Here we go again. In early March of 2020, I posted a list of instances of corruption by coalition governments, mostly from the federal government, but some from the state governments1. Not long after that was posted, it was necessary to begin another compilation as the instances of corruption continued piling up. That second effort was published at the end of April, 20202. Only a couple of days after that was posted, more instances were pointed out to me, so another compilation was begun. That third compilation was published on the first day of July, 20203, and two days later another instance was pointed out to me. So, off I went again, compiling more instances of corruption mostly from what is clearly the most corrupt federal government in living memory. That fourth compilation was published near the end of July, 20204. However, the despicable behaviour of the coalition governments, both state and federal, did not cease. As a consequence, this fifth compilation of their corruption became necessary. As I have said before, I’ll continue this compilation of travesties despite the presence of the much more sophisticated QED campaign launched by Michael West5, with the aim of instigating the formation of a proper federal Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). I can recommend QED, for we must have a federal ICAC to protect us from the sort of venal spiv who nowadays seems to be attracted to a political career.
Taxpayer funded holiday to Cocos Islands
Taxpayers footed the bill for family members of Coalition former MPs Luke Simpkins and Natasha Griggs to fly to the idyllic Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean for a weekend stay. Department of Finance records reportedly show Ms Griggs’ husband Paul flew from Darwin to Cocos via Perth and Christmas Island at a cost of $4385. Simpkins’ wife Kelly and two daughters travelled from Perth via Christmas Island for $5100. Air fares for the family members to Cocos appear to have been funded under “family reunion” provisions of the parliamentary entitlements system. Questions were raised about the appropriateness of using the family reunion provisions because travel records suggest Mr Simpkins and Ms Griggs both spent the previous week in their electorates6.
Fraser Ellis travel allowance scandal
Liberal backbencher Fraser Ellis, the South Australian MP for the Yorke Peninsula electorate of Narungga, claimed taxpayer-funded travel allowance for a night when he was photographed at an evening event just 10 minutes from his home – but declared he was staying in the city. Under parliamentary rules, country MPs can claim up to $234 per night if they live more than 75km from the Adelaide GPO and need to stay in the city to attend parliament or undertake other work duties7.
The Commtract Communications Services scandal
In May, the National Covid-19 Coordination Commission awarded a $42,000 contract to Commtract Communication Services Pty Ltd, which connects freelance communication, marketing, creative and digital experts with contract jobs. Commtract is required to provide “creative, design and editorial services” and “general support services in communicating the Australian government’s priorities and policy responses to the Covid-19 pandemic”. Commtract’s CEO is Luke Achterstraat, a former adviser to then tourism minister Richard Colbeck, now the aged care minister, and to former trade minister Andrew Robb. The firm was founded by Peter McConnell, who was previously chief of staff to the former NSW premier Barry O’Farrell8.
The Australian Small Business Ombudsman scandal
A small Liberal-linked communications firm was given multiple contracts without tender by the office of the Australian small business ombudsman, Kate Carnell, a former Liberal chief minister of the ACT. The company, Agenda C, has been awarded three contracts with the ombudsman’s office for social media-related work since it was established early last year. The ombudsman’s office said it did not use a tender process to award the contracts – worth $79,840, 79,922 and $31,989 – because they each fell below the procurement threshold of $80,000, where tenders would be required. Agenda C is led by former Liberal party advisers and candidates. Its managing campaign director, Carrington Brigham worked as party of the federal Liberal Party’s, digital strategy team on Tony Abbott’s election campaign in 20139.
Linda Reynolds travel allowance scandal
As a new Liberal senator for Western Australia, Linda Reynolds claimed $1,268 on the public purse in May 2015 so she could fly return to Brisbane from Canberra for an Australian Medical Association’s national conference entitled ‘Medicare: mid-life crisis?’ followed by a cocktail party event. Her husband Robert Reid was the AMA’s director of communications, a role he had held since 2011. Just two months later, in July 2015, Senator Reynolds charged taxpayers another $4,242 to travel 2,200 km return from her electorate office in Perth to Broome. Her visit coincided with the town’s weekend races, but a spokeswoman said she was there to attend a National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee ball. The weekend package included $1,576 in return flights for her and another $1,576 for her husband10.
