smyth is comfortable down there in the gutter. He likes it there, down with the cigarette butts and the dog turds and the wasted life. That is where he is comfortable, and of course it is one of the reasons that his colleagues tipped him out a few months ago— because he really does not have the maturity or the standing or the quality that befits a leader.
MR SPEAKER: Come to the subject of the question, Chief Minister.
MR STANHOPE: I spent that evening with my wife, Robyn, in company with two other people, the reputations of whom or the professions of whom some of course might have a particular issue with. I think it was to these particular points that Mr Smyth was going, of course— the quality, the calibre and the nature of the people and who it was that I might have spent that particular evening with. I spent it with my wife and with a magistrate of the ACT Magistrates Court, and his wife, and— forgive me my sins— with a Catholic priest, the parish priest of St Matthew’s, Page. Mr Smyth, of course, was not looking for an answer that bowled me as actually spending an evening with a magistrate of the Magistrates Court of the ACT or with the parish priest of St Matthew’s, Page. Mr Smyth had other ideas. Mr Smyth has been out there spreading innuendo and slime and slurs and outrageous suggestions— as he did when he put in an FOI request for all of my wife’s travel documents on the one and only occasion when my wife has accompanied me on a spouse-accompanied trip. This is the man who thinks it is appropriate behaviour for a Leader of the Opposition to requisition all of my wife’s travel documents. This is the man that the other Liberals are comfortable with on their back bench.
MR STEFANIAK: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker, under standing order 118A.
MR STANHOPE: Who among you thinks that is appropriate behaviour—
MR STEFANIAK: Pull him in, would you?
MR SPEAKER: Come back to the subject matter of the question.
MR STANHOPE: of a member of your particular party? This is the scuttlebutt. This is the innuendo. This is the slime—
MR SPEAKER: Come back to the subject matter, Chief Minister.
MR STANHOPE: that your colleagues engage in. Which one of you has suffered your spouse or partner having all of their private documents FOIed in relation to any travel involving you in your official capacity— who of you? It is the most shameful behaviour by a despicable little man!
MR STEFANIAK: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Chief Minister, thank you for that explanation— in the 30 seconds that you gave it; I will disregard the rest. Why until now have you been so reluctant to advise the people of Canberra what you were doing when you should have been following the fires closely? Why did you not advise us before now?
MR STANHOPE: Because it was none of your business.
MR STEFANIAK: It has taken you four years.
MR STANHOPE: Because it was none of your business, and it is still none of your business. I only answer today because of the slime that is being perpetrated and spread around Canberra by this colleague of yours— the innuendoes, the doublespeak, the slime, the attacks on my wife and the requisitioning of her travel documents: freedom of information requests in relation to every document associated with her private life and her behaviour. This is what the Liberal Party in this place has reduced itself to. He kept it up last week in the no-confidence motion. You all sat around, all relaxed: “Funny; chuff, chuff; let’s be part of this innuendo”— this slur, this campaign against my wife and my marriage, this suggestion that there was something untoward about my behaviour, which you have gone on and on with.
MR SMYTH: You refused to answer the question.
MR SPEAKER: Order! Mr Smyth!
MR STANHOPE: Because I have a private life that is absolutely none of your business. You have run a four-year campaign about my private life. The questions that you have pursued in relation to my whereabouts on that particular night, on that evening, and the persons in whose company I spent the evening have had a single purpose. It is absolutely and utterly despicable— utterly despicable. Of course, then it was followed up by Mr Smyth and his freedom of information requests— that he has requisitioned: his demand for tabled documents— in relation to my wife’s private life and business.
MR STEFANIAK: Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order, again under standing order 118A.
MR SPEAKER: I think the question was “why haven’t you told us up until now?” I think the Chief Minister is trying to tell you.
