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Tag Archives: ICAC

Federal ICAC: The Keys to the Electoral Mint?

By Tim Jones

Would the promise of a Federal ICAC give one of the majors the keys to the electoral mint? Tim Jones urges Turnbull or Shorten to take the microphone.

ICAC – The Keys to the Electoral Mint

In what is evolving into a series of ongoing scandals of rorting and corruption, federal MPs’ expenses are increasingly under the microscope – as they should be. However, scrutiny of use of taxpayer money should be constant. It should not just be a reaction to a particular scandal. Calls have been made to establish a federal version of the state anti-corruption body, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

There is a serious political opportunity here. We are in an age where, according to one recent poll, 80% of Australians think politicians are corrupt. The federal leader who introduces the bill to establish a federal ICAC has the keys to the electoral mint. As the one (seemingly) honest politician, they could win elections for their party in a landslide for years to come. If the other party rejects the proposal, so much the better. You take that fact, and you break them with it. They support corruption, or they have something to hide and so on. The campaign literature writes itself.

Is Shorten Wasting an Opportunity?

The fact that the LNP appears to reject the idea outright gives Labor leader Bill Shorten this very opportunity. However, his support for the idea has been weak, much like his leadership.

This is a consequence of Kevin Rudd’s no knifing clause in the Labor constitution. This was designed to create stable leadership by making it impossible to knife the leader. However, this job security has bred complacency in Mr. Shorten and a marked lack of leadership.

Even accounting for the fact that he was on holiday during the Sussan Ley scandal (and why would you not come back early at the presentation of a half-volley on leg stump?), his silence on this scandal has been deafening. The reason behind this silence is not clear. A don’t ask, don’t tell policy among politicians? A fear at what would be found if his own or his colleagues’ expenses reports were scrutinised, or something else? Whatever the reason, Mr. Shorten’s silence on this issue is deafening.

The ICAC Board

Who would sit on such a board? Naturally, sitting politicians would be banned – foxes guarding the hen-house and all that. Sitting politicians should have no say in who will be on the board, for the same reason.

I wonder if anyone else has noticed that certain former politicians, including Dr. John Hewson, Dr. Craig Emerson and perhaps also Kristina Keneally, offer sober analysis and often criticise their own side of politics. These people are examples of being able to take the politician out of the party and the party out of the politician. Are they infallible? No, and no-one is saying that. But they are outside the current hyper-partisan political battlefield and so are more likely to offer something approaching impartiality.

Other possible appointees would include political science academics, CPAs and other financial experts. For the I in ICAC to mean anything, there would be no government oversight of the board a la former NSW Premier (he has since resigned).  Mike Baird, caused trouble for an an ICAC investigator after they uncovered inconvenient truths about him.

There should be no communication between government and board, aside from subpoenas for records and testimony. Any sitting MP or Senator found with falsified records, or who lies to the board, will be terminated and prosecuted. Funds recovered and an immediate by-election called with no appeal. The parliamentarian should, of course, surrender any post-service pensions or entitlements upon conviction.

The time has come for corruption to end. The age of transparency must dawn. All parliamentary expenses, both during and post-service, are paid for with tax dollars. The people have a right to know how those monies are spent.

Mr. Turnbull or Mr. Shorten, take the microphone

 

Originally published on criticalanalystsite

 

Why do we have a Coalition government?

The obvious answer as to why we have a Coalition government at the moment is that the majority of people voted that way at the last election.  But why?

Many people were sick of the white-anting and disunity from a party which removed two sitting Prime Ministers.  I am wondering how they feel now that the Liberals have done exactly the same thing.  Should this government be labelled ‘illegitimate’ with calls for an immediate election?  Eric Abetz, Kevin Andrews, Andrew Nikolic, Cory Bernardi, Tony Abbott and others are unlikely to accept a smooth transition any time soon.

Others were convinced that the warnings about climate change were ‘alarmist’ and that scientists were only doing it to get funding.  Or that they were part of some UN new world order with Zionist banks ready to send us all into subsistence slavery under Agenda 21.   I am wondering how they feel as every year more heat records tumble and extreme weather events cost us billions.

