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Who needs due diligence when you have billions of public money to splash around?

It has come to the stage where nothing surprises anymore.  The government is not even pretending to do due diligence as it hands out billions of dollars.

The latest revelation, in a very long list of questionable decisions, is that the government has given $8 million to an ex-Nationals party executive and failed candidate, Nick Cleary, to develop a business case for the first stage of high-speed rail (HSR) linking Melbourne and Shepparton.

Cleary is a would-be property developer who went bankrupt in 2010.  The business address for his Consolidated Land and Rail Australia (Clara) consortium is his solicitors’ office (which came as a surprise to them).

According to the Guardian:

It has just $422,000 in paid-up capital and so far has no major shareholders or directors with expertise in infrastructure projects, property development, construction or financing.

Asic searches show a web of companies behind Clara, but the ultimate controlling shareholders are Cleary, his wife, Erin Cleary, and his assistant, Alexandra Johnson, who acts as Clara’s contact point.

Reminiscent of the $423 million Manus Island contract awarded to Paladin, a tiny unknown company  whose business address was a beach shack at the end of a dirt road on Kangaroo Island.

Or the gifting of $444 million to the charity Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF), which at the time had annual revenue of about $10 million and only six full-time staff.

As with the dodgy water buybacks and Healthy Headwaters funding, the names of Angus Taylor and Barnaby Joyce are linked to the grant to Clara, with the HSR a shared responsibility between the Ministers for Transport and for Cities.

Taylor is a fan of the project as it would go through his electorate.  He was minister for cities at the time of the first call for submissions and when the field of 26 was whittled down to 13. In November 2017, Barnaby Joyce became Minister for Transport.

Despite Clara saying it has secured land at the site of one of its proposed “new cities”, farmers at Tallygaroopna say the options agreements have lapsed and they haven’t seen or heard from Cleary for months.

Interestingly, at the time the decision was being made, Barnaby’s girlfriend Vicki Campion was supposedly “working” in the office of the Victorian Nationals MP Damien Drum, whose seat covers Shepparton and Tallygaroopna.

Barnaby was also the driving force behind the inland freight rail which, according to the AFR, has the potential to become a white elephant and a fiscal time bomb for future governments.

When Scott Morrison was Treasurer, the Coalition government made a $9.3 billion equity investment in the Australian Rail Track Corporation to get the project off the ground, a move that allowed them to take it off-budget.  But if the project is commercially unviable, it will have to be brought back on budget.

A 2015 business case for the inland rail conducted by former deputy prime minister and Nationals leader John Anderson found it could not pay for itself without government funding in the first 50 years of operation.

There are also questions to answer about the proposed route, which Labor had promised to investigate had they won office.

Whether it’s gifts to Foxtel, or arms procurements without tender, travel contracts, or grants to prop up fossil fuel enterprises – the government seems to think they have no need to explain and resent any suggestion that they should be accountable for how they spend our money.

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20 comments

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  1. Jennifer Demas

    Kay Lee

    Aeons ago, Aesop, “They hang petty thieves and promote great ones to high office” and better still from someone in the know, Godfather Michael Corleone, “All my life I kept trying to go up in society, where everything higher up was legal, but the higher up I go the crookeder it becomes. Where the hell does it end” and all within the very very malleable rules as the cookie jar is being raided big time and the rest is history banking and finance sector scandals, AWB, GBRF, HelloWorld, Pallidin etc etc as the 4th estate folded like snot filled tissue in the presence of such unsurpassed talent and skill. It’s not that hard just connect the dots, in the words of comedienne George Carlin, “Keep in mind, the news media are not independent; they are a sort of bulletin and public relations firm for the ruling class, the people who runs things. Those who decide what news you will or will to hear are paid by, and tolerated purely at the whim, of those who hold economic power. If the parent corporation doesn’t want you to know, something, it wont be on the news. Period. Or, at the very least it will be slanted to suit them, and then rarely followed up”.

    In closing in the words of Teddy Roosveldt, “Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people” and informed democracy in free fall as, yes as the 4th estate folded like the proverbial snot filled tissue any wonder the viscerally angry people divided and prejudices to the nth against each other, unravelling of the social fabric at breakneck speed, as the rich got richer, poor poorer, economic and food insecurity the norm and ever so very ready to attack all hard fought gains and democratic institutions that made for an equal, fair, open and transparent (and not just at the ballot box) society. And would you believe, the 4th estate, still so very self absorbed with their own self importance still doesn’t get it, they blah on and on about impact of social media (not to deny the divisiveness it may have) and ignore how they, the 4th estate miserably failed informed democracy, 21st century Australia (digitisation, better deal for the natural resources, educating for the future, price on carbon etc). So in the words of FD Rooseveldt, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are preprepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of a democracy therefore is education”, take note, no reference on how the 4th estate is the bastion of informed, equal and open democracy. Finally does anybody really still honestly believe, the media tsar hoovered up print, screen, radio and not megaphone brand democracy of the invisible government of sneer, fear, smear, divisiveness and laden with prejudices and mind his indentured disciples are unsurpassed in skill and talent in that arena. Viva social media, viva ACTU for if not for it, Australians would still be on the force feed on that brand democracy of toxicity. Please Australia, save what’s left of the social fabric and informed democracy, and don’t bank on the 4th estate, they miserably failed informed democracy, 21st century Australia and future generations, if not for us how about for future generations before it’s way way way late.

