Thursday 9th of February 2023

at the trough .....

at the trough .....

from john passant ….

The born to rort party is back in charge and all is right in the land of the long boozy taxpayer funded lunch, dinner, wedding, party, anything.

From the Prime Minister down there are questions about expense claims.

Tony Abbott recently paid back $1094 he had claimed as reimbursement for attending Sophie Mirabella’s wedding in 2006. Mirabella of course was set to be a Cabinet Minister in Abbott’s new government but lost her seat.

Abbott is not alone. Bronwyn Bishop went to the same wedding but it is unclear at the moment whether she claimed any expenses. We shall soon find out.

When shock jock Michael Smith got married, the now Attorney-General George Brandis twerked the night away.  He also claimed more than $1700 in expenses, which he recently re-paid.

Barnaby Joyce went to the same wedding. It is not clear if he was twerking with Brandis or not, but like Brandis he also claimed expenses for attending the wedding. He has since repaid over $600 in Comcar costs.

In 2011 Australia’s  richest woman, mining magnate Gina Rinehart, flew Coalition members Julie Bishop, Barnaby Joyce and Teresa Gambaro from Perth to India in a private jet to the wedding of the granddaughter of her business partner.  All three claimed travel expenses for the return home.

Apart from the question of whether they were entitled to claim these expenses – they will mutter about talking to business people and officials – the fact that Rinehart footed the bill for their travel to a wedding raises real questions in my mind about influence buying. Here was Rinehart parading 2 senior then opposition but now Government figures to potential and actual Indian business associates.

And maybe the favour of a trip to India and the closeness of the relationship influences policy?

What is the Liberals’ position on the Minerals Resource Rent Tax again? And Rinehart’s?

The carbon tax?

It also shows how shallow and superficial the Liberals and Nationals are, letting themselves be put  in a position to accept paid favours from Australia’s richest woman.

Rinehart of course was also at Barnaby Joyce’s election night party. She was invited, but one could also draw the conclusion she went to check on how her political investment was going in the election. He won.

In 2009 Tony Abbott claimed travel expenses for parts of a tour around Australia to promote his book Battlelines.  He repaid $9400 in 2010.

Between 2009 and 2013 now Attorney General George Brandis – he of wedding dance fame – spent $13000 on taxpayer funded additions to his Library, including Hitch-22The Marmalade FilesBest Australian Political CartoonsA Dictionary of Modern English Usage and Roget’s Thesaurus. He says they were all work related.

Peter Slipper, the former Liberal National Party and then independent MP and Speaker, is currently on trial for using about $900 of Cabcharge vouchers to tour wineries near Canberra.

None of the other parliamentarians mentioned have been charged with anything. Apparently weddings are different to wineries.

Now, Federal parliamentarians have this cute little arrangement called the Minchin protocol.

As you can see from the protocol, there is an internal audit into suggestions of misuse. If it is minor – I only took a little bit of money, or the dog ate my expense records – the member is invited to give an explanation. For more serious allegations a high level Departmental Committee considers whether, among other things, to refer the matter to the Australian Federal Police.

I don’t know about you but as a taxpayer I’d ask why aren’t all matters of misuse referred to the AFP to investigate? Setting up an internal Departmental process and investigation to see if a crime has been committed looks to me as if it is removing parliamentarians one step from the criminal law.

What legal authority does the Minchin protocol have? I understand the political authority and the fact that it hides most transgressions from public view, but surely this new transparent government would want us all to know about potential instances of abuse of entitlements. Surely? Of course not, because they are all up to it.

In most cases (apart from Peter Slipper) repaying the questionable sums claimed absolves the parliamentarian from blame and from referral to the AFP.

This hides the reality of rorting – intentional or not – from view. We are paying their way. Shouldn’t we be able to see what they do, what they claim and what justifications they provide for possible abuses?

It did happen in the UK. The documents showed widespread and systematic abuse. All sides were in on it.  Here is a Wikipedia link to the long long list.

The suspicion must be that Australian parliamentarians are no different to their Westminster colleagues.

Show us the detail.  On the basis of what has come to light so far and mentioned above, (and leaving aside the consistent pattern of misuse over time,) how many more repayments have been made? FoI documents revealed it was close to $1 million over some years, with the Coalition outpacing the ALP by about two to one, with the Coalitions’ repaid claims worth more than $500,000.  For the Greens and Katter the figure was a bit over $2000.

Maybe, like public servants, parliamentarians should have to have their travel and other expenses approved before they travel, and a limit set on accommodation and daily living costs. They can then pay for anything above that limit out of their own pocket. After all, just like public servants, surely parliamentarians are servants of the public too? (Writing that made me laugh too …)

Or how about something more radical, something that happens every time workers set up their own democratic institutions? Pay politicians the average wage.

Rorting is part and parcel of the logic of parliamentarianism. They are elected to rule over us, and that includes being rewarded for their political omnipresence. Unlike mere mortals, the normal rules do not apply to them. They are above us.

