The Apology, Aston byelection and Labor’s bad gambling habit

There was another session of Parliament this week and we found out that the federal government has spent $7.6 million to prosecute whistleblowers – while most of that was expended by the previous Coalition government and although the Labor government did drop the cases against Bernard Collaery and Witness K – the cases against David McBride and Richard Boyle are still continuing and they need to stop.

The highlight of the week was the commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the National apology to the Stolen Generations. But the apology that has sucked all the attention is the one from Peter Dutton, who now says he didn’t understand the significance of the apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008. If Peter Dutton is truly sorry for his actions from 2008, he’d backtrack on his opposition to the Voice to Parliament and he’d stop opposing for the sake of opposing. We don’t want to hear another apology from Peter Dutton in another 15 years’ time, for not understanding the significance of the occasion – it will be far too late for that. He needs to understand the significance of the occasion right now.

There will be a byelection in the Melbourne seat of Aston caused by the resignation of former minister Alan Tudge, and it’s been labeled as a big test for Peter Dutton. But it’s also a big test for Anthony Albanese and the federal government. There can be endless opinion polls and speculation about public sentiment for the government and for the Opposition, but the real test in politics comes in when real votes are lodged at the ballot box.

Aston hasn’t been held by the Labor Party since 1990 and it has been a safe Liberal seat for most of that time since. An incumbent government hasn’t won a seat off an Opposition in a byelection since 1921. But the electorate usually votes against the party that caused the by election first place – the Labor government is riding high in the polls and the Liberal–National party isn’t. So it’s a seat that the Labor Party could win. Equally, it’s a seat that the Liberal Party should hold. But in byelections, a lot of political rules get thrown out the window.

Political donations have come under the spotlight with revelations of the Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland receiving two donations from Sportsbet in the lead up to the 2022 federal election. And she was the Opposition spokesperson on online gambling and now as Minister of Communications, she’s got responsibility for the Interactive Gambling Act and the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Sportsbet makes substantial donations to both the Liberal and the Labor parties but this is not a good look, and it’s a corruption of the political process: that’s one problem. The fact that all of this is legal, is a travesty. Disclosure laws need to change, as well as major reforms to the political donation system.

Music interludes:

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