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The investigation you have when you’re not having an investigation: Turnbull, Joyce and Parkinson

Two days before former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce resigned last week, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull referred allegations that Joyce had breached ministerial standards to Martin Parkinson, Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, for investigation on the following grounds:

The Ministerial Code of Conduct Section 2.23 states:

Ministers’ close relatives and partners are not to be appointed to positions in their ministerial or electorate offices, and must not be employed in the offices of other members of the Executive Government without the Prime Minister’s express approval. A close relative or partner of a Minister is not to be appointed to any position in an agency in the Minister’s own portfolio if the appointment is subject to the agreement of the Minister or Cabinet.

Turnbull suffered considerable angst as he attempted to redefine “relationship” in a manner that would not include an ongoing sexual affair and pregnancy, thus exonerating Joyce from the allegation of breaching ministerial standards because he wasn’t in a “partnership” with Ms Campion at the time of her employment.

Turnbull’s definitions were in stark contrast to those of Centrelink that govern the rest of the population, as I unpack here.

Turnbull’s motives for referring the matter to Parkinson are as yet unclear. We might speculate that increasing public ridicule forced his hand. Perhaps there was a deal with Joyce: you resign, mate, and I’ll see the investigation is dropped. Requesting an investigation created the appearance of a much-needed distance between Joyce and the Liberals. Please feel free to come up with your own explanation, however, what has very quickly become apparent is that the investigation was never genuine.

No sooner did Joyce resign from the DPM position, than Parkinson wrote to Turnbull, stating that in view of Joyce’s resignation nothing was to be gained by pursuing his investigation, and the matter is now closed.

If the matter was worthy of investigation whilst Joyce was DPM, it is worthy of investigation after his resignation. The allegations concern the period when he was a minister, and the fact that he is no longer a minister does not negate the seriousness of the allegations. Presumably, were we to extrapolate this insane reasoning to other situations, someone who embezzled funds from their employer no longer needs to be held to account if they leave that workplace. A priest who assaults children need not be held to account by his church if he leaves that church.

While ministerial standards are not laws, the principle is the same.

Had Joyce been found to be in breach of the standards, next in the line of fire would be Senator Matt Canavan, who employed Campion when it was determined by Joyce’s Chief of Staff, Di Hallam, that Campion had to get out of her lover’s office. Then we turn to Turnbull himself, who, having denied all knowledge of the nomadic Ms Campion’s employment history, a denial contested by other accounts of the debacle, breached his own standards by not giving the express approval to her various employments, as required by the Code.

All in all there was little to be gained, as Parkinson points out, in pursuing the investigation, and a great deal, as Parkinson does not point out, to be lost.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.


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  1. townsvilleblog

    The amount of corruption the L’NP are covering up at present is astounding the National Party is accusing the Liberal Party of leaking against former Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, whilst the Borderforce Commissioner has emassed half a million dollars since last May while being investigated for trying to get his wife a government job, and of course we can’t forget the ‘water farce’ under the current Water Minister whilst his father in law (I think) is being investigated for corruptly allocating water,. No wonder they don’t want a Corruption Commission like they had in NSW where Liberal MPs were being ruled offside with monotonous regularity.

  2. jimhaz

    If the ALP does not pursue the positions situation and only concentrates on the travel, then we will know FOR CERTAINTY that they also have similar situations of nepotism.

    Attention on the positions would shine light on jobs for the non-meritious favoured – which probably runs into the hundreds. I’d like to take the ability to create and directly hire staff for ministerial created positions out of their hands to be honest.

  3. Terry2

    It looks as though abandoning the enquiry into Joyce was more an effort to protect Canavan.

  4. Glenn Barry

    Just when you think that the brazen nature of LNP corruption couldn’t become any worse – they lower the bar yet further

  5. Christopher

    Parkinson works for the government and knows he is beyond any meaningful scrutiny. Hardly a brave and courageous person left in the Senior Executive Service – all of them yes men and women and contributing to the corruption which we now see is in plain sight.

    Then again, Jennifer, Centrelink’s couples guidance is just one of their tactics to deny much needed payments to poor people. Politicians are way above that and shouldn’t need to pass that test, surely? /s

  6. Matters Not

    Using Parkinson (previously sacked by Abbott from Treasury) to investigate political wrong doing and Finkel (the Chief Scientist) commissioned to provide political options re the National Electricity Market is a gross misuse of public servants. Both Finkel and Parkinson do themselves (and us) a great disservice by engaging in grubby political exercises.

    Both should know better and stay out of the malodorous, political swamp. It’s demeaning.

  7. Janet Simpson

    “Close relative” does not include the mother of your embryonic child??? what would Centrelink say?

  8. Shogan

    Senate Estimates are still chasing after the “rorts” so should be an interesting week with more to come which keeps the government in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, so much for the FiZZA’s good start to the year, mind you, it was only the usual MSM rags claiming he was in for a good year.