Many voted Coalition so they would fix the ‘debt and deficit disaster’.  Labor was spending like drunken sailors! How are they feeling as government spending continues to rise, the debt continues to grow by about $50 billion a year, and we experience the biggest deficits on record?

There were those who felt we were being invaded by a horde of potential terrorists coming by boat.  We have stopped the boats arriving and in so doing, been condemned by a world coping with an enormous tide of displaced people due, in part, to our aggression in the Middle East and likely to continue as we withdraw foreign aid and replace it with military expenditure.  Are they happy that to stop the boats we are prepared to torture children?

Those that were angry that “Bob Brown’s bitch” was making deals with the Greens must have been somewhat disappointed when one of Joe Hockey’s first actions was to make a deal with the Greens to eliminate the debt ceiling.  I am wondering how they feel as Victorian Liberals look set to preference Greens ahead of ALP.

Some people were concerned that the Labor government was spending tens of billions on a national broadband network that would just be used to play video games and download movies.  Malcolm could get us a system that would cover all our needs for much cheaper and get it finished by 2016.  Or not.  All this talk of digital disruption and innovation must be making them wonder what’s going on, not to mention cost blowouts of $15 billion due to Malcolm’s multi technology mix which, it turns out, will take a lot longer than anticipated to provide a system that will be outdated before it is finished.

Others were cynical about Kevin Rudd’s ‘dishonest negative scare campaign’ regarding cuts to health, education, the ABC, family tax benefits and the schoolkids bonus not to mention the raising of the GST.  But we know that was all lies, right?  Or maybe not.

Many were very concerned that Labor’s changes to the fringe benefits tax which required people to only claim business usage for their cars when they actually used them for business would destroy the car industry and lead to job losses.  Thankfully the Coalition got rid of that quick smart and saved all those jobs . . . oh, wait.

One thing that we can always be certain of is that the Coalition will be better economic managers.  It’s in their DNA.  Except every single economic measure has gone backwards under their stewardship.

They promised to expose the corruption of the evil unions and the rorting of politicians’ entitlements through the revelations by their heroic whistleblowers, Kathy Jackson and James Ashby.  Just don’t mention the 10 NSW Liberal MPs who have been exposed by ICAC or the fraudulent misappropriation of millions by their Victorian state director or Bronnie’s helicopter rides.

The Liberal Party promised to be a transparent accountable government, unless it is an operational or onwater matter, or commercial in confidence, or anything to do with our offshore gulags and the sexual, physical and psychological abuse suffered by the people who came to us seeking help.  And don’t dare ask about how much tax big corporations and rich people pay.  That’s none of your business.

Thank goodness we now have a very popular Prime Minister, but what use is that when the urbane, sophisticated Malcolm Turnbull leads the same party that thought Tony Abbott would be a good idea?

The policies haven’t changed and the personnel who brought you those lies still occupy the government benches.

Despite Malcolm’s ‘new paradigm’, I am still left wondering why exactly we chose a Coalition government.

 

Putting dodgy politicians under the same scrutiny as dodgy union officials

When the government decided to spend $80 million on the Trade Union Royal Commission, $17 million of which is going to Minter Ellison, Attorney-General George Brandis’ former employer, its purported aim was to ensure that registered organisations are more transparent and accountable.

The Coalition said “there is clear evidence that the money paid by members to some registered organisations is being used for personal gain and inappropriate purposes.”

Considering the number of scandals pertaining to politicians’ entitlements, the hypocrisy of this statement is astounding.

They want “registered organisations and their officials to play by the same rules as companies and their directors” and for “penalties for breaking the rules to be the same as those apply to companies and their directors, as set out in the Corporations Act 2001.” They have also called for “reform of financial disclosure and reporting guidelines so that they align more closely with those applicable to companies.”

“A dodgy company director and a dodgy union official who commit the same crime should suffer the same penalties. The Coalition believes that the members of registered organisations, mainly workers and small businesses, deserve better. They are entitled to the same protections as shareholders of companies.”

But what of dodgy politicians?

Surely the people who hold the highest positions in the land running government business should be similarly accountable to us, the shareholders?

