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The staggering cost of defending incompetence

When it was revealed last year that taxpayers had shelled out more than $825 million on lawyers in 2016-17, Attorney-General Christian Porter said he was “taking a particular interest in the expenditure of funds on legal services, applying very close scrutiny to each and every application that comes before me for approval.”

That being the case, one wonders how he can justify approving over $288,000 in legal costs (so far) for Michaelia Cash when all she has done is provide the police with a copy of Hansard and then turn up for one day in court to say “refer to what I said in Hansard”.

Cash is not facing any charges, she was merely a witness who had nothing to say.  So why does she need a defence team?

And let’s not forget how much Cash’s stellar decision to appoint Nigel Hadgkiss as head of the new ABCC cost us despite being aware that he was facing charges of breaching the Fair Work Act himself.  His ultimately unsuccessful defence cost a staggering $436,000 in legal fees paid for by us.

The previous Attorney-General, George Brandis, spent three year’s fighting to keep his ministerial diary secret at a cost to taxpayers of over $168,000, just to avoid showing he had not met with community stakeholders before he slashed legal aid.

We have also paid out millions in compensation to people the government has harmed including the Save the Children staff defamed by our current PM and $70 million (plus costs) to the men illegally incarcerated on Manus Island.

And there are more to come.

In January last year it was reported that “A backlog of 26 compensation claims from asylum seekers and the Immigration department’s own staff cost the government $230,000 in legal fees and “case management costs” last financial year” despite none of them having been resolved.

At Senate estimates last October, the Department of Home Affairs also revealed it has spent almost half a million dollars in legal fees in three months responding to court applications for urgent medical transfers of asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru.

These few examples are by no means exhaustive, just an indication of how willing this government is to waste money to avoid scrutiny and to defend the indefensible.

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37 comments

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  1. Steve Flora

    This litany alone should/should invalidate any claim the Abbot/Turnbull/Morrison government has for competency …

  2. New England Cocky

    Now, now Kaye Lee …. a journalist of your wide experience, encyclopaedic knowledge and stunning research skills surely would recognise that it was necessary for the RAbbott Turdball Morriscum LNP misgovernment to pay out huge amounts to private sector lawyers in the hope that the good will so established would result in donations to the Liarbral Party coffers to fund the re-election of the notoriously “competent” Liarbral misgovernment. After all, it takes enormous skill to double the national deficit during an imaginary financial crisis!

    Then it was necessary to protect Hadgkiss because the “poor man” obviously could not afford to pay his legal costs of $436,000 for Fair Work breaches, and you have to look after your mates ….. I mean, that is why the NLP are in government, isn’t it?

    And you are being too severe on dear Senator Brandis for denying access to his diary when it may have contained who knows what disclosures ….. and it was ONLY a mere $136,000 ….. about ten (10) times a single aged pension handout.

    So, why is a mere $500,000 per quarter expenditure by Benito Dude’s Home Affairs a worry? After all, there is still the unresolved conflict of interest over the child care payments to be resolved ….. after the 2019 election, if ever.

    I cannot understand all this caterwauling by victims of the Centrelink robo-robbing when the politicians are so much more efficient at by-passing all financial checks and balances.

    It’s time ….. again!!

  3. Andreas Bimba

    This corrupt and amoral government exploits a corrupt system of justice that heavily favours litigants with the most financial resources.

  4. Kyran

    And the stench gets worse and worse. This is somewhere between implausible and ‘you are kidding, right?’ O’Neill has presided over one of the most corrupt governments PNG has ever had, famously shutting down corruption enquiries when he was implicated in their enquiries. He actually makes our corruption look a little tame.
    O’Neill’s involvement with the company, Black Swan International, has always been suspect. This blog summarises the allegations.

    http://www.pngblogs.com/2016/06/brian-kelly-cant-white-wash-with-your.html

    They’re only allegations, but they have been around for years. Brian Kelly, an Aussie, was the face of Black Swan International, the largest private security firm in PNG, but O’Neill was allegedly the principal beneficiary of its activities.
    Paladin Security bought Black Swan Int, which is clearly shown on their website.

    https://paladingroup.net/

    “Black Swan, which has repeatedly fended off claims it has links to PNG’s prime minister Peter O’Neill, has dominated the country’s private security industry in recent years.
    Meanwhile, Paladin has made a reported $US300 million worth of Australian government contracts for almost two years’ worth of work on Manus.”

    https://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/382227/manus-contractor-purchases-png-s-main-security-firm

    The date of the purchase isn’t clear. But the ramifications are crystal clear. Another report details some of the poorly concealed machinations of the process.

