News broke yesterday embroiling Liberal MP and Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar in yet another scandal.
This time, it’s alleged that the member for Deakin used his office electorate budget to contract one of his best friends as a graphic designer between 2016 and 2018, and instructed him to create a range of political smear materials to solicit party donations– an action in breach of political party codes of ethics.
Emails from the period show that Matt Pham, a close, personal friend of Sukkar’s for more than a decade, was asked to design flyers for the Liberal Party’s Deakin 200 Club in early February 2017. Sukkar’s office reportedly instructed Pham to commence work on the flyer via email, stating they had: “more work for you mate”. The flyer appealed for a donation of up to $3000 to sponsor the Deakin 200 Club which was “supporting Michael Sukkar MP, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer”.
Pham was also asked to create flyers for a smear campaign of conservative state Liberal MP Gary Blackwood which described him as a “modern liberal” who could appeal to “socially progressive voters”.
This latest scandal concerning Sukkar comes off the back of recent allegations which implicate him and Liberal colleague Kevin Andrews in branch stacking. According to reports, powerbroker Marcus Bastiaan used taxpayer-funded electorate officers to recruit party members and boost factional numbers while they were employed by Andrews’ office– a decision that directly benefitted Sukkar.
So far, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refrained from commenting on this latest saga, but it’s speculated he will “stick by” Sukkar. Political editor Andrew Clennell told Sky News that Morrison “doesn’t think there’s enough in the report to warrant any sort of removal of the minister or any sort of discipline for that matter”.
He’s right. The likelihood is, there’ll be no other recourse for Sukkar or Andrews. They’ll be caught up in headlines for a couple of weeks before the media loses interest and the opposition, currently calling for heads to roll, concede they’re fighting a losing battle. Because this age of entitlement for male politicians within the government reigns supreme. And, rather than focus on the best interests of voters, too many are more preoccupied with slime-ball tactics, personal agendas and maintaining bromances.
Indeed, it would be hypocritical for the Prime Minister to sack Sukkar when he was embroiled in his own “friendship-gate” only a few months ago. In February, Morrison sought an invite from the Trump Administration for controversial Hillsong Church pastor Brian Houston to attend a state dinner at the White House. For months, the PM refused to respond to the rumour and dismissed the story as “gossip”, before it was inevitably confirmed.
Or let’s cast our thoughts back to Barnaby Joyce. A Deputy Prime Minister, who used taxpayer funding to employ his now-partner Vikki Campion as a staffer while they were engaged in an affair. A lesson he refused to learn from, as he continues to advocate for the rule prohibiting politicians to employ their relatives to be overturned.
Or the senior MPs– Kevin Andrews, Eric Abetz and Peter Dutton– who billed taxpayers thousands of dollars to travel to Sydney last year to attend an extravagant NSW Liberal Party farewell bash for former PM Tony Abbott.
Of course, there are too many examples just like these. I could spend all day simultaneously referencing cases and pulling out my hair. But just because examples like these are commonplace doesn’t mean we should let them be short-lived and short-remembered. Because as long as those we entrust to lead us continue to exploit us, we’ll lose out. Our money’s better spent.