March 03, 2007 | Graham

Oops he did it again

Kevin Rudd is my local member. He ought to drop in for coffee with me sometime – the advice would be a lot better than he’s getting at the moment. Ian Campbell having a meeting with a number of people, including Brian Burke, isn’t a “gottcha” opportunity for Labor, it’s a trap. Rudd shouldn’t have been in there criticising Campbell, he should have raised his bat and let the ball go through. There’s two reaons for this – one tactical public relations, the other ethics.
Tactically, the sooner this issue goes away the better for Rudd. Criticising Campbell ensures that the issue stays in the public eye a day longer than it might otherwise. But if Labor did decide to criticise Campbell, then someone other than Rudd should have carried the argument.
Rudd argues that this shows the government is just muckraking because one of their own was dealing with Burke. And the one of their own was the big cheese, the leader of the party? Or a junior minister who has just been demoted? So the government still has the option of disowning the actions of its member, or representing them as at best marginal. But Rudd is at the centre of the ALP, so he can’t disown himself.
Worse, his argument rests on the assumption that it is really OK to deal with Burke, because everyone’s doing it. As matters continue to unfold in WA this will become a less and less tenable line.
Which leads to the ethics argument. The reason Gallop banned contact with Burke wasn’t because it is immoral to have any sort of dealings with Burke, but because he couldn’t be sure that his ministers and members weren’t going to fall into a corrupt client relationship with Burke. Burke’s corruption isn’t that he represented various organisations, but that he convinced a number of ALP cabinet ministers and others to break fiduciary and other duties owed to others for the benefit of him, his clients, and perhaps the ministers and members involved.
The difference between Rudd and Campbell is that it appears that Rudd is a “client” of Burke’s, at least in the sense that Burke was sponsoring dinners for Rudd which put Rudd in Burke’s debt. Campbell by contrast had a meeting with Burke because Burke was representing a client who wanted to discuss a proposal with the government. Campbell wasn’t in Burke’s debt, and presumably Campbell couldn’t in any way be said to be a protege of Burke’s. But Rudd is and could be!
Let’s put it another way. Assume a property is for sale and I know that the agent who has it listed is shonky, should I refuse to negotiate with the agent to buy the property? I think the answer is obvious. Now, assume that I am the proprietor of a real estate agency and the same agent, who I know to be shonky, applies to me for a job, should I hire him? I hope this answer too is obvious.
Whether you’re a customer, like Campbell, or a client, like Rudd – it makes all the difference. Perhaps my biggest concern about the whole affair is that Labor, most journalists, and probably most members of the government, don’t understand these distinctions.

Posted by Graham at 4:03 pm | Comments (2) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. Nice post. And now Ian Cambell has resigned!

    Comment by Jennifer — March 3, 2007 @ 5:10 pm

  2. This is playing out well for the Liberals.
    Now they can say ‘our guy resigned and so should yours’. Of course, their guy is a nothing, and Rudd is opposition leader.
    This will go away eventually, but now Rudd is down in the gutter with everyone else.
    The Liberals can just throw this out whenever they want to muddy an ALP message.

    Comment by Rellin — March 3, 2007 @ 8:26 pm

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