Senator Fiona Nash has one very big thing going for her as she struggles to keep her job in the Coalition Ministry. She is a member of the National Party and thus is largely insulated from dictatorial direction by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his disciplinarian in chief Peta Credlin. If there is to be any action taken against the Assistant Minister for Health and Deputy National Party Leader in the Senate then it is Nationals Leader and Deputy Prime Minister The Hon Warren Truss MP who must take it. In matters like this the Nationals tend to be made of sterner stuff than their Liberal Party partners. They better know how to ignore media driven outrage. Mr Truss has shown no interest so far in dismissing his colleague.
And perhaps there is a good reason why Prime Minister Abbott will not try to force him to for there is a risk that peripheral damage over this affair of the disappearing web page would be extended to ensnare the senior Health Minister and Liberal Peter Dutton.
The Sydney Morning Herald gives some of the background to the political problem in its page one story this morning that appears based on briefings out of a PM’s office desperate to absolve itself from blame over the appointment as Senator Nash’s chief of staff of Alastair Furnival who resigned yesterday over his shareholding in a lobbying company.
What that “inner circle” did not explain to the Herald was whose idea was it in the first place to appoint Mr Furnival? Could it have been a Minister Dutton determined to have someone he knew and trusted ensconced is his junior’s office?
An insightful piece by Bernard Keane in Crikey yesterday (HERE but behind a paywall) points in that direction. Of Furnival he wrote:
He was chief of staff to Queensland Liberal Santo Santoro in the latter’s mercifully brief stint as John Howard’s minister for ageing in 2007, which was ended after Santoro was revealed to have been less than forthcoming about his shareholdings, not merely to voters but to Howard, which was a hanging offence.
Add to that that Peter Dutton hails from the Queensland party’s right and was a protege of former party kingpin Santo Santoro and there are the makings at least of a little conspiracy theory.