MR STANHOPE: To the point where I have to say this. I am loath to involve my wife in this; she will be appalled, and perhaps disappointed, that I have breached her privacy in relation to this. But since Mr Smyth conducted his campaign against my wife and her travel, my wife refuses to travel with me. She is not prepared to have her private life and her private affairs submitted to the political point scoring and nastiness of Brendan Smyth. My wife will no longer travel with me because of Mr Smyth’s requisitioning of her personal travel documents, her personal affairs and
her expenditures when she travels on official business with me. That is what Mr Smyth has done. I apologise to my wife for breaching her privacy in this way. It is appalling. I am absolutely appalled that this paragon of virtue— this citizen of Tuggeranong, this pillar of society— thinks that that is appropriate behaviour. It is not. On the night before the fire, I was with my wife, with a magistrate of the ACT Magistrates Court and with a Catholic priest.
MR STEFANIAK: Why didn’t you tell us before now?
MR STANHOPE: Because it is none of your business— because it is none of your business. It is none of your business what I was doing.
MR STEFANIAK: No-one is going to blame you for being with your wife, for goodness sake.
MR STANHOPE: I explained at the time. I said, “I was in my electorate at dinner.”
MRS BURKE: You did not.
MR STANHOPE: Yes, I did.
MS GALLAGHER: Yes, on the north side of Canberra.
MR STANHOPE: My colleagues remember. I was in my electorate on the north side of Canberra at dinner. But that was not sufficient! That was not sufficient! It just excited the dirty mind of Mr Smyth. That just excited the dirty mind, because I would not say I was at dinner with my wife— because it was none of your business. It was not relevant that I involve my wife in this place. Oh, no— a four-year campaign of innuendo, scuttlebutt, doublespeak and plain gossip. Of course it all gets repeated back to me. It is a small town. It is a small place, this. It all gets reported back to me— everything that Mr Smyth says as he goes around town: the destruction of my reputation and that of my marriage and my wife. It is all out there. He is out there talking about it. He is talking it up. I can go and get statutory declarations and affidavits from those to whom Mr Smyth has told this story. That is what we have come to. It was a matter of principle. It is none of your business. My wife is not part of this job.
MRS BURKE: It’s the community’s business.
MR STANHOPE: It is not. Mrs Burke, tell us more about the sexual harassment matter. Come on.
MR STEFANIAK: Oh, here we go. Let’s get grubby, Jon.
MR STANHOPE: Let’s get grubby? Let’s get grubby!
MR STEFANIAK: You are accusing him of it and now you are doing it.
MR SPEAKER: Order!
MR STANHOPE: I am respecting Mrs Burke’s privacy. Give us the lurid details, Mrs Burke. (Time expired.)
It even continued in to the next question…
MR GENTLEMAN: My question is directed to the Minister for Territory and Municipal Services. I understand that recent criticism of ACTION is misguided, as patronage levels are through the roof. Can you inform the Assembly how many passengers have voted in favour of ACTION by using the new network?
MR SMYTH interjecting—
MR HARGREAVES: Mr Smyth, I challenge you to tell in public what you told your Liberal Party branch about me. I challenge you in public because I would like you to give me a photocopy of your house because I will have it for you.
MR SPEAKER: Order! Mr Hargreaves, come back to the subject matter.
MR HARGREAVES: I certainly will. You just do it and I will take you on.
Considering that the “answer” provided by Jon Stanhope actually answers a question about his whereabouts prior to the 2003 Bushfire, one does have to wonder why at least that bit was of no interest to the local media, if the name calling of Brendan Smyth wasn’t of interest to them.
I am still perplexed as to why Jon Stanhope doesn’t think his whereabouts is the business of his constituents, and I can only assume that, had he been forthcoming with these details, Brendan Smyth would never have tried to work it out by using Freedom Of Information…in fact I’m sure that Mr. Smyth and the Liberal Party would have tried many other ways of working it out before FOIing travel documents of Mr. Stanhope’s wife.
More questions, why is it that Mr. Stanhope can find enough money to erect a statue of the late disgraced Whitlam government minister Al Grassby , but needs to make businesses in Civic pay a levy for the general upkeep of the area…a job which would normally be considered a government responsibility? And why is this kind of levy going to be charged at a varying rate depending on the “rateable” value of their property…surely if this must happen then it should be charged at a flat rate and not be an addition to land tax by another name?
What a peculiar place that Legislative Assembly is.