Five political crimes far worse than O'Farrell's Grange offence

Canberra should be glad that Barry O'Farrell's example isn't the new benchmark for political resignations.

In some countries, removing a politician from power requires a fair bit of effort; a revolution or perhaps even some kind of earth-shattering scandal. In Australia however, it seems the bar for upheaving power is a lot lower. If yesterday’s events were any example, you only need send one of our leaders a bottle of undrinkable wine.  

Sounds unbelievable, right? But from what we're told, New South Wales premier Barry O’Farrell’s failure to declare a $3000 bottle of 1959 Grange wine to the Independent Commission Against Corruption triggered his resignation.

As The Guardian pointed out yesterday, this isn’t the first time a politician has fallen on his sword for a false declaration.  In 1982, Liberal Michael MacKellar resigned for falsely declaring to Customs that a colour TV was black and white. Two years later, Labor’s Mick Young was asked to stand down for failing to declare a Paddington Bear.

Perhaps the most ironic point looming in the shadow of this incident is that many politicians in Australia (and abroad) have done far, far worse deeds in recent times and still retained their power. Here’s our pick of the top five recent fairly unpunished political sins.

But before we start, a clarification: We’re not calling for any resignations here. This list is simply intended to put Barry O’Farrells shock resignation into the context of Australia’s political landscape.

1. Before the conclusion of the credit card scandal that eventually cost him his job, Labor MP Craig Thompson spent $24,000 of taxpayers’ money on a world study tour and then plagiarised parts of his report from Wikipedia.

Graph for Five political crimes far worse than O'Farrell's Grange offence

Obviously, the same tactics for undergrad university study don't wash in Canberra.


2. Clive Palmer twerked (and spent) his way into parliament, but now fails to even appear and vote on most issues put to Canberra.


Graph for Five political crimes far worse than O'Farrell's Grange offence

Palmer sure is fickle. Now that he has the power, it seems he doesn't want it. (Image: The Australian)

3. Former defence minister Joel Fitzgibbons triggered a national security incident (and lost his portfolio, but not his job) by accepting and failing to declare expense paid trips from Chinese national Helen Liu.


Graph for Five political crimes far worse than O'Farrell's Grange offence

Fitzgibbons mistake: he didn't call his trip a 'trade mission'. 

4. Most politicians are caught abusing travel expenses, but Peter Slipper’s abuse of government cab charges stands out of the crowd. It was reported that he used cab charges to visit wineries. The worst part is that he actively worked to cover it all up.


Graph for Five political crimes far worse than O'Farrell's Grange offence

Well, at least he walked to and from the High Court.

5. The entire political career of former WA state politician Troy Buswell covered travel allowance breaches, disputed sexual advances on staffers, crotch grabbing and chair sniffing. This MP has done it all and only resigned well after apologising for most of these instances. His downfall followed a reported mental health breakdown.


Graph for Five political crimes far worse than O'Farrell's Grange offence

No witty caption required.

And one bonus – we couldn’t go past the Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. Sure, he isn’t Australian, but he is living proof of just how much politicians can get away with without needing to resign.

Got a question? Ask the reporter @HarrisonPolites on Twitter or leave a comment below. But hurry, he will be taking a break from the internet over Easter.