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Who would you trust?

Every time I hear party mouthpieces like Dutton and Morrison tell me what Australian people want, what we “know”, I have to fight an overwhelming urge to scream.

What the Australian people know is that the body politic is rotten.

In December 2012, retired judge and anti-corruption campaigner, Tony Fitzgerald, wrote a scathing article in the Australian where he warned that “politicians’ mutual contempt and aggressive, ‘end justifies the means’ amorality erodes respect for authority and public institutions and compromises social cohesion.”

He went on to say that political parties often “attract professional politicians with little or no general life experience and unscrupulous opportunists, unburdened by ethics, who obsessively pursue power, money or both.”

Little-known and often unimpressive factional leaders exert disproportionate influence. Under their guidance, the major parties have consolidated their grip on political finance, the political process and political power. As a result of their own parliamentary decisions, parties are publicly funded without a binding reciprocal obligation to act in the public interest. The power of these few, surprisingly small, unregulated groups is for now impregnable. For the foreseeable future, they will dominate public discussion and debate, effectively control Australia’s democracy and determine its destiny.

That might be tolerable if the major parties acted with integrity but they do not. Their constant battles for power are venal, vicious and vulgar. The mantra “whatever it takes” is part of political folklore. Parties equate their interest to the national interest, which they assume is best served by their ideology and its benefits for the like-minded.

Populism, paranoia and unrealistic expectations are encouraged and the naive and gullible are made envious, resentful and disdainful of fellow Australians.

This view is shared by many others.

Ted Mack, in his Henry Parkes Oration on The State of the Federation, expressed similar disillusionment.

As things stand Australian democracy consists of voting in a rigged system every few years to elect others to make decisions for us. The voters mostly know little or nothing about most candidates after the “faceless men” and “branch stackers” have had their way. We are rarely permitted to have any say on policies. Cabinet ministers, premiers and prime ministers come and go without reference to us. We go to war and sign treaties without even our parliament having a say let alone the public. When the major parties agree, as they do when funding themselves, and their mutual friends, we have no say whatsoever. It is a pretty minimalist democracy and a long way from Abraham Lincoln’s Government of the people, BY the people, for the people.

We seem to have achieved “Government of the people, by the powerbrokers, for the mates”

Writing for the SMH, Phil Cleary questioned the neutrality of political appointees and discussed how we can restore confidence in our democracy.

Regrettably, so rife is partisanship and cronyism in public life that the system’s capacity to produce independent, objective thought on inquiries into corruption or malpractice is terminally compromised. How can the community have confidence in the findings of bodies such as royal commissions when those heading such inquiries are political appointees? This truth is brought into stark relief every time a new government is elected and the public service is cleansed of those considered political adversaries, and heads of statutory bodies who were appointed by the previous government are hounded into submission. What kind of democracy is it that calls for the resignation of the Human Rights Commissioner because she expresses dismay at the treatment of asylum seekers?

Many of us have called for a federal ICAC or integrity branch but there have been so many inquiries in the past that have made very little difference that it is hard to trust that politically appointed reviewers will actually achieve anything.

The usual, and sometimes intended, outcome is a flurry of superficial activity, appointment of a suitable group of other insiders to report, lengthy discussion of their report, considerable navel-gazing, a feel-good pronouncement and then business as usual.

Realistically, since politicians are unlikely to support any significant change which might reduce their power, genuine reform will be extremely difficult. However, it is not impossible if it is owned and driven by the community.

So what can we do?

We obviously need significant reform of political donations and electoral spending with real time disclosure.

Bans on political advertising should be considered.

Media ownership laws should be strengthened rather than watered down to give diversity in reporting. Regulations should be strengthened to make sure reporting is factual.

Politicians should be banned for a period from taking up positions with companies with whom they dealt in their role in office.

The electorate should be better informed of the qualifications of candidates and vote accordingly rather than voting purely due to party allegiance. This might force the parties to be more rigorous in their preselections.

But perhaps most importantly of all, we must liberate political appointments – from the public service to the heads of bodies designated with the task of protecting democratic rights – from the political parties. We should have a panel that appoints royal commissioners, human rights commissioners, heads of the public service and ombudsmen.

Ted Mack points out the dangers of leaving these appointments in the hands of the two major parties.

