Don’t get me wrong.
I do not think for one moment that the Coalition parties are the only political parties in Australia which lack integrity, transparency and a desire to benefit the electors more than themselves.
However, on Thursday 13/02/20, during the Senate inquiry into the sports grant awards, the following, fairly lengthy, exchange, as reported in Crikey Daily on Friday 14/02/20, took place between Senator Abetz and Brian Boyd, an Executive Director in the Auditor General’s Office:
‘SENATOR ERIC ABETZ (Liberal Senator for Tasmania): ” … I seek to clarify, you did find that no ineligible project or application was funded?”
BRIAN BOYD: “No Senator that’s not what we found. So if you go to the start of chapter three, which is the chapter on assessment, the finding there was ‘ineligible applications were identified and no applications assessed as ineligible were awarded grant funding’.
“So that’s the Sport Australia eligibility assessment process. What then happened subsequently was there’s applications, late applications were taken on board, which were ineligible under the guidelines.
“Amendments were made for existing applications which were ineligible under the guidelines and they were funded.
“But at the time – this relates to the Sport Australia assessment process. Sport Australia removed from its list those assessed as ineligible – that’s what that finding is.
“Subsequent to that there were the five new applications, the four amended applications. And then because things took longer – because you are now running two rounds, rather than three, and funding agreements are in place – you had eight projects where, according to the details provided by the proponent, the project had been completed before the funding grant was signed. They’re ineligible under the program.
“And there were 270 something where the project had started before the funding agreement was signed, which is also ineligible under the program. So we get to around 43% of those which were awarded funding, by the time the funding agreement signed, were ineligible.”’
It will be really interesting in due course to actually read in full what is revealed to the Senate Inquiry concerning the extent of communication between the PM’s office and the Sports Minister and the inquiry by Phil Gaetjens. The latter has clearly been significantly paraphrased by the PM in reporting the findings to Parliament.
We already know that this is not the first time that slush funding for sporting bodies in the run up to an election has been abused. Ros Kelly, the 1993 Labor Sports Minister was forced out of office in 1994 and later resigned from Parliament altogether.
First as a university lecturer and later as a lawyer, I have served on three different University Human Research Ethics Committees, which have really strict guidelines. Those guidelines apply whether the research is medical – where they are even stricter – or in social science areas but still collecting date from human beings. In the veterinary sciences there are similar research ethics committees.
As a lawyer, a compulsory unit of study is ethics and I doubt that is the only discipline area to which this applies. Most professions have requirements regarding continuous reaccreditation, as I know from first-hand experience both as a lawyer and as a mediator, and most also have disciplinary bodies with the power to limit or prevent practice by a member of that profession.
Yet when it comes to politics – it is horribly clear that anything goes!
Thus we have to drag a government, kicking and screaming, to a Royal Commission, when it comes to issues like banking and aged care, where poor regulation and supervision can be literally a life and death situation and where the terms of reference seldom fully encompass the needs for enquiry and the following up is seldom effected satisfactorily.
Because politicians of most flavours receive party donations on a significant scale which discourages them from being too critical to the donors.
Why else did we wait so long for smoking to be curtailed?
Why else are we still waiting for action on phasing out fossil fuels?
And what is the background of most politicians?
Once upon a time, politicians had a wide variety of backgrounds, and usually some work-life experience before entering politics. Nowadays we still have a significant number of lawyers – which is a mixed blessing! – but are represented mainly by political apparatchiks who have spent most of their adult lives to date in a political party environment.
On the pretext that they have nobly abandoned a lucrative career in order to work for the common good, they vote themselves generous-to-a-fault superannuation schemes which the average working person could only dream of and have generous allowances, claims for which depend on their integrity.
I am leaving out a lot of detail here, because most of us who ever stop to look closely at politics know only too well that the balance between public duty and personal benefit leaves none of them short changed.
So – where are we?
Looking back over the last few years, I would sum it up like this:
We have a prime Minister who is not interested in honesty, does not seek the best for the Australian people, and has a single focus which is keeping his party – and himself – in power.
Suitability for office? Absolutely none!
Once more – this is my 2020 new Year Resolution:
“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”
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