    The audit into the use of travel and travel-related expenses by Mr Joyce and Ms Campion by the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority is ongoing too.

  9. paul walter

    Astonished to read this on arriving from the Day to Day Politics posting where Kaye Lee comments on Michaelia Cash suppression of details involving Judge Lawson and his wife Kathy Jackson and Terry 2 again draws attention to the Roman Quodlibet matter.

    This is an insane government, totally out of control in its cavalier abuse of process.

  10. Frank Smith

    From what I have gleaned the person who appears to have acted honorably in this ongoing saga is Joyce’s Chief of Staff, Di Hallam. Forget about Parkinson, Di Hallam surely knows the truth about what went on and who knew what and when. She is now employed by the Inland Rail Authority and has probably been silenced by rules forbidding public servants and staffers from revealing anything from their previous appointments. But surely there must be some way to get Di Hallam before Senate Estimates or some such committee where she can be allowed to reveal the true details related to this very smelly saga. Our democracy is in crisis whilst lies and rorts are allowed to continue – they must be revealed.

  11. helvityni

    I don’t know anything about Parkinson, but was disappointed in Finkel’s watered down ,or should I say luke- warm ideas regarding Climate Change; I expected better of him…

  12. Matters Not

    helvityni re Martin Parkinson – He was the inaugural Secretary of the Department of Climate Change, under a Labor Government. There he ran foul of Abbott, a well known climate change denier. He also served as an advisor to former Australian Treasurer, John Dawkins. A good, competent public servant.

    Between 2011 and 2015, Parkinson was Secretary of the Department of the Treasury. Appointed under Labor. Hockey, the incoming Treasurer, was impressed and wanted him to stay but Abbott wouldn’t have it.

    With the demise of Abbott and the rise of Turnbull, Parkinson was resurrected.

    As for Finkel, he was hung out to dry because Turnbull ran away from his recommendations in the face of his backbench climate change deniers.

  13. corvus boreus

    For those who give a platypodean’s cloaca about the latest issues of ‘climate change’, here is the latest news;
    The global extent of sea ice is the minimum recorded for January since reliable satellite measurements began (1981).
    Also, despite being in the middle of the North Pole’s ‘long-night’, the Arctic region has recently been recording ‘anomalous’ above zero temperatures.
    Ah well, the show must go on….

  14. helvityni

    MN, thanks for the information, much appreciated….

  15. irascibleexaminator

    I am monumentally disappointed in the Guardian of late especially Katherine Murphy’s treatment of this matter in specifics and generally with her focus on maintaining her privileged journalists position rather than focusing on the real issue i.e. the possible corruption and clear mismanagement of his portfolio, she has doggedly wafted over the sins of the government including BJ’s . Instead of focusing on the issues that concern a number of people she offers a lame defence for her being missing in action.
    Then following it up with a over exaggerated one on the vacillation of the Labor party over what ? retrospective legislation to stop Aldani under the pretence of a Labor loss in the Batman election.

    Then again she has for writing ridiculously positive articles on the accession of Turnbull to PM, even though he made it clear that he would not ( probably could not) change the policies set by his deposed predecessor. There have been numerous of other examples of repeating every pointless, mindless utterances of the afore mentioned sulking failure. It can be argued that the Guardian under her political editorship is using the 15th Century Venetians ladies who had pet simians on leads to contrast and enhance their beauty. Along side Abbott doesn’t look so bad.
    As for not knowing of the probable misdeed, all one can say is she should get out and among it more often. If this site has people with far less resources than her can come up with REAL need to know stories that any half committed journalist could easily research.

    The fact that this story has been abandoned by the media in general given the mounting questions shows that they are too close to their targets or have corporate interests before the public who need to know.

    Katherine can be thankful that I’m not her boss.

  16. paul walter

    The problem with the Guardian is that the government has had it over a barrel since passing legislation with the help of Xenophon that allows minister Fifield to withdraw a type of funding at his own discretion, so they have dumbed down to survive. It is not just public broadcasting the government has been after, but anything remotely broadsheet,ie “without fear or favour”.

    Murdoch of course likes this since he can get on with his pro government propaganda in rags like Telegraph and the Oz without challenge or contradiction.

  17. helvityni

    irascibleexaminator, I have observed that when Murphy is on Insiders, she’s never one bit critical of Turnbull…. I find that just as irritating as Leigh’s friendly smiles when interviewing Morrison on 7.30…

  18. Henry Rodrigues

    irascibleexaminator and Helvityini………… I have been so forthright and frank in estimating the so called virtues and non existing professional qualities and qualifications of the chief political editor of the “illustrious’ Guardian, that I have been banned from posting anymore on their website. So much for freedom to voice your opinions. Katharine is a terrible representative of honest, fearless, and independent journalism.

  19. helvityni

    Henry, I’m pleased that I’m not the only who finds her somewhat irritating and lacking in fairness…

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