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.

If we were to have a panel to appoint people to the public service and statutory bodies based on merit rather than leaving it to the government of the day to make political appointments, who might be suitable candidates with the appropriate integrity, expertise, experience and altruism to be entrusted with the job?

Who would you trust?

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  1. wam

    surely we could start at the top?
    If pollies were to publish their diary at the end of each month(like the courts have decided over brandis). In one fell swoop they can show us how hard they work, how long they are away from their family and who they meet, how long, where and why.
    If the by-election process was scrapped and on retirement or incapacity/death the AEC simply distribute the preferences from the last election to select the replacement candidate.

  2. Jaquix

    Wam – pollies would turn diaries into showpieces of busy-ness! And by-elections give voters a chance to have another say in choosing their representative. Kaye Lee another excellent article. Political appointments in particular, are insidious in continuing the ideology of the government of the day, even after they are turfed out of office. Plus no doubt in some cases spreading little seeds of “credit” for their own opportunities later, again when turfed out and looking for another cushy job. Additionally, why Kate Carnell for instance gets appointed to so many boards, enquiries etc is beyond me. Her main talent seems to be spruiking the Liberal mind-set. Australia is the poorer for this selective appointing of buddies.

  3. Kaye Lee


    When I wrote this piece I originally had a PS saying “Please don’t suggest Kate Carnell” 🙂

  4. Jaquix

    Kaye, your self-control is admirable!

  5. Kaye Lee

    She is the epitome of what this article is about. Dyson Heydon also springs to mind. He has had a manus manum lavat relationship with Abbott and big business for decades.

  6. Clean livin

    Excellent commentary, and unfortunately true!

    Just to add an example, PM’s Howard, Keating, Hawke, Fraser and Whitlam were all asked a simple question, along the lines of “would you prefer 4 year terms?”

    (The more recent were not in the jp long enough to be asked.)

    All responded in a like manner: “yes. It would allow us to get more contentious legislation through parliament!”

    So the question now is, if the legislation is good legislation, for the good of the nation, then why not introduce it anyway?

    And the answer of course is the electorate would likely remember over a shorter period, and turf us out.

    Proof that these people put themselves, and their hacks first! Damn the electorate.

  7. paulwalter

    Watched Carnell trying to sell this new idea that you don’t turn up at hospital if you are sick on the Drum last night and thought, “no doubt, Carnell knowledge is a serious crime”.

  8. Kronomex

    “Politicians should be banned for a period from taking up positions with companies with whom they dealt in their role in office.” All well and good but does the word “consultant” ring a bell? Keep the pollie as a consultant until the time period is up then they get hired to fill the position they have been consulting on.

    “The electorate should be better informed of the qualifications of candidates and vote accordingly rather than voting purely due to party allegiance. This might force the parties to be more rigorous in their preselections.” The major parties rely heavily on the fact of almost blind allegiance to keep them in power. They dread the idea of the mushrooms evolving and learning.

    “We should have a panel that appoints royal commissioners, human rights commissioners, heads of the public service and ombudsmen.” Again, this is something we can only dream of because the idea of fully impartial and non-political public servants is anathema. The party in power might be held accountable for their actions and that’s what they fear.

  9. Kaye Lee

    Another thing that should be addressed is the retirement benefits and perks that go to ex-politicians, many of whom take up high paying board appointments or careers in the private sector on leaving Parliament. If they lose their job, or quit, then they should face the same hurdles the rest of us do to find another job or fund our retirements. They are well-remunerated whilst in parliament and should manage their finances accordingly, aware of the lack of job security when they put their hand up in the first place.

  10. jim

    I don’t see anything changing unless Australia gets rid of the biased media namely, News Ltd and the government having the ability to censor the news to suit their own agenda is very undemocratic indeed.

  11. Kaye Lee

    Sooner or later we will become a Republic. We should be looking around the world for ideas on how it should be constructed. But in the meantime, we must put pressure on to clean up the corruption and snouts in troughs.

  12. helvityni

    Too right, jim, totally agree,

    Kaye Lee, not so fast, the Republic MIGHT happen , but much ,much later.

    Aussies love to tell other countries how to do things; we don’t go overseas to learn how to be more progressive….

