From the second the Coalition formed government, they have been using their position to shower largesse on themselves, their friends and donors.
The tone was set when George Brandis gifted a patently unqualified Tim Wilson a job at the Australian Human Rights Commission, a position Wilson gleefully accepted despite having called for the body to be abolished. The job wasn’t advertised because there was no vacancy. The disability sector lost an outstanding advocate in Graeme Innes to make way for freedom boy so he could increase his profile while he waited for Andrew Robb to retire from the plum Liberal seat of Goldstein.
Likewise when it came to appointing board members to the ABC. The nomination panel’s short list was ignored as the Coalition installed those sympathetic to their world view rather than those who had any relevant qualifications or experience.
Neil Brown, a minister in the Fraser government and a deputy Liberal leader under John Howard and a former member of the independent panel tasked with deciding who should run the ABC and SBS, lashed the Coalition for “abusing” the system and stacking the public broadcasters with unqualified board members.
Very large contracts and grants have been awarded without tender, oversight or evaluation. Conflicts of interest abound as in the case of the travel contract for Helloworld, a company in which Joe Hockey owns a significant shareholding. Whilst he may not have actually been the one to award the tender, he set up the meeting which facilitated it.
This special access has been a feature of this government who openly sells access to Ministers through its various fundraising bodies.
The rorting of politicians’ expenses, previously known as entitlements (I am reminded of when the Catholics changed from Holy Ghost to Holy Spirit – it sounds better), has been legendary. Whether it’s helicopter rides to party functions just down the road, or ‘official business’ which just so happens to coincide with your football team being in town, or a pressing visit to a region where you happen to own an investment property (or are in the hunt for one), or a family reunion where you and your family fly to the other side of the country, everything is on the public purse.
When dignitaries come to Australia, we host lavish dinners for them. When our dignitaries go overseas, it’s still our shout. Who could forget Joe Hockey’s $50,000 dinner at the G20 conference in Washington the month before he handed down his “end of the age of entitlement” budget. That same month, George Brandis went to dinner with three friends in London and charged us $1100, most of which was their grog bill.
When Christopher Pyne took his wife on a $30,000 European tour, it included taxpayers being billed $1352 for Mr Pyne to “day let” a room at a swish London hotel before he and his wife, Carolyn, flew back to Australia later that day, and more than $2000 for VIP services at Heathrow Airport.
Special mention should be given to Barnaby Joyce for getting away with his brazen gifting of high-paying non-existent jobs to his pregnant mistress. No wonder Roman Quaedvlieg is pissed off.
Here, have a Special Envoy job. Thanks say Jim Molan, Tony Abbott and Bananababy. Go do something with submarines. Thanks says Sophie Mirabella. Want a plum diplomatic posting? Thanks say George and Joe. Want a job on the AAT? We’ve got millions of them to hand out. Your au pair hasn’t got a valid work visa? Let me fix that for you.
In the dying days of this government, there is a furious rush going on to gift jobs as a reward to the party faithful and contracts to the party donors.
Until we remove the ability for politicians to make, or influence, the decisions about contracts and appointments, until we have genuine oversight of expense claims, unscrupulous people will continue to use public money to bestow gifts without any accountability.
And they wonder why we want a Federal ICAC.
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