The National Security Information Orders scandal
Despite the Attorney General Christian Porter being required by law to table his use of National Security Information (NSI) orders (concerning criminal proceedings) to Federal Parliament each year, he has failed to do so ever since he was appointed to the role in 2017. This is despite his enthusiasm for the legal sledgehammer he discovered when he took on the job. NSI orders confer on the Attorney General some of the most extreme powers imaginable in a justice system. Under the orders, evidence used in a prosecution can be withheld not just from the public but also from the accused, the defence team and witnesses for the defence. This power allows Porter to conceal whatever he wishes, and the NSI orders are being issued not to target terrorists or extremists but to silence whistleblowers, to burden their defence and to stop the reporting of cases that might embarrass the government11.
Taxpayer funded trip to Australian Conservatives fundraiser
Former South Australian senator Cory Bernardi charged taxpayers for a $2,500 trip to Sydney to attend a major fundraiser for his Australian Conservatives party in 2017. He flew into Sydney on the afternoon of Friday October 27, 2017. Comcar records, released through freedom of information, show he arrived at his hotel about 2pm before taking another Comcar to the fundraiser about two hours later, joining about 120 supporters for a riverside dinner at Parramatta Wharf. The records show he also used a Comcar to leave the fundraiser and return to his hotel about 10pm that night. Bernardi stayed in Sydney for the weekend, flying out on Sunday 29 October. He declined to answer questions about the trip when contacted but tried to insinuate that he had parliamentary business12.
The Dave Sharma CSL shares scandal
Since June 2020, federal MP Dave Sharma has purchased shares in CSL (formerly Commonwealth Serum Laboratories before privatisation). This is the company Prime Minister Scott Morrison has (behind closed doors) tipped to manufacture the coronavirus vaccine which is under development by Oxford University. The announcement of a non-existent agreement with AstraZeneca, who are collaborating with the university, was made by Morrison on August 19th, 202013,14.
The Dave Sharma Qantas shares scandal
At some time in February-March 2020, Dave Sharma purchased Qantas shares at plunging market lows, where the price dropped from just over $6 to just over $2. In the middle of March, the government announced a $715 million bailout package. After that announcement, the price of Qantas shares rose to about $415,16.
The Raiz Investments scandal
Senator Andrew Bragg, who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Financial Technology and Regulatory Technology, received a gift of a television from the principal of Churchill Advisory Pty Ltd, Sam Fay, on December 19, 2019. Churchill Advisory is a registered state and federal lobbyist and has a number of financial and technology clients. One of these clients is Raiz Investments and this company was one of the first invited to appear before the Committee. Of course, Dave Sharma bought Raiz shares17.
The Michael Sukkar scandal
Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar used his taxpayer-funded electorate office budget to pay one of his close friends, graphic designer Matt Pham, between 2016 and 2018. At the time, Pham worked in full-time roles for a real estate advertising company during the same period that Sukkar has said Pham worked “as a casual Electorate Officer in the Deakin Electorate Office”. Pham was tasked with designing Sukkar’s political smear files and materials to solicit party donations. That is a breach of parliamentary rules18.
Update: A federal inquiry has stopped investigating the offices of two senior Liberal MPs without hearing from staff about whether they engaged in party political work at taxpayer expense. The inquiry into the offices of Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar and former defence minister Kevin Andrews ended on Tuesday after concluding there was no sufficient basis for finding there had been misuse of federal resources. But key staff were not called to give statements to the Department of Finance inquiry, while some who wanted to give evidence were never told how to get in touch with the independent reviewer looking into the matter39.
