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Corruption, kickbacks and slush funds – see ICAC

It’s not hard to work out Tony’s game plan for the next election. He is going to run hard on union corruption and their connection to Labor.

Heydon ruling himself unbiased in the eyes of a reasonable person has laid the ground work. Why did they try, unsuccessfully, to smear this honourable man? What have Labor and the unions got to hide?

When he released his 1800-page interim report in December last year, Mr Heydon said the 87-page third volume needed to remain secret to “protect the physical well-being of those witnesses [appearing at the commission] and their families. This is unfortunate, because the confidential volume reveals grave threats to the power and authority of the Australian state“.

If it is a secret one wonders why he makes such a public comment on it. Don’t you just stamp it confidential without such hyperbolic description? And if it is so explosive, why has nothing been done about it for 9 months?

Tony Abbott offered a personal briefing to Jacqui Lambie on its contents to try and secure her vote for the re-establishment of the “tough cop on the beat” ABCC. Is this information being suppressed to be used as a political bargaining chip, to be revealed at a time deemed appropriate by the government?

On the advice of the Federal Executive Council, in October last year the term of the TURC was extended for a year with the report to be tabled by December 31 2015. Could this be pertinent to the talk of a March election?

It was also requested that the following paragraph be inserted into the Letters Patent:

“(ia) any criminal or otherwise unlawful act or omission undertaken for the purpose of facilitating or concealing any conduct or matter mentioned in paragraphs (g) to (i);”

One would assume they felt it necessary to have that included so I wonder about its implications.

In 1989, Justice Heydon conducted an inquiry for the NSW Liberal Government into the “Duties and Fiduciary Obligations of Officials of Industrial Unions of Employers and Employees”.

In February 2014 Tony Abbott announced “the establishment of a Royal Commission to inquire into alleged financial irregularities associated with the affairs of trade unions.”

Heydon’s 1989 report called for improvements in the governance of trade unions, and for union officials to be equated with company directors, and overseen by the corporate regulator — now ASIC.

In March 2013 Tony Abbott introduced a private members bill to amend legislation on registered organisations such as trade unions.

“There is a need for comparable penalties for comparable offences whether the offenders are union officials or company officials,” Mr Abbott told the lower house. “Commit the same crime, face the same punishment.”

Liberal Party policy going into the election bore a strong resemblance to Heydon’s recommendations from decades ago.

This attack on unions and Labor has been in the planning for a long time. No doubt there has been some corruption in unions but to tar all of them for the actions of a few individuals is unwarranted. The unions themselves want to, and have, prosecuted corrupt officials. It was their civil action that saw Kathy Jackson found guilty, ably supported by Wixxy’s incredible body of evidence – the RC had nothing to do with it.

So far, four people have been arrested by the TURC Police Taskforces and a total of 26 people have been referred to the following 11 agencies: Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, NSW Director of Public Prosecutions, SA Director of Public Prosecutions, QLD Director of Public Prosecutions, VIC Director of Public Prosecutions, WA Direction of Public Prosecutions, Australian Securities and Investment Commission, Fair Work Building Inspectorate, Fair Work Commission, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, and the Australian Information Commissioner.

Wouldn’t it have been more sensible to give the information to the bodies that can prosecute in the first place and save the $61 million?

But it is a useful distraction from what has been going on at ICAC.

In nine months, 11 Liberal politicians resigned, stepped down or moved to the crossbench. Two Labor politicians have been expelled from the party.

In Operation Credo, the ICAC is investigating allegations that persons with an interest in Australian Water Holdings Pty Ltd (AWH) obtained a financial benefit through adversely affecting the official functions of Sydney Water Corporation (SWC) by: including expenses incurred in other business pursuits in claims made on SWC for work on the North West Growth Centre; drawing from funds allocated for other purposes; and preventing SWC from ascertaining the true financial position, including the level of the executives’ remuneration.

The Commission is also investigating whether public officials and others were involved in the falsification of a cabinet minute relating to a public private partnership proposal made by AWH intended to mislead the NSW Government Budget Cabinet Committee and obtain a benefit for AWH, and other related matters.

