Flogging a dead Flegg
It is truly remarkable how naive some people can be. Honestly, they seem to wander through life believing the rules mandated for other mortals are simply not relevant to them. It is as if they believe they are above ‘the law’. And that is assuredly not a good look for a legislator.
Which brings us to the hapless Dr Bruce Flegg. He rode into the Queensland parliament with an easy swagger in 2004 but at regular intervals ever since, has been bucked by just about every bronco he’s mounted. Never could he be described as an easy rider.
His entry onto the political scene was the source of considerable optimism. The flagging Liberal Party welcomed his profile as a well-regarded General Practitioner, former Army officer, and reported millionaire. Strong qualifications and a demonstrated capacity to make money: two qualities long admired by the Liberals.
So enamored were they that it was just two years before Dr Flegg was elevated to leadership of his party. A rising superstar in the making? If only.
Then Labor Premier, Peter Beattie, figured why give a sucker an even break so he called an early election after Flegg assumed the leadership. The resulting electoral rout was not pretty for Flegg or the Liberals or their coalition partners, the Nationals. Indeed, many Nats felt Flegg was the primary reason they were consigned to languish in opposition for another three years. Plenty of Liberals did, too, but they mostly kept quiet publicly out of loyalty to their party.
Not so the remaining ambitious Liberal MPs who quickly decided a leadership change as in order. Liberalism does not stand for losers.
In addition to his failed leadership, Flegg also held two Shadow portfolios: Health and Treasury. His performance in neither role set the world on fire and there followed a period languishing on the backbench. The formation of the merged Liberal National Party did provide him new opportunities: Shadow Minister for Education and Training as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships subsequently.
With the LNP’s victory in 2012, Flegg finally achieved Cabinet status as Minister for Housing and Public Works. So much hope, so little to show for it. After barely more than half a year, Flegg resigned his post amid accusations of sloppy administration in his office.
His positive spin on that covers numerous aspects. First, he reckons he’s just happy to continue serving the electors of his seat, Moggill. Sadly, they are not as enthused. Between 70 and 80% of respondents to two polls say they have no faith in him.
Second are Flegg’s claims that his family members are suffering unfairly in all of this. Their discomfiture is regrettable and they would have most people’s sympathy. But Flegg needs to honestly accept his own role in their embarrassment. And he’s showing no sign of doing that.
His response to why he got shunted goes like this: “ . . . it’s not like anything of a serious nature is involved at all – this is a few lines on a form that a secretary fills out that weren’t filled out – that’s pretty much what it is and it needs to be kept in perspective.”
If only, Dr Flegg. You see, what is hard to understand is your bare-faced effrontery in refusing to accept responsibility for your misdeeds. If you were a naive newbie to the probity requirements of senior political office, you might have an excuse. But you don’t.
You have served as a Shadow Minister in several portfolios. You have served as leader of your party. You have campaigned as alternative premier asking Queenslanders to trust you as their potential leader. Frankly, Dr Flegg, you have no excuse. You are completely familiar with the requirements of diary keeping, lobbyist registers, and other legal requirements to ensure sound public administration.
Absolute no-no’s like not allowing the perception that you were moonlighting as a general practitioner could hardly be any clearer. But, despite this, you did not think such standards applied to someone like you. You obviously believe you are a class above the requirements that apply to mere mortals. Well, you are dead wrong on that basis as your return to backbencher status will demonstrate.
As much as you will try to/would like to portray yourself as an unfortunate statistic of overly-harsh media scrutiny the fault is, ultimately, all yours. You pushed the boundaries of appropriate behaviour and got smashed. Accept it. And spare us from your pleas for understanding for your family. You knew well enough what was required and you could have saved them from the heartache. Bottom line: you led your own son up the garden path by permitting inappropriate dealings with him in his role as lobbyist.
If you seriously adhere to the ethical requirements of the Hippocratic oath in your medical career, why could you not accept the same requirements expected of you in your political career? Only you know the answer but the conclusion left to the rest of us is not flattering for you.
Seriously, given the litany of your mistakes – many of which you are solely responsible for – surely it is time you reverted to your medical/ business pursuits because politics is just not your forte. You’ve played, lost, and it’s time you threw in your hand.