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The art of schmoozing

Last Friday, I by accident caught a show on Sky hosted by Christopher Pyne and Richard Marles. Apparently it is a weekly event where these two discuss the issues of the day. At the end of the program they answer a question supposedly sent in by a viewer and this week the question was “Is overseas travel by politicians really necessary?”

“Absolutely,” Pyne spluttered.

“Definitely,” Marles intoned sincerely.

Their reason was that they needed to travel “to find out what was going on in the rest of the world and to make contacts.”

I immediately thought about Barnaby Joyce’s first foreign “study tour” as a Senator – one day in Malaysia where he had two meetings in offices in Kuala Lumpar with government underlings while he waited for his flight back to Australia.

Mr Joyce’s 6 page report summarised the five main “findings/outcomes” from his visit to Malaysia as:

  1. Malaysia has recently experienced high levels of economic growth which has created urban cities comparable in wealth to cities in developed countries.
  2. Nonetheless, economic disadvantage remains in some areas, particularly rural areas.
  3. A key focus for Malaysian policymakers are policies which seek to increase the economic development of rural areas through targeted approaches.
  4. As Malaysia becomes wealthier the potential for Australia high value exports will increase, particularly of products such as beef.
  5. A closer dialogue between Australian politicians and Malaysian policymakers could help to foster stronger government-to-government Malay-Australian relations.

You can read Mr Joyce’s full overseas study journey report here, or you could look up Wikipedia or a Year 8 student’s homework.

Mr Joyce then claimed a $5500 flight home for him and his wife out of Kuala Lumpur.

Prior to the stopover in Malaysia, Mr Joyce had been Gina Rinehart’s guest at the wedding of her business partner’s granddaughter. Mrs Rinehart invited three Coalition MPs “in the name of fostering stronger ties with India.”

Joyce claimed another $3600 in taxpayer entitlements to fly him and his wife to Perth, and $350 in travelling allowance, the day before the couple boarded Rinehart’s private jet to India.

A spokeswoman for Joyce said he and his wife attended ”a range of official meetings with business people and Senate colleagues” in Perth that day, but refused to say which senators or business people attended those meetings.

Why do politicians insist on taking their partners to work with them?

I could understand it if they were being transferred to somewhere for an extended period of time but none of the people I know who regularly travel overseas for work for a few days take their partners along. Why would Mrs Joyce be at official meetings?

And why was Julie Bishop’s boyfriend sitting next to her in the official Australian section at the UN General Assembly in New York?

The idea that listening to speeches and going to dinners is the best way to inform yourself of “what is going on in the rest of the world” is ludicrous.

The internet has made it possible for every one of us to research anything we want to, to read empirical studies, scholarly dissertations, peer reviewed papers and government reports. We can read news reports from all over the world, we can watch videos and see what people are saying on social media.

Politicians have whole departments at their disposal to research and advise them about anything they may want to know.

As for travel to “make contacts”, pick up the phone, send an email, skype, teleconference, send a letter in the diplomatic pouch, get the Ambassador to pass on a message. It is increasingly apparent that these are more likely to serve as job applications for post-politics jobs for the boys.

Former Industry Minister, Ian Macfarlane, claimed for a trip to Turkey on 30 Sep to 4 Oct 15 “To attend the G20 Energy Ministers’ Meeting and conduct bilateral meetings,” except he wasn’t even a minister at that stage having been sacked by Turnbull on September 20.

He, along with many others, has now taken a position with the mining lobby as the new chief executive of the Queensland Resources Council.

Martin Ferguson, the former Labor resources minister, became chairman of the advisory committee for the peak oil and gas industry association, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, six months after leaving politics.

He has been a fierce advocate of CSG, arguing that NSW must forge ahead with development of CSG in order to achieve “energy security for NSW.”

His colleagues, Greg Combet, the former Gillard government minister for Climate change and Craig Emerson, her minister for Trade, waited a year before penning an opinion article in support of the CSG industry in the Australian Financial Review.