In Operation Spicer, the ICAC is investigating allegations that certain members of parliament and others corruptly solicited, received and concealed payments from various sources in return for certain members of parliament and others favouring the interests of those responsible for the payments. It is also alleged that certain members of parliament and others solicited and failed to disclose political donations from companies, including prohibited donors, contrary to the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981.

In both of these matters, the Commission is also investigating the circumstances in which false allegations of corruption were made against senior SWC executives.

Liberal Party fundraising bodies keep coming up.

In the lead-up to the 2011 state election, the Free Enterprise Foundation donated $700,000 to the New South Wales Liberal Party. ICAC counsel-assisting Geoffrey Watson SC told the inquiry “prohibited donations were made to the Free Enterprise Foundation, then remade to the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party then simply disclosed a donation from the Free Enterprise Foundation, thereby disguising the true source of the money”. ICAC alleged the attempts to disguise illicit donations was well known by senior Liberal Party figures, including the party’s acting New South Wales director, Simon McInnes, and Paul Nicolaou, who formerly headed the New South Wales Liberal Party’s main fundraising organisation.

Eightbyfive was an alleged slush fund set up by Tim Koelma, a former senior policy advisor to former New South Wales Liberal energy minister Chris Hartcher. The fund received $183,342 from AWH while Arthur Sinodinos was serving as deputy chairman or chairman which Koelma said was for consulting work he did for Nick Di Girolamo.

Joe Hockey’s North Sydney Forum was also put under scrutiny in the article disclosing that members could pay for access to the Treasurer. During the three years AWH was a member of the forum, the company’s chief executive was Liberal fund-raiser and former lobbyist Nick Di Girolamo, whose gift of a $3000 bottle of Penfolds Grange Hermitage to Barry O’Farrell shortly after his March 2011 election win led to his resignation as premier.

North Sydney Forum deputy chairman Robert Orrell said he was “sure” Mr Di Girolamo – a close friend of Eddie Obeid jnr, who was employed by AWH – had attended private boardroom meetings with Mr Hockey.

There were also emails revealed by ICAC revealing that, in March 2011, while the Coalition was in opposition, Peta Credlin used a major donor to the Liberal Party, Brickworks, as part of Tony Abbott’s campaign against the carbon tax.

Brickworks was one of the largest corporate donors to the Liberal Party, giving $384,000 in a nine-month period from July 2010 to April 2011.

The ICAC has heard that Brickworks used the Free Enterprise Foundation, a shadowy Canberra-based organisation, to channel $125,000 in illicit donations to the NSW Liberals for the March 2011 state election.

One of the previously suppressed emails reveals that, on March 1, 2011, Mr Nicolaou sent Ms Credlin an email titled “Re Carbon Tax” advising that Brickworks was “a very good supporter of the Party.”

Mr Nicolaou attached an earlier message from the company’s managing director, Lindsay Partridge, which read: “Paul, Tell Tony to stick to his guns on no carbon tax.”

Coincidentally, Bronwyn Bishop was also referred to in the same volume of exhibits.

She was a director of the Dame Pattie Menzies Foundation Trust, which received $11,000 from the Free Enterprise Foundation on December 9, 2010, which it then directed to the NSW branch of the party for use in the 2011 state election.

The previous day, Mr Partridge sent a cheque for $125,000 to the Free Enterprise Foundation with a note that read: “We trust this donation will provide assistance with the 2011 NSW State election campaign.”

In July 2010, Mr Nicolaou, who was getting a 6 per cent cut of all donations he collected, emailed Simon McInnes, the finance director of the NSW Liberal Party boasting: “Please note! Another $50k for us via Free Enterprise Foundation from Brickworks.”

Only a minute earlier, Mr Partridge had sent an email saying: “Paul, via the diversionary organisation there is $50k for NSW, $250k in total.”

Karen Macnamara, member for Dobell has also had to front ICAC about discrepancies in her fundraising.

