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Talking about reform…

One reform that should be brought about immediately is to take the appointment of statuatory positions and public service jobs out of the hands of politicians.

Take the Tim Wilson debacle.

Tim Wilson, George Brandis and Andrew Robb all go to the IPA birthday party in April 2013. George Brandis, as one of his first acts as Attorney-General, appoints Wilson, without interview, to a job that hasn’t been advertised. He does not provide extra funding for Wilson so a very successful Disability Commissioner gets sacked. Wilson, with no experience or qualifications, is handed a positon with no job description for which he collects $332,000 salary, $40,000 accommodation allowance and $77,763 in expenses in his first year. That’s almost $450,000 a year.

Then lo and behold, Andrew Robb quits and Wilson wants his job now so he quits what was only ever a stepping stone for him to give him some form of credibility and a public presence as something other than an IPA media whore.

So rife is partisanship and cronyism in public life that the system’s capacity to produce independent, objective thought on inquiries into corruption or malpractice is terminally compromised. How can the community have confidence in the findings of bodies such as royal commissions when those heading such inquiries are political appointees?

Every time a new government is elected, the public service is cleansed of those considered political adversaries, and heads of statutory bodies who were appointed by the previous government are hounded into submission. What kind of democracy is it that calls for the resignation of the Human Rights Commissioner because she expresses dismay at the treatment of asylum seekers?

Ted Mack is adamant we must liberate political appointments – from the public service to the heads of bodies designated with the task of protecting democratic rights – from the political parties. He advocates a panel that appoints royal commissioners, human rights commissioners, heads of the public service and ombudsmen. I would extend that list much further to diplomats, government boards, reviews, commissions, audits and inquiries.

Why should a man who consummately failed as Treasurer, who said he had to leave because otherwise he would seek revenge, who was renowned for putting his foot in his mouth, be gifted the job of Ambassador to the US?

Why should a woman whose poisonous interjections saw her dubbed the nastiest person in parliament, whose constituents threw her out with a huge swing against her, whose entry into parliament involved a very sordid story, be gifted with a position on the board of a defence materiel provider?

Why should we create Special Envoy positions to give retired Generals and politicians something to do?

Imagine if, when looking for people to carry out a review, this independent panel took applications and chose experts based on their qualifications and experience rather than calling on Tony Shepherd and Amanda Vanstone again.

Who would appoint Janet Albrechtsen to the board of the ABC?

Who, in their right mind, would pay Maurice Newman for anything at all?

Why should the treasurer who oversaw the most wasteful spending in our history be gifted the job in charge of our Future Funds which currently contain over $130 billion?

It is time to take this power away from the political class so jobs go to the best qualified applicant rather than being bestowed in exchange for promised support or totally unrelated services rendered. If an ex politician or an IPA stooge wants to apply, they can throw their hat in the ring like everyone else.


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  1. Barry Thompson.

    Excellent as usual Kaye,why indeed?

  2. Douglas Pye

    I totally appreciate your article Kaye! … It comes on the heels of what was turning in my mind as I read about the outcome of today’s Senate vote

    After reading the Facebook post, I made a short comment mentioning ‘ Democracy’ , and then I thought I could really welcome, and vote for, a group which would apply the … ” Is it good for Australia ? test ” to all that came through their hands!

    Oh how I would that the ALP could really bring this off … NOT as a stunt !! … back to dream land?? … 🙂 …

  3. Wally

    Cutting out jobs for the boys would stop dead wood from bludging off the public purse, imagine how much money could be saved.

  4. Lee

    All good points, Kaye.

  5. Kaye Lee

    On the 7:30 report they just said that Wilson has the backing of both Turnbull and Abbott for preselection. Those interviewed only came up with being gay and backing free speech as attributes of Tim’s – no achievements or qualifications mentioned. I was reminded of the Fiona Scott “She’s got sex appeal” comment during the last campaign. They even said the expectation is that the candidate they choose will become a senior minister if not higher. This truly is a world run by gathering connections rather than skills or expertise.

