Corruption galore 7

By December 28, 2020Australian Politics, Business, Society

When I first started compiling all these instances of corruption, I thought that the rate at which I came across them would decline, and it has to a slight extent, but they just keep coming, albeit not as quickly as before. Thus far, I have published 6 lists, since March 2020, detailing the massive corruption by the federal government and to a lesser extent from state governments1-6. I have been following politics for almost 40 years and have never seen corruption on such a scale. The sad thing about this is that the politicians, especially those in the federal Coalition, know they can get away with it, as they have Murdoch media lying for them and increasingly, Nine media ignoring the obvious, or publishing abject rubbish you’d expect to see in a Murdoch outlet. When the reckoning comes, and it mus, if we are to avoid becoming a failed state, the media will have to take a considerable share of the blame. Soul-searching by the media is already surfacing in the United States, as they enter the last few weeks of the appallingly destructive Trump presidency7.

The List

The Ellume scandal

Emails obtained under freedom of information show Health Minister, Greg Hunt‘s office was “very keen” for the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to review the use of self-diagnosing devices, including for the flu. It followed an enquiry about Ellume, and its flu-test device, to Mr Hunt’s office. Ellume’s chair is multi-millionaire entrepreneur Paul Darrouzet, who donated $100,000 to the federal Liberal Party in 2017 and has also donated to the Queensland Liberal National Party. In May last year, John Skerritt, the deputy secretary at the TGA, emailed colleagues: “Had another call from the MO [minister’s office] – they are very keen for this issue to be reviewed.” Ellume has been trying to get its do-it-yourself flu test approved for use in Australia, but existing regulations prevent it. In an email dated May 30, 2019, Skerritt said: “The basis for this prohibition, which has been in place since 2010, was that it is considered that such testing is best conducted in conjunction with a healthcare professional.”8

The Greater Sydney Commission scandal

Sydney Business Chamber directors and the president of the peak body for developers wrote a confidential letter to the Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, in March 2018 urging her to seize ministerial control of the Greater Sydney Commission, which then fell under the Department of Planning. This letter was written the same month the Greater Sydney Commission released a report that was unpopular with developers because it recommended industrial land be protected from being rezoned for high-rise residential purposes. A few months earlier, Berejiklian’s secret lover, disgraced MP Daryl Maguire, had been intercepted in a phone call by the Independent Commission Against Corruption complaining to her that the Greater Sydney Commission was causing “big problems” with his prospective land deal near Western Sydney Airport. The secretary of the Department of Planning, Carolyn McNally vehemently opposed the move, warning it risked creating uncertainty and confusion, and that it offered no obvious benefits to NSW. Two months after receiving the letter, Berejiklian moved the Greater Sydney Commission under her control.9

The Marco Polo Club scandal

John Barilaro and his father Domenic joined the Marco Polo Club in the early 1990s. With Domenico as a director, the Marco Polo Club took out a $621,000 mortgage with NAB Bank. Within two years, half of this loan had been repaid. The club was thriving, especially thanks to the roughly $700,000 worth of poker machines the club owned, which provided a significant income stream. However, in January 1996, the remainder of the mortgage with NAB (some $300,000) was discharged. Just before the mortgage was repaid in full, the Marco Polo club was transferred to a newly created company called Monaro Properties Pty Ltd. One of its founding directors was Domenico Barilaro; John Barilaro was once its secretary; and as of 7 December 1995, the Barilaro family held shares in Monaro Properties. It appears that Domenico Barilaro, the director of both Marco Polo Social Club and Monaro Properties (along with other club directors), had sold the Marco Polo clubhouse to his company for $300,000. In 2016, the New South Wales government awarded a $425,000 grant to rebuild Queanbeyan’s Marco Polo Club, of which Domenico Barilaro (John Barilaro’s father) used to be a director. The grant came from the NSW Stronger Communities Fund which was run at the time by none other than Deputy Premier and leader of the New South Wales National Party, John Barilaro.10

