Michael Pascoe has done a terrific job exposing the widespread corruption flowing through the Morrison Government’s veins:
There’s pork barrelling, then rorting, then corruption and bare-faced corruption, and now a new low: Inviting the public to rejoice in looting.
In just half a week, the Morrison government has managed to plumb two new lows.
Most obviously, there has been the idea that the government for one second could countenance a minister of the crown accepting a very large amount of money from unknown sources with no explanation.
Yet, as I write, a full day and more of Prime Ministerial silence has passed since Christian Porter disclosed the six-figure beneficence of anonymous actors with unknown motives via a blind trust.
Mr Porter apparently still has the money and his job.
The Morrison government – the one that has never been able to get around to introducing an integrity commission – remains mute.
But slipping by with much less attention has been another low in political spin, in declaring black to be white: Effectively a call to celebrate the most expensive administrative incompetence in our history – and that’s being kind about it…
The Treasurer and Treasury have been somewhat vague about whether they actually intended to omit any clawback provision in their JobKeeper legislation or were simply so incompetent as to overlook it.
Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and put it down to incompetence that they did not think to build in a safeguard to recover somewhere between $13 billion and $25 billion that they dished out to businesses that did not deserve it and did not need to keep it.
Clawback provisions are standard operating procedure for government payments subsequently found to be overpayments. Ask any Centrelink client.
But even when Treasury became aware it was in the middle of Australia’s biggest fiscal folly ever, Josh Frydenberg kept the vault wide open…
Not only would it not ask for the money back, it would protect the identity of the recipients…
The government has displayed the same thick hide and pattern of deny, dissemble and deflect that it has used to deal with its multibillion-dollar rorting of taxpayer funds for vote buying.
That attitude was on clearest display when the Finance Minister Simon Birmingham was challenged about #carporks and effectively said “too bad, we won the election, so go whistle”.
Bravo. I will not bang on about JobKeeper, since I have hammered the topic ad nauseum for weeks. But the Christian Porter affair deserves special mention.
Here we have the Minister for Science receiving up to $1 million from sources unknown via a “blind trust”, presumably to fund his legal fees in a defamation case against the ABC. But when questioned about it, Porter claimed he had “no access to information” on the trust’s funding or conduct.
This is a clear breach of the ministerial code of conduct, which states that ministers must “act at all times to the highest possible standards of probity”. Yet, when questioned yesterday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison rebuffed a question about whether Porter would remain a cabinet minister, and instead promised to look into the matter.
This breach is so bad that former Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull claimed Porter’s conduct “flies in the face of every principle of accountability and transparency in public life”. Moreover, Turnbull said that he was “staggered that Porter thought he could get away with it and I will be even more staggered if the Prime Minister allows this to stand. It is so wrong. I’m astonished”.
In a similar vein, Stephen Charles QC, former judge of the Victorian Court of Appeal and a board member with the Centre for Public Integrity and the Accountability Round Table likened the payments to a bribe via money in a paper bag:
“The problem is the secrecy. We have political donation rules,” he told TND.
“You can’t give a large bag of money to a politician without expecting to be in trouble. If the people made their names public, there’d be no complaint.”
Mr Charles said if the same money had been anonymously gifted in a bag of cash, “there would be screaming”.
“That’s what happened here; all someone has done is intervene a blind trust and say it prevents their identity being known,” he said.
“Whoever did it in this way is trying to conceal the identity of the donors. They are people who potentially may want to say in future, ‘we’ve done this huge favour for Mr Porter or the party’.”
Michael Pascoe is right. Corruption is now so common and accepted that politicians don’t even be bothered trying to hide it.
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