This is even more so for those parliamentarians with close ties to business, in the past the Coalition but with many Labor members catching up. The logic of business is that all expenses are business related, even if they are guzzling grog, watching footy or force feeding on canapes, or all three.

The logic of parliamentarianism is similar – all expenses are related to politics and so are claimable. L’état, c’est moi. (The state, it’s me.) Or maybe it is Marie Antoinette syndrome – we can eat non-existent cake while they live it up.

And if you are a ruling class politician your mentality will almost invariably be you are born to rule.

Indeed, I wonder how many parliamentarians wining and dining at the two major football events of the last few weeks claimed, or were considering claiming, expenses or used Comcar or Cabcharge. What about past years?

Maybe it is time for another arm of the state, the AFP, to investigate all suspect expense and travel claims over the last decade and release all the details to the public? Maybe, just maybe, they could add a few more to the prosecution list, apart from Peter Slipper.

That won’t happen. Abbott has already said there will be no review of the Minchin Protocol. He knows as well as I do the stench if that happened would reach to the heavens.

The AFP won’t investigate possible misuse of parliamentary expenses independently or systemically. They and the politicians are all part of the ruling class and won’t do anything to undermine the facade of parliamentary respectability.

The Liberals Real Slogan: Weddings, Parties, Anything

 

the sad case...

The sad and annoying case here is that THE MEDIA KNEW THIS ALL ALONG — WAY BEFORE THE ELECTIONS.. But did the media want to rock the boat? Nupe... The media is as much guilty of holding on to information that should have been made public (we knew there was stink) way before, but the media wanted a change of horses, no matter what...

On this site for example I have mentioned before that should Malcolm get the top gig, some "presently hidden" dirt file could surface as if newly discovered by journos... Journos are manipulating your democracy.

 

But then the little shit Abbott claims the high moral ground:

 

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has defended his use of entitlements after confirming he paid back taxpayer money he claimed to attend the weddings of Sophie Mirabella and Peter Slipper in 2006.

It was revealed yesterday that Mr Abbott repaid more than $1,000 he claimed for a trip to Ms Mirabella's wedding, while he confirmed today that he also repaid more than $600 he claimed to attend Mr Slipper's wedding.

Just last month, Attorney-General George Brandis repaid nearly $1,700 he spent on flights, accommodation and car hire to attend the wedding of radio shock jock Michael Smith in 2011.

Mr Abbott says it was that issue that prompted him to go back and check his own travel claim for Ms Mirabella's wedding.

He says the Department of Finance was unable to provide clear advice to him about whether or not the claim was legitimate.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-07/abbott-defends-use-of-entitlements-to-attend-weddings/5002214

Abbott robbed the public purse, no two ways about it, then he had the gall to pan (his friend) Slipper for having a study tour of Australian wineries to make sure they were up to export standards... I'll drink to Slipper's integrity any day... well with a barge-pole between us, but still. Compared to Abbott, Slipper is an angel.

etiquette ....

So, former Liberal leader, John Hewson, thinks that coalition MPs should think about their reputations before plundering the public purse?

A bit like asking Hannibal Lecter to watch his table manners

jobs for the boys (and girls) for life...

The appointment of a long-time friend to Rupert Murdoch as chair of the ACCC is dubious, given potential conflicts of interest, writes Joel Jenkins.

 

IT HAS BEEN a hard year for Australian workers — many have not experienced the security and good fortunes that have been bestowed on friends of the Federal Government.

 

In a country where press concentration is a close third to China and Egypt – where that undesirable podium finish is mostly due to the amalgamation and consolidation of media led by the dominant influence of Rupert Murdoch – Josh Frydenberg has appointed a new chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), long-time Murdoch trust fund lawyer Gina Cass-Gottlieb

The 2011 Egyptian uprising was not just a revolt against the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak, but also a rebuke of the cronyism and corruption in the ruling class who had profited from its open support and exclusive access to the government. 

Rami Makhlouf, the maternal cousin of President Bashar al-Assad and owner of the country’s largest telecommunications network, became a symbol of “connected capital” in the leadup to the Syrian uprising that would eventuate into one of the largest humanitarian catastrophes in recent memory. 

From Riyadh to Rabat, the Arab world is more perceptive to the machinations of cronyism. Its private sector has generally been a vessel of the state, surviving and thriving within the petri-dish of a ruling class, generally despotic in nature. It seems to work a little bit differently in Australia.

Here, the government identifies with corporate leviathans, making vital political decisions that affect the entire nation at the whims of their desires and ambitions. Thus, satiating their threat to make or break our nation by offering their henchmen and enablers jobs as arbiters, chairs and commissioners over the engine rooms that drive the fundamentals of Australian life. 

Allowing politically motivated appointments to stream unchecked into our regulators and institutions is leading to the sacrifice of impartiality and fairness in society, resulting in the degradation of our key institutions from within.

