Friday, September 16, 2011

Stupid is as Stupid does

If these are the people running the state, then I fear for our future. I really do.

Steve Cansdell is many things, and no doubt we are going to see an entertaining range of adjectives used in the days to come.

For me, all I can think is that he is a stupid, stupid man.

Image from
As a solicitor, I know that I have to value my practicing certificate.  I know that a charge of perjury (for example) can have consequences far beyond the serious criminal consequences.

People often lose their practicing certificate and are not allowed to practice again after proof of dishonesty.  Every time someone suggests that I might perhaps do something unethical, I point to my certificate on the wall and tell them that there is no way that I would risk it.

In my profession honesty is important, and dishonest acts are punished swiftly and severely.  And rightly so.

One of the few professions where this burden should weigh even more heavily is politics.  This is not only because a conviction for dishonesty would automatically leads to your expulsion from parliament as per s13A of the NSW Constitution

Even dishonesty that doesn't qualify as perjury can lead to serious consequences. Carl Scully was shown to have mislead parliament over the Cronulla riots and was forced to step down.

It was inevitable that Cansdell would be asked to stand down from parliament, and that's exactly what happened.

This threat should be especially heightened as a pollie when you consider the number of people who would RELISH the opportunity to bring you down.

Between journalists looking for a story, opposition members looking to damage your party, factional opponents looking for an advantage, not to mention all the people you have to piss off to get a seat, politicians probably have as many enemies as any other profession.

If there is a hint that you are vulnerable, people are going to seek that out.

None of the reports I've read today explain why all this has happened today, but it seems likely that someone has been looking around.  For whatever reason, Cansdell has seen the writing on the wall and jumped before the inevitable.

The fact that all the media outlets appear to have been caught by surprise suggests to me that it may not have been the media that was on the scent.  If it had been the Labor party, you can assume that they would have been better prepared to take advantage of the situation, and would have positioned him accordingly.

We may never know the full story, and it may be that someone with an interest in minimising damage to the government found out, and convinced him to leave now before someone else found out.

The dumbest thing of all is that this has all happened over what is a (comparatively) minor matter - the loss of a drivers licence.

Cansdell apparently asked another person to sign a false statutory declaration so that they could take some demerit points that should have been allocated to him.

This may well be fairly common practice in the community, but that doesn't change a thing - it is illegal and is punishable by imprisonment.  Moreover, it is potentially easy to prove, and it involves other people - essentially, too many people are going to know about this for it to stay secret forever.

The consequence of Cansdell leaving parliament is of course a by-election.  This is often a disaster for a sitting government, but should be a comparatively minor event.

Anthony Green as written an excellent blog post on this issue.

In short, the seat is held with a margin of 31.4% over Labor and 23.3% over Williamson, an independant.  Cansdell polled 62.8% on first preferences.

Taken from Green's outstanding Election Analysis
Labor are still on the nose - there will be some hangover from the Carr/Iemma/Rees/Keanelly government when we return to the polls in 2015, let alone only 6 months after O'Farrell's coronation.

There might ordinarily be a chance for an Independant to step in and sweep up some voters who are angry at having had to return to the polls so soon, but as Green notes on his blog, the seat is not far from Rob Oakeshott's seat of Lyne, and it is likely that the new National candidate will not be slow to remind the electorate.

Oakeshott's seat of Lyne
Cansdell's former seat of Clarence
So, a loss of the seat is unlikely.  What damage to the O'Farrell government?  Probably not a great deal - allegations of corruption and incompetence tend to have a cumulative and exponential effect, and Robertson's statement below is probably a bit over the top.

From SMH
The fact that the Stoner was able to announce that Cansdell was out of the parliament when the news broke meant that he could say the following:

Also from SMH
It is also interesting to note that Cansdell has already reported the matter to police, and expects to be prosecuted.  I think we can conclude from this that the person who has confronted him with the evidence has insisted he do this - otherwise surely he would have resigned to spend more time with the family (or used one of the other usual excuses).

I have no idea whether Cansdell should have been preselected in the first place.  Perhaps all this has come completely out of the blue, and Stoner truly had no reason to suspct that this kind of behaviour may have been on the cards.

But the real question I want answered is this - who pushed him?  Who had this knowledge, and insisted not only that he stand down, but also that he reveal the reason?  Who stands to gain the most from that?

Hopefully in the fullness of time we'll find out.

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