    “Now Paladin has bought PNG’s Black Swan security company, which has long been associated with O’Neill.
    No details are available about the Paladin purchase of Black Swan, but what is publicly known has all the hallmarks of O’Neill’s modus operandi and is seen as a clever solution to some of Paladin’s problems given that the company has strong PNG executive management and workforce.
    The Paladin contract is not the only dubious Manus deal done by Dutton. He has also contracted the much-criticised Pacific International Hospital in Port Moresby to provide health services to the detention centre.
    The $13.5 million contract was also on the basis of a limited tender.
    O’Neill is also said to be involved behind the scenes in PIH through a secretive and shadowy Malaysian businessman, Mohammad Sultan. PIH’s Manus services and facilities have been criticised as sub-standard and subject to inappropriate non-medical interference by Australia.”

    https://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2019/02/was-duttons-secret-manus-deal-designed-to-favour-oneill.html

    What has made this situation, and Dud-do’s, beyond implausible is todays demand by O’Neill for a briefing on what is going on.

    “The Papua New Guinea prime minister, Peter O’Neill, has requested a full briefing on the Paladin affair and said he would “welcome any investigation by Australian authorities”.
    O’Neill, speaking to local media overnight, said PNG had nothing to do with awarding the Paladin contract and gave no input to the Australian government’s decision.
    “We welcome any investigation by Australian authorities in the manner in which the issued Paladin contract was awarded to an inexperienced and unknown company, but that is a matter for the Australian government,” O’Neill said, according to the Post-Courier.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/feb/20/labor-refers-paladin-to-auditor-general-over-controversial-423m-contract

    Who do they think they are kidding? If he wants to know what is going on, he need look no further than his own business notes and bank accounts. This not so much a case of the staggering cost of defending incompetence as the staggering cost of concealing corruption.
    Thank you Ms Lee and commenters. Take care

  5. Matters Not

    The notion that the Government (or State) pays the legal costs of Ministers has a somewhat chequered history and the decision to pay (or not) needs clarification. In Queensland, Joh demanded that the State cover his costs in the matter of defamation(s) brought by him. In a classic case of – heads I win, tails you lose – Joh desired that the State would pick up the costs of (his) litigation if the legal decision went against him while he wanted to claim the monies awarded if he won. One can imagine the number of cases he would launch if his demand prevailed – suing without risk. Joh failed by the way.

    Generally, the principle is, that the State/Crown will pick up your legal bill if such debts are incurred while you are acting in your official capacity as a Minister. Matters such as backyard fence arguments resulting in litigation were personal and therefore nothing to do with the State.

    In the case of Cash the question becomes – was she acting as a Minister of the Crown or was she acting as a party-political apparatchik? Not surprisingly she was given the benefit of the doubt. Although, some may beg to differ.

  6. Henry Rodrigues

    Taxpayer’s money means nothing to these devious incompetent bunch of bastards, but they baulk and deny and refuse when it means more funding for health, education, and anyone who doesn’t vote them or support their point of view. And the lawyers, almost to a man (or woman) are all great admirers of these bastards, after all a great majority of coalition members have deep and abiding ties to the legal ‘profession’ And that great lump of putresense also known as fat Hockey, who’s living it up in “New York New York” is the most visible example of their greed and extravagance. To hell with all these bastards.

    Bring on the elections !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Matters Not

    Henry Rodrigues re:

    Taxpayer’s money means nothing

    Spot on! Mainly because the monies paid by the State do not belong to the taxpayer – which left the equation somewhat earlier – after paying their legal obligations. The taxpayer(s) are now but a distant legal memory. The monies paid are now owned and controlled by the State, broadly defined. Or if you want to put a human face to the reality – the monies belong to the citizens who elected them.

    Remember the biggest payers of tax are companies and the like which can’t even vote. When it comes to monies owned and controlled by the State – those which paid are irrelevant – unless they are citizens.

  8. Bronte ALLAN

    This Mechanica Crash person should be taken out to sea, put in a chaff bag & tossed overboard, after all, if it was ok for bloody inept Jones to suggest that should have been done to Julia Gillard, then, it is only fair & just that the same be done to Mechanica! As for all the other flat earth, climate change denying, lying, obscenely over-paid so-called “liberal/country party” politicians, the sooner they are kicked out of officer, the better! And, naturally ALL of these legal costs etc MUST be the fault of the bloody Labor lot, isn’t that right Mr Slo Mo?