  6. king1394

    If these people were treated like ordinary citizens who reach the end of their contract, they might recognise that Newstart is not enough to live on

  7. olddavey

    That’s a scary photo.
    Who’s up who and who’s paying the rent.
    And was it taken outside a certain Thai massage establishment in Bondi which George has been outed for frequenting (never denied) where the preferred masseurs are young men under the legal drinking age?
    Just thinkin’.

  8. kerri

    The only worthwhile appointeento any of these posts is your own sensible seelf Kaye Lee!

  9. Kaye Lee

    Wilson is very much into self-promotion and shameless about the tactics he uses as revealed in this interview he gave in 2014:

    He became heavily involved with student politics, eventually becoming president of the Student Union in 2001, thanks in part to his talent for favour-trading – plying opponents with “a whole bunch of delegateships” in return for their support. He also had “this really clever little trick”, using a digital camera, “which very few people had back then”, to take photos of himself at university club functions, several of which he would attend in a single night. He would then send the photos to the club magazines the next morning. “They didn’t have any photos, certainly not that immediately. So they’d run them, and of course I was in half of them, and it made me look as if I was the centre of everything.”

    All aboard the gravy train

  10. jane

    Great post, as usual, Kaye and I agree with you 100%.

    No more jobs for the boys post seat warming and no pension until they turn 67, like everyone else. And definitely NO taxpayer funded travel or offices or staff.

    All appointees to statutory positions and public service positions to be based solely on qualifications, experience and several interviews by an independent board. And definitely no input by politicians.

    Kaye, I wouldn’t give Albrechtson a job emptying rubbish bins and as for Slagabella and Newman, cleaning public toilets is too good a job for them.

    The blatant politicisation of appointments to statutory bodies and public service positions has become a racket under this increasingly corrupt government.

  11. ace Jones

    It is very disheartening and depressing that all you have written here is true and there is absolutely nothing that will change without some sort of colossal upheaval from the serfs, and currently the serfs are so laden with debt they will not turn on their deceitful corrupt rulers.
    Australians are not orphans when it comes to institutional political corruption, with money and power available to all who seek high office corruption rides roughshod over honesty, integrity and decency world-wide.
    Witness Brazil’s leader(s), South African leader, Afghanistan, India where 62% of the serfs admit to having paid bribes just to get jobs done in public offices successfully, the list goes on.
    Institutional political corruption defined as, influence peddling, cronyisim, nepotisim. sadly Australia ‘the lucky country’ has that by the bucket-full perfectly illustrated by the Kaye Lee’s brief above.
    Is it no wonder those with the power proclaim ‘there has not been a better more exciting time to be an Australian’

  12. Backyard Bob

    This is nothing but a rant, but a justifiable one that needs be had every now and then, despite its utter futility. Nothing will change with respect to such political dynamics because this is politics. Welcome to the post Clem Jones apocalypse. Oh, hang on, these days we’d rail against a politician having a sponsor! Corruption!!

    Despite the moralism of this place, despite its constant superiority complex, despite its constant “we know better than them” schlock, despite the interminable know-it-all bullshit of people who’ve had no direct contact with practical political dynamics, despite all that…ah frig I’ve lost the point I was going to make …

  13. margcal

    Spot on!
    As a corollary to the above, I ‘d like it to be compulsory that before you can stand for parliament, you have to have been in the workforce for at least five years. For the purposes of my rule, the following do not count as a job:
    – political researcher/adviser
    – working in any capacity for a politcal party
    – working in any sort of ‘think tank’
    – working in the family company (yes, this can be a tough gig for some, but for others, especially the type who aim to be career politicians, the paths are smoothed at every turn)
    OTOH ….
    it counts as a job if you have been
    – long term unemployed, looking for a job and suffering the indignities of centrelink
    – volunteering, or in some way contributing to the community, consistently for that length of time

  14. Backyard Bob

    I think the current criteria for standing for parliament are just fine.

  15. michaelattoowoomba

    Kaye Lee,great article,again,agree 100%.Also any paid [ tax payer funded particular ] employment should prevent any pension or retirement perks until they are fully retired or 70 years,which they think is great for every one else.
    Another idea,this ABCC they so dearly love,also take into setting up or taking over setting pollies pay and perks.Sorry on reflection Very Bad idea,any member of ABCC would be I.P.A. hand picked and polished turds.M F.