So if we want to talk about corruption, kickbacks and slush funds, let’s start with our politicians.



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  1. jim

    I think the public would benefit more if a $80-million RC into politicians instead of the unions as politicians hold more direct outcomes to the country than do unions but alas we have Liberal criminals ruling our country now, such a shame. great post Kaye Lee keep up the rage thanks.

  2. Kaye Lee

    Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has accused Fairfax Media of trying to “bring the government down” for publishing stories about division in its most senior ranks.

    In an interview with the ABC’s AM program on Tuesday, Mr Dutton blamed media organisations when asked what the government could do to steer itself back on course and communicate its message to voters.

    “I think it would be helpful if some of the commentators in the area, in this space of politics, started reporting on the incidents, as opposed to being players themselves,” he said.

    “I think there’s a huge move by Fairfax at the moment to try and bring the government down, that’s fair enough.

    “They aren’t supposed to be political players, they’re supposed to be objective reporters of the news and I think many of them have morphed into frustrated politicians themselves.”

    Mr Dutton later told Sky News: “The reality is that there is a bit of a jihad being conducted by Fairfax at the moment.”

    The Immigration Minister also said Fairfax was not acting alone and was being helped by the ABC.

    “You ask me what I think of the current political environment, I think that’s part of the problem. I think regardless of what Tony Abbott does, Fairfax will say it’s bad. I think regardless of what Joe Hockey or the Abbott government does, Fairfax will say it’s bad,” he said.

    “They’re being helped by the ABC as well, there’s no question about that, some elements of the ABC.”

    In 2013, then opposition leader Mr Abbott said it was up to governments to “take the rough with the smooth”.

    Speaking about the then Labor government at a media conference in 2013, Mr Abbott said: “fundamentally, if you want good coverage, you have got to perform well”.

    “If you want better coverage, be a better government.”

    I wonder if Peter Dutton has ever taken responsibility for anything in his life. What an astonishing whinge considering what we endure from Murdoch.

    Making the case for the continuation of the royal commission into union corruption, Employment Minister Eric Abetz on Tuesday praised Fairfax Media for its work exposing serious claims of misconduct in the trade union movement.

    And they loved the ABC’s Killing Season.

    But we can only criticise unions and Labor. Anything else would be biased.

    Rolls eyes…..

  3. Matters Not

    This is an absolutely vital royal commission, even someone of the stature of Martin Ferguson says this is an important part of cleaning up the union movement, cleaning up the Labor Party so it must and will go on regardless of any decision Dyson Heydon QC makes.”

    So, in part at least, it’s about cleaning up the Labor Party. But I can’t find that aim in the Letters Patent.

    Could there be a hidden agenda here? Surely not.

    Read more:

    Look forward to the election of a different government and their first Royal Commission into how best to clean up the Liberal Party, including an expose of who funds the IPA and why, and the role played by the various ‘bosses unions’ and subsequent kickbacks.

    For the tenth RC under this new government I hope it’s about …

  4. Kaye Lee

    It is absolutely crucial that political donations need to be stopped. Political advertising is banned in the UK. We could easily give time on the ABC for parties to hold debates to explain their policies. Q&A sessions with candidates representing different parties could allow citizens to ask questions directly.

    We also need to look at what politicians do after they leave politics. There are far too many examples of them being given employment by companies that were affected by previous legislation.

  5. Möbius Ecko

    OFFS, this government is way beyond a joke.

    In a joint press conference that was made out to be earth shattering Abbott turns a three word slogan into four by adding “taxes” to the end of the three words and Hockey announces the abolition of a Labor tax that doesn’t exist.

    The bank deposit tax was one the Coalition considered.

    This government is so desperate and so bereft of any ideas that because of leaks from their own asking that Hockey be sacked, Abbott and Hockey come up with this utter nonsense for a “joint” press conference and announce the abolition of non-existent taxes.

  6. Roswell

    Unfortunately a Federal ICAC is a pipe dream. Shorten doesn’t want one. Odd that.