  9. Michael Taylor

    MN, whatever you do don’t mention the Separation of Powers. 🐿

  10. Frank Smith

    Oh dear, Michaelia is putting on another screeching show – a regular banshee that one. And a bloody expensive one at that. Michaelia has not bothered to pick up any of the decorum displayed by Penny Wong, preferring to scream and screech – oh my ears!! The lies, the lies, the lies.

  11. Alan Luchetti

    What business was it of the Solicitor General to front for Hunt, Sukkar and Tudge before the Victorian Court of Appeal to explain why they should not be punished for contempt and, after some judicial arm twisting, admit there could be no explantion why they shouldn’t be punished, apologise on their behalf and plead for leniency?

    How was it any kind of justifiable (as opposed to actual) government policy for these Ministers to send a bunch of anti-judicial texts preying on fears of terrorism to feed an anti-islamic story to a Murdoch flunky?

    These three clowns (all with law degrees) (a) should have shown enough respect to appear in person and (b) if in need of a barrister in order to effect an apology, should have paid for one out of their own pockets.

  12. Kaye Lee

    Another excellent example of paying for incompetence Alan. They are endless. We pay to fix up their mess.

    I also don’t understand this family reunion rort. Politicians are sitting for 10 days in 8 months. If they can’t find time to see their family during all that time off then it’s probably because they don’t want to. And why should we pay for their family get togethers? Is there nothing they pay for themselves?

    Every time I hear how hard politicians work I think of all the photos of them at sporting matches paid for by us, at fashion shows and cultural events paid for by us. I think of all the lavish dinners paid for by us. And then I think of what have they actually achieved. If I spent that much time and money and achieved that little I would rightly be sacked.

  13. Kronomex

    The LNP are the inbred feudal barons and lords reborn to to rule us peasants so we should be thankful that god endowed them with this right. They make the hillbillies in Deliverance look positively sane.

  14. Henry Rodrigues

    Re-instate the guillotine, that’s one sure way to fix these greedy unrepentant bastards and let’s start with the screaming banshee, her voice is enough to scrape the skin of a crocodile.

  15. Lambert Simpleton

    No doubt about it.

    You can always enjoy the clarity of Kyran’s comments.

    We’d think it was lucky O’Neill has no friends in the Australian government… wouldn’t we?

    Such a lovely idea otherwise, so many would benefit from it and would we now be wondering about the defacto new Australian PM, Michael O’Neill, as well as the clicking of computers in the Cayman Islands.

  16. Trish Corry

    Just testing if I can comment. /Ignore.

  17. Lambert Simnel

    For god’s sake, go ahead Trish.

    These are amazing events and why would we not want more ideas, to flesh all this all out. You could start with the exchange between Wong and that deranged refugee from a forties Cinema Noir movie, Michaelia Cash.

  18. Matters Not

    Re:

    We pay to fix up their mess

    Actually we don’t. They create the mess and they pay to fix it up. The evidence abounds.

    While taxpayers lose control of the dollars upon paying their legal obligations (read taxes), we as citizens do not have any control over the expenditure of government monies and never have – except perhaps a symbolic tick or cross every three or four years. (Some are easily fooled.)

    Put simply, Cabinets have control of the public purse. It’s the Cabinet (or at least the power brokers within) that determines the how, when and why of expenditure. Yet we persist with the myth that it’s our money – as though we drive the economic and political bus. No wonder the youth shake their heads and refuse to participate in this farce.

    By the way – not talking about the ought – just the **is*. And the sad part is the lack of understanding of how the system actually works.

  19. Kaye Lee

    Whilst we obviously have no control over the public purse, we have every right to know, and express opinions about how it is spent. Whilst the politicians might have control of how the money is spent, it’s not theirs either even though they may treat it that way.

  20. Lambert Simnel

    I tend to see it somewhat opposite to MN. It is OUR money and we are wretchedly disempowered, but in theory, they remain accountable to the people ( NOT the F—-g Crown!)

    The fear of legal consequences is what made Cash and Corman lie before Estimates.

    More importantly, it is to be hoped that a trail develops concerning Paladin, I think some fat Turkeys would fall if the truth outs.

    Take care.

  21. Kaye Lee

    Nauru is even worse than Paladin.

    “This leaves sick people at the mercies of a committee staffed by Nauruan doctors that then can be overridden by the minister for multicultural affairs, Barina Waqa, daughter of the president, with no reason given.

    As each refugee attracts $50,000 a year in visa fees alone, and Nauru depends on the processing centre for a large part of its income, it is easy to see why requests may be declined.”