ASIC describes the general duties imposed by the Corporations Act on directors and officers of companies as:

  • the duty to exercise your powers and duties with the care and diligence that a reasonable person would have which includes taking steps to ensure you are properly informed about the financial position of the company and ensuring the company doesn’t trade if it is insolvent
  • the duty to exercise your powers and duties in good faith in the best interests of the company and for a proper purpose
  • the duty not to improperly use your position to gain an advantage for yourself or someone else, or to cause detriment to the company, and
  • the duty not to improperly use information obtained through your position to gain an advantage for yourself or someone else, or to cause detriment to the company.

Whether politicians exercise their powers and duties with care and diligence is open to debate and whether their decisions are in our best interests is similarly questionable, but when it comes to the last two requirements regarding gaining advantage, there is considerable concern.

andrew and ginaGina Rinehart wanted the carbon and mining taxes gone. Done.  She wanted special approval to use extra 457 visa workers.  Done.  She wants a special economic zone in the north and government funded infrastructure to facilitate development.  Underway.  She wants company tax reduced.  Coming.  But she doesn’t want anyone to know how much tax she pays in case someone decides to kidnap her.  Done.

And then all of a sudden, not long before the free trade agreement was signed with China, Gina, and several other rich Liberal Party donors, decided to invest in dairy and beef cattle farms – the two big winners from the ChAFTA.

When Kevin Andrews, as Social Services Minister, got rid of gambling reform laws, was he considering the best interests of the people?

When George Christensen launched an attack in parliament on the National Health and Medical Research Council which he accused of demonising the sugar industry through their new food guidelines, did it have anything to do with his family being sugar cane farmers?

When David Leyonjhelm attacks smoking regulations, is he looking out for our welfare or is it because he receives large donations from the tobacco industry?

And what of the ultimate irony of Clive Palmer’s party having the deciding vote on repealing the carbon tax when he had a high court challenge underway and an unpaid bill of $6.8 million?

Alexander Downer, as Foreign Minister, sanctioned the bugging of another nation’s parliamentary offices to gain commercial advantage for a company who then employed him when he left politics.  There are countless examples of similar conflicts of interest and ‘reward for service’.

ICAC has shown us that many politicians use their position for personal gain and advantage for their friends and donors. The rejection of a federal ICAC by both major parties would suggest that they do not want the same scrutiny that their state counterparts and the unions are getting.

Regarding false statements, the ACCC states that:

“It is illegal for a business to make statements that are incorrect or likely to create a false impression. This includes advertisements or statements in any media (print, radio, television, social media and online) or on product packaging, and any statement made by a person representing your business.

When assessing whether conduct is likely to mislead or deceive, consider whether the overall impression created by the conduct is false or inaccurate.

Comparative advertising may be used to promote the superiority of your products or services over competitors as long as it is accurate.

Claims that give the impression that a product, or one of its attributes, has some kind of added benefit when compared to similar products and services can be made as long as the claims are not misleading and can be substantiated.”

If you apply that code to, say, climate change, our government, abetted by the Murdoch media, the IPA, and a few other vested interests, are guilty of the most heinous example of false advertising in history.

A recent study by the CSIRO showed that barely one in four Coalition voters accepts climate change is mostly caused by humans, with more than half of Liberal voters believing changes to global temperatures are natural.

“To a substantial degree, when asked, a significant fraction of the public say what they think their preferred party says.”

Obviously, the standards that apply to businesses to be truthful with their shareholders and customers are totally ignored by our government.

When climate campaigners recently took the Dutch government to court, three judges ruled that government plans to cut emissions by just 14-17% compared to 1990 levels by 2020 were unlawful, given the scale of the threat posed by climate change and ordered the government to cut its emissions by at least 25% within five years.

The precedent has been set and I, for one, find the idea of Greg Hunt defending his statements about Direct Action against carbon pricing in a court of law, presumably with reference to Wikipedia, absolutely delicious.

 

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.

 

Lawmakers or lawbreakers?

The Readers Digest list of the 50 most trusted professions in Australia ranks lawyers at 39 and politicians at 49 just scraping in in front of door-to-door salespeople and two places behind call centre staff.

Considering these are the people who make, and prosecute, our laws, this is a sad indictment.

The record of the Abbott government ministers with regard to the law makes one wonder if they may just consider themselves above it all.

Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinis is continuing to be mentioned at ICAC.  Not only was he involved in shady dealings when at Australian Water Holdings, he is now implicated in emails (that his lawyers tried to have suppressed) from chief fund-raiser of the NSW Liberal Party Paul Nicolaou to Peta Credlin.  As Sinodinis was Finance Director (2009 to 2011) and President (since 2011) for the NSW branch of the Liberal Party, it is hard to believe he knew nothing of the laundering of donations through the Canberra-based Free Enterprise Foundation.

Credlin and Loughnane appear to be in on the act, and Bronwyn Bishop and Tony Abbott have also been named, the former for redirecting funding through her Dame Pattie Menzies Foundation Trust and the latter for his association with Lindsay Partridge the MD of Brickworks who were advocating for the repeal of the carbon tax.

In May, the SMH published an article stating that

“Treasurer Joe Hockey is offering privileged access to a select group including business people and industry lobbyists in return for tens of thousands of dollars in donations to the Liberal Party via a secretive fund-raising body whose activities are not fully disclosed to election funding authorities.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption is probing Liberal fund-raising bodies such as the Millennium Forum and questioning their influence on political favours in NSW.

Mr Hockey offers access to one of the country’s highest political offices in return for annual payments.

The donors are members of the North Sydney Forum, a campaign fundraising body run by Mr Hockey’s North Sydney Federal Electoral Conference (FEC). In return for annual fees of up to $22,000, members are rewarded with “VIP” meetings with Mr Hockey, often in private boardrooms.”

Members of the forum include National Australia Bank as well as the influential Financial Services Council, whose chief executive is former NSW Liberal leader John Brogden.  Both these groups have benefitted from the changes to the Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) laws.

The chairman of the North Sydney Forum is John Hart, who is also the chief executive of Restaurant and Catering Australia – a hospitality industry lobby group whose members stand to benefit from a government-ordered Productivity Commission review of the Fair Work Act that is expected to examine the issue of penalty rates.

Mr Hart also sits on Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Business Advisory Council.

When asked if there should be a federal ICAC, Mr Abbott said that he thought that Canberra had a “pretty clean polity”.

Despite accepting huge donations from bodies with obvious vested interests and loudly articulated demands – mining companies, property developers, financial institutions, hotel and gambling bodies, hospitality industry – Tony Abbott said

“The thing is that we’re going to keep the lobbyists out [of politics]. And the problem that ICAC is exposing is a problem of lobbying, essentially its influence peddling . . . and we’re going to make sure that that has no place whatsoever federally.”

Last night’s edition of 60 minutes showed Mal Brough, by his own admission, directed the stealing of a copy of Peter Slipper’s diary.  James Ashby also stated he was offered employment and legal costs by Christopher Pyne who has always denied any knowledge or involvement.  And now, boy wonder Wyatt Roy is dragged into the fray.  Somebody is/has been fibbing.

It would be very interesting to know who filed the complaint with the Australian Federal Police after Mal Brough went through Slipper’s diary and when the complaint was filed.  There has been some suggestion that is was ex-defender of bigots, Attorney-General George Brandis.

When faced with action in the International Court over Alexander Downer’s bugging of the East Timor Parliamentary offices to gain confidential trade information for a subsequent employer, Brandis reacted by raiding the offices of the lawyer for East Timor, confiscating the evidence and the passport of the key witness.

If laws get in the way, bypass them or abolish them.

In June, the court upheld a challenge to the National School Chaplaincy Program, saying providing funding directly to chaplaincy organisations was constitutionally invalid.  To get around that, the federal government will give a quarter of a billion to the states, insisting they must employ only religious chaplains.

Despite 72 per cent of Australians wanting same-sex marriage legalised, one of Brandis’ first acts was to challenge, and overturn, the ACT’s recently passed same-sex marriage laws.  Why?  Because he could is all I can come up with.

I am sure Corey Bernardi and Kevin Andrews were demanding this ‘depravity’ be abolished.

A poll in 2009 showed that 85 per cent of the country is in favour of voluntary euthanasia but that will never happen while Kevin Andrews has a driving seat in the Star Chamber.

In 1997, Kevin Andrews and Eric Abetz were members of the Coalition’s fundamentalist Christian faction, the Lyons Forum, who were successful in overturning the Northern Territory’s historic voluntary euthanasia law.

Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, the recently decorated compassionate Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop also has an affinity with the law.  Before we were paying for her Armani suits she was busy representing CSR (amongst other “dodgy” corporate clients) famously asking the court “why workers should be entitled to jump court queues just because they were dying.”

Our Environment Minister Greg Hunt has overseen the roll back of environmental protection laws to facilitate his approval of coal mining.

The Federal Government’s handover of environmental approval powers to the states for development projects will wind back 30 years of legal protection for the environment and put at risk Australia’s World Heritage areas such as the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu and the Tasmanian forests.

At the same time, state governments are seeking to ‘fast track’ major developments, such as coal mine and coal seam gas projects, reducing public participation and removing legal rights of local communities to mount legal challenges.

This is a crime that will certainly saddle our children with perhaps insurmountable problems.

And in perhaps the most heinous example of disregard for the law, morality, justice and humanity, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague is currently considering a submission calling for an investigation into Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers.  The submission was officially accepted by the ICC on May 19, 2014, and it names Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott.  Similar complaints have been lodged with the United Nations.  Let’s hope they can compel our government to accept their legal obligations even if they are bereft of ethics.

hague

The master of deception

Image courtesy of 4bc.com.au

Image courtesy of 4bc.com.au

I’m growing increasingly and unbearably exhausted by the track one reckless and irresponsible man is taking our country.

The man: Tony Abbott.

A man I would consider to be one of the most destructive and deceptive politicians in our history.

I’ll make my case and you can make your own judgment.

Tony Abbott is dangerous and completely captured by corporate interests.

He’s a populist politician with no policy interest or conviction. A “weathervane” that does and says whatever he thinks he needs to to acquire and keep power.

It’s not just me saying this. Ask those who have seen him up close.

John Hewson, Malcolm Fraser, Paul Keating. The list goes on. Their views are on the record.

I’ve spoken to people who went to university with him. The stories are true. He’s a complete and utter disgrace.

I’m not sure if he knows what he’s doing but he must be removed democratically as soon as possible.

He is ripping up all the hard work of the last 40 or so years.

Ripping up the progress that has made us the envy of the world

But first we need to go back a few steps.

Since he was first elected in the mid 90s he has developed a reputation for being an aggressive brawler and his history up until his time as Opposition Leader serves as witness to this.

When he became Opposition Leader in 2009 his quest for power ramped up dramatically as he sensed his preordained destiny.

He lurched the Liberal Party to the far right and all of a sudden you are hard pressed to find a moderate among them.

They all fled knowing Abbott’s Liberal Party was not the Liberal Party they once knew and loved.

Menzies must be rolling in his grave.

Abbott ran around the country like a mad man spouting cheap and tacky three word slogans for years.

Anything he thought would play well in the public’s mind he used.

Anything.

The ultimate master of deception.

He was and is ably assisted – as we know – by the likes of Alan Jones, Steve Price, Ray Hadley and their fellow far right shock jocks. They too spouted and continue to spout his lines as if they are being fed to them by the Liberal Party.

Rupert Murdoch was onside with him from day one. News Corp Australia never wavered in its support and Murdoch irresponsibly used his vast media interests to create a sense of chaos in Labor’s ranks.

Tony Abbott was given a free pass by the Murdoch press.

The spotlight always firmly on Labor.

It was a highly successful smash and destroy campaign by big media vested interests.

Murdoch, however, didn’t do this for no reason. He surely, as with previous governments, expects something in return.

The Tony Abbott recipe has a few main ingredients.

Create fear of asylum seekers, as Howard did successfully in 2001. Make them a ‘border security’ threat and a financial burden, not a humanitarian issue. Stop the Boats!

Attack the Labor Party for introducing a price on carbon after allegedly knowingly lying. Big New Tax!

Attack the mining tax in order to look after rich mining interests and keep his donors on side. Axe the Tax!

Attack Labor relentlessly everyday and say “no” to everything no matter what, making it as hard as possible to govern the nation.

Create chaos and dysfunction by constantly suspending standing orders during Question Time, in order to rant and rave as he ran his focus grouped political lines for the day.

He used his media friends to ramp this up of course. They willingly obliged.

Chaos! Dysfunction! Tainted vote!

