Tuesday 24th of November 2020

a lame excuse for sitting on their butts...


The Morrison government insists coronavirus is behind delays in establishing an anti-corruption commission, despite receiving a draft bill in December 2019.

Senior officials from Attorney-General Christian Porter’s department presented him with an exposure draft of the legislation about 10 months ago.

Deputy secretary Sarah Chidgey detailed the timeline at a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra on Wednesday.

“Part of the consideration with COVID is making sure that it’s an appropriate time to conduct a comprehensive consultation process,” she told the committee.

“That has been part of the reason for delaying release of that exposure draft.”

Labor senator Murray Watt was flabbergasted by the delay.

“Wow. So he’s been sitting on it since last year?” he said.

The Coalition committed to establishing a federal anti-corruption commission almost two years ago.

A corruption scandal engulfing former NSW Liberal MP Daryl Maguireand a controversial $30 million federal land purchase have reignited calls for a national body.

Government minister Zed Seselja said Mr Porter would release the exposure draft soon.

“We have been dealing with the COVID crisis and the Attorney-General in a range of capacities of course has been dealing with that response,” he said.

He said getting the detail right was important.

Senator Watt questioned if the Coalition had decided fighting corruption could wait.

“The government’s argument as to why it has not been able to deliver a Commonwealth integrity commission that it promised nearly two years ago is that there’s just too much going on,” he said.

Department secretary Chris Moraitis said some resources had been diverted to industrial relations reform, which the government considered more pressing.

He said the department had progressed work relating to the commission as far as it could and was now waiting for the exposure draft’s release.

“We respond to the minister’s priorities and we have other areas of priority we’ve been dealing with as well,” Mr Moraitis said.



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their hands were tied behind their backs...

A United States Marine Corps (USMC) helicopter crew chief says Australian special forces shot and killed a bound Afghan prisoner after being told he would not fit on the US aircraft coming to pick them up.

Key points:

  • A US marine says Australians were known to leave "fire and bodies" in their wake in Afghanistan
  • Australian soldiers from 2nd Commando Regiment told the ABC the US Drug Enforcement Administration refused to work with the November platoon in Afghanistan
  • It is unclear if the alleged killing is covered in the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force's inquiry

Josh* flew 159 combat missions for the USMC's Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469 (HMLA-469).

He has allowed the ABC to publish pictures of him but has asked that we don't use his real name because he fears retribution.

He has told ABC Investigations he was a door gunner providing aerial covering fire for the Australian soldiers of the 2nd Commando Regiment during a night raid in mid-2012.

The operation took place north of the HMLA-469 base at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan's Helmand Province.

It was part of a wider joint Australian special forces-US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) campaign targeting illicit drug operations that were financing the Taliban insurgency.

"We had done the drug raid, the Aussies actually did a pretty impressive job, wrangling all the prisoners up," Josh said.

"We just watched them tackle and hogtie these guys and we knew their hands were tied behind their backs."


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slack on the paperwork...

The Berejiklian government handed out more than $250 million in council grants, almost all in Coalition-held seats, in the months before last year's election without any signed paperwork.

The government has confirmed no signed approvals exist for 249 grants rubberstamped between June 27, 2018, and March 2019 from the Stronger Communities Fund, established after council mergers.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian directly approved more than $100 million in the grants, but the only records of the approvals are in the form of emails from policy advisers.

After a tumultuous week, Ms Berejiklian is bracing for another bruising parliamentary period, with all focus to be on her secret five-year romance with disgraced former MP Daryl Maguire and the return to work of NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro.



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what did you expect?

'The big guys get whatever they want': Western Sydney airport, wealthy landowners and the Coalition

Land deals near Sydney’s second airport have embroiled the NSW and federal governments in separate scandals, feeding perceptions of favouritism

In October 2016, well before the Western Sydney airport land scandal exploded into public view, the conservationist Ross Coster was sitting in a committee room, tucked away in the halls of parliament house.

Coster, the head of the Blue Mountains Conservation Society, had travelled south with representatives of two local residents’ groups to share their concerns about the proposed airport development with Paul Fletcher, then responsible for urban infrastructure, and Josh Frydenberg, the then environment minister.

To his surprise, he arrived to discover two of the wealthiest landholders in the region, Mark Perich and Louise Waterhouse, were also in the room, among others.

Both spoke glowingly of the project.

The tenor of the meeting, Coster says, shifted completely, turning from one of opposition and concern to support and praise.

“I thought we were ambushed. I thought the three of us were going to meet the minister,” Coster says. “I had no idea there was going to be other people there and that all of the other people would be pro-airport.

