If the Morrison government thinks its disingenuous conflation of the anonymous donation of up to $1 million to Christian Porter and the crowdfunding campaign to support Senator Sarah Hanson-Young in 2018 passes muster, its MPs are even more intellectually challenged than they apparently believe voters to be.
It is a pathetic attempt to create a "look over there" diversion, unlikely to convince even the most blindly loyal Coalition voter that blocking the formal referral of the donation to the privileges committee by the House was the right thing to do.
That vote, which saw Coalition members fall into line in a way disappointingly reminiscent of US Republicans during an impeachment debate, is totally without precedent in Australia.
The Centre for Public Integrity's Geoffrey Watson QC was borderline apoplectic on Thursday when he asked why at least one or two Coalition MPs hadn't been prepared to cross the floor on a matter of such obvious principle.
This wasn't a vote to determine whether or not Mr Porter had acted inappropriately; it was a motion to refer the matter for further investigation after the Speaker, Tony Smith, said he was satisfied "a prima facie case" had been made for the committee to investigate possible contempt of Parliament.
If Coalition concern over crowdfunding is "a thing", then why wasn't it more widely invoked in the context of this debate long before now? And, more importantly, if there was not a huge qualitative difference between Senator Hanson-Young's case and Mr Porter's, then why did he resign from cabinet in September?
The differences between the two cases are numerous and significant. One is that the "GoFundMe" page for the Greens senator, which raised $53,745 in five days, was set up by two public figures, Jane Caro and Professor Simon Chapman.
The influx of donations could be tracked on the website in real time. The speed with which they came in reflected widespread public condemnation of what many believed to be vile attacks on Senator Hanson-Young by a parliamentary colleague.
This is in stark contrast to the secretive "blind trust" that kicked the tin for an undisclosed amount - possibly up to $1 million - for Mr Porter's legal fees.
While it seems fair to assume neither Ms Caro or Mr Chapman are likely to be privately pressuring the Greens senator to act against her best instincts any time soon, the equivalent can't be ruled out in the case of Mr Porter. Given his apparent debt to a mysterious benefactor, he will always be open to accusations of a possible conflict of interest.
Also, while Mr Porter was on the frontbench at the time he launched his legal action, Senator Hanson-Young has never been, or ever appeared likely to be, a minister of the Crown.
It is difficult to conceive how, in light of this latest development, Mr Porter can stay on as a member of parliament in a government that seems hell-bent on making itself less and less electable by the day.
Unless and until he steps down, there is a clear precedent for an MP to get away with accepting an anonymous "brown paper bag"-style donation for private purposes, so long as their party has the numbers on the floor of the House.
This is yet another proof of the need for an independent federal ICAC with teeth. The contrast between what happened in the House of Representatives on Wednesday and what is currently taking place at the NSW ICAC hearing in Sydney could not be greater.
Where is the transparency?
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