The Urannah Creek Dam scandal
The idea of building a massive dam at Urannah Creek, northwest of Mackay, has been championed by speculators, business groups and rural politicians. It has been studied and discarded more than a dozen times. The latest iteration – a $2.9bn plan for a 1.5 trillion litre dam, pipelines, irrigation and pumped hydroelectricity – has had the vocal support of prominent National and Liberal National Party figures such as George Christensen, Barnaby Joyce and the state opposition leader, Deb Frecklington, whose husband works for the group. Since the 2019 election, the federal government has given $12m from separate grants towards planning for what would be one of Queensland’s biggest dams. In its announcements, it said the beneficiaries of those grants would be a regional business association and a Brisbane-based renewables firm. But in both cases – via non-transparent funding and subcontracting arrangements – the money ultimately flowed to a separate firm, run by prominent Queensland Liberal National Party figures and donors19.
Refusal of Freedom of Information Request
In partially refusing a Freedom of Information request about a controversial $10 million taxpayer-funded grant to Fox Sports, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher‘s chief of staff Ryan Bloxsom said the disclosure “could reasonably be expected to have a detrimental effect on the working relationship between the minister’s office and the Prime Minister’s office, now and into the future”. In addition, the letter outlining that specific decision found the public interest was to “withhold the exempt material” rather than release it. The grant was intended to boost broadcast coverage of under-represented sports. The money, in addition to an earlier $30 million, pays the sports channel to broadcast sports under-represented on television. Fox Sports is only available by subscription, meaning taxpayers must pay to watch the sports they are paying to broadcast20.
Taxpayer funded cleanup of Woodside oil production vessel
The federal government has handed Woodside Energy $8.8 million on a limited-tender basis to advise it on decommissioning one of its own abandoned oil production vessels. Minister for Resources Keith Pitt said that the oil company — which sold the vessel in 2016 to a shelf company that has since collapsed — would be providing advice on what would be needed to decommission the facility, which is now threatening to spew oil into the ocean north of Darwin21.
The ServeGate scandal
ServeGate Australia, a company founded and run by a close friend of the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has received more than $43 million in government contracts since 2015, while being a registered charity helping Indigenous businesses with advice. The company’s nominated charitable purposes are to increase Aboriginal employment and reduce welfare dependency. It became a registered charity in February 2019, and therefore exempt from income tax and GST. Shortly before that, two Indigenous businessmen became shareholders, which means the company qualifies for preferential treatment under government procurement policies that set targets for contracts awarded to Indigenous businesses and mandate preferential treatment for small contracts and those in remote areas22.
The NSW icare scandal
An ASX-listed marketing group with extensive links to the NSW Liberal Party was awarded millions of dollars in contracts by state-run workers’ compensation insurer icare without all being put to an open tender. Icare, overseen by NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, has spent more than $18.3 million since 2015 with IVE Group, an ASX-listed marketing firm run by former NSW Liberal Party president Geoff Selig. But in an apparent breach of state laws, the NSW government’s e-tender site only discloses contracts worth just over $10 million awarded by icare to the company. Between 2014 and 2019, IVE Group donated almost $100,000 to the NSW Liberal Party. It also donated $55,500 to the federal Liberal Party in 201823.
The Wesfarmers scandal
The day before the 2019 federal election, Scott Morrison’s Government gave more than $15 million to Wesfarmers, one of its biggest political donors, from funding set aside to alleviate grinding Aboriginal poverty. Just three months earlier, Wesfarmers announced a record half-yearly profit of $4.5 billion. The grant came from the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS), the government’s main Aboriginal affairs funding pool. Just one month after the contract was approved, an Australian National Audit Office report revealed the IAS had no effective framework in place to evaluate any outcomes, despite expending more than $5 billion over five years. The grant was classified as “Closed – Non-Competitive”, meaning other corporations could not bid for the money. The deal was approved on May 17, one day before the federal election24,25.
The NSW Koala State Environment Planning Policy scandal
A major NSW property developer, former Newcastle mayor Jeff McCloy, sent his concerns about the Koala State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) to Deputy Premier, John Barilaro‘s electorate office. Planning Minister Rob Stokes was sent McCloy’s letter from Barilaro’s office on September 8. This was the only stakeholder correspondence received from Barilaro about the policy which is aimed at preserving koala habitat. It was McCloy who once told the Independent Commission Against Corruption he felt like a “walking ATM” for politicians26.
