Lyne up for scrutiny once more

23 July 2017

 

The humble post office has changed a lot over time, like most other things.  Whereas once it might’ve been the size of a small cottage, and often standing separately from other shops, it’s nowadays much smaller and likely to be the size of other shops.  As postal services like delivery of letters and parcels have changed, the space needed for post offices to operate within has shrunk.

I can still remember where I saw post offices in numerous suburbs across Sydney many years ago.  Hardly any still look the same from back them.  I could go to plenty of suburbs and point to where I first saw post offices.  Often the buildings housing them back then are still there, but they now house other businesses.  In some cases, the post offices are still in the buildings where they’ve long been housed, but the size of the post offices are half as big as before.  The buildings now house both the post office and another business.

Perhaps the only thing about Australian post offices not to have changed over time has been the name identifying them – Australia Post.

You might wonder what Australia Post has to do with politics.  Well, in the context of Federal Parliament, where the Liberal-National Coalition governs with a majority of only one seat, it happens to have a connection.

This brings us to David Gillespie, a National who entered Federal Parliament in 2013 and is now in the Coalition ministry.  His problem relates to a shopping centre which he owns, in the Port Macquarie area in northern New South Wales.

The problem is that one of the shops within that shopping centre is an Australia Post outlet.  Because Australia Post is a governmental body, the existence of that outlet within the shopping centre means that Gillespie, as the centre owner, makes money through leasing a shop to a governmental body while also making money from his job as a politician.  This can be seen as conflict of interest.

During the past year, another politician has been found to have a conflict of interest under similar circumstances.  The politician in question was Bob Day, who resigned from the Senate months ago.  His problem surrounded his electorate office – noting that electorate offices are the places where politicians work when they don’t attend parliamentary sitting periods.  In the case of Day, his electorate office was located in a building that he owned, so he was making money through leasing an office for governmental purposes.

The trouble affecting Day has naturally led to questions about Gillespie, and whether or not he’s allowed to sit in Federal Parliament.

Because the Coalition has a majority of a single seat in the House of Representatives, it only takes one resignation or death, or change of mind, for the chamber to become deadlocked – this in turn leads to the notion of the Coalition losing the confidence of the chamber, and possibly being tipped out of office, almost this looks unlikely.

The other thing worth noting about Gillespie is that he holds the seat of Lyne, in northern NSW.  And he won that seat in 2013, upon the retirement of Independent MP Rob Oakeshott.

The mention of Oakeshott makes the Nationals – and many Coalition MPs – go cold, because he was among several Independents who held the balance of power in Federal Parliament from 2010 to 2013, and chose to enable the Labor Party to govern, despite the unpopularity of Labor nationwide and the fact that seats like Lyne tend to favour the Coalition more than Labor.

The balance of power put much attention on Lyne, and Oakeshott’s decision to support Labor caused much anger across the area.

If Oakeshott hadn’t retired, he’d almost certainly have lost his seat to the Nationals.

To be fair, Lyne is very safe for the Nationals in a contest against Labor.  Only an Independent like Oakeshott could trouble the Nationals.  But the experience of 2010-2013 could probably scare voters in Lyne out of electing another Independent, and for some time at that.  However, because of this problem surrounding a politician and a post office, we might be kept posted or in line for any updates – if you’ll pardon the puns!

The closeness of the Coalition’s majority in Federal Parliament puts Lyne up for scrutiny once more, after news having emerged of Gillespie’s trouble.  The Coalition would probably win a by-election if Gillespie had to quit Parliament, but this just makes the majority even more vulnerable.

 

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