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The United Nations junket – at your expense

Every year, Australia sends two federal politicians for a three-month secondment to observe and work with the established Australian Mission to the United Nations but, in recent times, it has increasingly been used as a reward, or a “lap of honour”, or to remove a problem MP.

This year, we will be sending two women who have announced they will not be contesting the next election.  How can that be viewed as a productive use of taxpayers’ money?

The Liberals are sending Anne Sudmalis to shut her up about her bullying claims.  Morrison had offered the posting to Julia Banks a week before for similar reasons but she declined. Labor are sending Jenny Macklin to reward her for years of service.

Forget the fact that these postings can cost about $100,000 each and that there is no requirement to file an official account about their work while there or Australia’s activities at the UN.

Former Liberal senator Cory Bernardi was given a “secondment” to the United Nations in 2016, and soon after his return he quit the party and then formed his own.

Asked at the time about the selection process, considering Bernardi’s oft-expressed disdain for the UN, a representative from Chief Government Whip David Bushby’s office said: “Sorry, we don’t provide that information.”

That year, Bernardi was joined by Labor’s Lisa Singh, no doubt as an apology for relegating her to a supposedly unwinnable spot on the Tasmanian Senate ticket in favour of some union bloke until people chose to vote below the line to re-elect her.

In 2015, Nationals senator Barry O’Sullivan was joined on the plum posting by former Labor treasurer and deputy prime minister Wayne Swan, both of whom will also not be contesting next year’s election – Swan by choice and O’Sullivan because his party dumped him from the Queensland Senate ticket. It was reported that the costs associated with their secondments, including airfares, accommodation and transport, exceeded $120,000.

In 2011, Steve Ciobo – then a Liberal backbencher – refused to pay an $8000 hotel bill while on the same secondment. Instead of using the one-bedroom apartment provided by the department of finance at $11,300 a month, Ciobo rented a two-bedroom apartment at the Bristol at almost $14,000 a month because his pregnant wife and their two-year-old child wanted to accompany him.

Ciobo refused to pay the difference.  The Department of Finance also declined to settle the tab, which was eventually picked up by Australian consular officials in New York amid a diplomatic fracas.

This is so obviously being used as an annual junket by both the government and opposition.  And they wonder why we are cynical.


16 comments

  1. Matters Not

    Yes an obvious disgrace that only adds to the odium that surrounds politicians in general.

    Talk about slow learners.

    One would think that Macklin would know better. Would have a more finely sense of propriety. Why trash your ‘brand’ right at the death.

  2. Kaye Lee

    Yes MN. I applaud Julia Banks for her refusal but am disappointed that Macklin chose to cash in. She said she was retiring because she wanted to spend more time with her grandkids. Guess they’ll have to wait a bit for Grandma to get home from her taxpayer-funded holiday.

  3. Kaye Lee

    As another example of how this is used for political purposes, in 2017, the Liberals sent Warren Entsch….just when the marriage equality debate was hotting up with Entsch a vocal supporter.

    The survey was held between 12 September and 7 November 2017 while he was away.

  4. Babyjewels

    And they wonder why we don’t respect them? Thanks for putting these facts together for us Kaye. As always, it was illuminating.

  5. New England Cocky

    Why has there been no action taken against Ciobo for refusing to pay his $8,000 bill?

    Oh, I know ….. the Parliamentary Allowances Scheme is now run under the Barnyard Joke Rules where anything goes …

  6. Diannaart

    We have to change the incentive structures within institutions. It’s not punishment. It’s changing what’s permissible in public life.

    Kate Manne, author of “Down Girl – the logic of misogyny”

  7. Bronte ALLAN

    Talk about jobs for the boys (& girls!)! And, sadly, these perks seems to be granted to anyone from any political party, especially if they are about to retire from parliament! Just a nice well paid bloody holiday overseas–at the taxpayers expense!–with no obligations to report on anything that happens whilst they are enjoying their “holidays”, talk about snouts in the trough! Bastards the lot of them!

  8. george theodoridis

    This is the very bloody reason why our politicians spend more time fighting and backstabbing each other than they do serving this nation. The job (if one can call it that and not a sinecure) is just too cushy, too well paid, too full of secret handshakes and backdoor deals too good to allow someone else to take it from you.

    I’d rather be dealing with someone who’s trying to sell me a bridge!

