- in an unpleasant degree. “malodorous”
- in a faulty or inadequate manner. “malfunction”
- in an improper manner. “malpractice”
- not. “maladroit”
Origin from French mal, from Latin male ‘badly’.
When the Howard Government came to office in March 1996, one of the issues it took on with gusto at its first meeting of the new Howard cabinet the following month was the “waste, fraud and ineptitude” in ATSIC’s near-$1 billion budget for indigenous programs.
Howard walked out of that first cabinet meeting and announced a “series of reforms” to funding of indigenous programs, including the appointment of a “special auditor” to oversee all ATSIC spending. John Herron, Howard’s junior minister, said on John Laws’ radio program that perhaps “up to $100 million” a year could be saved from ATSIC’s “waste and extravagance”. This was subsequently found not to be the case and the appointment of a special auditor was found to be illegal.
Mal Brough entered Parliament that year and ten years on he was part of Howard’s inner cabinet as Minister for Families and Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. His great grandfather was an Indigenous Australian.
Chris Graham reminds us of some of the low lights of Mal’s term.
One of Brough’s first acts as minister was to take $100,000 from the Aboriginals Benefit Account (which holds NT mining royalties on behalf of indigenous owners) and provide it to the organisers of the Woodford Folk Festival, in his electorate in Queensland.
By law, ABA funds must be spent for the benefit of Territory Aborigines.
His also took $4 million to upgrade the Alice Springs Aquatic Centre, a pool owned by the Alice Springs town council.
At the same time, Brough attacked Traditional Owners repeatedly for what he claimed was the irresponsible expenditure of mining royalty monies.
In 2006 Brough promised more than 80 demountable buildings from the recently closed Woomera detention centre would be urgently installed in remote Aboriginal communities as emergency housing.
By the time he left office 18 months later, not one demountable had been installed.
Instead, they sat rusting in an Alice Springs industrial yard until the Rudd government finally sent them north in 2008 . . . as emergency accommodation for asylum seekers on Christmas Island.
In 2012, the average number of Aboriginal people per dwelling in the NT was around 9.4 persons per dwelling, the same level it was when Brough entered office. This is despite the expenditure of at least one billion dollars on Aboriginal housing across the Territory over six years.
The Community Development Employment Program – aka the black work for the dole – was designed and run by Aboriginal people, and had been chugging away relatively successfully for more than three decades.
Mal Brough decided in 2006 that CDEP had become a “destination” rather than a “path to real employment”.
He began abolishing CDEP in remote regions, despite the fact CDEP was the ONLY source of employment in impoverished towns, not to mention the major funder of basic services.
Aboriginal unemployment when Brough left office was at near record levels.
In 2007, Brough decided Aboriginal people were at risk of becoming communists, because they couldn’t purchase their own homes on collectively owned Aboriginal land in remote areas.
So, after amending the NT Aboriginal Land Rights Act in the NT, Brough unveiled the Home Ownership on Indigenous Lands program (HOIL), a government-funded scheme aimed at helping Aborigines buy a plot of land they already owned.
He quarantined $100 million in government funding for HOIL while at the same time underfunded the highly successful Home Ownership Program (which enabled Aboriginal people anywhere in the country to access home loans).
HOP’s waiting list blew out exponentially while money sat locked in the HOIL program.
Finally, after five years of operation, Brough’s HOIL was quietly shelved and the money diverted into HOP. The HOP waiting list dropped instantly from 1,500 to just over 400 – that’s more than 1,000 Aboriginal families into home ownership almost overnight.
And the cost of Brough’s HOIL adventure? $10 million to administer a program that provided just 15 loans worth $2.7 million.
Brough spent much of his time as minister pounding the state and territory Labor governments for their poor performance in Indigenous affairs.
But at the same time, in 2006-07 his department underspent the Indigenous affairs budget by a staggering $600 million, one-fifth of the total budget. This in the same year that Brough declared “a national emergency” in NT Aboriginal communities.
Brough was the chief architect of the government’s controversial Northern Territory Emergency Response, a package of measures designed to combat alleged high rates of child neglect and abuse in the territory, which saw school attendance drop, suicide and self harm rates double, and a more than doubling in reports of violent incidents.
All the while the incarceration rate has soared to almost 90 percent of the prison population.
A parliamentary inquiry found its implementation was very poor – apart from alienating Aboriginal people and providing no emergency accommodation for anyone but police and soldiers, it caused widespread starvation among Aboriginal communities.
In May 2006, Brough appeared on Lateline where he told Tony Jones “Everybody in those communities knows who runs the pedophile rings.”
Jones: “You just said something which astonishes me. You said pedophile rings. What evidence is there of that?”
Brough insisted there was “considerable evidence” but gave no detail. Instead he made the blanket assertion of “people at very senior level” who “use children at their own whim”.