  13. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Although I fear the ignorance and/or malevolence of dismissive, uncompassionate and stupid neoliberal parties in power, at least we have a chance of voting them out.

    I agree with Kaye that Ted Mack’s identification of the politically appointed heads of public service bodies, as often faceless perpetrators of unrepresentative and time-wasting practices, is arguably scarier still.

  14. Harquebus

    Dick Smith.

  15. Kaye Lee

    Interesting choice Harquebus.

    How about Bernie Fraser, Gillian Triggs, Ian Chubb, Cassandra Goldie, Julian Burnside, Tony Windsor, Ted Mack, Tony Fitzgerald, Tim Costello, Lowitja O’Donoghue?

  16. Steve Laing -

    Another great article Kaye, and I fully agree. The other problem we have is that the very people that set the rules are the criminals themselves, so unsurprisingly nothing changes.

    Too many of these public appointments are shoe-ins. The jobs aren’t advertised, there are no published selection criteria, the interview panel (if indeed there is one) is not publicly known. If this isn’t nepotism and cronyism, I don’t know what is.

    As I see it, the problem that exists is that more power (predominantly financial) exists amongst multinational corporations than it does in many democratic nations, some of whom (like Ireland) have been persuaded to change their tax laws to “encourage” multinationals to domicile there, unfortunately at the expense of the tax raising capabilities of other democracies. And the big concern with these big, powerful multinationals is that they certainly aren’t democratic!

    We are fast reaching a nexus where “the market” and “the needs of the people” are going to collide, probably on the issue of climate change. Democratic governments need to recognise that increasingly their goal should be to protect their citizens against the worst effects of the force of capitalism, an inexorable drive to profit (and one which we unwittingly contribute to via our super funds, where we hand over our shareholder rights to a third party driven whose role is to try and maximise profit). One might say that the objective of the free market is to benefit us all (which it certainly has and can, although it clearly does benefit some more than others), but unfortunately it predominantly only does so against a single axis – making money.

    The whole notion of what democratic governments are, and do, probably needs to be re-examined, as their influence is already, and will continue to wain. Australia, with its inability to properly regulate a free market (given the very obvious retail duopoly, the banking and petrol cartels, and the power of big mining), is quickly becoming an excellent example of what happens when governments fail (or perhaps are simply no longer able) to properly do their job. The Coalition’s role appears to be to undermine the role of government for the benefit of corporations, through decreasing the ability of government to regulate the market. They’ve done an exemplary job thus far, unfortunately.

    I agree, Kaye, that one way to do this might be to move to a more republican model – our system increasingly fails to give real leaders the opportunity to lead – but given the “corruption” in the system, and its inability (and clear lack of desire) to eradicate the disease within itself, makes it hard to work out how we will actually get there.

  17. Adnil

    Kate Carnell has only got a nodding acquaintance with reality. She joins a long list of people who should never open their mouths because they only know how to duck and weave around the truth.

  18. Steve Laing -

    It is very clear that Kate Carnell has never run a small business in her life. Her idea that small businesses want complete deregulation of opening hours is completely and utterly preposterous. She is very clearly just a trojan horse for big business (and the political puppets that do their bidding).

  19. Harquebus

    Kaye Lee
    If they advocate population reduction then, no problem.

  20. kerri

    To some of your suggestions (from yet another excellent article) Kaye Lee I would go even further.
    Retiring politicians should be disallowed from working in any area they have influence over forever! Period!
    Any involvement in an industry they have been able to influence during their time as MP’s should see an immediate cessation of any government funded pension or entitlements. In fact there should be many circumstances under which the behaviour of politicians sees them forfeit their entitlements and taxation funded retirement benefits.
    And for any panel put together for the purpose of overseeing corruption in politics, the first criteria should include no membership of any political party whatsoever.

  21. Michael Taylor

    In 1999 there was a poll of who you’d like to see as our first president. And the winner was … Lowitja O’Donoghue (then Lois).

  22. Steve Laing -

    Kerri – agreed. And whilst they are working, they don’t need a pension.

    Michael – the reason I’m leaning towards a more presidential model is because that seems to be the way that our political system is positioning itself. The last election was presented very much as a presidential model – Turnbull vs Shorten – and perhaps that is what a substantial number of the voters want (or want to believe that their votes work that way).