    They fight and fight for it and that’s pretty much all they do! Just as parasites do on the body they’re feeding on.

    Cut their salaries, cut the cushiness and cut the gimmicks. Those left there will be actually doing the job.

    If they don’t, we, the real people, will!

  9. jimhaz

    The website of the Australian Mission to the United Nations appears to contain almost nothing specific to work related to the UN. Just a few 100% weasel word statements in the news section.

    https://unny.mission.gov.au/

    Good pickup. Hope to see an article like this in the MSM.

  10. Terence Mills

    For Ann Sudmalis this is clearly a complete junket in a less than brilliant career and should be stamped on ; congratulation to Julia Banks for refusing to get involved.

    I have greatly appreciated the work that Jenny Macklin has done in a long career but this will leave a bad taste.

    Surely there are some young men and women in the parliament with careers ahead of them who could really benefit from this opportunity.

  11. Matters Not

    Re:

    well paid bloody holiday overseas at the taxpayers expense

    .

    It’s not at the taxpayers expense, although it’s a common misconception. People, companies and other entities pay taxes to government because it’s a legal obligation. Having paid that tax, the entity (broadly defined) loses all rights to that money (including the spending of same) because it’s no longer theirs. It now belongs to the government whose obligation(s) are to the citizens who elected them – irrespective of whether they are taxpayers or not.

    Plenty of people and companies pay tax in Australia (not enough) but they are not citizens/electors. The paying of tax does not bestow citizenship rights. Accordingly, a taxpayer is NOT to be equated with a citizen (although there is an overlap) who has legitimate claims re how government monies are spent.

    When it comes to government – who elects them and decides how that government should behave (including spending) – the paying of taxes is an irrelevancy.

    It’s a pity that more people don’t recognise that.

  12. george theodoridis

    MN, any evidence at all that any business is paying any tax? At all?

  13. Matters Not

    Have a read.

    Australia’s number one corporate taxpayer is Platinum Asset Management. Founded and controlled by legendary investor Kerr Neilson, Platinum pays more tax, dollar-for-dollar of income, than any other large company in this country.

    Platinum is not the biggest taxpayer in Australia in sheer dollar terms. That trophy falls to the besieged Commonwealth Bank of Australia which recorded taxable income of $9.27 billion over the three years of available Tax Office tax transparency data (Australia’s Top 40 biggest tax payers by sheer dollar value will be revealed tomorrow).

    Number two on the Tax Heroes table is the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) and at number three is another financial services player, Magellan Financial Group.

    It is well worth perusing the Top 40 Tax Heroes table. You will find high-margin miners like Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting, local tech stocks such as carsales.com, Seek and Rea Group, a toll collector and even a handful of foreign banks.

    What they have in common is high profit margins and, in most cases a high tax rate of 30 per cent or near enough. Platinum recorded total income of just over $1 billion as fees from its investor funds poured into the company. After costs, the group declared taxable income of $803.2 million dollars and tax payable of $240.8 million – a tax rate of 29.98 per cent, just shy of the statutory 30 per cent.

    Yes one in three pay no tax – but some do.

    https://www.michaelwest.com.au/top-40-platinum-takes-gong-as-australias-top-corporate-taxpayer/

  14. Kaye Lee

    Businesses and individuals pay tax on their “taxable income”. How they arrive at their taxable income is an entirely different story.

    Platinum do seem exceptional, assuming they correctly stated their genuine total income.

  15. Matters Not

    Yes KL, tax is paid on taxable income – an amount which is somewhat elastic as the evidence demonstrates.

    As an avid reader of (and occasional contributor to) Michael West, I find he’s about the most insightful going around in that area. Glad to see that Unions, GetUp et al also commission research because he works with the numbers and I like the meaning(s) he gives to same.

    Waiting to see what Labor will do re international tax avoidance. Sure there’s been promises aplenty – but no detail.

  16. Kyran

    There are so many aspects about Australia’s rather peculiar relationship with the UN at the moment, it’s hard to know where to start, given our government has such a deeply conflicted relationship.
    We want to be on panels, yet we don’t want to respect their decisions or adhere to their findings. We will spend hundreds of thousands lobbying obscure panel members to sway panel decisions, yet will ignore any adverse findings.
    These junkets, glorified rewards for insignificant contributions, warrant indignant condemnation. But they pale into insignificance when compared to the operations of that leech, the recidivist recipient of benefits without entitlement or merit, the cadaver who walks, who seems to have been an envoy to the UN for centuries now.

