It's not every day that a student messing around with keystroke loggers comes to fame through slashdot. Nonetheless, systematically rigging an election and getting sentenced to 12 months in a dorm with bars has helped raise 22 year old Matthew Weaver's profile well above that of the average script kiddie.

Now let's stop and reflect on poor Weaver's future. You may be thinking that with an exchange program like this on his academic record he won't be so popular with employers. Given that he was busted by campus security rather than the FBI he won't even attract the interest of those companies who hire ex-hackers. So where could he go?

How is it done in Australia?

Not too long ago, when I was a student myself, one of our prominent universities was subjected to a very similar scam. Four members of the Tin Tin for NUS ticket at La Trobe University were implicated in stuffing the ballot the old fashioned way. The incidents even share the characteristics of chronic stupidity: just as Weaver had been caught voting for himself 259 times from the same IP address in a campus computer lab, team Tin Tin had tried to hand their bag of manipulated postal votes directly to the deputy returning officer rather than discretely posting them through the internal mail.

According to an official report by the Deputy Returning Officer, Karsten Haley, all four candidates were charged with Dishonest Conduct and Interfering with Ballot Papers. Unfortunately, the report notes that

La Trobe University SRC Electoral Regulations do not empower the Returning Officer or Deputy to enforce charges or disciplinary procedures and the charges were never faced by the accused.

Given the seriousness of the matter, Haley did not give up his attempts to hold them to account. He escalated it to the Dean of the college and then to the University Secretary. He reports that "their disinterest was extraordinary" and that nobody would involve the police.

Young Labor suspended

Just over a year later, in 1997, the ALP's youth division for the state of Victoria, Young Labor, was suspended after attempts to rig the ballot to elect the Young Labor leadership team. The guilty parties were never publicly named. Nobody was formally suspended or expelled and this simply left them with more time on their hands to invest their energy in other elections. The suspension of Victorian Young Labor remained in effect for a number of years.

The specific allegations about the Young Labor ballot suggest that those people particularly keen to win had printed fake student cards and given them to stooges who would impersonate other Young Labor members who had not attended to vote in person.

Where are they now?

It is no co-incidence that these students were (and still are) members of Labor Unity, a powerful faction within Australia's ruling Labor Party, the ALP. Most political organisations would presumably express concern about these allegations. The ALP does things differently. One of the students who withdrew his nomination in La Trobe, Mr Larocca, subsequently became Mayor in the City of Moreland, one of the ALP's strongholds. Even more remarkably from an outsider's viewpoint, another of these figures, Stephen Donnelly, is currently employed as the Assistant State Secretary of the ALP in Victoria. Communications like this newsletter reveal that he is one of the key figures in the party's pre-selection process. He has recently been appointed to direct the ALP's 2013 federal election campaign for the state of Victoria.

Another co-incidence

On the same weekend that Weaver was in the news for his antics, Donnelly's latest employer, the ALP's Victorian branch, was conducting pre-selection ballots to choose candidates for the upcoming federal election. Monday's newspaper headlines report fresh allegations of voting irregularities.

The biggest bankruptcy in student history

Around the same time, Donnelly's Student Unity, the student arm of Labor Unity were successful in taking over the student union of my own campus, the University of Melbourne. Not long after I graduated I heard that they had been accused of skimming off $1 million from catering providers and a high-risk $46 million property transaction that put the organisation into liquidation.

Unlike Mr Weaver, who's scheme at Cal State barely got off the ground, none of those involved in the Melbourne University incident has faced criminal proceedings. One ALP figure, Andrew Landeryou, spent several months in Costa Rica while wanted for questioning in the Supreme Court. His wife has just been endorsed for a seat in the Senate with support from various Labor Unity figures .

The Gillard questions

In 1996, around the same time that Donnelly & Co. were romping around student unions learning the tricks of the political trade, a lawyer quietly departed from the firm Slater and Gorden after an internal investigation into a property transaction linked to a union slush fund. Like Donnelly, this lawyer's next move was to take employment in the office of a Labor Party MP. More recently she was backed by Labor Unity to become Prime Minister. The union slush fund remains under investigation, frustrated by the disappearance of documents.

The $60 million heist

Recently I blogged about Gillard and Abbott, leaders of the two main political parties in Australia, agreeing to take $60 million of taxpayer money to fund their parties' campaigns in the upcoming federal election, giving themselves an obscenely unfair unadvantage over all other contestants.

Where would that money end up? In the case of the ALP, does it appear likely that figures like the Victorian ALP's federal campaign director, Mr Donnelly, would be involved in the expenditure?

National shame

With this background, it becomes easier to understand the quality (or lack of it) in Australia's national leadership.

When you consider that the generation responsible for the La Trobe incident, the Young Labor suspension and the MUSU bankruptcy are now growing into positions of greater responsibility in the ALP it leaves me feeling the quality of leadership is only going to get a lot worse before it starts getting better.

For example, the recent incident where coloured people were fed to the sharks has nothing to do with the worldwide refugee crisis and everything to do with maintaining the dumbed-down level of political discourse that Labor Unity thugs and their followers can cope with. Real issues like climate change and energy policy, for example, appear to be beyond the pay grade of Australia's political class

Ranjini - coloured, indefinite detention

It is startling that up to her own recent demise, Gillard herself had repeatedly begged the public to stop asking questions about her own past and remember that Labor politicians are innocent until proven guilty - yet she had a pregnant coloured woman thrown into a concentration camp on so far unsubstantiated "national security" concerns. No evidence has ever been presented that poor Ranjini committed a crime, but the houses bought with money from trade unions, transactions handled through Gillard's own office, seem to be as solid as bricks and mortar.

If only poor Matthew Weaver had been an Australian, how much further would his star have risen?