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Perceptions of corruption

By 2353NM

During March, in what strategists at the time claimed was a masterstroke, Prime Minister Turnbull recalled the Parliament from April 18 primarily to consider the reintroduction of the ABCC legislation by the Senate. Turnbull also advised that if the ABCC legislation was rejected in it’s current form the response would be a double dissolution election. Others questioned why there was a ‘demonstrated’ need for an anti-corruption body responsible for the building industry and not other areas of Federal Government influence.

The ABC News website has a ‘explainer’ about the two pieces of legislation that Turnbull wants passed. Suffice to say here that both pieces of legislation aim to reinstate a so called ‘corruption watchdog’ that monitor the building industry as well as ensuring union leaders have the same responsibilities as company directors.

Recently we discussed how well the plan had been executed so far when ‘Continuity and Change’ was published on The Political Sword. In short; we concluded it hadn’t gone well and if anything, since then it hasn’t got any better. Lets just say perception is everything.

While Heydon’s Royal Commission did uncover some dodgy (if not corrupt) practice, a number of the cross-bench Senators want the legislation to set up a federal ‘ICAC style” watchdog. Turnbull and his Employment Minister Senator Cash have rejected the proposal. Cash said:

… the government would negotiate in good faith in relation to proposed amendments but they could not “compromise the integrity of the bills”.

“The government is committed to passing the bills in either the same or substantially the same form”.

The Victorian Liberal Party is shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted by introducing ‘reforms’ to protect its finances from fraud – after a former state director admitted to embezzlement of $1.5 million.

A few days after Turnbull effectively called the election, it was reported that the NSW Electoral Commission is withholding $4.4 million in public funding until the party can identify who donated some $700,000 which arrived in the party’s bank accounts via a Canberra based Trust Account called the Free Enterprise Foundation.

A couple of days later, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) announced they were taking Westpac to the Federal Court over claims of rigging interest rates. Westpac aren’t alone, ASIC took similar action against ANZ last month.

ASIC produce regular information bulletins. The ‘highlights are the 105 investigations commenced, $149 million in compensation and remediation and close to $1 million in infringement notices that were paid (obviously not in dispute) in the six months leading up to March 2016.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has promised a Royal Commission into the banking and finance industry if elected to government later this year. While some Coalition party members have agreed that the commission is warranted, Treasurer Morrison and the Australian Bankers Association have decried the move.

In the past week, the world has seen the release of the ‘Panama Papers’, an electronic dump of the files of an organisation that ‘facilitated’ the movement of funds around the world in part to avoid taxation. Apart from anything else, the quantity of data now available makes the scale of the data held by the US Government leaked by Edward Snowden look small by comparison.

The Panama Papers revolve around a firm of lawyers used by the super rich to avoid currency movements, tax payments and so on. So far, the Prime Minister of Iceland has resigned, the Prime Minister of Great Britain is facing some increasingly difficult questions (apparently he and his family had an involvement with the legal firm). They aren’t the only ones, ‘the ruling class’ of countries from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe are currently facing questions. Putin in Russia is claiming that while those close to him are implicated, he isn’t, China is literally censoring the topic out of existence and Panama is claiming the link between the leaked papers and their country is unwarranted! The Australian Taxation Office is commencing investigations around the taxation affairs of the 800 Australians who were named in the leaked documents.

As Lenore Taylor, writing on The Guardian’s website , points out while no one is accusing any Australian politician of being identified in the release of the Panama Papers, it makes Turnbull’s argument that there is no need for a federal corruption watchdog difficult to prosecute (when each state already has a similar body). In contrast it makes Shorten’s argument around a Royal Commission into banking really logical.

Perception is everything.

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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35 comments

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  1. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    We need a Federal ICAC that encompasses corruption in Political Processes, Banks, Big Biz, Bureaucracies throughout Australia. No stone will be left unturned.

    Even seemingly innocuous transactions will be subject to scrutiny because such transactions can also hide dirty little secrets.

    Obviously, there will be incremental penalties according to the size of the injustice or offence. The bigger, the bigger gaol terms, fines, criminal records. The lesser still will be subject to lesser consequences albeit pecuniary and public.

    Time for ordinary people to have access to just recourses to the law, if they have been wronged by business, political or bureaucratic processes.

  2. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Correction to earlier comment. It should read, “We demand…”

  3. Terry2

    The knee-jerk reaction of this government to the recommendations of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) has been to demand the instant axing of the Tribunal.

    There is more at play here than concern for ‘mum & dad’ owner drivers and road safety, this is clearly an attempt to destroy the Transport Workers Union.

    I have been doing some reading on this politically charged issue, this helps : http://www.fullyloaded.com.au/industry-news/1508/we-want-fixed-rates-for-owner-drivers-by-2016-rsrt/

  4. Backyard Bob

    While Heydon’s Royal Commission did uncover some dodgy (if not corrupt) practice,[…]

    Yes it did and we should never forget it! Mind you, they could have picked a random person off the street and paid them $50 to tell us there was dodgy practice within the union movement. $80M seems an awfully expensive exercise in telling us what we already knew.

