The Latest Liberal Party Gaffe Involves A Giant Cheque, Because Of Course

No matter what happens in Australian politics, one truth will always remain self-evident: gigantic novelty cheques are absolute electoral poison. If you are for some reason required to hand out a gigantic novelty cheque as part of your political campaign, know that it will come back to bite you on the ass.

The sting of the huge cheque has come for Georgina Downer, daughter of former Foreign Minister (and one-time leader of the Liberal Party) Alexander Downer, who is running for her dad’s old seat of Mayo. Wait a minute, you might ask: is there a particular reason why someone should feel entitled to leap into a seat just because their parent once occupied it? That’s a wonderful question, and one that’s up to voters to answer.

Here’s what happened: Downer was photographed presenting a big cheque for $127,373 (which, by the way, features a picture of her face) to the Yankalilla bowling club. She even posted it on her Facebook!

You might assume that implies the big donation is coming from her, or maybe from the Liberal Party. Nope! It’s actually from the federal government, via its community sport infrastructure program. Traditionally, that kind of funding is announced by the local MP, who in this case is Rebekha Sharkie of the Centre Alliance. Not by someone who isn’t even a member of Parliament.

Sharkie beat Downer at the Mayo by-election last year, to add another layer to all of this. On Twitter, Sharkie argued that the way this cheque presentation went down is unusual:

The protocol is that the local Federal MP is notified of a grant prior to the Minister advising the club. In more than a decade of politics I’ve never seen a TAX-PAYER funded grant delivered by cheque with a candidate’s face and name on it. Rather desperate and misleading.

Shadow attorney general Mark Dreyfus has written to the auditor general to ask for answers about how this could have happened.

“I query how it is possible for Ms Downer, the unsuccessful candidate for the 2018 Mayo by-election and an unelected candidate for the upcoming federal election, to misuse a taxpayer-funded grant in this fashion,” Dreyfus wrote in his letter.

“It is completely inappropriate and unacceptable for Ms Downer and the Liberal Party to treat taxpayers’ money as if it were their own, and to deceive Australians about the true source of this taxpayer-funded grant.”

Trade minister Simon Birmingham weighed in on Sky News, defending Downer and arguing that this kind of self-promotion is done “right across the country” across the political aisle.

It’s simple, folks: enormous novelty cheques with pictures of your own face on them are dangerous territory. It’s playing with fire. Don’t get burned.