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.
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