    And they have been often.

    https://www.dailysabah.com/asia/2018/09/30/nauru-refuses-refugee-medical-transfers-to-australia-to-preserve-relations

    A Queensland construction firm and Liberal Party donor, picked to run refugee services on Australia’s behalf in Nauru, will be paid $385 million by taxpayers over the next 12 months.

    https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/nauru-refugee-regime-to-cost-taxpayers-385-million-over-next-12-months-20171120-gzore9.html

  22. Shaun Newman

    The corruption is now tangible with these tory bastards. I’m just wondering how much corruption the 49% who still support them will tolerate before they too desert the sinking ship?

    Yesterday’s Guardian story that a million people who are reliant on centrelink payments had those payments reduced in the past 6 months surely must be the final twist of the knife into the working class before the tory voters among them turn?

  23. helvityni

    I think Kyran, Henry and Lambert have said it all for me here…what I would add is unprintable…

  24. DAVID GEORGE

    Remember Tony as Opposition Leader exclaiming “stop the waste’,that went well didn’t it?

  25. Kaye Lee

    Helloworld’s corporate motto is “We have the right people in the right places”

    You can’t make this stuff up

  26. Matters Not

    Difficult to imagine any Public Servant, Minister et al (read legislated decision maker) having the courage (in the Yes Minister sense) to give any contract of any substance to Helloworld in the foreseeable future. A classic example of political over-reach writ large.

    Share market suicide. Can’t wait to read the next investor road show. Perhaps a name change is on the horizon? Maybe a ‘hockey-stick’ rebound might be too much to ask.

  27. Matters Not

    Did note however that Webjet – a competitor of Helloworld – is up a massive 31% today. Probably just a coincidence.

    Nevertheless – some investors made an absolute motza.

  28. Zathras

    Now that Jewellery Bishop is finally leaving the stage I suppose the taxpayer will no longer have to fork out money for the international travel costs of taking her boyfriend along on her junkets or her personal taxpayer funded costs in somehow managing to be in Sydney or Melbourne on “official business” at the same time her footy team is playing in each of those cities.

    At least it’s It’s too late for Joe Hockey to keep charging us to take his family to visit his Queensland hobby farm but I suppose he has other more lucrative income streams these days.

    I wonder if Shorten’s proposed Integrity Commission is likely to pick up seemingly insignificant things like that?

  29. Matters Not

    Glencore’s announced its downgrading it coal operations but the company is worth a closer look. Fact is, Glencore is the number one tax dodger in Australia. Not that its tax dodging gets the publicity it deserves

    It is the largest coal miner in Australia, operates a maze of companies and has been under investigation by the Tax Office for shifting up to $25 billion to the tax haven Bermuda via cross-currency interest rate swaps. This particular Glencore entity managed to wipe out all but 0.39 per cent of its total income and on the $108 million recorded in taxable income, paid zero tax.

    Yep zero tax on almost $28 billion turnover. Then there’s all its subsidiaries. Probably reached the stage where it’s too big to tax. One wonders how many times this tax dodger will get due recognition today? Yep the big taxpayers (the Banks) will get another bash from Shorten et al but the biggest tax dodgers will again escape attention.

    https://www.michaelwest.com.au/companies/tax-dodgers/glencore-investment-pty-limited/

  30. Lambert Simnel

    Well put MN.

    Gives you the willies, doesn’t it?

  31. Zathras

    I believe behind the accountancy double-speak the huge Murdoch tax rebate scheme was effectively done something like this –

    One of his companies loaned another of his companies money in a certain currency and then repaid it in a different currency and NewsCorp then claimed the contrived currency transaction losses as a deduction – a scam his papers would scream about if somebody else did it.

    The fact that the ATO is powerless to do anything about it and puts all its efforts into screwing over the average helpless and hapless taxpayer says a lot about Government priorities.

    It’s as well Shorten didn’t answer Murdoch’s traditional summons to meet with him.

    I expect the coming campaign will be especially nasty as all the “leaners” try to protect their reserved space at the taxpayer feeding trough.

  32. Harry DeBatt

    I agree re Murdoch – not even proud enough to stay an Aussie – but will any of the seemingly un-Hoyle conduct by the conservatives be opened to public scrutiny if the ALP secures the coming election?

    If precedent rules I expect a resounding NO.

    No wonder there is a growing percentage of true Oz citizens who would relish the dismantling of the major parties, but not replaced by a lapdog democratic system glued to Howard’s frequently lauded “Westminster system” – smoke and mirrors little Johnny- it has been continuously abused by both the British parliaments and this nation through incompetent governments subject to their whims.

    Come de revolution.

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