“It put us in a difficult position. He let everyone talk for two minutes around the table and at the end of it, the consensus you got was the airport was marvellous.”

Privileged access for those ‘with a bucket of money’

It’s no great surprise that Perich and Waterhouse were consulted over a development happening right on their doorstep.


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Hey, Ross, what did you expect? These guys are CONservative and pro-development, including the "environment" minister, whoever he/she is in that party of concrete merchants and privatisation. 


Have a look at age care, where most of the Covid-death happened...


"You know, it was predicted … when these proposals were made in 1997, when the changes were made. … and documented multiple times since," she said.

Ms Saltarelli has long argued that introducing partially privatised for-profit aged care was a mistake.

"The pressures to be profitable, combined with the lack of accountability, ensured that this would happen," she said.

Others said the memo was an example of how one possibility raised by bureaucrats could transform from an idea into policy.

"The thing is that … the aged care sector has really run away with the rationalisation of care and has used it to its own advantage," said Paul Versteege, a long-time observer of aged care funding with the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association.

"Both the private sector and private providers and also too many of the charitable ones have used it to set up empires.

"They have made huge profits, and that has gone on at the expense of the people that this system is meant to serve."


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giving crooked pollies time to clean up...

The Government's long-anticipated integrity commission will not be in place for at least six months, Attorney-General Christian Porter confirmed today.

Key points:

  • The Government has released draft laws to create an integrity commission "with greater powers than a royal commission"
  • Politicians would not face public hearings under their proposal
  • The model was originally unveiled in 2018, but is set to take at least another six months to implement

Marking the release of the proposed bill for the new body "with greater powers than a royal commission", Mr Porter confirmed at least half a year would be needed for consultation.

"That will obviously be amongst the public sector, civil society, stakeholders, all of the states and territories," he said.

"It's a complicated piece of legislation."

Three hundred and ninety pages of draft laws were published on Monday, setting out a model for a Commonwealth Integrity Commission (CIC).

It would be split into two divisions, one investigating enforcement agencies like the federal police and immigration officials, the other looking at the public sector and MPs.

The former will have the discretion to hold public hearings, but that power won't extend to the division investigating politicians.

Mr Porter conceded some may lobby for public hearings across both divisions, "but the alternative argument is that when you've got a body whose powers are so great … the government takes the view that ultimately a court should be making a public determination of guilt or innocence."

"That is a view that some people will agree with and some people may not agree with and one of the reasons you've got to have an extensive consultation process."

Under the Government's model, the public sector division would prepare briefs to pass to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, which would then pursue matters in court.


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conflict of interest...

Is it time for Federal Integrity Body or should we just turn off the life support machine for integrity in the federal public sector? 


By IAN CUNLIFFE | On 2 November 2020

It is not a pretty picture.  Bernard Keane writing in Crikey said recently: “Everywhere you look in the Morrison government, you see sleaze and self-interest, if not outright corruption. Merely itemising the current scandals on foot is an arduous task.”

Keane provided a list but it was far from comprehensive.  He didn’t mention Mathias Corman’s Hello Worldtravel for his family. Hello World has done very well out of the Federal Government. It is another case where police investigated the leak of the information rather than the possible criminal breach itself. Nor did Keane mention the buses used by Christian Porter as advertising vehicles before the last federal election, which were only paid for after the transaction went public. No Godwin Grech was needed for that one. The CEO of the bus company was elevated to the AAT. Nor Stuart Robert’s enormous internet account. Nor Susan Ley’s travel expenses. These are all federal ministers, as is the trouble-prone Angus Taylor. Is Alan Tudge’s proclaimed criminality in disregarding orders by the AAT to release a man from imprisonment corrupt, or just contempt for the law – apparently sanctioned by Australia’s First Law Officer, the same Christian Porter, whose duty it is to see the law upheld.

It’s not so long ago that the Australian Wheat Board was up to its neck in corruption, and the Reserve Bank, of all people, was not immune, with Securency.

But it is not just about reciting a litany of scams.

Underlying value/culture problems are creating the tsunami of corruption. Milton Friedman created the underlying values system of the last 35 years – Gordon Gekko said that greed is good, but he was just parroting Friedman. Friedman proclaimed that there is one and only one social responsibility of business – to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game. To be fair to Friedman, we only heard and acted on the first part of the proclamation, but not the caveat: “so long as it stays within the rules of the game”.