He desperately sought to take down the government with his blind recklessness but he failed.

The confidence of the nation in politics was damaged and remains so. It is now at record lows and shows no signs of bouncing back.

He destroyed the joint.

Labor aren’t faultless but Tony Abbott conducted himself in his own interests, not the nation’s. He should be condemned for such deplorable conduct.

Now he’s reached his goal. He has his own government. He quite frankly has no clue what to do next.

What do you do when you finally catch the seagull?

What does a dog do when it catches its tail?

He has wasted no time continuing his seek and destroy mission. Going after Labor Party policies vindictively, attacking and smearing unions relentlessly, making international news for all the wrong reasons and severely weakening key international relationships.

The carnage is intimidating but this is the man people supposedly voted for.

It’s my opinion people naively voted against Labor to restore stability.

Sadly they didn’t research this man as I have.

If they had informed themselves we might not be enduring this nonsense.

All of us who did do their research are shaking our heads, shrugging our shoulders knowingly, looking at each other and sighing in exhaustion.

This isn’t news to us.

Many who made the foolish decision to vote for Tony Abbott are starting to feel regret.

Social media of all kinds is full of anger and people at breaking point.

I see hardly anybody inspired now this man is our leader.

Sir Tony Abbott is yesterday’s man for today’s Australia.

His government so far has been an omnishambles. He has barely managed to keep his caucus in line. Lurching from drama to drama, crisis to crisis.

The 18C Brandis “Right to Be Bigots” line repulsed the nation.

Members of the government backbench have been actively speaking out against the stupidity of the proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.

Some are willing to cross the floor for the vote on the issue and some government members are drafting their own changes to put to the caucus because they reject the draft exposure amendments completely.

The community are rightly outraged at this ideological and unnecessary change. 88% are against it. It won’t pass muster.

The issue of GrainCorp being taken over by US multinational Archer Daniels Midland showed up fault lines in the National Liberal Coalition. Hockey was forced at last minute to reject the bid as Truss and Joyce ramped up their public dissension. The Nationals are completely disregarded with the Coalition ordinarily. A rare win for them.

Numerous critical leaks have occurred from caucus and anonymous critical assessments of the Abbott Government and it’s processes are common place.

Tony Abbott unilaterally deciding that he wants Sirs and Dames again sparked incredulity among colleagues. Even John Howard called the move “anachronistic”.

Peta Credlin, his Chief of Staff, controls the entire government media message. Abbott leaves it to her. She’s the most powerful woman in the nation. Leering over Abbott at all times. She decides who speaks to the media and when.

More often than not they aren’t allowed to speak, allowing the Opposition willingly into the void.

When it comes to not speaking Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has made it an art form. Every part of the Operation Sovereign Borders policy is secretive to try and kill it as an electoral issue.

Despite their best efforts to avoid accountability of what they are doing to the world’s most vulnerable in our name, leaks are occurring.

People are speaking out. I’ll bite my tongue on this issue because I think Morrison is a scourge.

He uses chest beating, thinly veiled racism and bullying rhetoric to attempt to achieve acceptance within a tragically bigoted section of the community.

Somebody died at Manus on his watch. The truth will come out. He will face his day of truth in good time.

I could go into all the crises of this government – and thus the country – has endured but the list is incredibly long.

Let’s just say it’s not all “methodical”, “calm” or “considered” as Abbott tries to claim unconvincingly.

No matter how many times he tries his doe-eyed, slow talking plea for people to accept the words out of his mouth people know better.

This brings us to the latest development: the Commission of Audit.

Tony Abbott once again appointed mates and sectional interests to give him the big bad scary report he wanted.

He has done this in other areas of government.

He appointed vested interest climate sceptic friends, Maurice Newman and Dick Warburton to key extremely high paying roles, in this the end of the “Age of Entitlement”.

Tony Shepard, Amanda Vanstone and a few other acolytes make up the Commission of Audit.

The report, dropped recently, was a complete and utter stitch up.

Hidden from view until after the Tasmanian state election and WA Senate by-election. Having read it, I can see why.

It’s a blueprint for the destruction of the social safety net in our nation.

Who’s surprised? Tony Shepherd is the former head of the Business Council of Australia. A big supporter and ally of the Liberal Party. He has donated to them before.