  23. stephentardrew

    Great read Kaye never tire of your work.

  24. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    I like the Danish multi-party system where no two or three parties have the major say necessarily and it gives diverse other parties electable opportunities based on their abilities to represent their constituents; their abilities to meander between each other’s policy priorities; and their abilities to negotiate good outcomes in the best interests of their people.

    That way, there is not one all powerful figurehead but a leader and the group of people inside a party and then with other politicians inside the multi-party parliament.

    Obama’s time as POTUS should be a salutary lesson of why the American form of republicanism is not a good one to follow. Despite his presumably good intentions, he has been thwarted every step: just think about Obamacare. So too, was Bernie Sanders who was the best chance America had in bringing about reform.

    Also, I don’t trust the current crop of neoliberal numpties in the duopoly to design and decide how the Australian Republic would be.

  25. jimhaz

    Abbott calls for lobbyists to approach his government for business opportunities

    “From today I declare Australia is under new management and is once more open for business,” Mr Abbott said.

    Abbott attacks lobbyists who influence his government

    “Former prime minister Tony Abbott has attacked a small group of lobbyists who he says are acting as powerbrokers in the NSW Liberal Party, warning the practice is creating “a potential for corruption”.
    Abbott warns that lobbyists acting as powerbrokers have a commercial interest in dealing with politicians. In an interview with Four Corners, Mr Abbott said the NSW Liberal Party was now a less representative party, “easily controlled” by factional warlords.”

  26. metadatalata

    Steve Laing, sadly most people only know what they hear from mainstream media which is not worth the print or airwaves it arrives on. People who can think for themselves would rather have anyone who is qualified to work in various portfolios leading them. At this point, Labor, Liberal and National Parties have basically just a bunch of lawyers, bankers and corporate hacks running political departments. They have no skill other than pursuing self-interest at the expense of the rest of Australia. Remember, the last election for Prime Minister was about who was worse than the other much like the current USA presidency race. It is crazy that these politicians can get away with fraud, human rights abuse, misrepresentation, spying, lying, sending soldiers to invade Syria which is resulting in even more asylum seekers and human rights abuse. The AFP have become nothing more than a politician’s goon squad and independent advisory panels have been stacked with idiots. We really need to burn down Canberra and start again.

  27. jimhaz

    Sadly democracy will be on hold until the left unites. I think the failure of Occupy to unite in terms of what they wanted indicates this is unlikely for some time. Perhaps after the next great depression – seeing as the GFC was never actually fixed – just delayed.

  28. Kaye Lee

    Two groups who should NOT be involved in designing our new system of government as a republic – politicians and big business. It will be the people who vote for change so we should start thinking about what we want for our society and how to achieve it. The politicians will delay for as long as they can so we should use the time to develop a model that the people will accept. The self-serving elite have far fewer votes than the rest of us and there are some very smart people out there with good ideas.

    Liberté, égalité, fraternité ….vive la république

  29. Annie B

    Great article again Kaye … and lots of good comment after.

    Jim said : …. “the government having the ability to censor the news to suit their own agenda is very undemocratic indeed.”

    That’s exactly what communist Russia USSR used to do with Pravda, back in older days. .. Not sure if they still do it – …… ? Pravda ( I believe ) translates to “The Truth”. Yet the communist regime decided what the people would be ‘exposed’ to … and not. The reasons considered at the time, was to keep the people happy – there was no need to tell them of horrid happenings in Russia or anywhere else in the world. Very ideological, in its’ way – but also a dumbing down of the populace, to keep them under the thumb.

    Is communism knocking on our door ? Cos democracy sure has gone out with the trash.


    so – with these self-important ‘elite’ who join the political scene here; who depend on their flocks of unthinking sheep who would never vote for anyone but their preferred and long loved party … their sparkling careers in politics is almost assured, together with all the perks and preferential treatment they are given. Not to mention the money …. and the perceived power. … There is no WAY any of them in any area of politics, would want a lot of input from the Australian people ( read voters ) … on ways to improve anything for the better ( except of course for themselves, the pollies ).

    Agree completely with Kerri too, btw. Excellent suggestions – should be implemented, but will never be, under the current political climate and ‘ways of doing things’ !!

