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Tony Shepherd is well paid to tell the government what it wants to hear

Tony Shepherd has been paid $55,000 for 17 day’s work producing a report which recommended that the rules governing the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund be changed to allow the government to pretty much do what it likes with its five-billion-dollar slush fund.

That’s the same Tony Shepherd who was paid $85,000 for a few weeks work as head of the Commission of Audit that was the basis for Abbott’s 2014 budget from hell.

The end of 2013 was a very busy time for Mr Shepherd.

He retired from his role as chairman of Transfield in October, with shares aplenty for his trouble, to work on the Audit but his role as president of the Business Council of Australia was extended until March 2014. In November he was appointed chairman of the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association and chairman of the WestConnex Delivery Authority. He was also chairman of the Greater Western Sydney AFL club and a trustee of the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust.

With all those concurrent responsibilities, it is impossible to believe that Mr Shepherd did anything but write up a justification for what the government intended to do, as he has done with this latest report.

But does he really have any idea?

The Commission of Audit recommended that 15,000 public servants be sacked but, by February this year, Shepherd was singing a different tune saying the degradation of the Australian Public Service has gone “too far”.

“We tend to talk down the public service in Australia. I think that’s a really big structural issue for us, because our form of democracy really does require a strong and very competent – and independent, I might add – public service,” Shepherd told ABC Radio National.

“I really think we need to reinvigorate it at the federal and state level in terms of its capacity and its quality. I think we have with outsourcing and privatisation, what have you, we have probably run it down a bit too far. I think it needs to be adjusted. Backwards, upwards. I’m all into rebuilding the public service, particularly at the senior level.”

“There is a good core group there in the public service in Canberra who really do a good job and do it properly and I just think we need to rebuild that at the senior level, perhaps more than at the junior level. But I guess you’ve got to have the junior level building up if you’re going to get the senior level.”

“You cannot have people placing contracts with consultants and not really understanding what the outcomes are that they are seeking and what it’s all about. You really do need to have an experienced project manager and project managers when you are doing that sort of outsource contracting work,” he said, apparently not seeing the irony.

Shepherd appeared on the radio alongside Labor MP Julian Hill, who is deputy chair of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit, to discuss the committee’s upcoming inquiry into the use of contractors and consultants in the public service following a report by the Australian National Audit Office, which found that APS spending on consultants had leapt from just under $400 million to nearly $700 million between 2013-14 and 2016-17.

It’s expensive when you have to hire people who are prepared to say what you tell them to instead of using the free advice you could get from actual experts.


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  1. New England Cocky

    Oh dear, this appears to be the Greiner model of self-congratulation. NSW Premier Greiner was found “corrupt” but dismissed on appeal and after politics was granted or gifted about 44 memberships of commercial corporate boards. Like the banks (that some of them run or have run) corporate executives appear to believe that they are heaven’s gift to the capitalist world for ripping off the community for the benefit of the wealthy.

  2. townsvilleblog

    It’s about time that working people tackled their worst enemy, apathy is their biggest problem. Once that is overcome they can then tackle the Liberal’National Party/ies.

  3. Terry2

    As I posted elsewhere :

    Matt Canavan, the resources and northern Australia minister, said the NAIF was only allowed to provide 50% of an infrastructure project’s total debt, and that was too restrictive’. So, Canavan plans to remove that cap to require that the Australian Taxpayer take on 100% of the debt risk of these projects.

    The NAIF were evidently having trouble getting the money through to the good old-boys in the National Party in Queensland so, incredibly, they are going to allow taxpayer dollars to flow through to projects that are unable to get commercial funding with one hundred percent of the risk falling to that bold entrepreneur, the person you see in the mirror daily : what can possibly go wrong.

  4. Henry Rodrigues

    Yes, the same miserable little skunk Tony Shepard and the same corrupt government who uses his so-called expertise.None should be surprised or upset. These bastards know how to look after themselves and their interests.

  5. Phil

    Yep this is it. As many have already said, but its worth saying it again, and again until it becomes the national definition of this hapless entity once known as the Turnbull government – we live under a kakistocracy. Nothing can change until we turf out the Turnbull kakistocracy.

  6. TuffGuy

    Does this open the door for them to gift the $1 billion to Adani now?

