Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Many Pubsters are aware of John Menadue’s Pearls and Irritations, which

… began as a blog in January 2013 because John Menadue was concerned about several important issues. The first was how good policy discussion was being crowded out by gamesmanship, personal gossip, faction fights devoid of content and a ‘gotcha’ media style. Second was the importance of political action which is so much discredited and derided by populists and conservatives.

Politics is about how power is exercised. It is a noble calling which must be restored in public estimation. The third was the preoccupation of Australian mainstream media with newsfeeds out of US and UK, to the neglect of media coverage and interest in our own region.

Those words “Politics … [i]s a noble calling which must be restored in public estimation” resonate strongly with me. The blatant venality and corruption so evident at every level of government in Australia is the worst I’ve seen in my lifetime, and I know many share my view. So I thought that it would be useful to make this new thread a tasting-plate of recent Pearls and Irritations articles that concern integrity (or lack thereof) in Australian governance.

See if budget creates a future, and beware of dirty tricks!
By JACK WATERFORD | On 6 October 2020

Close observers of Tuesday’s federal Budget will no doubt have their eyes out for evidence of the usual political chicanery towards political donors, lobbyists and friendly interests, as well as mates, cronies and relatives of senior members of government, this time in the alleged cause of stimulating demand and picking winners in the post-Covid economy.

That eye is more necessary than ever before, if only because government has become more shameless, with less and less respect for evidence, proper process and transparency. But it is not the main game. This time about, indeed, there is a risk more serious than of government shovelling money towards its friends and cronies. It is that it will be doing too little, too conservatively, and with too little imagination and open mind, with the result that economic and social recovery will be delayed. Those who will suffer most from this timidity will be disproportionately the usual suspects: low-paid workers, casual workers and people in part-time work, pensioners and welfare beneficiaries — including the young, the aged, the disabled, indigenous Australians and many temporary workers, including overseas students. But the fabled little capitalist in “small business” — the people that the coalition pretends it is all about — will probably suffer more than most as well.
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Sports rorts and muddy waters
By IAN CUNLIFFE | On 8 October 2020

Last summer, just like much of the country, the federal political landscape was ablaze.  Scott Morrison was caught out taking a secret holiday in Hawaii; and those who weren’t evacuating from bushfires were very angry about sports rorts. 

One of the cunning ways by which Morrison and his Attorney-General, Christian Porter, sought to lower the temperature on sports rorts was to muddy the waters as to whether the whole exercise was illegal.

Many observers expected that the scandal would have blown over by now.  Those observers seem to have underestimated the deep impact that sports rorts affair had on many of John Howard’s old “battlers”. They were angered that wealthy clubs of the rich and famous got the grants which, according to Sport Australia’s careful analysis, battling clubs in the suburbs and the regions should have got.  Bridget McKenzie telling us that one tennis club is just the same as another – White City of White Cliffs?  Kooyong or Quambatook? – was just petrol on the fire.  (The Quambatook tractor pull is certainly better than Kooyong’s).
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“Disgraceful” Tudge puts him self above the law
By IAN CUNLIFFE | On 9 October 2020

Late last month, the Federal Court’s found that Minister, Alan Tudge engaged in criminal conduct by keeping an asylum-seeker in detention and depriving of his liberty for five days in defiance of an order by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal that the man be released. 

The Court described Tudge’s decision to deprive the man of his liberty as “disgraceful”, and said: “The minister cannot place himself above the law”:  “The minister has acted unlawfully.  His actions have unlawfully deprived a person of his liberty.  His conduct exposes him to both civil and potentially criminal sanctions, not limited to a proceeding for contempt.”
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Michael Pascoe: Forget the ‘Daz and Glad Show’, this is the real political scandal (The New Daily Oct 15, 2020)
By MICHAEL PASCOE | On 16 October 2020

It’s the secret sexual relationship that sells the ‘Daz and Glad Show’ and elevates it from being merely yet another corrupt NSW politician before the ICAC, but it also distracts punters from the much bigger scandal.