Gina Cass-Gottlieb, a person who for decades has managed the howling screams constrained within the labyrinth of the Murdoch family trust (a director and a 12.5 per cent stakeholder, and someone who served as Lachlan Murdoch’s personal lawyer), should not be permitted the chair of the independent consumer watchdog charged with reviewing matters pertaining to issues of consumer fairness — some of them, potential issues arising from the use of those trust funds she managed.

 

If there was an example of a long term strategic goal to be had in allowing a Murdoch fox into our consumer protection chook house, it was here — the Liberal National Party (LNP) sending a message that there is only one party truly committed to the Murdoch experience.

This appointment aligns with the Government/Murdoch opposition to the same issues Australians have with News Corp's unwieldy and concentrated influence — this time by social media and tech giants. 

In a world where LNP electorates can be blatantly given 47 times more funding than neighbouring Labor seats, is it no surprise that the same behaviour is being carried out in Government appointments across key institutions, boards and government bodies, which regulate and ensure fairness across our society.

On April Fools Day this year, Senator Michaelia Cash announced the appointment of five new Fair Work Commission members, adding to the 13 former Liberal MP’s and staffers appointed key Federal Government jobs for the year to that point. 

Among these appointees – adding to a couple of dozen employer background LNP appointees embedded into our Fair Work Commission – were our champions of the workers: former private lawyer, Sophie Mirabella and Alana Matheson, a corporate heavy and daughter of the former Liberal member for Macarthur, Russell Matheson.

The gig as Fair Work commissioners came with a $387,960-per-annum salary. In a year where sections of Australia are falling apart from financial duress and job insecurity, both roles were amazingly locked in for the exact amount of years until each turned 65.

In Mirabella's case that is in 2033, in Matheson’s case, 2047 (a couple of years before the dystopian setting of the Blade Runner sequel), so basically, commissioners for life. Of the five commissioners and ten of the deputy presidents of the Fair Work Commission, every single one of them was appointed just prior to, or during the period of this Morrison Government (2017-2021).

Senator Cash mentioned that the appointments to the industrial umpire were totally qualified. But, there's a former Liberal MP who since worked in government relations for Gina Rinehart (Mirabella). And the 15 years of combined job experience (Matheson) from the child of a friend of the LNP, who in her time at business management consulting firm KPMG helped 'support clients in a range of different contexts including workplace relations and enterprise bargaining strategies'. Both seem to only capture a small section of the workforce in their illustrious job histories — the employers.

Where are the panels, processes and opportunities for the many highly qualified, non-political technocrats of this nation to rightfully prove their impartiality to make them more qualified for a role that lists impartiality as a key job requirement? 

In all the argie-bargie and the handshakes, the “she'll-be-rights” and the “mateship”, undeniable cronyism is developing in lockstep with a corporate agenda in this great barren land.

An example of the conventional grey areas in this loosely amalgamed and increasingly ridiculed federation, exploits are available for all the governments that choose to use them, and this Government is bringing it back into vogue. The time-honoured tradition of getting your political mates high paying taxpayer-funded jobs – once only cheekily whispered – has become overt and disturbing under the Morrison Government and this iteration of the LNP. 

What’s more impressive is how these appointments are happening so close to the end of an unpopular term of government, at odds with the nation across a broad range of issues, in a country still devastated from over three years of acute Murdoch misinformation and spin around the bushfires and the pandemic.

It's kind of like sowing landmines in the retreat from a murky battleground. A new government is faced with dozens of LNP-aligned commissioners, board representatives and appointees for life, strewn throughout our public institutions and regulatory bodies. This normalises the embedded over a decade of blatant “stacking”.  It takes a lot of time and money to reappoint lifetime government roles — it’s very hard to sack a public servant; we all know that old tale.

Why can politically motivated governments be allowed to reshuffle the fundamental regulatory and administrative architecture of our country to favour their political leanings? What are the major parties doing to ensure that they will not allow friends of political influence to arbitrate over the regulatory arms of our nation?

Why can't such roles be open to the best candidate, the most independent and the most detached from the political class? Surely, that would be one of the prerequisites for such vital independent roles?

We need qualified and engaged technocrats campaigning for representation in these vital roles — and governments that support them.

Australians must join them in rallying against and protesting at “jobs for mates” (the un-Australianness of it all) to ensure public scrutiny of appointments and to demand impartial and qualified people to contribute to these vital public roles that define Australia.

Any incoming government will have to deal with the consequences of nearly a decade of politically motivated appointments. How it chooses to approach this definitive situation will define the next era of Australian life.

 

This story was first published on Bogan Intelligentsia under the title, 'Jobs for mates for life'.

Joel Jenkins is a writer and actuator. You can read more from Joel on Bogan Intelligentsia and follow him on Twitter @boganintel.

 

 Read more:

https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/appointment-of-murdoch-mate-to-top-job-raises-eyebrows,15939

 

Read from top.

 

 

SEE ALSO: will we survive saucisson?...

 

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