Victorian Liberal MPs are speaking out about what some see as widespread and systematic abuse of their traditional rights as parliamentarians by the head of their government, Ted Baillieu and his all-powerful Chief of Staff Michael Kapel.
STAR CHAMBER GROWS
Some of the newly elected have been utterly horrified and surprised to discover that Kapel, acting on the orders of Premier Baillieu, had extended the now publicly notorious â€œStar Chamberâ€ to include vetting electorate officer staff appointments. MPâ€™s are allowed to employ â€“ via the Parliament â€“ two staff in their electorate office to service constituent inquiries and so on.
Experts in the customs and practice of the Parliament tell VEXNEWS that Kapelâ€™s purported interference in MPâ€™s capacity to choose their own staff is a â€œbreach of parliamentary privilegeâ€ and even a contempt of Parliament that could, at least in theory, have Kapel and Baillieu charged and brought before the bar of the Legislative Assembly or Council.
Insiders across both parties say the level of interference is â€œunprecedentedâ€ and â€œshockingâ€ and forms the basis of an increasingly loud whispering campaign against Kapel coming from Liberal party quarters who seek nothing less than his removal from any position of authority. Stakeholders outside government say that Kapel is a â€œcontrol freakâ€ who has kept Baillieu as â€œinaccessible and aloof as (the later executed French King) Louis XVI.â€
STUDENT COMMUNIST TURNED MODERN-DAY STALINIST
Some say that Kapel was a â€œstudent communistâ€ at the elite private school St Leonardâ€™s (also attended by self-styled revolutionary Jeff Sparrow, who pretends to be an anarchist and the editor of a taxpayer funded â€œliterary journalâ€) and that his Stalinist approach has not altered, even if his politics has.
The National Party â€“ ably led by pugnacious Peter Ryan â€“ has so far successfully resisted all efforts by Kapel to veto their staff, either at a ministerial or electorate officer level.
The stated reason why Kapel has centralised all Liberal staff appointments is to ensure the government doesnâ€™t attract bad publicity by appointing inappropriate people. The real reason â€“ many suspect â€“ is to ensure anyone seen as hostile to the Baillieu Liberal Left faction does not get to enjoy the fruits of their triumph last November. Kapel has angrily told one party member months ago who questioned the â€œStar Chamberâ€ veto-process that â€œBaillieuâ€™s enemiesâ€ did everything they could to undermine him ahead of the 2010 poll, had no faith in his capacity to win it and that it would be â€œover my (Kapelâ€™s) dead bodyâ€ that anti-Baillieu elements in the party would be allowed to â€œcash in on our hard work and self-discipline.â€
As a result of the operation of this veto, several high-profile people, including even the deputy federal director of the Liberal party, Julian Sheezel, was denied appointment in the government despite appearing highly credentialed to take on the roles.