    The system, somewhere along the line, has gone completely a*se up, allowing for decisions ( or no decisions ) to be made by a group of self-interested persons, which when analysed, are rarely good for the people of this country. …. And with Billy listing to the right – middle right by now ? – not much would change under his leadership. If he’s not careful, he will go down like the Titanic. Turnbull is already bow down and stern up – sinking.

    Maybe that’s karma, after all.

  30. Simon

    In relation to donations, the answer is simple. Set up a Centralised Donation Agency (see I even created a 3 letter acronym for it CDA) and all donations must be paid to that agency and then it gets distributed to all parties based on a formula. All donations to the agency are tax deductible, however if a person/company wants to donate directly to a candidate/party, you still need to pay it to the agency but it’s a non deductible expense and you pay 50% tax on that donation. The agency would be responsible for maintaining a public register updated in real time via a website.

    Now I’m a realist and I know exactly what will happen. Donations will dry up which will prove the point that all these so called donations are a shame. Because as per the definition of a donation (i.e. the giving of an asset and expecting nothing in return), none of the monies going to parties or politicians meet the requirements because the donor always wants something in return.

  31. diannaart

    Excellent work Kaye Lee.

    The only solutions I can foresee are all very messy and no guarantee that a new body politique would be an improvement – too many vested interests propping up the present system.

  32. Kaye Lee

    As Barnaby blathered on about Sam last night on 7:30 report, he never answered the question of what Gina Rinehart expects in return for the $50,000 she donated directly to his campaign. To join the dots, read up on ANDEV and then look at what the Coalition have suggested for Northern Australia. Also note the investment in dairy and cattle farms by wealthy business people (including Gina) just before the ChAFTA reached agreement that was (questionably) beneficial to our beef and dairy industries. Coal is good for humanity and the fossil fuel industry needs subsidising. 457 visa workers are crucial for our (read Gina’s) prosperity. Internships (read free labour) will lead to more jobs. Penalty rates and minimum wage make the economy stagnate. etc etc etc

  33. Geoff Andrews

    So, Bernie Fraser, Gillian Triggs, Ian Chubb, Cassandra Goldie, Julian Burnside, Tony Windsor, Ted Mack, Tony Fitzgerald, Tim Costello, and Lowitja O’Donoghue, eh?
    Add Dick Smith and you’ve got a pretty good panel. May as well add Carnel (for balance, or to write the dissenting report, of course).

  34. cornlegend

    Donations would stop dead going to a centralised Agency, and the taxpayer would foot the bill for another monolith.
    There are a gazillion ways of circumventing donations, and I adopt some of these. car loans, footing the bill for unauthorised pamphlets, corfliutes, HTVs, attend an auction for your chosen party and bid exhorbitant amounts, pay cash and call yourself Joe,pay staff to work full time on campaigns etc, etc,
    not giving any more away

    Oh yeah, and I ask nothing in return, only the hope they will get elected

  35. Kaye Lee

    Can we please choose someone else for balance. I truly could not stand Carnell. I have been trying to think of an industry representative I would trust and I am blank. In my opinion, we should work out the society we want, set the sppropriate regulations, and then let business work out their model. Tax never made a profitable business unprofitable so I am sure if some globals left in a huff, an enterprising Australian would fill any void. Perhaps Kate could write submissions for the panel to ‘consider’.

  36. Kaye Lee


    If we stopped political advertising and limited electoral spending as they have done in the UK and other places and used the ABC and the AEC to inform us about candidates then donations become unnecessary. I know you guys think posters and pamphlets and phone calls are important but they do little to inform people, little to help our democracy.

  37. Keitha Granville

    The only way anything significant will happen is if we have a real peoples revolution. Might even have to introduce a guillotine !!
    As long as politicians are in charge of making the rules for themselves NOTHING will change.

  38. cornlegend

    Kaye Lee

    Face to face and leaflet/signs are still the most effective way of getting the disinterested/uncommitted other than TV in OZ all the while we have compulsory voting.
    From limited research by the party, corflutes, signs, HTVs and heaps of bodies at the polling booths is still the best method, ATM

    “Blog readers are more polarized than either non-blog-readers or consumers of various television news programs, and roughly as polarized as U.S. Senators. Blog readers also participate more in politics than non-blog readers. Readers of blogs of different ideological dispositions do not participate less than those who read only blogs of one ideological disposition. Instead, readers of both left- and rightwing blogs and readers of exclusively leftwing blogs participate at similar levels, and both participate more than readers of exclusively rightwing blogs. This may reflect social movement-building efforts by leftwing bloggers.”

