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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