Last week it was Labor Senator Sam Dastyari or as he is also known Shanghai Sam or Slippery Sam who was proving to be the Labor Party’s weak link. His links with Chinese businessman Huang Xiangmo who has been deemed a Chinese agent of influence were exposed yet again last week. But Dastyari due to his factional power in the New South Wales Right survived yet again.
This week another Labor factional player’s sloppiness when it comes to complying with the expectations of his job as MP has been exposed. David Feeney the member for Batman in Inner Melbourne will now be referred to High Court following the lodging of MPs’ citizenship declarations. Feeney claims he renounced his inherited British and Irish citizenship before he nominated for the Senate in 2007.
The problem is he cannot find the paperwork. You would think that documents which prove your eligibility to sit parliament would be kept in a safe place. You would also think that somebody who was State Secretary of the Labor Party would know a thing or do about keeping such important documents secure. You would also think that when the dual citizenship saga was beginning to unfold you might try and begin the search for such documents then?
But Feeney has form in forgetting about significant matters such as this. During last year’s federal election, he forgot to declare he had a $2 million investment property. This embarrassment was confounded when he became confused about Labor’s policy on the baby bonus and schoolkids bonus when asked on Sky News. He also left behind at another television interview confidential Labor briefing papers.
He was considered such an embarrassment for Labor that he was confronted by the Chaser and offered a hibernation device, so he could not be seen for the duration of the election campaign.
Batman being an Inner Melbourne seat has seen a rapidly increasing green vote in federal elections over the past decade. Despite his blunders during last years federal election he managed to hang on and win Batman with 51.3% of the two-party preferred vote. However, the greening of Inner Melbourne has continued since then, which was demonstrated in the Greens upset victory in the Northcote by-election last month.
The state district of Northcote takes in much of the federal division of Batman. This means that if Feeney is found ineligible by the High Court, which is a possibility as the High Court likely to frown upon his excuse of not finding his paperwork, there will a by-election which Labor would be at a major risk of losing to the Greens. The people of Batman would also not take kindly to being forced to the polls because their MP forgot their paperwork.
The Victorian Liberal Party is also considering adopting a radical new proposal of not running in Inner Melbourne seats since their preferences have had the effect to date of gifting these seats to the Labor Party. They would certainly not contest any potential by-election in Batman as was the case with the one in Northcote.
Although any extra lower house Green MPs would always support a Labor Government, no major party likes to be without the maximum number of seats and parliamentary resources. Given that the polls are putting Labor in a winning position for the next federal election it would be a major embarrassment if their numbers in House went backwards during this term of parliament.
But what the case of Forgetful Feeney as he should be called demonstrates is that the Labor Party machine is producing powerbrokers such as him and Sam Dastyari who are a liability to both the party and the Australian people if they were ever given a senior level of responsibility in Labor Government. While Dastyari may let slip national secrets to the Chinese, Feeney might leave national security documents lying around anywhere for someone to pick up.
Labor usually hangs onto powerbrokers such as Feeney and Dastyari following their blunders for as long as possible, mainly because leaders such as Shorten depend on the factions to secure their leadership meaning they are totally beholden to demands of these men. However unlike Dastyari Labor’s patience with Feeney appears to have run out on with them now considering dumping him as their candidate for Batman should they have to contest a by-election.
Labor better not hope there are any other powerbrokers who display such political ineptitude. If there are enough weak links in the parliamentary party, then it is not out of the question they could lose the unlosable election.