  16. Michael

    Kaye, thank you – this article:

    One reform that should be brought about immediately is to take the appointment of statutory positions and public service jobs out of the hands of politicians

    deserves the title of Australian Democracy Reform 1 – ADR1.

    May AIMN nurture many more henceforth so that voters may vote for those supporting fair, systemic solutions rather than distracting lies being perpetrated now.

    Democracy by nature should be an evolving citizen-centric concept – there a great need to weed out corruption of all forms from the kindergarten (local Govt), high school (state) and university (federal).

  17. lawrencewinder

    The stench of corruption under this ruling rabble has reached a level never before seen in this country…. March on Canberra.

  18. Ruth L

    All of Kaye Lee’s suggestions have considerable merit,this one is a beauty .

  19. Lainie Lane

    Fantastic article Kaye.
    The outrage i feel is difficult to express and i find Tim smug, mean spirited and entitled
    The “jobs for the boys” culture of governments is appalling and a slap in the face for unemployed people with genuine experience and qualifications

  20. Kaye Lee


    I think your description of “rant” is a tad harsh but I fully agree that this is virtually impossible as things are unless…..if a group has the balance of power between the two major parties, it is amazing what they can achieve. All the more reason to vote for minor/micro parties and independents. That being said, if you never discuss ideas they can never happen.

  21. Saturday

    Tim’s a Bitch ! at bites as well.

  22. Miriam English

    Great piece Kaye, as always.

    Ugh. The corruption, it burns. There must be some way to stop it infecting more and more. Preventing politicians from hand-picking flunkies to vomit up predigested “findings” would be a start. The rules need to be changed to make it dangerous for politicians to screw Australia over for personal gain and for the benefit of their greedy, sociopathic mates. I’m not exactly sure how the rules could be changed, but there must be a way. Surely the morons won’t simply carry on until the pitchforks are banging on their doors (though, considering the way they flip off concerns about climate change, perhaps they will never change anything until too late).

    Perhaps there needs to be a de-election every year, where politicians face the prospect of losing their job, possibly losing their pensions and benefits too, or if they’ve been exceptionally bad, spending time in actual prison — not just minimum security, but proper prison. The risk of facing the people’s wrath each year might scare a few of them straight.

    And don’t worry about ByB. I wondered where that marble rolling across the stage came from. ByB seems to be losing them a lot lately.

  23. Miriam English

    A quote from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy:

    “It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…”

    “You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”

    “No,” said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”

    “Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”

    “I did,” said Ford. “It is.”

    “So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t people get rid of the lizards?”

    “It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”

    “You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”

    “Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”

    “But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”

    “Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”


  24. Kyran

    The problem with such blatant partisanship and cronyism seems to occur over a period of time – as the frequency of the appointments accelerates, the questioning of their validity decreases. Ultimately, it becomes inherently corrupt.
    Transparency International defines corruption as;
    “Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. It can be classified as grand, petty and political, depending on the amounts of money lost and the sector where it occurs”
    The same group also considers the cost associated with it as;
    “Corruption corrodes the fabric of society. It undermines people’s trust in political and economic systems, institutions and leaders. It can cost people their freedom, health, money – and sometimes their lives.”
    These two descriptors seem to me to reflect ‘modern’ Australia
    Our trajectory on the “Corruption perception Index” is also noteworthy.
    Australia was ranked #13 out of 168 countries in 2015 with a score of 79.
    In 2014, our score was 80; in 2013 it was 81; in 2012 it was 85.
    Maybe it is just me, but the correlation between ‘conservative government’ and corruption perceptions is worthy of note.
    Since first reading this, I went off to look at the doctrine of ‘separation of powers’. Having read a bit, it seems we can’t even do that right. Our version of the doctrine is enshrined in the constitution, which structurally combines the ‘legislative’ with the ‘executive’.
    “Talking about reform” needs to be more than talking about the symptoms. It demands serious scrutiny of the underlying disease.
    Grateful, as always, Ms Lee. Take care

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