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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998 thoughts on “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

  1. Scott Morrison has signalled Australia will not be granted a speaking slot at a climate ambition summit this weekend, despite telling parliament a week ago he would attend to to “correct mistruths” about the government’s heavily criticised record on emissions reduction.

    Morrison was asked on the final day of parliament by the independent Zali Stegall whether he’d been invited to the event which is being hosted by Britain, France and the UN in a bid to boost climate commitments ahead of a major conference in Glasgow next year.

    The organisers have made it clear countries will have to offer up substantial commitments to make contributions at the event, and Australia’s prime minister declared on Thursday he would not be changing domestic policy “to get to a speaking slot at some international summit”.


  2. 15:09

    Anthony Albanese to Scott Morrison:

    Does the prime minister agree that this eight-year-old government is riddled with waste and scandal including spending $30m on airport land that was worth only $3m to a Liberal party donor, $100m on sports rorts, $4.5bn to fix the second-rate copper NBN, $1.2bn to compensate robodebt victims, $20,000 on Cartier watches, and millions on his dud Covid-safe App?




  3. The federal industrial relations minister, Christian Porter, has accused Labor of “desperation” after it claimed the Coalition’s proposed workplace changes could lead to pay cuts of $11,000 for frontline workers.

    The opposition, in a demonstration of the scare campaign it could run on the issue, spent the final question time of the year arguing the bill could result in the loss of “every penalty rate and shift allowance” for workers on enterprise agreements.

    Earlier on Thursday, Porter promised to “listen” to critics but denied he was preparing to ditch the bill’s most controversial plank – a provision allowing the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to approve deals that left workers worse off than the relevant award.


  4. Good morning Dawn Patrollers

    David Crowe looks at how Australia came through the challenges for 2020.
    And The Australian’s Ewin Hannan says business is demanding a two-year delay to tougher new penalties for companies ripping off workers, increasing pressure from both employers and unions on the Morrison government to make changes to its industrial relations bill.
    Josh Butler thinks the government may back down on its IR laws as a union war looms.
    Phil Coorey says that by picking at the scab of WorkChoices, the industrial relations bill gave Labor a stronger than anticipated end to the parliamentary year.
    “Who would have thought John Setka could be such a unifying force?”, asks Michelle Grattan.
    According to Jennifer Hewett, Scott Morrison conquers the ‘China’ virus, but China is a tougher threat.
    Ben Butler writes that the boss of Australia’s biggest super fund, AustralianSuper, has questioned whether changes to laws governing the sector proposed by the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, are genuinely directed at improving retirement savings.
    The ACTU has criticised the Morrison Government’s attack on the superannuation system and is pushing for reforms, writes William Olson.
    Delivery giants Uber and Deliveroo are likely to be among well-known gig economy brands hauled before a Senate inquiry looking into the impacts of insecure or precarious employment.
    John Warhurst describes how our former prime ministers have had a big year in 2020. A good read.
    Nick Bonyhady explains the trouble Porter is in regarding his workplace legislation and trying to save face.
    Isabelle Lane tells us that critics are saying the Morrison government’s proposed Surveillance Bill could be used to target everyone from Black Lives Matter campaigners to underage kids illegally downloading movies.
    David Crowe writes that federal election rules would be overhauled to limit early voting and require Australians to show photo ID before they cast their ballots under a plan that has been labelled an “outrage” that deprives people of their rights.
    Matt Johnson lines up the many big companies that continue to pay zero company tax.
    Michael Fowler explains how the Andrews government is considering a plan where up to 23,000 students would return to Victoria by April and undertake 14-day quarantine in student accommodation.
    Josh Butler reports that South Australian senator Stirling Griff was ducking outrage on Thursday, after his last-minute parliamentary backflip that allowed the government to extend the cashless debit card scheme in a marathon Senate sitting. He effectively voted for the card.
    Ian Henschke, who is the chief advocate at National Seniors Australia, tells us that elderly Australians are dying while waiting to receive government help
    Associate Professor Matt McDonald provides three reasons meeting climate targets and dumping Kyoto credits won’t salvage Australia’s international reputation.
    Samantha Dick explains the real picture about Australians’ attitude towards vaccination.
    Meanwhile, with US states frantically preparing to begin months of COVID-19 vaccinations that could end the pandemic, a poll has found only about half of Americans are ready to roll up their sleeves.
    There is no behaviour, it seems, that warrants scrutiny or disciplinary action if you are a member of the Morrison Government. This is because the government of the day, today, is in a league all of its own, says Michelle Pini.
    The hysteria over the Victorian government’s MoU with China’s Belt and Road Initiative shows a disturbing lack of understanding of the project by media commentators, academics and some MPs, writes Colin Heseltine.
    The Berejiklian government is facing a $2 billion budget blow out on its health infrastructure program, with delays to the planned completion dates of seven major developments.
    A desperate horticulture industry has urged Scott Morrison and the states to agree at Friday’s national cabinet meeting to bring in Pacific Islanders quarantine-free, warning that the country is on track to meet a labour shortage of 26,000 people by March.
    Lisa Visentin writes that the ABC’s leading political discussion programs The Drum and Insiders lacked conservative voices in their 2019 federal election coverage, but a major review found the broadcaster met its impartiality standard. If the government wasn’t doing so many crappy things it might have looked different!
    Jeff Sparrow opines that Australia must reckon with the fact the Christchurch terrorist developed much of his hatred here.
    Zoe Samios tells us that Australia’s competition regulator will closely scrutinise a pivotal lawsuit launched by the United States government against Facebook that could force the social media giant to sell photo sharing app Instagram and messaging service WhatsApp.
    Dave Donovan farewells Mungo MacCallum.
    China has slapped another new tax on Australian wine that all but extinguishes local producers’ access to the world’s largest market.
    New research has found that poor job quality and poor working conditions are key reasons why restaurant employers have trouble attracting and retaining workers.
    The London Daily Telegraph’s Jeremy Warner explains that the choice is now between no deal and a very hard Brexit.
    Boris Johnson would only have himself to blame for a no-deal Brexit, explains Simon Jenkins.

