Sunday 8 January 2017
There was a time in Australian politics that ministerial conduct was important. So significant that Ministers could lose their portfolio for the simplest misdemeanour.
In John Howard’s first term as Prime Minister he lost 7 Ministers after introducing a Ministerial Code of Conduct. The code required members to divest themselves of share portfolios and to tell the truth in Parliament. Tell the truth. Gee that’s a laugh.
Of the seven, Bob Woods resigned over a questionable expense claim. As Prime Minister, John Howard certainly came down hard on those who didn’t obey the rules but later, because he was losing so many Ministers, he softened them.
The question is of course is: ”What’s to stop Malcolm Turnbull from acting?”
And the answer is that the right-wing of the party won’t allow it. In the case of Health Minister Sussan Ley there is a clear breach.
Documents show that Ms Ley travelled from Sydney to Brisbane on 9 May make an announcement at Wesley hospital of $1.3bn in funding.
“All above-board” I hear you say. You are correct to this point. Then she jumps on another plane to the Gold Coast where she says, or more correctly a spokesperson says she met with local health stakeholders about access to new medicines. Strangely no one seems to know who they are.
“The Minister met with patients on the Gold Coast, however, because of patient confidentiality and sensitivity reasons she does not intend to provide any more information on this meeting.”
Then after staying the night with her partner at the taxpayers’ expense she, on the spur of the moment decides to purchase from a Liberal Party donor, a unit worth $795,000.
It was ”not planned nor anticipated” the spokesperson said.
Well sorry, try pulling the other leg. Doesn’t even require a pub test. The practice of arranging official trips to coincide with private business is common. Attending a party fund raiser and having a conversation with a minister is also practiced.
The Ministerial Code of Conduct clearly prohibits the use of public office for private purposes.
”Ley’s explanation that the purchase ‘was not planned nor anticipated” is woefully inadequate and an insult to Australians,” Opposition shadow Catherine King said.
This of course comes at a time when the Government is attacking people’s pensions, their welfare benefits and desperately trying to justify their savage cuts to Medicare by claiming they are living within their means.
Barnaby Joyce the unqualified acting Prime Minister said:
”If they made a purchase, even though I admit it is a substantial purchase, that’s not the reason she went to the Gold Coast. She went to the Gold Coast for work.”
In recent times both sides of Parliament have been guilty of the most outrageous claims cumulating in Bronwyn Bishop’s infamous helicopter rides. It must stop.
If Turnbull has any decency, even a scintilla of leadership he would sack her. He won’t of course because he is a weak leader and the far right see it as their divine right, stemming from of a born to rule mentality, to rip off the public purse.
What is unforgivable is that the rules never change. Turnbull is in charge, ”change the rules.”
To say it has been a bad start to the year for the government would be an understatement. It’s a shocker.
“Common Malcolm show some leadership. Con front the bastards.”
My thought for the day.
”Governments who demand the people’s trust need to govern transparently to acquire it”.