Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Endless Parade Of Embarrassments

Just when we were all beginning to tire of the never ending saga of the federal election, along comes a New South Wales government scandal to liven things up. While we wait the next few days for the independents to make up their minds whom they will support, we can all be entertained and amazed by the antics of the state government. The Minister for Ports and Waterways Paul McLeay has been forced to resign after it was revealed that he had been accessing pornography and gaming websites with a tax-payer provided computer. He is the fourth minister to resign since Kristina Keneally became Premier, and the ninth since the last election. Whether or not checking out dodgy websites at work should be considered a sackable offence is something that people might disagree over, but either way the parade of embarrassments would seem to be apparently endless.

It’s really neither here nor there if Paul McLeay, or any other politician, has been checking out porn and gaming websites in his spare time, although it must be said that any such activity in the workplace is never a good idea for two reasons. One, if it’s the workplace, you’re supposed to be working, and two, if colleagues are in any way affected or offended there is a significant problem. For those reasons, no matter whether you might be a free spirit or a prude, it is never a good idea at work. For a politician however, it is just stupid to get caught out in that way because public opinion is the lifeblood of politics, and a significant proportion of the public will have a very low opinion of such behaviour.

While Christian Democrat Fred Nile has also been caught up in the same audit of computer use, he has denied any wrong doing. The audit reportedly showed up more than 200 000 hits on porn sites using the Reverend Nile’s logon identification. He claims that it wasn’t him, and that the results arise from a staff member using his ID to conduct research on the Australian Sex Party and the Eros Foundation. Reverend Nile claims that the Clerk of the Parliament has reported to him that the audit result refers not to websites accessed, but to pop-ups. Anyone who has ever used the internet will immediately realise just how annoying and persistent pop up advertising, especially for porn sites, can be. The moment you try to close one pop up, several more will, well, pop up. Perhaps Paul McLeay should have used the same alibi and claimed that he too was doing “research”.

The funny thing is that it probably isn’t going to make much difference to the government’s chances of re-election for the simple reason that those chances were already close to non-existent anyway. It’s not just the revolving door on the Premier’s office which has seen constant changes of leadership without any improvement in performance, and it’s not just the human failings of individual politicians who have been caught up in a variety of scandals ranging from the merely embarrassing right through to the downright outrageous and even the potentially criminal. It is the sum of all these parts and more. It is the perception that this state government is not only inept and incompetent, but it is self obsessed, riddled with cronyism and patronage, and completely overcome with the weight of its own inertia.

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