    Effects of the Internet on politics: Research roundup

  39. jimhaz

    The LNP might at least consider limiting donations from companies, but would expect the ALP to agree to no donations from unions….as per Michael Yabsley’s comments today.

    One would expect this would be untenable for the ALP and make the LNP so much stronger – so Yabsley is of course just “playing politics”

    I don’t have problem with union donations – providing members elect by members vote to do so and it is not used to create political careers (as in the case of Craig Thompson for example). It should never be an auto process but determined prior to each election – I for one was disgusted with the donations to the corrupt and failing NSW ALP of a a few years ago.

  40. jim

    Are the LNP any good at running the economy NO NO NO!.For the record, here are five of Costello’s most “profligate” and inequitable decisions, which created the structural deficit inherited by his successors:

    1. Permanent income tax cuts during the boom. Worth $37.6bn or $26.4bn if you exclude bracket creep in 2011-12

    During the first phase of the mining boom the federal government’s coffers were being filled with a temporary windfall gain. Costello made the decision to use this temporary windfall gain to cut income tax, mainly to high income earners. From 2005 to 2012 these tax cuts cost the budget bottom line $170bn. In 2012 they were costing the budget $37.6bn per year. Even accounting for bracket creep, the tax cuts would cost the budget $26.4bn in 2011-12. They would be worth more today. 42% of these cuts flowed to the top 10% of income earners while 80% of income earners got only 38%.

    2. Capital gains tax discount. Worth $5.8bn in 2014-15

    In 1999 Costello introduced the capital gains tax discount. Capital gains tax applies when someone sells an asset for more than they bought it for. This includes things like shares or investment housing. The capital gains tax discount means that for assets owned for more than 12 months only half the capital gain will be taxed. According to the Treasury this is worth $5.8bn per year.

    3. Got rid of fuel excise indexation. Worth $5.5bn in 2013-14

    In 2001 Costello removed the fuel excise indexation. Fuel excise indexation meant that the tax rate on petroleum fuel kept up with inflation. Its removal from the budget is estimated to be costing the budget $5.5bn in 2013-14.

    4. Superannuation tax cuts. Worth $2.5bn in 2009-10

    In 2007 Costello reduced taxation on income earned from superannuation to zero for Australians over the age of 60. At the same time he removed the superannuation surcharge.

    The superannuation surcharge acknowledged that the benefit of superannuation tax concessions flowed mainly to high income earners. It meant that those on high incomes paid a higher concessional tax rate on their super contributions and earnings. Costello abolished it in 2005 which meant that high income earners paid a flat 15% tax rate on all superannuation contributions and earnings.

    At the time these super changes were estimated to cost the budget $2.6bn per year by 2009-10. With the rapid growth in superannuation tax concessions (they are currently growing at about 12%) they would be worth much more today.

    5. The decision to convert “franking credits” into cash refunds for shareholders

    When companies pay dividends to Australian shareholders out of after-tax profit, shareholders also receive franking credits which are a credit against their own tax obligation and based on the tax paid by the company. This system, known as “dividend imputation” is unusual and only four other countries in the world use it.

    However, in 2000, Costello made the system even more generous to shareholders by allowing them to get a cash refund if they receive more in franking credits than they actually owe in tax. Because income from superannuation is tax free for people over 60, high income retirees can use franking credits to get a cash gift of over 40 cents for every dollar they receive in dividends.

    The ATO estimates that Costello’s decision to allow “excess” franking credits to be refunded as cash cost $4.6bn in 2012-13.

    These five changes are worth $56bn per annum. This is likely to be a very conservative estimate since some of these costs were for earlier years. The total is likely to be much more.

    Putting this into context, the budget deficit last year was $40.4bn. The budget conversation would have been very different if these irresponsible and inequitable changes had not been put through by Costello.

    The reason we have a budget deficit today is in no small part due to the efforts of Costello. It is interesting that he is now calling on the government to cut spending to pay for the irresponsible tax cuts that he made that mostly benefited the rich.