  7. tony ridler

    Do as you’re told, and, you’re a rock! Do as you’re told, or, you’re a rock!

  8. Kaye Lee

    As the rules stand, Queensland government can veto any funding for Adani but the GVK Hancock enterprise is moving quietly in the background. GVK Hancock holds the development licences for the Kevin’s Corner, Alpha and Alpha West coal projects.

    “…companies involving two of the Galilee licence-holders have separately applied to the NAIF for taxpayer-funded concessionary loans to build rival railway lines connecting their mines to Abbot Point.

    Indian conglomerate Adani had applied for $1 billion. The size of the second application, lodged in March this year, has not been disclosed publicly. It involves the listed rail freight company Aurizon, formerly the state-owned Queensland Rail. Aurizon and GVK Hancock had planned a joint venture, but that deal was not finalised. Euler confirms the companies are still collaborating but “the application was made through Aurizon”.

    Both applicants insist their rail lines would be multi-user facilities available to other mining companies in the basin, although not all of the companies are convinced they would have access to Adani’s line. Being accessible to more than one user is one of the eligibility requirements for funding infrastructure through the NAIF.

    With all the attention on Adani, GVK Hancock has been able to promote its own interests quietly in the background, enjoying under-the-radar status while public controversy swirls around its competitor.

    bad news for Adani may be good news for Aurizon and GVK Hancock.

    It seems the Queensland government may yet support the competitor rail line proposal, despite having suggested during the election campaign that it would not…..Palaszczuk confirmed she would not object to Aurizon’s alternative railway line proposal, even though it is designed to serve Adani’s Carmichael mine as well.

    Another major holder is Waratah Coal, which is owned by Queensland magnate and former federal MP Clive Palmer.

    As currently proposed, the Aurizon line would link the GVK Hancock and Waratah mines with existing rail infrastructure servicing mines in the nearby Bowen Basin, with an offshoot added to Carmichael further north in the Galilee.

    A spokesman for Aurizon confirmed the company had lodged a NAIF application and said it would require long-term contracts guaranteeing the volumes of coal to be carried on a rail line before it would commit to investing.”


  9. jimhaz

    [“There is a good core group there in the public service in Canberra who really do a good job and do it properly and I just think we need to rebuild that at the senior level, perhaps more than at the junior level. But I guess you’ve got to have the junior level building up if you’re going to get the senior level.”]

    In other words placing executives on contract has been a failure (as I’ve been saying for the whole of this century) – yet try and get this system changed, no way in the world. The ministers now are totally expectant that the PS execs will be Yes men/women types with little true loyalty to the organisation they head. Shrills like Guthrie now abound. Both the LNP and ALP are complicit at both state and federal levels.

  10. Kaye Lee

    I agree jimhaz. So much experience, expertise and talent has been lost. We now pay for armies of media and advertising people instead. We pay consultants to give us the answer we want to hear. Public servants who disagree with policy will find themselves in deep shit, even if they do so on their own time as a private individual with an anonymous name, let alone as a department head advising a new government. Frank and fearless advice will see you sacked. Truth? What’s that?

  11. Frank Smith

    Our democracy has been seriously undermined by the ever-increasing practice of using “political staffers” rather than professional public servants. There needs to be a purge of “staffers” from all Ministers and politicians offices. The well used practice of conducting “inquiries” and then setting up Terms of Reference and stacking the “inquirers” with mates who will deliver the desired outcomes also needs to be purged.

    Kaye Lee,
    I have been keeping an eye on the GVK Hancock projects for quite some time and have come to the conclusion that the only thing that may stop these mines going ahead is a further fall in the export thermal coal price. These mines in the south of the Galilee Basin around Alpha could be connected quite easily to existing coal transport rail lines that would permit the coal to be exported through Gladstone or Hay Point. Adani was concentrating on the more northerly Abbott Point terminal because one of his companies now owns and operates that export terminal. So, I do fear that the NAIF may still come into play for extensive coal mining in Queensland, particularly if we are foolish enough to allow the Commonwealth (= the taxpayer) absorb 100% of the debt. A major recipient of that would be the big National Party supporter, Gina, who is in partnership with the huge Indian conglomerate GVK Gupta in the Alpha and Kevin’s Corner mines. So far they have kept their powder dry and let Adani absorb the heat. This NAIF slush fund needs to be dismantled!