They are both working as economic consultants to AGL and Santos, the two biggest players in CSG in NSW.

Former National party leaders, John Anderson and Mark Vaile also moved into high profile roles in mining and CSG companies after politics. John Anderson became chairman of Eastern Star Gas, the company behind the Narrabri Gas project, about two years after leaving politics.

Mark Vaile became a director and then chairman of Whitehaven coal, the company behind one of the state’s most controversial mines at Maules Creek.

Stephen Galilee, who is the former chief of staff for then Treasurer, Mike Baird, moved in late 2011 to become chief executive of the NSW Minerals Council.

Gina Rinehart has employed both Sophie Mirabella and Andrew Robb.

James Packer and his rival, Star Casino, are employing ex-pollies and staffers hand over fist which may explain why they are exempt from Sydney’s lock-out laws.

Former Defence Minister David Johnston’s chief of staff Sean Costello was immediately snapped up by the French company tendering to build our submarines.

If politicians really want to inform themselves, they should do less schmoozing and more reading. They should stop taking their partners to work, and realise that making “contact” to pitch yourself to prospective future employers is not something they should expect taxpayers to fund.

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  1. lawrencewinder

    The State of Canberra is somewhat rotten! As you point out, all this could be done by advisers or by internet….this corruption must stop.

  2. Phil

    How I detest the Australian political class. What I wouldn’t give to see their lousy house torn down and them dragged screaming into the street for a damned good public flogging. But would such humiliation cure them of their disease? I doubt it. The ‘revolting’ French had a better approach for their rulers, but even that method merely stalled the game for a while, then off they went again.

    It is said that power is in the hands of the governed – that it is by consent alone that the powerful are allowed to govern – that If the governed refuse consent then it’s game over.

    Oh were this to be understood by the masses – but no, they’ll just sit back and cop whatever the mendacious, deceitful political class throws at them.

    Every journey starts with the first step so I make my first step today by withdrawing my consent – over to you other 23 million Aussies.

  3. Kaye Lee

    I would rather see the judiciary do their job.

  4. Bob Yates

    For me, ‘Brothers’ Martin Ferguson, Greg Combet and Craig Emmerson come in as the lowest of the lowest of these scumbags …and that’s a very low bar. One thing for the greedy swindling LNP pollies to have their snouts in the trough, I completely expect that, but those three, nah, absolute scumbags hooking up with the most disgusting of greedy swindling corporations.

  5. Luke

    Pimps, at the expense of hard working tax payers.

  6. Harquebus

    “Under every stone lurks a politician.” — Aristophanes in Thesmophoriazusae 410 BC
    Some things never change.

  7. Matters Not

    In my local State electorate, a former member was convicted of ‘official corruption’:

    In 2009 he was found guilty of corruptly receiving secret commissions during his time in office and jailed for seven years. In 2010, he was found guilty of five charges of official corruption and five charges of perjury and, ultimately, jailed for an additional seven years, the longest jail term for corruption handed to a Commonwealth politician

    In many ways, that sentence was a travesty because he was initially convicted of ‘crimes’ he simply couldn’t and didn’t ‘deliver’. Sure he claimed power and intent but they were just ‘claims’. Yes he was the Minister for Health, but the truth was he inherited the job because no-one else in power would touch it with a barge pole.

    Importantly he never caused a change in a decision that went before Cabinet. He was very low on the political totem. In many ways a political no-body.

    Generally, it’s the same with ex Ministers across the political spectrum. One’s power diminishes very, very rapidly. Not that ‘outsiders’ know that. One wonders what they think they are buying? Telephone numbers – perhaps?

  8. Kronomex

    The photo at the top of the article made me feel a little ill because Crappott looked he was only seconds away from giving one of his “heroes” a great big wet sloppy snog on the lips.

    Federal politics, particularly ministerial positions, is just a stepping stone from a taxpayer funded rort to a higher paid corporate funded position usually as a lobbyist.

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