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Tag Archives: Barry O’Farrell

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.

 

The Ides of March

Image courtesy of theaustralian.com.au

Image courtesy of theaustralian.com.au

On the 15th of March 44BC Julius Caesar was murdered, in an act reminiscent of the ritual slaughter of a sheep made to the god Jupiter during the Ides of March.

In 2014 on the Ides of March, Tasmania and South Australia are up for a state election. As is expected by the renowned Australian tradition for voting governments out, rather than voting them in, and by most indicators both the progressive Labor governments are set to be sacrificial Pharmakos.

The trouble with this strange form of political punishment is that it often hurts the citizen voter far more than the purged politicians.  As has been evidenced recently in NSW, QLD and federally, the triumphant conservative governments that have been beneficiaries of this disengaged democracy are rarely interested in what voters need, and more interested in what their corporate backers want.

Getting upset at the nightly news, or posting your ire on social media does not a good democracy make.  Progressive parties like the ALP and the Greens were built on mass movements that banded diverse people together in a fight for a better life, or to build a better balance between our industries and our environment.  As such, for these parties to function at their best requires community involvement.  Failing to get involved with, and then voting out such an elected government is like distaining to train your dog and then getting upset when it soils the carpet.

The conservative Liberal party, and their National party enablers, on the other hand is a party for the corporate and wealthy elite.  They do not need mass support, only your vote come election time.

Of course getting involved in politics is not very Australian, and many voters do not want to be interested.  Australians never had to fight for its democratic freedoms, and so are fairly blaze and ignorant about how it all works.  The result is that voters come to polls every three to four years, having put little thought into what they actually want from their government, complaining about missing out on their Saturday morning and muttering “I just don’t know who to vote for”.

Tasmania and South Australia are faced with a choice to re-elect incumbent progressive governments that they may have genuine grievances with, or bringing in libertarian conservative governments. There would seem to be little choice between the two.  However there are very large differences that a cursory look at the state and federal Liberal parties will clearly illustrate.

For those seeking to convince fellow voters, or those who may themselves be unsure, to assist you I have made a small list below of the kind of thing you can expect under a conservative government.  This list is by no means comprehensive and I am sure that most readers will be able to find far more to add:

In Queensland, the Liberal National government . . .

Cancelled the building of a new Children’s hospital, and will instead be changing it into a five-star hospital “hotel” where family members will be responsible for tending to patients around the clock.

Established a Commission of Audit to rationalize massive cuts to services, health, education, and support a program of extensive privatization.

Refused to sign up to education reform and Gonski co-funding.

Lost thousands of jobs, with unemployment up to 6.1% and rising.

Closed public schools and then sold the land to private developers.

Approved an electricity price rise of 22.6%.

Approved dredging onto the Great Barrier Reef.

Campbell Newman gave himself a pay rise, so that he is now paid the same as the President of the United States.

Established draconian “Anti-bikie” VLAD laws in an attempt to undermine social clubs associated with unionized workers in the building industry.  An industry that Campbell Newman has family ties and personal interests in.

Passed laws that allow police to enter a home without a warrant, arrest and fine a host of party $12,000 if three of his or her guests are intoxicated or use “indecent” language.

Changed Workcover laws to prevent injured workers from claiming health costs associated with an injury at work.

Sold social housing for a profit while increasing costs to the average family to the tune of $600 a year through direct and indirect taxation.

In Victoria, the Liberal Coalition government . . .

Changed protest laws so that the government can decide what a legitimate protest is, and force people to move with threat of arrest or an immediate fine of $500.

Is building a road tunnel, instead of additional and much needed public transport, that will result in huge increases in traffic congestion.

Cut $290 million from TAFE training in 2013, and is planning to cut millions more.

Cut $616 million from health funding, leading to the longest waiting lists for surgery ever – with some 55,000 people waiting months for treatment in 2013.

Courted the vote of disgraced MP Geoff Shaw by assisting him to repeal 2008 law that decriminalized abortion.

Has seen massive increases to wait times at hospital emergency rooms.