    […]it makes Turnbull’s argument that there is no need for a federal corruption watchdog difficult to prosecute[…]

    Shorten made the same argument regarding a Fed ICAC. Perhaps Labor is softening on the notion? Seems to me commitment to the idea would almost guarantee government.

  5. kerri

    Federal ICAC and boot out the gawping hyena at the top of this article.

  6. townsvilleblog

    Jennifer, just as a footnote, I’ve heard that Turnbull is going to cut funding for Community Legal Services so now the everyday Australian will have even less legal advice available.

  7. townsvilleblog

    Backyard Bob, I agree, almost certainly even the apathetic Australian public realize or wonder whether something untoward is happening at the federal level of the parliament, I think it would be a definite vote winner a federal Crime&Corruption Commission.

  8. diannaart

    Turnbull is going to cut funding for Community Legal Services

    There is still something left to cut?

    30 years ago I was seeking compensation for damages caused by a motorist and was lucky to get legal representation – not so lucky in the outcome – whole other story.

    Haven’t the self-entitled completely stitched up the lower income people enough already?

  9. Ross in Gippsland

    Inequality and corruption go together and the world is awash with both.
    The LNP have outsourced policy to the fruit bats at the IPA, thus allowing them the freedom to concentrate on their property portfolios. Unfettered capitalism, companies free from any sort of over site or restriction is the IPA fantasy. The great unwashed know this is total crap and will not have a bar it.
    The scandals, financial, banking, political and religious are coming at an ever increasing pace and scale. The amounts mentioned in the Panama Papers are stupendous and this is only one of many law practices involved. The result so far is the resignation of Iceland’s PM, the UK’s PM on shaky ground and not a peep about our own PM’s Cayman Island adventures in tax free paradise.
    ICAC, Royal Commission or whatever, do they still makes guillotines?

  10. Jack Russell

    If you are on facebook, twitter, etc, then keep on (or start) cranking up posting links to the truth. With the mainstream media flat out trying to hide it, we need to start a gigantic avalanche…

  11. Kaye Lee

    “While Heydon’s Royal Commission did uncover some dodgy (if not corrupt) practice,[…]

    Yes it did and we should never forget it!”

    The corrupt practices included developers giving bribes but it is the recipient who was arrested. It included a union boss who negotiated an EBA for painters to get $26 an hour instead of $17 an hour – the contractor claimed blackmail and pecuniary loss. Needless to say it didn’t even make court. One guy went on strike for 12 days and received 3 charges against him per day…there’s 36 of their charges already purely because someone refused to work on an allegedly unsafe work site.

    Let’s get some perspective here. Compared to what is happening in the corporate world and in the halls of parliament it is chicken feed.

  12. jaxxxiii

    The LNP can only show genuine concerns about corruption if they willingly and proactively move to install the Federal ICAC otherwise they’re genuinely playing politics and continue to show an ideological attack on the Australian worker’s , they’re not merely attacking the union’s.

  13. keerti

    Wouildn’t be economical to farm many chickens on that! Kaye Lee

  14. keerti

    Although only a small percentage of workers belong to unions, many more work under EBA’s negotiated by unions on their behalf. I hope those workers remember who looks after them when they get into strife and aren’t union members. At that point many sudddenly want help and it is often given.

  15. philgorman2014

    Committee Secretary
    Select Committee on the establishment of a National Integrity Commission
    PO Box 6100
    Parliament House
    Canberra ACT 2600

    Phone: +61 2 6277 3585
    Fax: +61 2 6277 5794
    nic.sen@aph.gov.au

    Make a difference; get your submission in before 20th April.

  16. Kaye Lee

    In my early teaching days there were quite a few strikes for various different reasons like making us take extra classes outside our subject area. As I rocked up to the woodwork class I would say “we will be having a spelling test today. I would suggest you get your parents to complain about that.” When they thrust French on me, we played buzz fizz (a maths game) using French numbers. Meanwhile, all the good casuals who had helped out so well during the year were out of a job.

    Every time we went on strike, some of us would volunteer to go to school to supervise the kids that turned up despite notes home advising them the school would be closed but we registered as being on strike and took no pay for the day. Others who worked because they had a Yr 12 class or kids who needed to work on major works or an excursion or sporting event planned, donated their day’s pay to charity.

    Occasionally it was about our entirely inadequate pay and the deliberate delay in passing on award increases but more often than not it was about educational outcomes for our students – maximum class sizes and the like (though in practice we were always flexible about those too – you may only be supposed to have 30 in your class but we all took a few more so the lower classes could be smaller and get more help and attention.

    The Teachers Federation have copped many labels over the years and no doubt there were feminists and socialists and homosexuals and radicals among us – but I have only ever seen them fight for a better deal for kids first, schools second, and teachers third.

    Unions are the collective voice of the workers. Without them, we become powerless pawns competing to be exploited.

  17. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    I, like everybody on this site, admire you Kaye.