In Australia, Friedman’s pernicious ethos was inflicted on the public sector as well as business. It led to corporatisation of the public sector and managerialism. Everything had to be contestable and everything a market. One of the ironies is that, increasingly, large amounts of public money are being spent without contestability – without a tender.

Since the 19810’s it has become an article of faith that talented people will not take on public service unless they are paid top dollar – no matter that the evidence of decades was thrown overboard. Think of HC “Nugget” Coombs, JG Crawford, Douglas Copland, Sir William Hudson – a very different man from his trouble-prone grandson. Angus Taylor would have made a fortune out of the Snowy Scheme.

It all came to be about the money.  “Just show me the money!”   Senior executives in bodies such as ASIC and Australia Post, and their Boards and internal auditors and those with internal governance roles in such entities have lost the plot. It’s too long since they were in the public bar of a pub to sense what will fail the pub test.

When people have been caught out rorting, very often they have been able to get out of that embarrassing jam simply by paying the money back.  It is not an option if you rob a bank.  So, as long as you don’t wield a gun, have a go.  If you get caught, you’ll probably just have to pay it back.

As a lawyer who often interacts with the public sector, every week I encounter public sector bodies which simply disregard the law. They deliberately act illegally or don’t even consider the law as being of sufficient importance to be bothered asking about what it requires.  In the past week, both Scott Morrison and David Littleproud have shot their mouths off: Morrison basically suspended the CEO of Australia Post without pausing to wonder whether that is one of the powers of the Prime Minister; Littleproud threatened to revoke deposit guarantees for ANZ Bank as revenge for its stricter climate policy. Laura Tingle wrote: “Littleproud and the band of Nationals MPs and senators who joined the ANZ-bashing conga line seemed to have little regard for things like a bank board’s obligation to make risk management decisions in the best interest of their shareholders, or indeed to be transparent about their actions. But maybe that is not all that surprising. It is hard to think of a recent government that has done more to reduce transparency or frustrate inquiries into activities carried out in its name.”

Sports Rorts is another case in point: $100 million was handed out for political gain and in total disregard of the governing Act. ASIC’s stated (when pressed for an explanation) policy not to oversee the activities of not-for-profit companies is another example.  ASIC has the duty.  But without publicising it, ASIC just don’t do that part of its duties.

The new disregard for ethics and integrity is seen in the explanations our leaders try to float when they are caught out.  Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack suggested that paying $30 million to Liberal party donors for a bit of land worth $3 million would look like good value one day!  Presumably he was reduced to that explanation after the Government’s two favoured explanations – that corruption isn’t a problem at federal level; and that the Federal Government can’t walk (respond to Covid) and chew gum (publish its anti-corruption proposal) at the same time – had failed that same pub test.

On a wider front, suddenly the Coalition has flipped from its forever opposition to picking winners.  The Government has announced that its policies to get the economy moving again are based on picking winners – we are going to support six priority industry sectors: advanced manufacturing, cyber security, food and agribusiness, medical technologies and pharmaceuticals, mining equipment, technology and services, and oil, gas and energy resources.

This is a Government which can’t give $100m in sports grants to the properly selected clubs when there is a better (but illegal) option of picking up some marginal seats.  What hope have we got with billions and billions of dollars which we are in the process of spending where there are no rules?

The whole exercise has been guided by hand-picked people from the industries which are set to benefit massively from this new game.  Did I hear “conflict of interest”?


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worse than bad...

Porter's plan will help cover up corruption, not expose it

When I first read Attorney-General Christian Porter’s proposal for a Commonwealth Integrity Commission, I thought that he was just putting forward a bad model. But then I realised it was worse. Much worse.

The proposed model is badly flawed. The structure, for instance, is all wrong. Why are the activities of the commission divided into a “law enforcement” part and a “public sector” part? Why, for example, should law enforcement officers, of whom the Attorney-General is the notional head, be held to a higher and different standard than the Attorney-General himself? Why do politicians get special protection?

The commission will find it nearly impossible to investigate anything. Very few persons can refer a matter to the watchdog. In practical effect, only politicians may do so. That excludes any referral from the public, or from contractors or bureaucrats – and this would be so, even where that person is specifically aware of actual corruption.

Not even the Auditor-General can make a referral — he or she would need to refer it to another politician and then keep their fingers crossed. Bear in mind that the ICAC’s inquiry into the Obeid family began following an anonymous tip-off. Under Mr Porter’s model, his commission would not be permitted to act on that call.



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the drop that overflows the bucket...



From Cathy Wilcox — the best cartoonist of our rorting times...


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like an old beer-stained pub carpet...

pub test

Another brilliant toon by Cathy Wilcox... Read from top.