The Ellis-Hallett scandal

A Western Australia Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) report found former Liberal Legislative Council members Brian Ellis and Nigel Hallett engaged in serious misconduct by deliberately choosing to use their electorate allowance to fund personal lifestyle expenses, including lavish dinners and attendance at strip clubs. The report also found Mr Hallett employed his long-time “intimate” friend Bonnie Cornwall over seven years, despite her not doing any “meaningful work for her pay”. “She took home salary payments totalling more than $60,000 for what was allegedly half a day’s work a week, accrued leave and was awarded pay rises,” the report stated.11

The Football Queensland scandal

Former Liberal politician Robert Cavallucci was hired as CEO Football Queensland (FQ) on nearly double the pay of the previous chief executive, at almost $320,000 a year. No-one else in Queensland community sport is receives that sort of salary. The CEO was recruited via a two-month consultancy that earned the president of the FQ board Ben Richardson $44,000. Richardson’s position is a voluntary role. This scandal has outraged high-profile national players, and has led to the hiking of fees for all soccer players in Queensland young and old, and to former World Cup bid official turned activist Bonita Mersiades being sued for defamation to the tune of $800,000 for revealing these payments in January; for telling the truth.12

The Clay Target Association scandal

The New South Wales Premier, Gladys Berejiklian oversaw a fund that reserved $5.5 million in grant funding for the Australian Clay Target Association’s clubhouse and convention centre in Wagga Wagga, from which Daryl Maguire and his business partners later attempted to profit. Maguire had been publicly calling for a convention centre in Wagga Wagga since 2005, and after the grant was announced he received kudos for playing a critical role in its delivery. According to an admission from Maguire’s business partner Phil Elliott to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, he later attempted to secretly gain a commission from the clubhouse development.13

The taxpayer-funded Christmas Party

Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg billed taxpayers almost $5,000 to take the prime minister’s private jet on a whirlwind trip to Sydney on the night of Lachlan Murdoch’s 2019 Christmas party, leaving Canberra after 6pm on December 5th, attending the Le Manoir mansion (in Bellevue Hill) soiree and then returning to the capital before 9am the next morning. This was while Sydney was blanketed in smoke from the worst bushfire season on record. The party was filled with celebrities, rich-listers and politicians, including Australia’s richest man, Anthony Pratt, the former NSW premier Mike Baird and the Crown casino boss, John Alexander.14

Cash for visas scandal

Most people who obtained visas from disgraced former New South Wales MP Daryl Maguire in his so-called ‘cash-for-visas’ scheme remain in Australia, and some have become citizens. This was revealed by the Department of Home Affairs when they fronted a Senate committee on Friday December 4, 2020. In testimony to the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption in October, Maguire admitted to selling visas to 14 foreigners as part of a ‘cash-for-visas’ scam. Under questioning, Home Affairs confirmed nine of the 14 remained in Australia, and three had progressed to citizenship.15

Taxpayer-funded dirty weekends

Between 2015 and 2020, the New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian, made multiple taxpayer-funded visits to Wagga Wagga, the seat of disgraced MP Daryl Maguire with whom she was having a close personal relationship. Berejiklian’s taxpayer-funded trips were all associated with government announcements, although sometimes these involved relatively slight amounts of funding. A number occurred on Fridays or on the weekend.16

The Vales Point scandal

In September 2015, the then NSW treasurer, Gladys Berejiklian sold the Vales Point coal power plant to Trevor St Baker’s Sunset Power International for just $1m. At the time, the state government believed the 40-year-old generator on the shore of Lake Macquarie was on the way out and unlikely to last to its scheduled 2029 closure date. St Baker, who is a big time donor to the coalition parties, told the Australian Financial Review that while Vales Point had been a loss-making business for years, he and Sunset Power International’s co-owner, coal baron Brian Flannery, were experienced hands who would trade “in a smarter and more effective way” and run the plant for at least seven years “if coal-fired power generation continues to be required in NSW”. Documents released this week showed a profit after tax last financial year of $134.7m and a dividend of $62m. The year before it was a $96.8m profit and $30m dividend. The sale price was never a true reflection of the value of the plant. Just two years after the sale, in September 2017, the company valued Vales Point at $731m, up from $70m a year earlier.17