Next day, when an angry Clare Martin, the Northern Territory’s Labor Chief Minister, called on Brough “to put up or shut up” on his pedophile allegations, Brough evaded the challenge and said nothing.
Five weeks later, ABC radio promoted a “special report on Lateline tonight” on “unchecked pedophilia in some Aboriginal communities”. It even ran a voice clip of an “anonymous witness” saying: “It’s true. I’ve been told by a number of people of men getting young girls and keeping them as sex slaves.”
Lateline’s star interview that night was a man whose face was kept in shadow and whose voice was distorted. He was identified on the program only as an anonymous “former youth worker”. In a series of inflammatory remarks he supported entirely what Brough had told Jones five weeks earlier about “pedophiles” in remote communities.
The day after the Lateline “special” on June 21, Brough finally responded, in a formal press statement, to Clare Martin’s “put up or shut up” challenge more than a month earlier. Information had been passed on, Brough said, to Northern Territory police, but he’d been advised that “for legal and confidentiality reasons, I am unable to disclose detail”.
Three weeks later, in its issue of July 13, the National Indigenous Times outed the anonymous “former youth worker” on Lateline as Gregory Andrews, an Assistant Secretary in Brough’s department. His job was to advise the minister on issues of child abuse in Aboriginal communities.
Brough always denied knowledge of the appearance, but in later court proceedings it emerged his office was provided a written brief of what the bureaucrat planned to tell Lateline.
Tjanara Goreng worked with Andrews in the Howard Government’s Office of Indigenous Policy Co-ordination, where she was a branch manager. Brough was her minister. Her home was raided by police searching for “evidential material” that Goreng had leaked an internal OIPC email to the press. Gregory Andrews name appeared on the Federal Police warrant. Ms Goreng was suspended from her position.
Why did the ABC agree to hide the identity of a bureaucrat whose bogus interview got his minister off the hook?
Brough also walked out of a roundtable summit on Aboriginal violence and told media that someone in the meeting had revealed things were so bad in NT Aboriginal communities that $1 million in cash had been found in one remote town, the proceeds from the sale of drugs.
It later transpired there was a drug bust in the NT, but it occurred in Darwin, the amount of cash involved was small, and the guy arrested was white, with no links to Aboriginal communities whatsoever.
Mal Brough became President of the Queensland Liberal Party and strongly opposed the merger of the Liberals with the Nationals, which apparently explains why he did not seek pre-selection for Longman at the 2010 election after losing in 2007 with a swing of 10.3 percent.
In April 2012, Brough was accused of trying to entice a Sunshine Coast mayoral candidate to withdraw from the election.
Michael Bloyce says Mr Brough met him in November to ask him to reconsider his run for mayor to help boost the chances of another candidate, Mark Jamieson.
Mr Bloyce, who is a Liberal National Party supporter, says Mr Brough offered to back him financially if he ran for a council division.
He says he refused and now advertisements have begun appearing linking him with embattled federal MP Peter Slipper.
‘‘No doubt at all, I came away with a firm impression that Mal Brough was the intermediary,’’ Mr Bloyce told ABC Radio.
‘‘He had authority to speak on behalf of Mr Jamieson and his team and indeed we had conversations that indicated there would be support for me in a financial way to run my campaign if I chose to run for a division as opposed to the mayoralty.”
It seems that Brough had links with the local developer crowd that backed Sunshine Coast Daily editor Mark Jamieson who was subsequently elected as the local mayor, and faced investigation by the Federal Police over allegations he bribed Michael Bloyce to step aside.
Mr Brough and Mr Jamieson denied the allegations and the investigation did not proceed.
Brough set his sights on Slipper’s seat of Fisher. He won pre-selection courtesy of a good old-fashioned membership drive (which some have unkindly suggested is also known as a branch stack). Whatever it was, despite (or perhaps because?) Justice Rares having found Brough was part of a “combination”, with James Ashby, Karen Doane and others, to bring down the Government , it was enough to get him across the line in Fisher even though high profile federal Libs like Joe Hockey, Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull backed James McGrath.
It was at a Brough fundraiser in March that the despicable menu demeaning Julia Gillard was circulated. Despite other candidates losing preselection for similar misdemeanours, Brough remained in favour with Tony Abbott.
Brough set up office two doors down from Peter Slipper’s office. This raises questions about who was backing him because, as David Donovan points out:
“unelected candidates don’t have their own offices, or huge billboards, or company cars, or staffers; in the normal run of things, they can barely afford to print their own how-to-vote cards. All this … stuff was not paid for by Brough ‒ who hasn’t worked a day since 2007, as far as we can tell ‒ or his wife, who is a hairdresser ‒ but by somebody, or a group of somebodies, who really want Brough to be elected.
Why are some unknown people spending so much money to ensure Mal Brough is elected? Why is Abbott and the LNP prepared to burn as much political capital as is necessary to ensure he is ensconced in the seat of Fisher? And why was it so important to set up Peter Slipper and totally destroy him?”