    “When 25-year-old Afghan born Australian Mohammad Ali Baqiri travels to Geneva next week, a deep irony will accompany his visit.
    In 2001, the asylum seeker boat ferrying Baqiri to Australia was set alight by a fellow passenger, sinking the vessel and forcing those aboard to be rescued. Pulled from the water, 10-year-old Baqiri was placed in immigration detention on Christmas Island before being transferred to Nauru, tens of thousands of kilometres from his family’s modest village home in Oruzgan province. The Immigration Minister at the time, tasked with overseeing the Howard government’s tough new anti-asylum seeker policies, was Philip Ruddock.”

    “The timing of Baqiri’s appearance throws up an unlikely coincidence. As the young Australian goes before the Human Rights Council, the nation’s new ‘special envoy’ for human rights will be lobbying behind the scenes, as part of an ongoing bid to claim a spot on the Council.
    The man tasked with that job is none other than Philip Ruddock.
    Yet despite enduring hardship on Nauru, Baqiri said he will not be using the opportunity to undermine Australia’s ongoing bid to join the Human Rights Council, and will instead try to give voice to the thousands of other asylum seekers who remain detained. He’ll be encouraging Australia to take heed of the recommendations put forward by fellow member states: close the offshore camps, and put an end to refoulement.”

    https://newmatilda.com/2016/03/11/ruddock-lobbies-human-rights-council-child-refugee-addresses-un/

    The intervening years saw Australia getting onto the HRC, only to become the subject of so many adverse findings while in the chair. No surprise really, given the constituency of that council harbours so many countries that have no regard for Human Rights.

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/sep/15/australia-is-reported-to-un-human-rights-council-over-illegal-detention-of-asylum-seekers

    Curiously though, Ruddock’s name popped up as special envoy for the LNP in seeking assistance from their recently self exiled messiah.

    “The Liberal party has sent one of its most senior figures to urge the former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull to either return to Australia to assist the Wentworth campaign or at least publicly endorse his replacement, Dave Sharma.
    One of the party’s elder statesmen, the former federal MP Philip Ruddock, who is in New York to campaign for the Rohingya people, has asked to see Turnbull and will urge him to help.
    Ruddock told Guardian Australia from New York that he had been in touch with Turnbull but did not yet have an arrangement, though as former colleagues they were likely to catch up.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/sep/18/liberals-send-philip-ruddock-to-ask-for-turnbulls-support-in-wentworth-byelection

    So, who was paying for the cadavers lobbying for the Rohingya’s and who was he lobbying to? The imbedded link refers to another Rohingya talk fest.

    “An international conference on “Rohingya Crisis and Solution” was convened on May 2, 2018 in Cologne, Germany.”

    “The keynote speech for the morning session was delivered by Philip Ruddock, ex-MP (1973-2016) who had served as a cabinet minister during the Howard Government and then as the Attorney General. He highlighted the importance of holding the murderous Myanmar regime accountable for its genocidal crimes.”

    https://www.islamicity.org/15116/cologne-conference-demands-accountability-of-the-myanmar-government/

    The cadaver, who oversaw the installation and perpetration of systems designed solely to abuse the already abused, has been on the gravy train for a long time now. Mind you, the UN itself is now little more than an exercise in furthering futility. Incepted as ‘The League of Nations’ after the first ‘Great War’, its aspiration was laudable. To reduce the potential for people to suffer the indiscriminate tyranny of conflict, inflicted by wanton governments pursuing political ambition over the needs of the people they served (or were meant to). The morphing into the United Nations, with the various charters for various idealistic pursuits, was fundamentally and fatally flawed when the ‘superpowers’ were granted veto rights, without question or restraint, over the various charters and their infringements. Add to this the abuse of funding obligations entrenched over the decades and you have an emaciated organisation no longer able to even acknowledge the charters under which it was created.
    The granting of junkets to these worthless mendicants is a cause for rightful indignation. But it is only fleeting when compared with the loss of the aspirations once associated with this once august body. United Nations? A bridge too far.
    Thank you Ms Lee and commenters. Take care

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