One donation was to a fund being investigated by ICAC in NSW.

The least well off are told to take the full burden of what the Abbott Government term “heavy lifting”.

The reason? We’re in a supposed “budget emergency”.

Once again, they use fear to herd the masses. Or so they hope.

The “distinguished” panel of the Commission of Audit loyally delivered the exact outcome they were told to deliver by the Abbott Government. This is Liberal Party 101.

I won’t go into all aspects but it can be read at www.ncoa.gov.au. Brace yourself to be stunned if you dare read it.

They will use this “independent” report to say how supposedly bad things are. A cover for massive cuts to the least well off that will risk recession.

In a rare episode, the big business community has spoken out about massive cuts. Why? Concern for the community? Nah. They are worried about their bottom lines and recession.

Oh well, I’ll take what I can get.

The government – supposedly scared about the state of economy – is now at risk of plunging us into recession by cutting too hard and too fast against all the best advice.

Why? They are reckless and deceptive ideologues.

Let’s go into the idea of a “budget emergency”.

It’s a calculated lie.

No rational economist believes this to be true. Not one!

For goodness sake! Even Tony Shepherd admitted there is no emergency. Begrudgingly.

The facts point to there being a revenue problem, not a spending problem. The roots of which go back to John Howard.

John Howard blew the income from the mining boom with eight consecutive tax cuts.

He created the “Age of Entitlement” and “middle class welfare”.

The only reason his government left “money in the bank” was because of the sale of public assets.

In 2004, Costello, flush with mining boom money created the Baby Bonus in an election year to keep voters happy.

It was manageable when times were good but when the GFC hit and revenue plunged, you have another huge black hole.

People became accustomed to this payment and it became hard to take off them or even reduce.

What was also politically very difficult was the massive Howard tax cuts floated in the 2007 campaign. A blatant wedge issue by Howard.

Labor was all but forced to match them against their better judgement.

This was another massive black hole when the revenue vanished during the GFC.

I have spoken to an opposition federal MP who thought that was  one of Labor’s biggest mistakes.

Labor has no doubt contributed to the need to raise increasing revenue but Howard contributed substantially to the so called “budget emergency”.

Don’t forget this fact.

A recent International Monetary Fund report said that the Howard government was the most profligate government in Australia’s history. The IMF know what they are talking about.

All the Abbott Government’s blatant lies are being used once again to create fear so people will hopefully swallow the poison pill of attacks on their way of life.

Attacks on the very people who voted the Abbott Government into power. What gall. What arrogance.

A true nightmare for those of us that saw this man and his ways coming a mile away.

After years of saying politicians should never lie and breach faith with the people he has done just this.

He is further eroding people’s trust in politicians.

He will be mucking with the disability support pension and the aged pension despite specific commitments to the contrary.

He lied.

You can’t make not lying such a virtue before an election then flip around after you win and say “Yeah but  . . . “. It won’t fly.

The biggest betrayal is that he now looks like he’ll be imposing a  “levy” or tax on incomes over $80,000 of $800.

A complete and utter broken promise.

He ran on the mantra of “lower taxes”, scrapping certain taxes and imposing no new taxes.

$80,000 is not a lot these days. These people aren’t rich. They are middle Australia.

Imposing a tax on them to pay down debt unnecessarily and in a rushed manner is foolish and highly resented.

The “budget emergency” is spin and this new tax will hurt our economy.

They knew the situation before the election and made pledges in that light. They have no excuse for breaking commitments or backflipping.

It is indeed frustrating to see the level of debate online. Liberal supporters are on high alert and highly defensive.

They refuse to acknowledge that this government is a shocking display and highly unpopular.

At every opportunity they spout the same lines they have used against Labor for the last 6 years.

It’s time they acknowledged they were elected based on certain specific commitments.

They will be held to account for the years they spent spouting populist talking points instead of engaging in constructive debate.

People are offended. People are indignant. People are mad as hell.

Myself included.

Those who love our country and do not want Abbott destroying the middle class based on blatant lies, while giving the rich a free pass, will be publicly standing up to him and his disgracefully inept government at every single opportunity. Every single one.

