After all the conniving corruption of the Coalition’s Luddite term of office, one might have reasonably concluded that they had drained the swamp of their own making. But more alleged corruption has surfaced from the residue left behind.
And before the Coalition can defend itself against a backlog of corruption allegations, new ones have surfaced from a seemingly bottomless pit of misdemeanours.
“Approximately 13% of the referrals relate to matters well publicised in the media. This figure includes, but is not limited to, referrals relating to Robodebt.”
In other words, LNP scandals like car parks, sports rorts and land acquisitions might also be included.
The NACC will always have Coalition referrals, just as doctors always have patients.
B. Take this last month, for example. First, we had the revelation that the Morrison Government spent $20.8bn outsourcing more than a third of public service operations. An enquiry found the equivalent of nearly 54,000 full-time staff were employed as consultants or service providers for the Federal Government during the 2021-2022 financial year. This equates to one-third of the public service workforce. A Government de-facto workforce was doing work that the public service should have done.
C. Then we had the PwC scandal, where the tax practitioner’s board found that:
“… the former head of international tax for PwC Australia Peter-John Collins had been deregistered by the tax practitioners board for failing to act with integrity and for sharing confidential government briefings.”
The board of PwC has since confirmed that Collins had “made unauthorised disclosures” to partners and staff at PwC of confidential information.
The information concerned new rules to stop multinationals from avoiding tax.
D. This one occurred when Peter Dutton was Home Affairs Minister. The crux of the matter is that it has been alleged that Home Affairs gave a multimillion-dollar offshore detention contract to an Australian businessman only a month after federal police informed Dutton that the man, Mozammil Bhojani, was under investigation for bribery.
Indeed, Dutton would/should have passed on information of such importance to his department. Maybe he had a reason for not doing so. And why wasn’t he involved in the contract process? If he were on top of his portfolio, he would have passed on this vital information as a matter of course. Or so one would think.
And they say our international reputation has been damaged by the cancellation of the Commonwealth Games. What about all these allegations.
That’s not all.
We have the farcical situation where a businessman linked to Stuart Robert won’t face a parliamentary committee hearing because he has severed ties with Australia. Why is that do you think?
Last April The SMH reported that:
“Senior Liberal MP Stuart Robert stood to gain financially out of a consulting company called Synergy 360, which was part-owned by his business partner and chief political fundraiser and helped multinational companies win millions of dollar’s worth of government contracts.
The former Government services minister’s friend and co-owner of the controversial firm, John Margerison, gave evidence before a parliamentary committee inquiry that Robert was a part-owner of a company that Margerison nominated to receive funds from Synergy 360.”
(A joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit (JCPAA) is looking into how the Government awards contracts.)
There are grave allegations:
“… which include suspect payments being made to senior politicians from Nauru and Papua New Guinea, requests for bribes, and complaints to Home Affairs falling on deaf ears.”
These allegations need to be seriously looked into.
Home Affairs and Peter Dutton gave out contracts without ministerial oversight. The question is why.
E. On a lesser note, we find that parliamentary expenses are in the spotlight again.
The expenses watchdog is chasing former Liberal politician Andrew Laming for a further “$8,000 over taxpayer-funded travel to Sydney and Melbourne.”
“The former government led by Malcolm Turnbull awarded a $33m grant to a company that was developing a mental health app after months of lobbying from one of its own mental health commissioners who was also a shareholder in the months-old startup.
The one-off grant was awarded in 2017 without a competitive tender to Innowell for a series of collaborative research trials into a digital mental health platform. Its shareholders include PwC, the University of Sydney and former mental health commissioner Prof Ian Hickie.”
There was no suggestion of wrongdoing by Hickie, who, together with PwC, were shareholders in the company Innowell.
All above board except for the non-competitive tender process.
Where does all this leave the average voter? The person who fronts up at every election thinking that the Government has been acting in their best interests only to find that they have been serving their own.
The answer to that question is like looking at a piece of art and finding that their opinion differs significantly from others.
However, their seriousness cannot be dismissed arbitrarily. That is due to the weight of the material; it must be that we investigate. To find the truth in all these accusations or alleged criminal activity. In all this, there is an unspoken suggestion that all is not right.
The Prime Minister has asked the Leader of the Opposition to explain why he didn’t tell his department that Brojani was under investigation (see D above). In doing so, Peter Dutton invoked the politician’s favourite defence of lousy memory on this week’s resumption of parliament.
Why did Home Affairs give out contracts without ministerial oversight? Is that normal?
“Labor has announced an independent review of the management of regional processing procurement by the Department of Home Affairs after revelations it granted contracts to a company linked to the subject of a bribery investigation.”
If deemed necessary, the inquiry can refer matters to the NACC. Undoubtedly, the Leader of the opposition’s memory will have declined even further by then.
A worry for the reader is whether the newly formed NACC can investigate all the referrals with any degree of urgency. And further, do the AFP and others have the capacity to prosecute? In other words, will law enforcement agencies be able to investigate the avalanche of suspected criminality?
If either of these assumptions is negative, nothing will have been gained. If the NACC decides not to investigate, the public will be none the wiser. In the words contained in the following sentences, there needs to be more for the general public. There needs to be more transparency of accountability. Who and what are the referrals about? What is the test for public hearings?
The only one l see making it to public hearings is Robodebt.
For me, you could drive a truck through the outs for politicians.
Note that the:
“NACC does not have to consider or respond to every referral it receives. The Commissioner can also decide not to take any action concerning a referral.”
And also that:
“A hearing must be held in private, unless the Commissioner decides to hold the hearing, or part of the hearing, in public. In deciding whether to hold a hearing in public, the Commissioner may consider:
- the extent to which the corruption issue could involve corrupt conduct that is serious or systemic
- whether certain evidence is confidential, or relates to the commission (or alleged or suspected Commission) of an offence
- any unfair prejudice to a person’s reputation, privacy, safety or wellbeing that may be caused
- whether a person giving evidence has a particular vulnerability, such as working directly to someone in a position of power, and
- the benefits of exposing corrupt conduct to the public.”
What we will eventually know about the crimes committed by those in power during the Abbott-Morrison years may be forever shrouded in mystery.
My thought for the day
This Conservative Political strategy of painting everything as black as possible and then pretending only they have the answers originated in Australia during the Luddite period of Howard, Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison. Australians fell for it in so many ways and continue to do so. I thought we were brighter than that.
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