  2. pierre wilkinson

    Is there no senate oversight in any of these dubious transactions, or are they all done with “Liberal transparency” the only requirement – besides the obvious political affiliation?
    Oh please, two by elections are all we need to hold these bastards to account, though three would be better.

  3. Keitha Granville

    The salient point is “our money “, that’s the problem. The government sees it as THEIR money.

  4. Bronte ALLAN

    Great article Kaye! Sadly this inept; lying, flat earth; would be “government” is, it seems, just in this “game” of politics to ensure that ALL their wealthy, business mates etc, can benefit from all the millions they keep throwing at them! To hell with the budget, doing the “right thing” by all Australians or even caring about all Australians, as long as they keep all their mates etc happy. BASTARDS, the lot of them, & incredibly well “led” by fucking dickhead Sco Mo!

  5. Aortic

    Wonderful expose again Kaye. I notice something called the Insitute of Public Relations has called a proposal for an ICAC investigation of lobbyists and their machinations as backward and unnecessary, or something similar. Until we have public funding of all elections they will forever be influenced by these parasites, to the detriment of our so called democracy.

  6. RosemaryJ36

    ICAC! Where are you?

  7. Hotspringer

    There is no corruption in politics – just ask Albanese.

  8. Kaye Lee

    Hotspringer,

    The really bad part is that they don’t consider this corruption.

  9. wam

    It is their special purpose money to do what they please with it.

    When a project or gift has occurred there used to be an evaluation then review.

    This government’s cash outs are never evaluated neither are the ‘trials’ like indue nor are misuse of entitlements investigated without a huge outcry.

    Your last sentence says it all, Kaye. They should be and would be, accountable, if Shorten, Tanya and now Albo, had the guts to get off the unwatched ABC and on to the morning shows, to expose these titbits. The auto cues will run hot with a juicy gossip, even if it is true.

    ps Aortic does your public cash include palmer’s page 2 splash of gold??

  10. Terence Mills

    When it comes to freedom of speech in this country, the High Court has come out with a judgement that could be far reaching and may have implications for the Israel Folau case.

    Today the high court has unanimously upheld a decision to sack public servant Michaela Banerji for anonymous social media posts that criticised the government’s immigration policy.

    The court delivered its judgment in the landmark freedom of speech test case, upholding an appeal from the workers’ compensation agency Comcare which argued it was reasonable for the immigration department to sack Banerji.

    So, if public servants can be sacked for anonymously posting on social media criticising government policy can a rugby player be sacked for publicly posting material that breaches the terms of his employment contract.

    It’s getting interesting – watch this space !

  11. David Tyler

    The purpose of the inland rail project is pork-barrel politics, pure and simple. The rail is not economic; it cannot compete with the cheaper cost of road freight. Although it has the backing of a private company, it will need government funding – taxpayer subsidy -to complete. Government officials, moreover, privately acknowledge that they doubt it will ever be built. And when it comes to this corrupt government, Warren Truss, who is now minister for pork barrelling and boondoggling – (Infrastructure) is less than wholly committed to the project. Of course, an inland rail project always helps to inflate land values along its route or around its proposed stations and some Coalition donors and sponsors if not members and family companies may well be in for another stroke of astonishing good fortune.

  12. Kaye Lee

    Banerji was sacked for breaching the public service code of conduct – which requires public servants to be apolitical “at all times” – for anonymous tweets, with the judges noting that implied freedom of communication “is not a personal right of free speech”.

    Regarding Folau….

    There is a standard contractual clause that players employed by Rugby Australia must abide by the Code of Conduct.

    The preamble to the Code outlines that the underlying idea of the Code is to ensure that Rugby Australia’s “core values [Passion, Integrity, Discipline, Respect and Teamwork], good reputation and positive behaviours are maintained by its players, coaches, administrators, volunteers, parents and spectators…[in a]…safe, fair and inclusive environment for all.”

    More specifically, a key clause within the Code as applicable to players (Part 2, Section 1, clause 1.7) states that players must “Use Social Media appropriately…but do not use Social Media as a means to breach any of the expectations and requirements of you as a player contained in this Code [of Conduct]…”

    Examples of related breaches of the Code include clause 1.6, making “any public comment that would likely be detrimental to the best interests, image and welfare of the Game [of Rugby Union]…” and clause 1.8, acting “in a way that may adversely affect or reflect on, or bring you, your team, club, Rugby Body or Rugby into disrepute or discredit.”