    But I am sorry that you perpetuate the premise that good, dedicated teachers put their own interests after their students and their schools.

    Teachers are people and are workers with their own interests and families and mortgages to protect. No other workers are expected to put their own interests after the interests of other stakeholders, so why perpetuate the expectation that lowly paid and under-resourced teachers should do so?

  18. Kaye Lee

    I am not talking about anyone else’s expectations JMS. I am talking about the dedication that teachers feel for their work. These were choices that teachers who were union members made voluntarily. They wanted to support the union action while not disadvantaging their students.

  19. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Of course your memory of that time is to be respected, KL.

    However, my point stands that I am concerned that you appear to equate teacher dedication to a preparedness of teachers putting other stakeholders’ interests before their own.

    The principle of protecting oneself in First Aid can be applied to what I am advocating for teachers’ rights.

    Strong teachers unafraid of their job security, reasonable remuneration and conditions make stronger advocates for the other stakeholders that they also care for.

  20. paul walter

    Kaye Lee, with the death of the industrial left the social infrastructure sector unions to shoulder a big burden heroically. Please though, no more pics of Cash in Partridge Family mode.

    JMS, you are usually more open minded. Can you step back a second and instead give us your general impression of nurses, teachers etc as people?

  21. SGB

    JMS said this:
    “Strong teachers unafraid of their job security, reasonable remuneration and conditions make stronger advocates for the other stakeholders that they also care for.”

    I believe it is the right of every employee to be unafraid of their job security, reasonable remuneration and conditions.

    Unions have always been advocates of this ideal, just as it should be!

  22. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Thanks SGB.

    Paul Walter, I’m not sure how you think I would think otherwise. I entered teaching at a time in Victoria when many teachers were not too frightened to believe what I am advocating.

    Now alas, political correctness and economic rationalism has made many teachers scared to advocate for their own rights and that is why teaching conditions are in the mess that they are.

  23. paul walter

    Actually that comment does have some sense. I do deeply beleive Kaye Lee and most other teachers joining others striking for that basic security and for their students against neo lib policy, including some involving Labor, were behaving rationally.

    I think you have a point, thinking also on the lack of action at say, public broadcasting, where unions no longer seem to be able impact on harsh and destructive policies involving something significant for the health of civilisation.

  24. Michael Taylor

    “Actually that comment does have some sense”.

    I automatically assumed you were referring to something I’d said, but then noticed that I haven’t commented yet. 🙁

  25. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Michael,

    bad luck! I got the tick from paul walter for stating “some sense”. Not you! 🙂

  26. philgorman2014

    I am definitely with Kaye here. No-one here wants to live in a dog-eat-dog world. That’s why we voice dissent from the status quo.

    Of course industrial action is a necessary and legitimate tool for all workers. But we need to treat every case on its merits and on its effects on the lives of others. Sometimes it’s complex, with well over 50 shades of grey. It requires judgement tempered by humanity if social justice is to be served.

    Sometimes it challenges the vocation to serve. Health workers, emergency workers, teachers, social workers, and many others, including some police, dedicate their lives to the service of others. They work face to face with people.

    It’s unfair to criticise people for putting the needs of others before their own wants. The use of the corporatist term “stakeholders” tends to obscure the very stark differences among the parties involved in, or directly affected by, industrial action. We can’t just categorise people by confining them in convenient behavioural or idealogical boxes.

  27. Jexpat

    What do you think?

    I think centering an election campaign on establishing AND sufficiently empowering a federal ICAC is a winning formula.

    Sadly, I also think this unlikely.

  28. 2353

    @Jexpat – short, sharp and to the point. Well done 🙂

  29. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    For the record, I also honour people who work in professions that serve others.

    However, those professions which have required high levels of unpaid learning beforehand (and high HECs debts) and then high levels of professional commitment and development thereafter, are often the same professions that are inequitably paid when compared to other professions that are more significantly paid at faster rates.

    If Australia wants a 1st world quality Education system for the 21st Century, it needs to value its teachers far better and that means higher remuneration without a bum fight first, better working conditions including teacher/student ratios and job security, as opposed to casual and contracts.

  30. diannaart

    Hear! Hear! Jennifer, my sister would agree entirely.

    She started her career as an apprentice electronics technician, needing a change, in recent years she retrained as a teacher with expertise in maths, science and electronics – despite consistent success she cannot get a permanent position, last time was due to changes in TAFE – she taught disadvantaged youth for 3 years (on successive contracts) in maths and instruments tech. She is now teaching many of the same students (due to reshuffle were assigned to another school in the area) on another 12 month contract – it took the all-male panel to approve her application ONE week before school recommenced for the year!

    Our teachers are treated with contempt.

    PS

    I rather like the idea of a “bum fight”, perhaps you intended “bun fight”?

  31. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    diannaart,

    🙂 thanks for pointing out my faux pas but I prefer “bum fight” anyway!

  32. diannaart

    Me too

    😀

  33. Lord John

    Michaelia Cash reminds me of Kathleen Turners Character in the movie Serial Mom.

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