  12. Kaye Lee


    Another concern I have is that we will somehow guarantee them a certain return for the railway like we did with the poles and wires.

  13. Frank Smith

    This has got to be some sort of very late April Fools prank. Does anyone in Home Affairs actually read books? Perhaps they will be used as mementos for “staffers” and various “yes men” (or should that be “yes persons”). Or perhaps they will be distributed to asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru. No doubt the public servants who do the real work in Home Affairs will be left in the old digs. And what will happen to all these bookmarks and stationary when Labor dismantles Home Affairs next year? Perhaps Dutton and Co will be required to personally reimburse we taxpayers.


  14. Matters Not


    when Labor dismantles Home Affairs

    Is that a promise?

    As for the new Executive HQ. The PM has his own office(s) – so it’s somewhat fitting that the next in line (the PM in waiting) has similar accommodation.

    Think of the money saved on ‘training wheels’.

  15. Jamboree

    We are like Turkey now, also Poland and Hungary, even the Czechs, who had had their Spring in 1968. Kleptocracy, capitalist oligarchy, rule by the wealthy and their grubby tax havens, call it what you will; eg an example right at the top. But: did you hear Mr Swan on ABC Radio this morning, 19 April? If not, do listen on line. Some are waking up.

  16. totaram

    I think you need to give us a much deeper and more detailed life-history of Tony Shepherd. It would reveal what a self-serving crook this man is. If there were proper laws in place, this man would be in jail. Instead, he swans around as a “pillar of the community” and gets paid vast sums to do this. I await a federal ICAC and very tight laws about what these crooks and shills can do. I’m not holding my breath.

  17. Kaye Lee

    Mr Shepherd left Transfield with more than 200,000 shares, allocated to his family superannuation fund, on top of his final salary of $380,000.

    He is also a director of the international arm of Virgin Australia and an adviser to Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.

    It is utterly ridiculous to think that one man could do all of these jobs properly at the same time.

  18. margcal

    Expert (witness, consultant, whatever) – someone prepared to say whatever you pay them to say, i.e. lacking principles and integrity …

    Compared to – someone who is qualified and experienced and speaks/writes from that position, i.e. driven by principles and integrity.

  19. Kaye Lee

    Icac documents reveal Shepherd made a $1,500 donation to the Liberal party in 2010 which was then paid into the slush fund the Free Enterprise Foundation set up to help bankroll the NSW 2011 Liberal election campaign.

  20. Matters Not

    Jamboree re:

    did you hear Mr Swan … Some are waking up.

    Why is it the case that Swan’s current insights (valid as they may be) weren’t prospective? Perhaps Wayne is an intellectual late bloomer? Or perhaps he’s trying to rewrite history – given he now has a different (populist) political, aspirational agenda and is in desperate need of (leftist) votes to become the National President of the ALP?

    Not that I want to be cynical. But I can’t see how I can logically choose otherwise.

  21. Kaye Lee

    Nevertheless, it’s an impressive group Swan is joining to try to tackle corporate tax avoidance.

    “Other commissioners include the Nobel laureate in economics, Joseph Stiglitz, and high-profile French economists and authors Thomas Piketty and Gabriel Zucman.

    The commission was initiated by a group of civil society and labour organisations, including Action Aid, Alliance Sud, CCFD-Terre Solidaire, Christian Aid, the Council for Global Unions, the Global Alliance for Tax Justice, Oxfam, Public Services International, the Tax Justice Network and the World Council of Churches.”

  22. Glenn Barry

    Tony Shepherd is well positioned to give testimony as to the hypocrisy, I don’t think that’s what we’re witnessing however…

  23. Matters Not


    an impressive group Swan is joining to try to tackle corporate tax avoidance

    Indeed! As always – Better late than never.

    Now, when will we see other crucial conversions on the road to Damascus? Refugees – anyone? Genuine needs based funding of education for all students?

    Nevertheless I remain cynical re his timing. Perhaps – once a political pragmatist – always a political pragmatist?

    At least, that’s where I am coming from. That’s the theory I start with – and (over time) it’s proved useful in generating facts. (and subsequent meanings.)

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