    A growing number of organisations including The Australia Institute are making suggestions on how the government might repair the budget by making changes that would allow more revenue to be raised. Of course, Costello dismisses these suggestions and describes them as coming from “lefties”. Presumably he thinks the IMF is a front for global socialism as well.

  41. silkworm

    Other political appointees that come to mind are Janet Albrechtsen, Keith Windshuttle, Tony Shepherd and Tim Wilson. Windshuttle was appointed to the ABC board not because of any business connections but purely to allow him to pursue quasi-religious right-wing cultural objectives.

  42. Jaquix

    What about the Wind Commissioner? Cant remember his name. What a boondoggle of a sinecure. Windshuttle would have been a good name for the appointee, who surely was not drawn from the ranks of climate scientists

  43. Matters Not

    jim, while Costello was the Treasurer in whose name ‘things’ were done, it was Howard who was always ‘driving the bus’, particularly when those ‘things’ had deep, political implications. Costello was never able to stand up to Howard.

    This is not to say that Costello and ‘advisers’ weren’t contributors to the policy making process. (They were). But how Australia was ‘shaped’ in those times was Howard’s legacy. Even when Howard’s political time had ceased, he was still strong enough to repel any Costello challenge.

  44. @RosemaryJ36

    Graham McInnes.

  45. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Rosie Batty, and I agree with all other suggestions, even Dick Smith, even though I’m suspicious of his political persuasion after his declaration that Bronnie Bishop is a friend. Ugh!

  46. Wayne Turner

    The main problems.I see,in order too:-

    *The gullible,non-thinking and ignorant voting public.

    *The Main Stream Media is owned by too few,and just the promotional wing of the Libs and Nats.

  47. Annie B

    Jennifer MS …

    good choice – Rosie Batty …. and Dick Smith ( suggested elsewhere also – good choices ).

    I believe both these people have much integrity and would preserve their standards – despite the amount of ‘persuasion’ that many fall prey to in politics.


    I tried to post the following post at around 3.30 pm today – but things went awry. … Considering the turn of comments here, it may be a bit out of whack now, but I’d like to post it anyway …. 😉

  48. paulwalter

    Good comment Silkworm..these appointments are politicised taunts.

  49. Annie B

    Seems like I am not permitted to post again ? …. have tried 4 times now, and it comes up with an AIMN header right under “LEAVE A REPLY” , plus a note worded similarly to ” seems we cannot find what you are looking for” and then gives all the recent articles to choose from ( which doesn’t work, btw ).

    I will give this a miss now, but will keep the comments for another article, if appropriate.

    Michael … is there something wrong with my post – is it being rejected ? or what ? I am being asked to ‘log in’ just above the email etc. details…. don’t think that has happened before. !!

    Meantime – to answer the question ” who would you trust” …

    A : None of ’em – not at this time.

  50. paulwalter

    Annie, what’s wrong? Your posts are up and readable as far I can see.

  51. Annie B

    paulwalter …

    Thank you for asking. I posted a longish reply at 1.26 pm today which is here, and returned to post another longish comment which does not work … zilch – zero – some time after that.

    It begins ” I do not have the degrees required to perform brain surgery ” … and is mainly about the qualifications ( or lack thereof ) of politicians to do what they are given by their leader to do. The last two small comments have been published. ( one to JMS and one – my grizzle about one not being able to be published ).

    I can see those too, and I had a ‘submitting comment’ on them – all normal …. but not the one I want to submit. Just cannot understand it, is all. [ edit ] I do see being asked to ‘log in’ on this one, have never noticed that before – but perhaps just wasn’t looking. !!

    Very very weird. And I don’t think I have said anything outrageous or potentially harmful in the comment.

    Thank you for your concern, though. 🙂

  52. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Annie B,

    I had a similar experience the other day. Maybe, it’s down to the time we take to compose our extended answers?

  53. paulwalter

    JMS maybe right, a lot of sites use timers and woe unto the soul too slow in composing their post. You’d be the last person they’d jump on and they are usually fairly quick and helpful if you have a query of them.

    As to surgery, the patient died but the cancer is doing well.

    ps, If you do FB they are there also.

  54. Jaquix

    Dick Smith was going to give his preferences to Tony Abbott, when he was considering standing as an independent in the 2016 Federal election. That rules him out for me.