  7. Jexpat


    Labor certainly blew a golden opportunity through its failure to step up and call for a federal ICAC back in May and June.

    I reckon that would have been worth a couple of extra percentage points of support, and potentially taken a bit of thunder and momentum away from the Greens by coopting their policy.

  8. jimhaz

    Good research again from Kaye. Likely to be the tip of the iceberg.

    [It is absolutely crucial that political donations need to be stopped]

    Yep, that is the key. Even spending caps at half the last election would help. But how when we really don’t have democracy. We have no GraftBusters to call – MSM will definitely not help.

    My view is that a lot of the election based TV advertising which has become an advertising arms race, is purely graft to wealthy station owners – we don’t need ads every 2 seconds.

  9. Pingback: Corruption, kickbacks and slush funds – see ICAC – Written by KAYE LEE | winstonclose

  10. corvus boreus

    RC = Royal Commission = limited scope and powers, no direct referral for prosecution, mostly a useful political tool.
    ICAC = INDEPENDENT Commission Against Corruption = wider scope of reference and powers, with full ability to directly refer matters for prosecution, produces real results across the board.

    I know which I would prefer to see (although Tony and Bill disagree [“in a bipartisan fashion”]).

  11. BJWard

    There'[s no way either major party will accept a Federal ICAC. They both have far too much to hide.

  12. kerri

    A Federal ICAC is soooo needed! Every time I see that blonde behind Abbott at the despatch box I growl!
    Another great article Kaye Lee!

  13. keerti

    That is the best argument for a complete change of government (One lead by the greens, for example) that I have heard BJWard. Both major parties are too old and have no dicernable vision, something australia desperately needs. A real leader would go well too.

  14. Matters Not

    absolutely crucial that political donations need to be stopped

    Sound great. Certainly Clive Palmer would agree because it keeps out the ‘riff raff’ doesn’t it? While Palmer can fund a ‘start up’ can anyone explain how any new party can come into existence without donations, even if they are somewhat miniscule? Or are we all happy with those Parties that are currently there?

    While there is no doubt that political Parties can, and are, ‘bought’ via donations, I’m not sure that banning donations per se is the best policy response. Certainly it’s not the only possibility.

  15. i have a nugget of pure green

    I think a Royal Commission into the activities of our political parties are way past long due.

    From that should arise Royal Commissions into the Finance, Lobbying, Energy and Mining Industries and Outsourced Government Sources.

    From then mass arrests of most of our high flyers in business, unions, legal, academic and political circles.

    ah if only…

  16. corvus boreus

    If they want to keep me relatively sweet, the Greens should bring up a senate motion for an ICAC again. It is about a year and a half since they last raised it, and much has happened since. This includes new faces in the senate, and a new leader. It should be proposed again, and the call repeated every time a vote is deferred through filibuster.

    I would actually prefer it if the motion came from a ‘Labor’ senator (looking at you especially, Senator Doug Cameron, you claim to support; propose), as this would give me greater hope for success, but confess I have little confidence or faith in that regard.

    As for the ‘Liberal’ party with their ‘National’ (formerly Country) attendants, might as well pray to the 3rd star past Orion’s belt.

    In a recent(ish) Fairfax poll, 98% of respondents favoured a federal ICAC. Large numbers of people support the idea, we just need to get past the bipartisan resistance of the people and parties that purport to represent us. Every time the subject is raised is every time they have to give another piss-weak excuse as to why holding the paid (supposed) representatives of the nation’s electorate to account for their behavior is a bad idea.

    I would rather they succumbed and surrendered than we did.
    Ideals and their practical implementation should win over perversion through corruption.

  17. Matters Not

    While I am in favour of a federal ICAC, I am also conscious of the need to think carefully about its powers and limitations which should be applied to same.

    From experience, I know that some complaints are simply vexatious; lodged as either a fishing expedition or simply as an act of revenge for perceived or imagined ‘wrongs’, designed to cause angst. And they do.

