The irony of the government’s focus on its union-busting Ensuring Integrity Bill has been highlighted yet again by the devious dealings of another Ministerial adviser – this time in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Senior Adviser to the PM, Nico Louw, thought it would be a great idea to send a pirated version of Malcolm Turnbull’s book to all and sundry before its release.
That is theft.
On Insiders, Foreign Minister Marise Payne admitted she received a copy but said she deleted it. She denied it had come from the PM’s office, which was a stupid lie since the guy had already confessed.
In response to the interview, publisher Hardie Grant chief executive Sandy Grant said:
“When I watch a senior government minister saying they received stolen goods but can’t help us know where they came from, you despair.”
Mr Louw agreed to an out of court settlement in record time. It would be interesting to know who is paying for it.
Ministerial advisers are completely unaccountable.
In a research paper from 2002 titled Accountability of Ministerial Staff?, the author observed:
“The decision to attempt to prevent advisers appearing as witnesses is based on a premise that they are accountable to ministers, and that ministers account for the actions of their advisers. Whether ministers actually do so, however, is increasingly debatable.”
Time and again, rather than being held to account, we see these shadowy people protected.
There was the baffling decision by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecution that there was “no reasonable prospects of a conviction” for the unauthorised leak tipping off the media about raids on the AWU headquarters. This was despite the admission of Michaelia Cash’s chief of staff and media adviser that they did it.
“The court has previously heard Mr Davies passed on information about the raids to Mr De Garis after being alerted to them by Mark Lee, who was on secondment to the newly established ROC at the time and had been offered a job in Senator Cash’s office.”
Likewise, Angus Taylor’s dissemination to the Murdoch media of a forged document attacking Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore will go unpunished because the police didn’t bother asking Taylor, or anyone in his office, any questions.
“Following inquiries undertaken and information provided by NSW Police, the AFP has determined it is unlikely further investigation will result in obtaining sufficient evidence to substantiate a Commonwealth offence,” an AFP spokesperson said in a statement. “The AFP assessment of this matter identified there is no evidence to indicate the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction was involved in falsifying information.”
This was despite the fact that staffer Josh Manuatu was identified as the person who obtained the false figures that were used in a Daily Telegraph article that criticised Moore.
According to Angus Taylor, “The leader of the opposition and shadow attorney general’s pursuit of this matter is a shameful abuse of their office and a waste of our policing agencies’ time.”
Far from being punished, Manuatu was given the job of ACT Liberal Party Director and will be in charge of running the campaign in the territory election later this year.
In 2013, Ted Mack gave the Henry Parkes Oration – well worth the read if you have time.
He made the following observation about political staffers:
Over the last 30 years politicians’ staff has increased dramatically. At federal level there are now some 17 hundred personal staff to ministers and members. The states probably account for over two thousand more. Add to this the direct political infiltration of federal-state public services and quangos with hundreds more jobs for the boys and girls, there is now a well-established political class.
This has provided the political parties with a career path for members. In many cases it often produces skilled, partisan, “whatever it takes” warriors with a richly rewarded life through local state and federal governments to a well-funded retirement. Unfortunately while this career path, as Tony Fitzgerald states, does include principled well-motivated people … it also attracts professional politicians with little or no general life experience and unscrupulous opportunists, unburdened by ethics, who obsessively pursue power, money or both.
Exhibit A: Alex Hawke; Exhibit B: James Patterson; Exhibit C: Tim Wilson, Exhibit D: James McGrath.
In the name of “Ensuring Integrity”, either political staffers should be accountable to parliament and the law, or the Minister who employs them should take responsibility. The Sergeant Shultz defence is not credible.
One erstwhile ministerial staffer was quoted in Spectator describing his younger colleagues in the following manner:
The staffer brat is a twenty-something, arts degree graduate, typically moderate-leaning, Kool-Aid drinking political adviser.
With their Young Liberal membership firmly tucked in their chinos, they stroll the blue carpet of the Ministerial Wing with superficial busyness, often in the direction of free booze and networking. They flash their blue ministerial passes at Aussies to crush the spirits of junior staff who secured a rare trip to Canberra. They’ve seen the inside of the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge and they won’t let you forget it.
They greet senior ministers as close friends. They are the fly-in-fly-outs, over-promoted, under-qualified and full to brim with travel allowance to supplement their already over inflated salaries. They do not serve on the frontline, rarely accountable to voters and lean heavily on their department for support.
Their policy expertise often only extends to PVO Newshour and 140-character commentary. Their Instagram is laden with West Wing-style images of riding VIP jets, post-run selfies with the Foreign Minister and artsy pictures of the parliamentary courtyards
If these are the type of people who are employed to advise our Ministers, what hope have we got?
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