Hopefully Abbott’s deceptive and offensive betrayals that are by far worse than anything they claim Labor ever did will be a bad memory after the next federal election.

Here’s to this happening sooner rather than later.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eai3eKPEV5I&feature=youtu.be

Matthew Donovan (pictured) is a former Labor candidate for the seat of Surfers Paradise in Queensland as well as a political commentator and freelance journalist. He’s an active Labor campaigner from Burleigh Branch on the Gold Coast. His interests are progressive politics, policy development and media/social media strategy. Matthew’s studied Journalism, International Relations and History at the University of Southern Queensland. He plans to study Political Science in the near future.

 

Hockey’s Gold

Compilation by the AIMN. Original photos by A Christmas Carol and Fairfax media.

Compilation by the AIMN. Original photos by A Christmas Carol and Fairfax media.

Hasn’t Hockey come a long way from Jovial Joe?  Once upon a time, Joe was the friend of ‘everyman’ trekking with Rudd on the Kokoda Track, and gaining substantial publicity for himself via promotion of this persona on Sunrise and other publicity stunts, and with the gall to wear Shrek ears:

I’ll protect ya, Fiona. I’ll protect ya. It’s unlawful, Fiona. The good government is gonna rescue you, Fiona.”

Somehow that persona, and much to the bewilderment of many, mysteriously evaporated; and I would date it from around the time that Hockey decided that he had the need to divest himself of, what shall we call it. . . ‘friendliness’, and to endow himself with some modicum of ‘seriousness’.  Therefore Jovial Joe seemingly overnight morphed into an attack dog, vicious and nasty.

Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey has told a Liberal party rally in Melbourne that he “should have drowned” the newly appointed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd when he walked the Kokoda Track with him in 2006.

One should ask:  Why?  Clearly Hockey had spent considerable effort being the jockey on the Rudd horse, but once his ‘you beaut mate’ Rudd became PM, Rudd was clearly of no further use.

Rudd in his naiveté clearly believed that it was a genuine friendship, inviting Hockey to his daughter’s wedding.  An invitation which Hockey refused, supposedly at the instructions of John Howard.  Hockey, however clearly believed that the ‘time was ripe’ for the old switcheroo; bye, bye Jovial Joe and hello to the new Joe.

However for those somewhat closer to the coalface, of the real Joe Hockey; none of this and which was to follow, would have come as a surprise.  In December 2012, Michael Taylor wrote: ‘Joe Hockey, Welfare to Work, and a pack of damn lies’.

It is hard to keep a lie hidden forever, especially if you don’t dust over its tracks.

Things then became decidedly nastier . . .

The Courier Mail today ran a story revealing that would-be Treasurer Joe Hockey failed to declare a family interest for most of the duration of his Parliamentary life.

Mr Hockey declared the directorship of Steel Harbour Pty Ltd held by his wife, Melissa Babbage, in May last year among a series of “new positions” under spouse declaration rules. But business records show Ms Babbage was appointed to the role in 1998.  Pecuniary interest register declarations are supposed to be made within a month.

It seems that we now have bingo, and from the Sydney Morning Herald, and it should be noted that this comes from the ICAC investigations:

Treasurer Joe Hockey is offering privileged access to a select group including business people and industry lobbyists in return for tens of thousands of dollars in donations to the Liberal Party via a secretive fund-raising body whose activities are not fully disclosed to election funding authorities.

And the influence includes:

The FSC’s members, including financial advice and funds management firms, stand to benefit from the changes to the Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) laws being considered by the federal government, which would involve a winding back of consumer protections introduced by Labor.

Basically, what Joe Hockey is offering is access to one of the country’s highest political offices in return for annual payments.  It is clear that Hockey must now stand down.  Hockey is about to deliver a budget which from all accounts will hit hard those least able to pay, pensioners, the disabled and add a tax (a supposed ‘levy’), plus sell off Australia Post, Defence Housing, Snowy Hydro and Australian Hearing; and as recommended by the hand-picked Commission of Audit, while at the same time demanding $22,000 for individuals to enter his inner sanctum.  Come on Joe, who do you have already lined up as buyers?  And do mates’ rates apply?

I encourage all to read the above quoted article by the Sydney Morning Herald’s Sean Nicolls, and draw your own conclusions.

 

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