The rules are lost to the dark art of time, but when I was younger, we used to play a card game called ‘Bullshit’.
I can recall that this involved imbibing and yelling out that word, left, right and centre, and the adults would frown and forbid.
But yelling out ‘Bullshit’ had a most welcome revival in my house watching Our Gladys giving evidence at the ICAC – lucky we live in ruralsville, so I couldn’t disturb the neighbours.
I was in a decision-making role for over two decades.
Every day, people would come before me wanting competing outcomes.
Guilty, or innocent. Bail or imprisonment. Plaintiff or defendant.
Children to dad, or children to mum. Restraining order or free rein.
Just like politics really, when there are competing interests for money – gun club, hospital, recital hall verses all the other worthy funding applications and needs from Bourke to Byron to Bega.
Member for X wants this money, but member for Y says their need is greater. This bureaucrat says this project is useless, but the local member bats on.
It’s par for the course really.
But just imagine if I, as a judicial officer, determining one of those cases, had an undisclosed ongoing ‘you-have-my-key and maybe we’ll have a baby’ bonk-fest relationship with a party appearing before me…
It would, at the very least, require me to disqualify myself from the case.
Because even if I could successfully undertake the Herculean task of separating my love/lust from my judging (and who would ever know, even me?) that is not enough.
Because injustice festers in the darkness, and must be seen to be done. And of course Gladys actually knows this already, and not just because she notified of potential remote conflicts of interest involving her cousins.
She knows this because it is so basic, so fundamental, and she is not stupid and has spent most of her working life in government.
Just like all the other politicians and public servants have said in evidence – of course it had to be disclosed and managed.
Every judge and every politician, every ICAC Commissioner and every public servant or judicial officer knows this ‘Rule 101’.
If you are sleeping with someone you cannot be the decision maker, where they are involved, any more.
Especially if it is a secret.
So what happens if you don’t declare it? And you keep it secret and go ahead and use your influence to get more money for your lover’s seat by on phone call to the treasurer, and by chairing the meeting where it will be decided, and by ordering around your staff and officials?
Or, as a judge, what if you keep shtum and proceed with no disclosure? It seems to me that there are two consequences when the deficit is exposed:
The first is that you must be sacked or resign. There is no middle ground here. It is gross incompetence, a breach of public trust and a form of corruption. And the second is that, if you ever want to work in public life again, you fess up and repent.
Here you go Gladys, I have written your evidence for you:
‘I was embarrassed.
‘He was hardly a great catch to take home to mum was he?
‘Twenty-one years older, two children. I was afraid of being a laughing stock. He used me and I was blind and naive. I made nothing from it. Except for a flood of tears and the loss of my job that is’.
People are sympathetic to Gladys, we liked her school-mam pouting approach.
I stand to be corrected, but there was more than just a hint of coercive control in that relationship me thinks.
We would have forgiven and forgotten and welcomed her back in some role or other in the future.
Australians are actually great pardoners – it is part of our convict history.
But she blew all that.
Seriously, I was agape at her statement that she would not declare her relationship should she have her time again.
Did anyone actually believe that?
She has the best lawyers, a years-of common-sense persona, and tons of time to prepare a response, and yet that’s the best she can do?
A position that passes no pub test in the country?
The flaw of being human is a redeemable venial sin. The weakness of petulant, stubborn intransigence in the face of the bleeding obvious is a tragically mortal one.
And further food for thought – imagine if a legislator had two contenders for money or a contract or an appointment and one had made a huge donation to their political party – the very party where endorsement and membership is essential for the politician’s career survival…
And the decision maker and donor knew it. Well of course that would not be corruption or a breach of ethical standards.
That would be business as usual in purchase politics NSW.
And on that, I call ‘Bullshit’!
David Heilpern is a retired magistrate