Disgraced former National Party MP Daryl Maguire’s litany of rackets and wheezes are impressive for their breadth and, sometimes, shallowness.
Skimming the Wagga Wagga RSL’s spending on cutlery. Really, Daryl?

For all his efforts though, it’s small beer, the work of a wannabe grifting on the fringes of a vastly more professional and richer industry devoted to influence peddling, insider knowledge and structural corruption.

Actually, it’s more than that: It’s an industry steadily undermining our democracy, weakening our institutions, entrenching and reinforcing privilege.

Over time it perverts government and increases inequality. When insiders keep selling access and influence and the rich and powerful keep buying it and profiting from it, the citizens end up betrayed.

That is the core of the lobbying industry – selling access to politicians and senior bureaucrats, bending outcomes to their paymasters’ benefit. Those with the money get the inside run and the rest can go whistle, all the more so as the public service is intentionally run down.
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Morrison Government is running scared of a federal integrity body
By DAVID SOLOMON | On 16 October 2020

This week’s trials of Gladys Berejiklian only confirm the Morrison Government’s largely unspoken fears that a federal ICAC would do the government a lot more harm than good.

The Morrison Government, in theory, supports the creation of a federal version of NSW’s Independent Commission Against Commission. The proposal has been on the table for two years, following the belated (and agonised) decision of Labor nationally to include a federal ICAC among its policy objectives.

The political manoeuvrings over its creation demonstrate how resistant the Morrison Government really is to having a federal body with the powers of the NSW ICAC or Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission. Attorney-General Christian Porter is supposedly negotiating with cross-bench senators about the proposal – not with the ALP or the Greens, who have had their own legislative proposals for a strong ICAC-like body on the books for the past three Parliaments. But the cross-bench senators haven’t heard from the Attorney-General since he said he would begin talks with them.
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Why the resistance to a national anti-corruption commission?
By IAN CUNLIFFE | On 16 October 2020

Scott Morrison and Christian Porter are insisting that a new federal integrity body could not look at old corruption. What is that about? Is it because there are skeletons in too many people’s closet? Is it the extent to which Alexander Downer and other senior officials benefitted financially from their activities during the Australian Government’s shenanigans on behalf of Woodside and others over oil and helium, which should always have been Timor-Leste’s, in the Timor Sea?

Preposing the case for the commission feels like pushing against one of those beautifully crafted doors that will open to the slightest touch. Everyone supports a federal anti-corruption commission, including 85% of the population. Federal Labor came out in support in January 2018.

In December that year, Prime Minister Morrison, with Attorney-General Christian Porter at his side, announced he would move to establish one. An appropriate discount needs to be made for propensity of this Government to announce many more things than it ever gets around to doing. Indeed, the Big Announcement seemed to be a cunning ploy to buy time and do nothing. That seems a likely story with what Morrison and Porter called the Commonwealth Integrity Commission.
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The Gladys and Daryl Show. Having to squirm in open hearings acts as a disincentive to venality
By JACK WATERFORD | On 20 October 2020

If Gladys Berejiklian, and her ludicrous consort, have to take one for the team, let it not be for tiny misdemeanours but for being parties to a corrupted mindset of the spoils of public office.

One has only to look at the daily papers to see constant reminders of how the system is broke. There is a fresh scandal every other day. Beyond the Maguire (and Berejiklian) inquiry, or Hayne, we have seen in recent weeks a tribunal considering whether Crown Casino, and owners associated with it, such as James Packer, “are fit and proper people” to be allowed to operate in Sydney.
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Gladys’ arrogance paves the way for Federal ICAC
By MUNGO MACCALLUM | On 20 October 2020

The most remarkable thing about the revelation of Gladys Berejiklian’s love life was that it was remarkable at all.

It is quite incredible that every person in the Macquarie Street bubble – government, opposition, staff, journalists, lobbyists, innocent bystanders – was completely oblivious to the fact that once the day’s work was over, the premier and her paramour would regularly go off for a bit of bonking in the background.
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