    In addition, clause 1.3 of the Code is likely to be relevant. It asks players to “Treat everyone equally, fairly and with dignity regardless of gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, cultural or religious background, age or disability. Any form of bullying, harassment or discrimination has no place in Rugby.”

    Given the above, Rugby Australia’s argument is likely to be straightforward: Mr Folau’s Instagram post of 10 April breached the Code, being generally at odds with Rugby Australia’s core values and specifically in breach by way of inappropriate use of social media in a public manner detrimental to the best interest of rugby union and otherwise bringing the game into disrepute. Accordingly, given that adherence to the Code is a fundamental term in the player’s contract of employment, Rugby Australia, as the employer, is entitled to seek unilateral termination of the employee’s contract of employment.

  13. Terence Mills

    Can we now expect those free speech warriors at the IPA and SKY to come out demanding that this infringes our rights to freedom of speech ? Somehow I don’t think they will.

  14. Kaye Lee

    David,

    Re the inland rail, there is a great deal of opposition from farmers on the Narromine to Narrabri route. To cut 24 minutes off the trip time, they have the rail going through 300 farms.

    Adrian Lyons from NSW Farmers said:

    “We believe an inquiry is necessary and should be independent of government. The multi-criteria analysis has been conducted for the Environmental Impact Statement and only focuses on one route. There needs to be a social and economic analysis that compares other possible routes.

    The community’s dealing with extreme drought, and anxiety levels are already high. That’s not being helped by a flawed consultation process which is creating more uncertainty. There are people potentially affected who still haven’t been directly contacted, and others told the route was, then wasn’t, then was, going through their farms. That’s just putting farmer against farmer.

    It’s simply not good enough, and due diligence should have been done before anyone was approached. The Coalition government, and Mark Coulton as the local member, need to be held accountable for the disruption this process has caused. ”

    Why they keep voting Nationals, or at least for dumb ones like Barnaby, is beyond me.

  15. wam

    Sorry, Kaye,(rofl)
    If the confident Dutton can order the spy boys around, judges are a doddle?
    So I have no doubt the arguement that expressions of religion are not subject to such clauses will win the puppet of the xstian lobby, Folau, $millions for his trumpeting of his silly beliefs.
    Would be a great step forward if he could be cross examined, on his beliefs in an open court. Wouldn’t the media have a ball?
    ps
    Trump wants Rocky home A$AP. Does trump use $ for S???

  16. phil

    The LNP is corrupt through and through…..they have the keys to the Treasury vault and their very own conga-line of grifters and thieves are just walking in with sacks and walking out loaded to the gunwales with our common-wealth….this is a government out of control…..so where is the Opposition? Where is the national ACTU strike? Where is justice? Where are the AFP – well, that one we can answer, in bed and cosy with their minders…but for Pete’s sake this is a coup and the majority stupid bloody conservative Australians just sit back and watch the cricket, go to the TAB, and bang in a few nails out the back….what a pissant nation this has devolved into.

  17. Matters Not

    Keitha Granville August 6, 2019 at 3:57 pm:

    The government sees it as THEIR money.

    Indeed the government does. And it seems to me the government is on very safe legal grounds. After all, it’s the government that decides how much will be collected via taxation, fines, duties, tariffs, fees etc – so in that sense, surely it’s the government that has the decision making power. Or do you have a different view? Secondly, it’s the government (specifically) which decides how that revenue (now their money) will be spent. Or, again, do you have a different view?

    Perhaps you might explain why you think it’s still our money and not theirs after the government decides what will be collected, when it will be collected, how it will be collected … etc? Or perhaps I don’t appreciate the difference(s) between ‘our’ and ‘their’?

    Perhaps tense is the problem? You know – because it was once ours – it always remains just that – even though we were legally separated from same. Not a donation but a legal obligation. ….

  18. Kaye Lee

    I know this is a bee in your bonnet MN but I most vehemently disagree that the money is “theirs”. Yes, they have the decision making power but they have an obligation to invest the money that we have all contributed in the best interests of the nation. It is not “theirs” to dole out to their mates even though a lack of oversight allows this to happen. It is part of the common wealth.

  19. Matters Not

    Yes the High Court overturned a decision made by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). No doubt, political observers will speculate that the High Court also sent a message to the AAT which has becomes clearly politicised by the LNP via the appointment process and has become the first port of call for government when possible …

    But surely the eminent judges wouldn’t stoop to sending a political … ?

    KL, there’s one hell of a difference between what is and what ought to be. Or are we in the business of disregarding the Rule of Law?

  20. Lambert Simnel

    The High Court decision on Bannerji is a disaster based on myopathy and prejudice.

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