Rather than as recognition of talent or expertise, promotion to a ministerial portfolio has become the gift that Prime Ministers bestow upon factional allies and co-conspirators. The Turnbull government is no exception.
When questioned about the advisability of appointing Mal Brough as Special Minister of State – a job that oversees parliamentary standards and entitlements – considering his involvement in the Slipper case, a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said “Mr Brough has advised that the AFP has not approached him and that he is not being investigated.”
The media had reported that the investigation was ongoing and last week saw the AFP raid Mr Brough’s home. The allegations against him are serious and credible with the proof already in the public arena and tested in court.
Also named on the warrant were two more Turnbull backers, Wyatt Roy and Christopher Pyne.
Wyatt Roy became the youngest Minister in the history of the Commonwealth when Malcolm Turnbull appointed him as Assistant Minister for Innovation. Christopher Pyne, despite an abysmal stint as Education Minister, was rewarded with Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science – a key portfolio if Turnbull’s rhetoric is to be believed – so these two will be working closely together (some might say again).
Arthur Sinodinos was a prime mover behind the Turnbull takeover and has been rewarded with the position of Cabinet Secretary. His obvious credentials and ability for the job are tainted by the cloud over him concerning ICAC’s investigation into his involvement in Australian Water Holdings and donations to the NSW Liberal Party of which he was Treasurer. ICAC has yet to bring down its findings. He was also until recently the subject of litigation by shareholders who dropped the case against him when asked to put up $2.4 million in security for legal costs to continue their fight.
James McGrath was another Queensland Senator who was instrumental in the demise of Abbott. He was rewarded with the position of Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister. McGrath is known as a party room operator rather than for any policy work.
In 2011 the then 38 year old campaign director was revealed as the architect behind a scheme to pay disgruntled former Labor staffer and candidate Robert Hough for dirt on government MPs. The LNP dirt file , for which he was “strongly reprimanded”, detailed a minister’s epilepsy and childhood adoption, claims about some politicians’ sexuality, sex lives, drinking habits and health matters, and included details of the schools of the children of government MPs.
Advancement in the Liberal Party does not appear to rest on merit but on the casting of a party room vote where plotting and ‘whatever it takes’ strategy are valued far more highly than integrity.
Coincidentally, the same values have been on display in the Senate inquiry into corporate tax avoidance.
John Faulkner gave a speech in 2012 on the necessity of integrity in politics.
If the test of integrity is failed, if polling takes precedence over principle and expedience over ethics, trust in not only the individuals involved but in the entire process of democracy is undermined.
For the health of our political system, of our democracy, political integrity is absolutely fundamental. As Alan K Simpson, Republican Senator for Wyoming, said in a slightly different context,
“If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.”
Integrity is a personal choice to be honest and to adhere to moral and ethical principles. It does not ask what am I entitled to or what can I ‘legally’ get away with, but what should I do. It is a quality that should be more highly valued as part of the social contract.
Is it too much to expect from our rich and powerful and those who occupy our parliament?