It is understood police are investigating allegations that Mr Laming claimed funds for an electorate staff position which was not filled. However, Liberal sources said Mr Laming had lent a staff member to Mr Hardgrave's electorate office. It is unclear how long this arrangement lasted, and from which MP's office budget the staff member was paid. Mr Hardgrave could not be reached for comment.The funny thing is that Laming - if you believe his colleagues - really does'nt believe he has done anything wrong. And of course it is hard to see anyone in the Howard Liberal Party holding him accountable if the matter were not already in police hands.
Federal Police are also investigating whether Mr Laming claimed a $67,000 credit at a Brisbane printing company, rather than lose the printing allowance funds which hadn't been spent by the end of last financial year. The money went to his printer, but Mr Laming then had a credit to beef up his printing in the lead-up to the election.
So where is all this heading?
In the worse-case scenario that Mr Laming is charged, party sources suggested it would be preferable if he resigned from the party but remained as an independent until the election, rather than quit Parliament and trigger the byelection.As always, Party considerations take precedence over common decency and the public interest.
Elected as the member for the Brisbane bayside seat of Bowman at the last election, Mr Laming desperately wants to stay on as federal parliamentarian.
Howard says people should wait for the results of the police investigation:
"I'm not going to make judgements. Needless to say, I would have zero tolerance for anybody who deliberately misuses their entitlements. But that's just a statement of principle, that's not a judgement on this particular case."Oh my God, the man has rediscovered principles! Look out, Kevin Rudd! A pity he did not apply said principles to the AWB scandal, isn't it? Or even his own little taxpayer-funded junket holiday on a Broome beach? Or....
Meanwhile, there is even more Liberal sleeze oozing out of the cracks on the other side of the continent:
The political future of the West Australian Liberal senator Ross Lightfoot, meanwhile, is bleak after it was revealed he dabbled in share options in a company represented by Brian Burke's business partner, Julian Grill, within days of a parliamentary report being doctored in the company's favour.UPDATE: As Atrios would say, "Oh My!"
Senator Lightfoot bought a million share options in Precious Metals Australia worth $2800 in November 2004, the same month that a report into Xstrata's closure of a mine was released.
Channel 9 reported that Liberal Party sources said Mr Laming's office had been tipped off an hour before the raid.Of course he didn't do it himself. Why do you think he employs unaccountable underlings?
Mr Swan said answers were needed.
"I think there's a very serious question that must be answered there by John Howard," Mr Swan said.
"And secondly I think John Howard ought to say what he knew about all of these things when he reshuffled his ministry, when he last reshuffled his ministry and dropped Gary Hardgrave.
"I think there are some very serious questions that Mr Howard ought to answer about what he knew about these things well before he claims he was first told about them."
Mr Howard this week said he had been told about the raids before they happened, but said he had not passed the information on.
"It would have been improper of me to have done so. If I'd have done anything, I'd have been accused of interfering in a police operation," Mr Howard said on Tuesday.