Has closed down over 2,000 beds in Victorian hospitals.

Has seen tolls, water, gas and electricity, and property rates increase at a faster rate than anywhere else in the country.

Is continuing to cut Ambulance services and is now attempting to replace trained paramedics with partly trained volunteers.

Unemployment is up to 6.4%, the worst since 2002.

In Western Australia the Liberal National Coalition . . .

Instituted a mindless Shark cull, despite being told it was a bad idea by scientists and fishermen – killing dolphins, seals, sealions, etc and attracting international derision.

Increased electricity prices 45% higher than CPI.

Cut hundreds of support staff from public schools and introduced further funding cuts to public schools.

Established an economic audit to justify cuts and privatization.

Continue to cut health funding and services.

Refused to sign up to education reform and Gonski co-funding.

Cancelled promised public transport improvements and expansions.

Continuing increases in unemployment, jumping from 4.6 to 5.1% in January 2014.

Oversaw an increase in state debt from $3.6 Billion in 2008 to over $18 Billion in 2013, all while overseeing a massive mining boom.

In NSW, the Liberal Coalition government . . .

Made massive cuts to emergency services, leading to closure of Fire Stations and longer wait times for emergency care.

Introduced laws to stop wage increases for public sector workers (including police, fire services and nurses).

Obeyed mining lobby groups and cancelled funding to environmental lawyers, and forbade any state agencies from “providing legal advice to activists and lobby groups”.

Has changed laws, at the behest of big miners like Rio Tinto, giving preference to the ‘economic benefits of coal mines over environmental and social impacts’.

Has opened up national parks to casual hunters and shooters, now wants to roll back marine parks to allow open season on fish reserves.

Sold public owned assets including electricity utilities, ferry services, and ports, leading to higher prices for consumers and huge cuts to services.

Nationally, the Federal Liberal-National government . . .

Has stated it will be pushing for the states to privatize more of their utilities, water, public transport, ports, and services – despite a recent reports from around the world that privatization has been a complete failure.

Established a Commission of Audit to rationalize massive cuts to services, health, education, and support a program of extensive privatization.

Is currently attempting to sell Medibank Private, a government corporation that actually makes money for tax payers, by hiring $2000-a-day spin doctors.

Tried to force SPC management to cut workers wages by up to 40% and cancel all conditions in return for any federal funding assistance.

Cancelled Gonski and education reform, and now Christopher Pyne currently has 2 men reviewing a curriculum that took 6 years and over 20,000 submissions to develop in order to reintroduce a more Christian education.

Has cancelled future Trades Training Centres across the nation.

Is signing up to the Trans-pacific partnership, which will give corporations the right to sue Australian state or federal governments if any changes to health, environment or any law impinge on their profits.

Apparently cancelled climate change, and tried to shut down the Clean Energy Finance corp, which is making $200 million per year for the tax payer, while contributing “more than 50 per cent of the emissions abatement that’s required for the bipartisan 2020 target”

Cancelled Equal access fibre-to-the-home NBN, and now cities, suburbs, regional centres and the bush are going to miss out on the economic and social benefits of broadband infrastructure.

Has broken 25 promises in 150 days; after spending 3 years hounding PM Gillard for breaking 1.

In conclusion

In Rome the death of Caesar saw the end of the Roman Republic and the rise of the non-democratic Roman Empire.  This Ides of March sees similar creeping imperial forces on the warpath against the foundations of Australian democracy.  If Liberal-National parties are elected in the upcoming state elections the voters will suffer similar fates to those listed above.

It has fallen to the voters in Tasmania and South Australia to not simply ‘punish’ the Labor governments; but rather consider the very real difference between a progressive parliament or a regressive conservative one.

You get out of government what you put in.  Just ask any lobbyist.

More robust public debate brings more transparent and effective government.

More community involvement and regular petitions brings better policy development.

More awareness of the impact of public policy brings better economic growth and social progress.

Unlike their Liberal opponents, progressive Labor governments will listen to their electorates.

Don’t vote away your freedoms.  Let them know what you want – and get them to do it.

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