News National Federal government appears more than ready to channel its inner bully

Federal government appears more than ready to channel its inner bully

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Malcolm Turnbull decided not to vacate his Point Piper mansion to live at Kirribilli House. Photo: ABC
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As the events of the last week have shown, this is a government run by bullies.

A year ago, The New Daily broke the story of concerns over cost overruns and security flaws at Malcolm Turnbull’s mansion.

We reported that the Prime Minister was potentially endangering the lives of his family, staff, neighbours and the AFP officers who protect him by choosing to defy tradition and live in his Point Piper mansion rather than at lodgings provided by the taxpayer.

The mansion is vulnerable to attack from the busy harbour, from the unsecured streets and houses surrounding it, and from the air, we reported.

Not one person has disputed the accuracy of The New Daily‘s story. AFP officers themselves were understood to be pleased with it, and improvements to security at the Prime Minister’s home were made immediately.

The story was leaked to us by a national security insider concerned over the significant potential for disaster.

The problem remains exactly as it was a year ago.

In recent days there have been revelations of an internal memo claiming the AFP has had to scale back its crime-fighting operations, linking this to the high cost of maintaining both the official residences and Mr Turnbull’s private mansion.

Asked about the issue in Parliament, the Prime Minister declared: “We have given record funding to the AFP.”

While a year ago Tony Abbott declined the opportunity to comment, this time around, with open war breaking out in government ranks, there was no such hesitancy. “It is a reasonable question to pose,” he told reporters.

Mr Turnbull is understood to have been furious with the original story, determined heads would roll.

An essential link in the story was the Australian Federal Police Association (AFPA), the union representing the officers themselves. AFPA President Angela Smith was quoted saying maintaining official residences in Canberra and Sydney was an indulgence taxpayers could not afford.

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The Prime Minister is under fire over his decision. Photo: AAP

Following normal journalistic practice, these comments were transmitted to The New Daily via the Association’s publicity officer.

From the moment the story broke, the publicity officer was hauled over the coals. She was sacked shortly afterwards, all for drafting up and then transmitting comments from her boss.

As she had only worked for the AFP Association for five months, the officer could not sue for unfair dismissal and was not entitled to a payout.

While none of the players in the chain of command – Mr Turnbull, Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin or Ms Smith – could be easily sacked, the inference could be made that the head kicking went straight down to the first person vulnerable in the chain: a press secretary who was just doing her job.

It was all over a story which was factually correct and clearly in the public interest.

Distressed, the publicity officer faced Christmas without a job and despairing for her own future.

A year later, another staffer, David de Garis, has taken the fall for the politically motivated raids on the Australian Workers Union, formerly headed by Bill Shorten, which have backfired spectacularly on the government.

It is another classic case of bullying. As always, it is the ‘little people’ who get hurt under this government.

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