    Without going into all the policy options, at a minimum, anonymous complaints should be treated with a great deal of scepticism. Here in Queensland, there was a flood of such ‘reportings’ that only grew over time. So much so the even the workings of the ‘Crime and Misconduct Commission’ (had several title iterations) became so clogged that the workload of the ‘young men in suits’, who were sent to investigate, couldn’t cope.

    The devil is always in the detail. Not that should be a reason to abandon the idea but as a caution to proceed slowly. Lots of ‘issues’ to be considered. And resolved.

  18. mmc1949

    Kaye Lee: Political advertising is banned in the UK. We could easily give time on the ABC for parties to hold debates to explain their policies.

    For some time I have thought that every candidate should be allotted (free) a set amount of space on the Australian Electoral Commission’s web site where they can spruik themselves however they like, provided it passes the honesty/civility test. At least then, every voter would know where to go to find out about their local candidates, including independents who often can’t afford to get their message out in a way that might reach everybody.

  19. Matters Not

    every voter would know where to go to find out about their local candidates,

    What about those rooted in the past who either don’t have a computer, or if they do, don’t know how to use it, or worse still, don’t have an assistant to rely on?

    Why are you ‘picking’ on Dyson and his ilk? They are our future, aren’t they?

  20. mmc1949

    Matters Not ……
    There will always be those who delight in their ignorance.
    There will invariably be a very small number with no internet access (remote locations).
    For the rest, their local public library has computers available and classes to teach people how to use them.

    I maintain that “one” web site where “every” candidate can say something about themselves would make gaining information easier than searching a plethora of newspapers, web sites (blogs, facebook pages, Lib/Lab/Green extravaganzas, etc), TV programmes and whatever else, remembering that, when it comes to the MSM, small parties and independents rarely, if ever, get a look in.

    I recall Rob Oakeshott saying on Australian Story (or similar) that an independent starts out around 20,000 votes behind. Granted, some independents are ratbags, not worth voting for. But we can say that about quite a few MPs from mainstream parties.
    Anything that has the potential to better inform people is worth considering.

  21. Wayne Turner

    Labor should call for the Liberal party to set up a Royal Commission now into workers (especially from overseas) being exploited ie: What is happening at Seven Eleven.

    When the Liberal party refuse.Labor can correctly paint the Liberal party as being anti-workers and pro-exploitation of workers.

  22. matters Not

    Anything that has the potential to better inform people is worth considering.

    No argument from me. Can only applaud.

    But I suspect in the ‘considering’ some ‘difficulties’ might be ‘identified’. Indeed I would be very surprised if it were otherwise.

    For a start, can I refer to your original statement.

    There will always be those who delight in their ignorance.

    Not sure about that. In my experience, the ‘ignorant’ (however defined) never admit to same. On the other hand, are you aware of the Dunning-Kruger Effect?

    The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein relatively unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate.

    I think it may be just as applicable to me as anyone else.

    While I am all in favour of technological solutions to the achievement of a ‘real democracy; I recognise that there are real and easily identifiable problems.

    Not that we should stop trying. But we need to keep our eyes wide open, as it were.

  23. corvus boreus

    I like your suggestion.
    One parameter i would recommend is that candidates must, with each ‘vision’ statement of lofty principle, make a ‘mission’ statement of practical policy, stating clearly how they would amend what they oppose or protect/enhance what they support.

    Matters Not,
    Regarding your 7:15 pm post, one thing would be to make any political donation above the pettiest level subject to mandatory disclosure of identity, and above a [negotiable thousands?] set level being subject to full disclosure of dealings to a standing advisory body (integrity commission/er) with recall to an investigatory body (ICAC).
    Ps, by all that is righteous and holy in the best healthy shit I have ever enjoyed, have you stepped up to the plate of late!
    Pps, re Dunning Kruger’s observed effect, long ago, Socrates knew that he mostly knew not. So too with Lao Tzu.

  24. Matters Not

    have you stepped up to the plate of late!

    Since I retired a decade and a half ago, and despite a daily exercise regime, the visible evidence suggests I have ‘stepped up to the plate’ far, far too often.

