The Hon Bernie Finn MLC, my longstanding upper house state Liberal MP, got expelled this week from the state parliamentary Liberal Party.
Ostensibly, his recent social media utterances about potential US Supreme Court developments on the issue of reversing long standing case law (Roe Vs Wade) on abortion were the last straw for the state parliamentary Liberal Party, and they decided to expel him rather than continue to put up with his peculiarities leading up to the state election in 6 months time.
Abortion is a very serious issue, and I will not trivialise it by discussing it here. Most people who take either a pro-life or a pro-choice position are cautious and moderate about it, and it is only the extremists on either side who are going to foam at the mouth about it.
I do not believe that Bernie Finn was expelled this week because he was foaming (or drooling) at the mouth about this particular issue, although I am quite certain that he probably was.
I have, in recent years, read about many of his peculiarities, and how he has been tolerated for them, over an over-extended career as a rather underwhelming parliamentarian.
Suddenly, late in his fourth term as an upper house MP, his colleagues have finally had enough of him and decided that he is no longer fit to be in their company.
There is a particular matter which occurred at Easter 2018, which cast doubt on both his probity and honour, and that of the then leadership of the State Opposition. There was a tight vote on a particular bill, and the Legislative Council was (from memory) going to sit and debate and vote on that bill on Good Friday.
Bernie Finn, claiming to be a good Catholic, sought a pairing with a government MP so that he could excuse himself from attending (this is a Gentleman’s agreement common to the Westminster system where people from either side are able to not attend parliament and not disadvantage their side by having the other side agree to recuse one of their own members from attending and voting).
However, Bernie Finn hid out in his office, and then, when the divisions were called, sneakily returned to the Legislative Council and voted, regardless of his pairing arrangement. Reneging on his pairing agreement in this way is at best dishonest, and at worst, highly dishonourable, and an undermining of the democratic conventions of the Westminster system.
But it is not just Bernie Finn’s honour which was besmirched by his actions. At that time, Matthew Guy was Opposition Leader. Guy did nothing to sanction Finn for this conduct at that time – conduct that was far worse then than Finn’s current pathetic and dogmatic tweets in support of anti-abortion laws (tweets which I do think show a lack of empathy towards the unfortunate people who actually find themselves in the position of having to decide whether to seek abortion – not a problem Finn himself will ever be in).
Why did Matthew Guy not denounce Bernie Finn then, at Easter 2018, for his dishonourable conduct? That he did not, and that he accepted Finn’s vote in the Legislative Council then, casts significant doubt right now on Matthew Guy’s actions in expelling Bernie Finn this week.
Accepting dishonourable conduct at that time makes Matthew Guy, by association, dishonourable. Expelling Bernie Finn now, instead of four years ago when he proved himself a disgrace to the good name of Victorian Liberals, renders Matthew Guy a hypocrite, a cad, and a blackguard.