The Adelong grant scandal

While the New South Wales Premier, Gladys Berejiklian has been under pressure to explain the handling of the $252 million Stronger Communities Fund, it has gotten worse. It has been revealed that $255,000 was taken out of the Stronger Communities Fund on the Premier’s personal request. This was announced by the Premier on August 17, 2018 in a press release filed on the Liberal Party website under a candidate page for Julia Ham, the party’s contender for the seat vacated by Daryl Maguire after his resignation earlier that year over corruption allegations. The funding was ostensibly to deliver “much-needed tourism projects in the historic former gold mining town of Adelong”. The press release included quotes from Ms Ham, who failed to win the seat, and a video where she is seen standing next to Snowy Valley Council Mayor James Hayes, who is heard thanking the Liberal government and urging residents to support Ms Ham. Although the funds were announced during the campaign, the money wasn’t formally requested by the council until months later.18

The bushfire recovery fund scandal

Australia’s bushfire recovery fund, announced by Scott Morrison, has given $10m to a paper mill owned by one of Australia’s richest men and major Liberal Party donor, Anthony Pratt, and hundreds of thousands of dollars to a forestry group with links to the Cayman Islands. More than half of the $2 billion fund has now been spent on clean-up costs, immediate bushfire assistance, mental health support, emergency relief, back-to-school support and volunteer compensation. Despite promises that the fund would be simple and accessible to smaller community groups, bushfire-affected residents are struggling to navigate the complex grants processes – requiring the assistance, in some cases, of professional grant writers or full-time volunteers to even apply for money.19

The Casey Council scandal

Two councillors who voted for projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars in Victoria’s most populous and fastest-growing council, the City of Casey, in Melbourne’s southeast, between them received more than $1.2 million in payments from a property developer and his associates, the Independent Broad-based Anticorruption Commission (IBAC) has heard. Forensic accountants for IBAC, estimate personal payments to Councillor Sam Aziz and his related entities amounted to close to $900,000 and those to Councillor Geoff Ablett totalled more than $330,000. There have been votes on matters where very significant financial relationships between property developers, planning consultants and councillors have not been disclosed. Developer John Woodman maintained a close and controlling association with a group of councillors who lined up votes in favour of his interests. The “corrupt” cash payments were structured so as to disguise the flow of funds from Mr Woodman and his related entities.20

The Flower Drum scandal

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg headlined an exclusive fundraising dinner at the upmarket Flower Drum restaurant in October 2019 attended by developer John Woodman, a key figure in the Casey land scandal who had been raided by Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission 18 days earlier. Also in attendance was former Liberal MP, now lobbyist, Lorraine Wreford who represents Woodman. Her home had also been raided. Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed in mid-December 2020, that he had ordered a $5000 contribution to his 2019 election campaign from Woodman, be sent to charity after IBAC began its public hearings. Both major parties have now been embarrassed over donations from Mr Woodman, with Premier Daniel Andrews last year facing questions over a 2017 dinner, also at the Flower Drum restaurant.21

The NT gas subsidy scandal

The Minister for resources, Keith Pitt, has announced it would pay the gas industry up to $50m to speed up exploration in the Northern Territory. The commitment, also prompted warnings that taxpayers’ money could flow offshore to companies linked to tax havens and a Russian oligarch. Bruce Robertson, a gas analyst with the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said the grants would bring “zero return” for taxpayers. He said there was at least $11bn in gas assets for sale in Australia, with companies including ExxonMobil and Origin Energy struggling to find buyers, and the NT was a remote market unlikely to produce cheap product unless it was heavily subsidised. “The gas industry is not even investing itself so why would the federal government?” he said.22

