Dan Andrews helped by fumbling Liberals

 “How does Dan Andrews keep getting away with it?” an exasperated Bernard Keane asked late last month, after the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) and Victorian Ombudsman released a scathing report revealing the misuse of public resources for political ends in the Victoria ALP over many years, nepotism and rampant branch stacking.

Confirming allegations that had already seen a slew of ministers quit, and coming towards the end of a term that also featured one of the harshest and longest COVID lockdowns in the world, surely this is a death knell for what was once one of Australia’s most popular state governments?

Except it is still looking on track to just about hold on, depending on whether we see another teal wave in Victoria. One thing is for certain: the malfunctioning clown car that is the Victorian Liberal Party has been Andrews’ greatest gift during his time in office. Here is a list of scandals and missteps the party has racked up, just in the few weeks since the last damning report on the Andrews government dropped.

Deeming it necessary

Anyone with a decent grasp of politics might realise that “bravely” expelling an obsessive anti-abortion MLC like Bernie Finn only really works with voters if… you don’t immediately appoint another obsessive in his place. And yet, say hello to Moira Deeming.

The Melton City councillor was deemed “too extreme” for the federal campaign earlier this year — which means the same prime minister who gave a full-throated endorsement to Katherine Deves looked at Deeming’s views and thought, “That’s a bit much”. Deeming has written that abortion is a “terrible evil” and that “young girls and women who find themselves with unplanned pregnancies” should instead “turn to the Lord”.

She has used her time as a councillor to move motions regarding single-sex bathrooms, has railed against COVID restrictions and vaccine mandates, and indeed may have breached those restrictions to attend (you guessed it) a “pro-life warriors” meeting with a leading campaigner for the “no” vote in the marriage equality plebiscite, Karina Okotel. Her appointment caused the former occupant of the electorate she’s running for, Andrew Elsbury, to quit the party altogether.

Family business

Oh, you thought that was it for troubling histories of candidates selected for an election that is, I cannot stress enough, just months away? Think again. Just days after having to defend the appointment of Deeming, former and current Victorian Liberal Leader Matthew Guy had to defend the appointment of Renee Heath.

Heath’s father is Pastor Brian Heath, a senior member of City Builders Church, who has been accused of historical links to gay conversion practices. For his part, Pastor Heath has denied that the past steps the church took to mend congregants’ “sexual brokeness” was conversion therapy.

It’s worth noting that Liberal sources told The Age that Renee Heath, a Gippsland chiropractor, does not support gay conversion therapy and has not positioned herself as a candidate who would push back against the Coalition’s more progressive recent stance on LGBTQIA+ issues, such as its “iron-clad guarantee” that it would not amend laws banning gay conversion therapy. 

Hotmail account! (oh, and a donation)

The major bombshell of the past few weeks: Matthew Guy still uses a Hotmail account. We know this because of a lesser scandal, reported by The Age, that Guy’s chief of staff asked billionaire Liberal donor Jonathan Munz to pay more than $100,000 to his marketing business.

The agreement — which didn’t go through — was set out in an email sent from former journalist Mitch Catlin to Guy’s private Hotmail account that showed the deal: $8333 a month in payments to Caitlin’s company Catchy Media Marketing and Management for “supporting business interests”. Catlin has resigned, and Labor has gleefully referred the matter to IBAC.

Disunity is death

Now the party is publicly speculating about who among their number ensured these damaging revelations went public. In today’s Australian, “party figures” have said they’re sure they know who it is: an as yet unnamed MP “motivated by revenge” (the MP has apparently emphatically denied it when confronted by their colleagues).

Regardless, Guy is safe from adding another “former” to his title as “former and current” leader, for now at least. He’s gotten the following glowing endorsement from one member of his shadow cabinet: “The consensus is we will limp along with a damaged leader as our banner carrier unless something else comes out that makes his position untenable.”

Again, this is all in the past three weeks or so — if we widened the parameters to the entire term, this piece would be book-length. And again, there is a state election in November. It will be interesting to see if in that time the Libs can, against the odds, continue to outpace the accrual of scandals and media headaches of Labor so conclusively.

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