    Or did I give a different meaning to the words you wrote?

    As for a Federal ICAC, while I support same, I think that a detailed analysis would be advisable before any ‘policy’ is developed. But I am like that.

  25. Matters Not

    Socrates knew that he mostly knew not. So too with Lao Tzu.

    I share the same stage. The older I get the more I realise what I don’t know and how stupid it is to have ‘fixed’ views, broadly defined.

    As for Lao Tzu and theTao Te Ching , (or Laozi or any other number of ‘monikers’), I well remember ‘studying’ him years ago. The notion that ‘still waters run deep’ is possibly my favourite quote.

    But there are many others.

    As for ‘Philosophers’ I think that Plato and Dewey are at the top of my list even though they are at the opposite of what I see as a spectrum.

  26. corvus boreus

    Matters Not,

    First practical worry for me with an ICAC is how to have a workable way to the ensure impartiality and competency of all appointments (the independent in ICAC).
    There would also have to be a method, as previously mentioned, to screen out petty or vexatious claims.

    In terms of parameters of operation of a federal ICAC, I would like to see thorough examination of the integrity of conduct of all politicians, their direct staff, and their delegated appointments and commissions, full investigation into the influences of surrounding donors and lobbyists both (corporate and religious), and an inquiry into the relationships with and influences of think-tanks and similar bodies.

    Ps, for me the appeal of an epicurean plate increases in appeal just as the enthusiasm for the physical disciplines that negate it’s effects decreases. I also fear that I was probably born to late to harbour any realistic hopes of retirement.

  27. Jexpat

    corvus boreus wrote: “First practical worry for me with an ICAC is how to have a workable way to the ensure impartiality and competency of all appointments (the independent in ICAC).”

    In other words, who will watch the watchers.

  28. Kaye Lee

    Rob Oakeshott said:

    “Australia needs a royal commission into political donations.

    It is not people in different clothing, of different cultures, with different languages, or of different religions that anyone need fear. If you look back on our political history, we have been divided by silly suspicions before. The “fear and smear” of others has been tried on South Sea Islanders, Chinese, Aboriginal Australians, and now women of Islam. History shows the current debate is not new. It merely picks away at that same old xenophobic scab our culture carries.

    No, the greatest threat to Australia’s future is not among its people. The people, when allowed to know each other, seem to get on fine.

    The real threat is within government itself. It is the increasing corruption of our public decision-making by influence gained through record levels of private donations. The only colour Australia needs to fear is the colour of money in its democracy. Chequebook decision-making is the silent killer of necessary reform.”

  29. Möbius Ecko

    “Chequebook decision-making is the silent killer of necessary reform.”

    And we saw this in spades with the Bank Deposit Tax, which most economists agreed was a good tax and a safeguard against inevitable (because of a flawed system) economic downturns.

    Banks and big business put up a stink and threatened to campaign against it at the next election, Abbott and Hockey immediately caved in and blamed Labor.

    There is no starker example of whose really running this country at the moment than that.

  30. Möbius Ecko

    By the way if you want to see how ingrained the idea of the Liberals being good economic managers is then look at the above recent poll. Though the L-NP have gone further backwards in TPP they are still overwhelmingly seen as the best economic managers, though this is blatantly false looking at how they’ve completely screwed up since getting into power and the growing revelations of Howard’s mismanagement.

  31. Kaye Lee

    What do you expect when the Prime Minister, Treasurer and Finance Minister keep telling them

    “Over six years, Labor ran up a $667 billion debt on the nation’s credit card.”

    They blatantly lie and, because people hate figures, it is impossible to show them the lie.

  32. Möbius Ecko

    You can also see from that poll why this government bashes security so much, it’s their biggest trump card.

    The same thing as happened to the previous Labor government is happening here, where the voting intention and TPP bears little correlation to the answers on questions relating to major areas of governance. Poll questions on whether the Labor government was doing a good job or satisfaction with them nearly always returned positive points, yet the voting intention trend was the opposite.

  33. lawrencewinder

    …and when Labor come out to play?

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