The fabricated quotes scandal
The South Australian Government has awarded a $2.14 billion contract to run the city’s train network for the next eight years, to a joint venture between the NZ-founded Downer Group and French transport company Keolis. Freedom of Information documents revealed an e-mail sent by the Downer Group to Premier Steven Marshall’s Government included fake quotes attributed to Labor MPs Tom Koutsantonis and Stephen Mullighan when they were frontbenchers in 2014. The e-mail was sent on July 2, 2019, one day after the Government announced plans to privatise the running of Adelaide’s passenger rail network, despite promises by Marshall ahead of the 2018 election win, that he did not have a privatisation agenda27.
The Daryl Maguire scandal
The disgraced former New South Wales MP Daryl Maguire is being investigated by the state’s anti-corruption body, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) over an alleged cash-for-influence scandal that forced his resignation from state parliament. The former member for Wagga Wagga resigned from the NSW parliament in 2018 after a separate ICAC inquiry heard, from recorded phone conversations, he sought payment to help broker deals for some property developers. ICAC is investigating allegations that, from 2012 to August 2018, Maguire engaged in a breach of public trust by using his public office as a member of the NSW Parliament, and the use of parliamentary resources, to improperly gain a benefit for himself and entities close to him. These entities included G8wayinternational/G8wayinternational Pty Ltd and associated persons28-30.
Update: Daryl Maguire would have earned more than $690,000 for helping to “grease the wheels” in a lucrative sale of land near the Western Sydney airport, a corruption inquiry has heard. Telephone intercepts also reveal that Maguire encouraged a property investor, William Luong, to attend a Liberal fundraiser featuring the premier, Gladys Berejiklian, despite Luong’s concerns that he was classified as a property developer and was not allowed to attend38.
Taxpayer funded trip to Hillsong
Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert was a guest speaker at the Pentecostal church’s Hillsong Conference Nights event in Sydney, in July 2015. He delivered a ‘Pillars of Influence Masterclass’ lecture on how ‘innovative individuals’ are ‘influencing their pillar with the message of Jesus’. The then assistant defence minister claimed the travel entitlements ($2,326 for Mr Robert’s travel and accommodation, and $672 for his wife) for the event, claiming it was ‘official business’ even though it had nothing to do with his portfolio31.
The Kurri Kurri Gas Plant scandal
Scott Morrison has announced that the government will build a gas-fired power plant at Kurri Kurri on the site of the former aluminium smelter, if the energy sector doesn’t replace the capacity lost with the closure of Liddell Power Station. The site of the aluminium smelter was acquired earlier in 2020 by developers Jeff McCloy and John Stevens. The gas would be supplied via the yet-to-be-completed Queensland to Hunter Valley gas pipeline. That project, whose shareholders include developer Hilton Grugeon, will transport gas from the Wallumbilla gas hub near Roma in Queensland and Narrabri to Newcastle. In 2016, the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption found that, among others, Grugeon and McCloy acted with the intention of evading election funding laws relating to the disclosure of political donations to the Liberal Party, the ban on donations from property developers, and caps on political donations32-35.
The Leppington Triangle scandal
The federal government handed over $29 million to Tony and Ron Perich’s billion dollar Leppington Pastoral Company in 2018 for land next to Western Sydney Airport at Badgery’s Creek, only for the Commonwealth to value the 12 hectares at just $3 million less than a year later. The Auditor-General released a damning report into the Paul Fletcher’s federal Department of Infrastructure’s purchase of the Perichs’ land in 2018, parts of which “fell short of ethical standards”. The Commonwealth ended up paying 22 times more per hectare than the NSW government shelled out for another 1.36-hectare slice of the Perichs’ dairy farming property at Bringelly for a road. Leppington Pastoral Company is also a donor to the Liberal party, contributing $58,800 in donations in 2018-201936-37.