Barnaby Joyce definitely doesn’t want a federal ICAC – a view he tried to justify in a rather extraordinary article in the SMH today in which he contends that a Federal anti-corruption body will manacle political vision.
It would be “an abrogation of democracy” if “the vision of elected representatives” was “usurped by another pillar of bureaucracy such as the proposed commission”, argues Barnaby.
“Government ministers have – and must have – the discretion to step outside bureaucratic recommendations and make decisions based on a vision for a greater Australia. It might be a decision based on their political views, or on their compassion, and it might not subscribe to the purity of a business case.
Any deviation from bureaucratic edict could be deemed corruption, so the primacy of the decision-making shifts from the parliament of the people to the bureaucracy of the government.”
Mr Joyce seems to miss the point that a federal ICAC would not remove a minister’s right to make decisions. They would just be required to justify them, as they supposedly are now if they go against departmental recommendations.
He claims that a body like the NSW ICAC would “usurp not only the proper process of democracy but of jurisprudence”, pointing to the “eviscerating, salacious expose´ into the personal life of Gladys Berejiklian”.
What the supporters of Saint Glad fail to admit is that she wasn’t being investigated for her choice of boyfriend, as ill-advised as it may have been. Ms Berejiklian chose to use public money to bolster the political fortunes of her secret lover, all the while not disclosing any conflict of interest.
Even more damning was the allegation that Ms Berejiklian was aware of the corrupt conduct of Mr McGuire, who has admitted using his position for personal gain, and did not report it as she is legally obliged to do.
It is telling that the NSW ICAC recently held a conference where pre-eminent members of the legal profession explained that pork-barrelling is, in fact, illegal despite what our politicians might think.
Constitutional law expert, Anne Twomey, told the forum “something I probably should not admit publicly” about previously being tasked with drafting a ministerial code of conduct while working in the legal branch of the NSW public service.
“We formed a beautiful one on the basis of best practice and it went to cabinet and I got called up to the cabinet door and they said, ‘nope we’re not doing any of that’,” she said, adding that a different code of conduct was “dictated to me from the cabinet room”.
“They didn’t want proper rules and restrictions on their powers in the code of conduct at all,” she said.
Which brings me back to Barnaby and why he might be worried.
For years, he has been doling out money hand over fist, often to people with connections to the Liberal or National parties, for water rights or dubious dams.
There was the Politics in the Pub night in Shepparton where Joyce promised irrigators more water from the Murray-Darling.
“We have taken water, put it back into agriculture, so we could look after you and make sure we don’t have the greenies running the show.”
He dismissed a Four Corners program about water theft as “them trying to take more water off you, trying to create a calamity.”
Never mind about fish kills and dried up rivers and towns with no drinking water.
Then there was ‘Watergate’ where Barnaby paid $80 million to a company with connections to Angus Taylor for worthless overland water flows.
Urannah dam is a whole other can of worms with hundreds of millions being funnelled to a company run by people with links to the LNP for a project facing serious questions about its economic benefit.
Likewise the Dungowan dam proposed for Barnaby’s own electorate, where he said he has “no real interest” in seeing the business case because “we’re not asking for a return”.
In March, Joyce promised $5.4 billion to build the Hells Gate dam on the Burdekin River despite there being no business case and no assessment of the environmental impacts yet.
Barnaby’s baby, the Inland Rail, also deserves scrutiny.
It’s time our politicians realised that public money is not theirs to dole out to mates or to use for their own political or personal benefit and if it takes a Federal ICAC to stop them, then bring it on – the sooner, the better.
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