SO here we are, greatly entertained in Victoria, which people from Sinny tend to believe is a bit on the dull, grey and boring side. They have never heard of the Office of Police Integrity, obviously, which only this morning released a fascinating, 80 page report on all sorts of quite scandalous matters -- and one of those, some might conclude, is the report itself.
Here is how interesting it is to be in the Garden State at the moment. If what follows sounds like a plot synopsis for several years' worth of The Young and The Restless episodes, complete with a blood-sucking rent boy and wallopers gossiping like high schools girls, accept that this is the stuff of everyday life south of the border. Here goes with the background:
Christine "Flame Broiled" Nixon was the former Labor government's police commissioner whose anticipated departure prompted quiet but intense jockeying in the upper ranks of the Force. Simon Overland, who succeeded her, had what was perceived to be a very close relationship with the OPI, which bugged the phones of potential rival Noel Ashby, then-police union chief Paul Mullett and others, picking up in the process highly confidential information about the investigation of a murdered vampire gigolo (no, that's not a joke) learned indirectly from Overland, whom suspicious minds might be inclined to believe was baiting a trap or, as some policemen put it, "flushing the pipes." -- not that Overland would be that venal, of course.
Take a deep breath and read on....
This led to charges against Ashby, Mullet and others, but those cases went nowhere because prosecutorial incompetence stuffed the pooch. Then the Liberals took power and tolerated Overland while demonstrating no active public support and a marked degree of quiet contempt, especially after he was accused of doctoring crime statistics before the 2010 election, allegedly to make the Brumby government look good. Overland went to the OPI and asked it to investigate who was leaking against him, which involved more phone bugging of ministers, their family members, ministerial aides, reporters and, quite possibly, Gog and Magog, the 19th century automatons that strike the bell on the hour every hour in Melbourne's delightful Royal Arcade.
Still on the case? Good. Now we are getting to what is going on now ...
Meanwhile, the Ombudsman continues to feud with OPI, Overland has gone, top coppers remain anxious to claim the Commissioner's office and Bill Tilley, member for Benambra and a former walloper himself, has this morning resigned as a parliamentary secretary dealing with police matters.
But wait, that's not all.
Country Party leader and deputy premier Peter Ryan has an aide -- make that "had", he also resigned this morning -- who was still on Victoria Police's payroll. No fan of Overland, he sided with Sir Ken Jones, Overland's perceived chief rival and a Pommy import, who some months ago went back to London amid charges that he was leaking too (to Bill Tilley, who leaked again to the press). On top of all that, the Premier's chief of staff was holding sly meetings with Sir Ken, about which neither man uttered a word to Big Ted or Peter Ryan.
Well here we are, still with no top cop, old feuds raging from Spring Street to Queen Street and new ones breaking out all over town ... and ... and ... and .. the Baillieu government seemingly in no haste to clean the stable or implement its promise to launch a new, co-ordinated anti-corruption body that would shut down the OPI, get the ombudsman out of the frame and, ideally, do a lot of good for Victoria.
If Team Ted ever gets around to doing as it pledged, it should pay particular attention to a specific section of today's OPI report. Interpretations may vary according to perspective, but at the Billabong the document seems to speak of an organisation with just the hint of an agenda. Read pages 25-26 of Crossing The Line very carefully. Notice how Overland's reluctance to give the minister the liaison officer he requested is rather skated over. If you cannot spot the logical and interpretative inconsistencies in its account of how previous ministers gained their police advisers, you probably think policing in Victoria, and the overview of policing, is just peachy.
It isn't. Nor is it likely to be until Big Ted extracts the digit. We can only hope that happens soon.
Meanwhile, read the report, observe what your tax dollars buy and, above all, enjoy what passes for fun and games in Victoria.We really are a lively lot down here.