  55. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Quite right, Jaquix

    although I’m sorry a clever person like Dick Smith is not so clever afterall.

    Attention: Liberal Lovers Not Allowed and if that means greats like Dick Smith, so be it!

  56. Michael Taylor

    Not sure what might have happened, Annie. WordPress was playing up a bit yesterday so I will have to put it down to a glitch in the system.

    And it’s odd that it asked you to log in. The only people who need to log in are authors and admin.

    Very strange.

    Let me know if it persists.

  57. Kaye Lee


    The same thing has happened to me before. I don’t know why it happens. Sometimes there is a problem if the comment contains multiple links or large copied bits but it can also happen for no reason I can work out. Your comments haven’t been blocked or removed. I apologise for the glitch – I know it can be frustrating.

  58. Annie B

    Thank you, to Michael, Kaye, PaulW, and JenniferMS for explaining possible reasons for all this … much, much appreciated, and very heartening.

    Michael – still showing right here, right now … just above my avatar and email address ” Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in” … um ??

    As for glitches in systems ? We all have them, I battle them daily on a PC that needs attending to, for various little bits and pieces by my tech. … Just have to make sure the money is there to do it. !!! 🙁

    Kaye – There were no links, but in trying to repost, I AM using a largish copy and paste of an amount of text. Will move that to another format and try again – later. Meantime, thank you, but no apology needed. 🙂

  59. Kaye Lee

    I think Graeme Innes is an excellent suggestion. I trust Rosie Battie and greatly admire the work she has done but wonder if she has the skills to decide on the best person to appoint to important positions.

    I have some concerns about Dick Smith since he refused to join the campaign for action on climate change because he was scared of bad press from Murdoch. Also his Australian Geographic magazine was initially printed by Dai Nippon in Japan.

    Perhaps David Gonski?

  60. helvityni

    Surprised to see that some people have chosen Dick Smith, on what basis…?
    Rosie Battie is a good woman, but hardly leadership material.

  61. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Well I’m sorry to say people but Rosie Batty is just the leadership material with skills needed to demonstrate true leadership for
    Australia’s way forward.

    Such true grit experience does not just happen in a registered job with frigging great pay.

    Such experience happens in the home having one’s eyes punched or in the workplace with bullies ganging up against one to counter argue every argument. Or, even in political circles where upcoming possibilities are silenced before they’ve had a fair chance.

    There’s no level playing field and all these great esoteric arguments could work, if there were respect for a wider field focused on institutional reformist change.

  62. Kaye Lee

    No-one is questioning Rosie’s courage, integrity, or the positive contribution she has made but if we are talking about a panel to assess the best person to appoint as a Royal Commissioner or head of a public service department or ombudsman etc, she may not have the necessary experience to help choose the right person for the job.

  63. Matters Not

    Can I ask, what David Gonski has ever really done other that to put his name to a Report that was the intellectual work of ‘others’.

    Oh I forgot he was a close friend and advisor to the late media baron Kerry Packer. And was together with Lloyd Williams, he was an executor of Packer’s estate. He also provided advice to Packer.

    Gonski was also a director of Packer’s media competitor, John Fairfax Holdings. He is close friends with Izzy Asper, Arthur Boyd, Rupert Murdoch, Kerry Stokes and Frank Lowy.

    For shit’s sake. He’s easily bought.

    How often did he appear in public to support ‘his’ report when it really mattered?

  64. paulwalter

    Burnside, Quiggin, this sort methinks for such a committee. Batty and Smith (when he’s not been a capitalist) are activists , but you need the individual capable of overview. The problem is getting to the bottom of what’s enquired upon, including involving legal niceties and economics, then getting the politicians in Parliament to act like statesfolk, not grubbers.

    Little Children are Sacred is a case in point.

    A committee did good research work and had its entire set of recommendations up-ended for tabloid political purposes by John Howard in an attempt to gain traction during the year he lost power to Rudd…more House of Cards stuff.

  65. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Interesting information about Gonski. Why did Labor choose him to research education goals. Now that explains to me why one essential piece of the puzzle was not considered: the teachers. Teachers are treated like fodder by both sides of the neoliberal duopoly.

    Talking about teachers, I would want a teacher or two on that panel and those committees.

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