Two years ago, MB vigorously attacked the appointment of Phil Gaetjens – the former Chief of Staff of both Treasurer Scott Morrison and former Treasurer Peter Costello – to secretary of the Australian Treasury, claiming that it would make the once august department even more politicised. Gaetjens then subsequently followed Prime Minister Scott Morrison to become secretary of PM&C last year.
A fortnight ago, we witnessed this politicisation first hand when Scott Morrison referred the sports rorts scandal to ‘yes man’ Phil Gaetjens for advice as to whether Bridget McKenzie breached ministerial standards.
Predictably, Gaetjens’ inquiry found that sports grants had not been improperly allocated during Bridget McKenzie’s tenure as sports minister, even though the Auditor-General had previously found that the grants often targeted electorates that were marginal seats the Coalition needed to win at the 2019 election.
Now, Labor leader Anthony Albanese is gunning for Phil Gaetjens’ head, claiming that it will use the resumption of parliament to demand the release of Philip Gaetjens’ investigation into the ‘sports rorts’ scandal, as well as calling for a full inquiry into the affair, including the role of Gaetjens:
Scott Morrison is refusing to release Mr Gaetjens’s report, which cleared Senator McKenzie from showing political bias in allocating sports grants but found she breached ministerial standards by failing to declare her membership of a Victorian gun club awarded $36,000.
Labor intends to pursue the Prime Minister in parliament this week over the role of his office in handing out sports grants and the release of his department’s report, which contradicted the independent Auditor-General’s finding that grants were directed towards Coalition target seats.
The Opposition Leader accused the secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet of letting Mr Morrison and his office “off the hook”…
“And for the Prime Minister to just dismiss the independent report of the Auditor-General because he has something from his former chief of staff, which conveniently lets everyone else off the hook, means that there needs to be a full and proper inquiry into this sorry saga.
“They have to go through various procedures of transparency that are there now that have been ignored.
“Phil Gaetjens, if he doesn’t know that, then I don’t know how he has got the job as the head of Prime Minister and Cabinet. It’s quite farcical, this whole exercise”…
Labor’s pursuit of Mr Gaetjens will be coupled with a larger campaign over what the Prime Minister’s office knew about Senator McKenzie’s handling of sports grants and how deeply involved it was.
Where there’s smoke there’s usually fire. Publicly announcing the findings of Gaetjens’ inquiry without releasing the report to the public shows a complete lack of transparency and poor political judgement.
Moreover, given Phil Gaetjens’ close ties to Scott Morrison and the Coalition, it is hard to believe that he would have reviewed the issue objectively.
The Senate crossbench has expressed support for an inquiry into the scheme. They should be tasked with the review.
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