Sources

  1. http://www.blotreport.com/2020/03/08/corruption-galore/
  2. http://www.blotreport.com/2020/04/30/corruption-galore-2/
  3. http://www.blotreport.com/2020/07/01/corruption-galore-3/
  4. http://www.blotreport.com/2020/07/28/corruption-galore-4/
  5. http://www.blotreport.com/2020/09/23/corruption-galore-5/
  6. http://www.blotreport.com/2020/11/18/corruption-galore-6/
  7. https://www.baltimoresun.com/opinion/columnists/zurawik/bs-ed-zontv-trump-media-no-mercy-20201222-twriwoeftncvtc7vy7u6pldqj4-story.html
  8. https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/greg-hunt-denies-helping-liberal-donor-push-for-regulator-s-review-20200123-p53u4o.html
  9. https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/premier-s-planning-shake-up-came-after-secret-letter-signed-by-developers-20201122-p56guw.html
  10. https://www.michaelwest.com.au/a-barilaro-affair-how-the-barilaros-ended-up-with-the-clubhouse-when-the-club-went-under/
  11. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-26/ccc-finds-two-former-wa-liberal-mps-misused-electoral-allowances/12923226
  12. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-25/second-whistleblower-attacks-football-queensland-governance/12910828
  13. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-12-03/gladys-berejiklian-daryl-maguire-clay-target-association/12937658
  14. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/dec/04/pm-and-treasurer-bill-taxpayers-for-private-jet-to-lachlan-murdochs-christmas-party?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other
  15. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/dec/04/three-people-in-daryl-maguires-cash-for-visa-scheme-could-be-stripped-of-citizenship
  16. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/oct/16/gladys-berejiklian-made-multiple-taxpayer-funded-trips-to-daryl-maguires-seat-of-wagga-wagga
  17. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/dec/05/how-coal-baron-trevor-st-baker-turned-a-1m-power-plant-into-a-money-making-machine?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other
  18. https://www.ballinaadvocate.com.au/news/gladys-255k-pork-barrelling-exposed/4155364/
  19. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/dec/16/anthony-pratts-visy-wins-10m-from-australias-bushfire-recovery-fund
  20. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-18/ibac-investigates-casey-council-property-planning-land-deals/11711960
  21. https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/liberals-in-a-cash-quandary-after-casey-developer-donations-revealed-20201218-p56os4.html
  22. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/19/zero-return-government-savaged-over-taxpayer-grants-to-open-up-new-gas-basin-in-australia

11 Comments

  • Patricia Hull says:

    The country is a disgrace and no more than a Second World country. The LNP has dragged us into this

    • admin says:

      Patricia,
      You do not have to convince me. We used to be a nation worth emulating in some ways. Not now; not in any way.

  • Jon says:

    Nothing surprises where the LNP is concerned but prima facie the Barilaro situation looks particularly egregious as far as gross misuse of taxpayer funds for individual profit. That situation looks a prime candidate for ICAC.

  • Jon says:

    Political honesty is, over all, an oxymoron – their benchmarks are orders of magnitude below community standards and expectations – but again we have to ask, is the Albanese led Opposition asleep at the wheel or simply too incompetent to keep these bastards “honest” ?

  • Russell says:

    If anyone imagines that little “virginal” Gladzy Bikerlijina is always just an innocent bystander to a swirling vortex of rorting and crass cronyism all around her, maybe think again. Yes, those very smelly activities that indicate the Liberals’ total contempt for the electorate of NSW…. By the way, the Premieress has somewhat shed her usually dull dressing style. She’s lately worn a more nifty sort of white or cream outfit; a smart little sign no doubt, of her political purity and probity. Colours that pollies wear at certain moments are not random: they serve as a subliminal message to the tele-watching public. .

    • admin says:

      Russell,
      Yep; she is just as bent as most of the others. The ‘I don’t need to know that bit’ was for plausible deniability not from boredom. If anyone thinks otherwise, I’ve got a bridge to sell them; cheap.

  • Warren says:

    How much for the bridge?

  • jon says:

    Agree Russell. Her ‘I don’t need to know about that bit’ comment revealed at ICAC – and not volunteered by her, the fact that she kept the relationship going well after Maguire admitted his corruption, and her astounding comment attempting to justify her gross misuse of taxpayer money from the “Stronger Communities” slush fund* tell us where Berejiklian’s integrity bar is set. Based on these examples alone you’d need to be a limbo champion to get under it.

    * https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/no-premier-pork-barrelling-cannot-be-justified-20201127-p56ioa.html

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