    Cartoon Corner

    David Pope

    Cathy Wilcox

    Simon Letch

    Jim Pavlidis

    Mark David

    Matt Golding

    Glen Le Lievre

    Mark Knight

    Johannes Leak

    From the US

  5. horticulture industry has urged Scott Morrison and the states to agree to bring in Pacific Islanders quarantine-free.

    And who better to do “boring ,mindless , dirty jobs” than all those “brown people” eh Johannes ? Scum.

  6. Fiona,
    Not wishing to push my luck, I won’t agree with your comment… but…

    Clarence Darrow 1932.
    ‘I have never killed any one, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction.’

  7. What did the CrimeMinister expect when he has no climate policy at all, apart from “use more coal and gas”?

    When reading this article substitute “Morrison” for the words “government” and “Canberra” for a far more accurate picture of exactly who is livid.

    UN defends excluding Morrison from climate summit, Canberra livid with Johnson over snub

    Johnson invited Morrison to speak at the December 12 summit several weeks ago but walked away from the offer this week amid a behind-the-scenes diplomatic tussle over whether Australia’s climate change policies were insufficient to warrant a speaking slot.

    Morrison had planned to use his speech to announce that Australia would drop its controversial plan to use Kyoto carryover credits to achieve its 2030 emissions reduction targets.

    Selwin Hart, the special adviser to UN secretary-general António Guterres on climate action, said Australia had not met the threshold needed to speak


  8. Something that really pisses me off is the way journalists, even the best of them, seldom refer to legislation or parliamentary reports by their proper names, instead they make vague references to, for example, “the new surveillance bill” or “a committee report”.

    They never provide links either, we have to rummage around online to find whatever they are talking about

    I had to do all sorts of machinations to find the report from the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters. It turned out to be the “Report on the conduct of the 2019 federal election and matters related thereto”, tabled yesterday.

    If you want to read it (it’s very long) here it is –

    David Crowe managed to write a whole article telling us how outraged some were by the proposals in this report without once mentioning either the name of the committee or the title of the report. Not good enough. I don’t want to read what some journalist thinks I need to know, I want to read the actual material (bill, report, whatever) for myself.

    • This electronic age where all published Parliamentary information is accessible and well educated population is turning journalism upside down

      When I have the bandwidth I quite enjoy watching Senate Estimates

  9. More about the crop harvesting problem –

    Australians get knocked back from farm work as government tries to entice Kiwis

    Unemployed Australians across the country are being rejected from farm work at the same time as the government launches an ad campaign to entice New Zealand backpackers to come and pick our crops.

    The government is so desperate to get boots on the ground before this year’s harvest goes to waste that it’s trying to entice backpackers from across the ditch with a slick advertising campaign saying they can ‘pick their way to paradise’.

    But there is no assurance they will be paid properly – or even make minimum wage


    I’ve read a lot of articles about the difficulty Australians face in getting this work. It’s all controlled by labour hire companies now, and many of them will only hire backpackers. The rest import workers from Pacific islands who are conned into contracts by being told they will make a lot of money. They don’t – most of what they earn goes to the companies that employ them. They end up virtually slaves to these companies.

    The labour hire companies often provide accommodation that is overcrowded and squalid and charge exorbitant rent for it, or want workers to stay in certain hostels as part of the deal. The few Australians who are taken on report inadequate pay and rip-offs.

    The whole industry needs a good clean-out to get rid of the profiteers. I can’t see many New Zealanders being interested in being slaves on Australian farms.

  10. Not good news.

    Australian COVID vaccine terminated due to HIV ‘false positives’

    A billion-dollar deal for the Morrison government to buy more than 50 million doses of the University of Queensland’s potential coronavirus vaccine has been abruptly terminated after several trial participants returned false positive HIV test results.

    UQ, working in partnership with Australian global biotech company CSL, will abandon its current clinical trials following the discovery. It informed the federal government of the initial data on Monday, which was then referred to health authorities for urgent medical advice.

    Sources with knowledge of the current trials said pathology tests had in the past weeks confirmed the positives were in fact false and the health of the participants has not been put at risk


    • If he had had his way we’d be like the US by now – dying by the thousands. Never forget – he wanted herd immunity through infection and told us the only way forward was to live with the virus.

      Remember this? 16 July 2020.

      …..the best protection against the virus is to live with the virus, to live alongside the virus and to open up your economy — you don’t protect your economy by continually shutting things down


      Apparently Davd Speers said this morning the CrimeMinister has had a good year. Good in what way?

  11. Seth Meyers –

    Stephen Colbert –

    Jimmy Kimmel

    Brian Tyler Cohen –

    Anderson Cooper –

    Ari Melbur –

  12. Dear Pubsters and Loiterers,

    There will be a “thank goodness 2020 is nearly over/fingers crossed for 2021” thread up and running, but not until tomorrow afternoon.

    It won’t be all baubles and lights and champers.

    Instead, somewhat reflective.

    However, given what the world has been through in the last 12 months plus, I hope you won’t call me a Mummy Killjoy, because there will be something positive in what I’m trying to present.

    It would have happened this evening, but my computer (or, more accurately, the interwebz) did an extraordinary hissy fit and stopped me logging on to various places I needed to access.

    That seems, after 3 hours’ rejigging, to be resolved. However, my neurones have been somewhat tried, so please have patience with me until tomorrow afternoon.

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