The stench in our democracy

By November 27, 2017Australian Politics

Both Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce have been ‘caught’ accepting $40,000 donations. Both were, of course, embarrassed, but it seems that Barnaby was the only one to hand his back.

Former Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce would have been expected to be campaigning in his seat of New England, in the by-election being held because of his ejection from Parliament by the High Court decision that he was indeed entitled to New Zealand citizenship. He probably thinks he is a shoo-in, so doesn’t really need to bother to show up. However, Barnaby was in fact in Canberra, at a ‘National Agriculture Day’ function, which was held at the Australian War Memorial. At this function, Gina Rinehart, under a large Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd sign, handed Barnaby a novelty-sized cheque for $40,000, which was the inaugural National Agricultural and Related Industries Prize. She called Barnaby a ‘champion of farming’. Barnaby accepted the cheque, indicating that he would spend the money on his property. However, after being criticised by just about everyone including the National Farmers’ Federation, Barnaby declined to accept the cheque. The surprising thing was that Joyce initially thought that accepting the $40,000 cheque was perfectly reasonable. Hancock has been a generous donor to Joyce. She donated $50,000 to Joyce’s 2013 election campaign1. Joyce gives Rinehart a voice in Parliament and even more importantly, in Cabinet

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had dinner with a Chinese businessman, Liu Xiaodong, who is one of three directors of a Gold Coast based company Australian Energy Windfarm (AEW) which describes itself as China’s responsible wind power supplier. This dinner was four days after Mr Liu’s donation of $40,000 was declared. There is no record of AEW having any significant projects in Australia, and the business is registered at a suburban house. AEW is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Heilongjiang Ainaji Dianli Co. Ltd (HAD), of which Mr Liu is the chairman. HAD is said to be pursuing investment opportunities in Queensland. Queensland Liberal National Party state director Michael O’Dwyer said the party accepted donations from all Australian registered companies2. One could be excused for believing that AEW was registered in Australia, precisely for this purpose.

The National Integrity Committee is a body established by former NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) Commissioner David Ipp, former President of the Queensland Court of Appeal Margaret McMurdo and former Supreme Court judge turned chairman of Transparency International, Anthony Whealy. The committee operates within the Australia Institute and also includes former NSW Court of Appeal judge Paul Stein and former Victorian Court of Appeal judges Stephen Charles and David Harper and is supported by numerous corruption fighters. They all are agitating for a federal ICAC to be set up as a statutory authority, so that it would be independent of political interference, unlike that in New South Wales which had its budget cut in an effort to blunt its impact. The proposed statutory authority would have the powers of a Royal Commission to compel evidence, and witnesses, and could order searches and the use of surveillance devices3.

Given the inability of Joyce and Michael O’Dwyer to consider the rancid nature of their acceptance of money from companies, the laundering through the federal branch of the Liberal Party of property developer donations to the NSW branch of the Liberal Party (they are illegal in NSW), and the bizarre donations to the ACT branch of the Liberal Party from Sydney property developers4, a federal ICAC is long overdue. There is something very rotten at the heart of our democracy and it needs to be fixed.



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