This is the eleventh instalment of the list of corruption by politicians in federal and state coalition governments. The previous instalments have documented corruption as the instances of it became known1-10. This has followed the same system, recording them as I became aware of them.
As I have said before, most of the corruption is designed to enrich certain parliamentarians directly, to enrich their associates, or to enrich those who donate to the Liberal and National parties, or all of the above. Enriching their associates and donors is also a way of laundering public funds given to their donors as grants, subsidies or tax cuts, by turning a proportion of those into political donations. It is no wonder that the federal government are avoiding instituting a federal integrity commission. If there was one properly constituted, a proportion of the members of the coalition parties would likely end up in gaol. Besides this episodic compilation there are other organisations, such as The Chaser11, New Politics12, and The Monthly13 who also keep a tally on the government’s corruption.
In the previous instalment, I referred to Australia’s slide down the global Corruption Perception Index. At that time Australia was ranked 11th cleanest in the world and had slid 8 points (to 77) in the 8 years between 2012 and 202010. That slide has continued and has dramatically increased its rate. The 2021 rankings are now out and Australia has dropped another 4 points (to 73) in a single year14. Australia is now ranked as the 18th cleanest nation.
The corruption from this government has continued apace all through its tenure from 2013 until today. It is likely this corruption will continue, unless this government is voted out of office. Here is the 11th list of incidents of corruption.
The PBFH Pty Ltd scandal
The Liberal senator Hollie Hughes is performing paid consulting work for a for-profit biofuels company. The work has been disclosed on her register of interests through a trust assisting “charitable organisations”. Hughes has insisted she properly declared her interest as a potential beneficiary of the SLN Services Trust, claiming her work for PBFH Pty Ltd will help the Australian company setting up in Papua New Guinea to “reinvest in local communities”. Use of a trust appears to have helped Hughes side-step the requirement to declare “any other substantial sources of income” on her register of interests, as she was advised would otherwise likely be necessary by the Senate clerk15.
The South Arm Pipeline scandal
Barnaby Joyce has used a water infrastructure fund to grant $5 million to build a 6.8km pipeline under Hobart’s Derwent River to water a newly planned, privately owned golf course. Hobart is the second-driest capital city, making the proposal to build a golf course far away from any reservoir, a difficult sell. The developers of the pipeline, South Arm Pipeline Pty Ltd Ltd is owned by another company, Mary Ann’s Island Pty Ltd. Mary Ann’s Island is also the owner and developer of the South Arm Golf Course, indicating that the primary beneficiaries of the funding will be the golf course. A director of Mary Ann’s Island is James Groom. James is the brother of former Tasmanian Liberal minister for environment, parks and heritage, Matthew Groom. The land on which the South Arm Golf Course is to be built is Crown Land which was leased to Mary Anne’s Island Pty Ltd in 2014 when Matthew Groom was still in charge of the Parks and Heritage portfolio. Coincidentally, Mary Ann’s Island was incorporated in 2009, the same year that Groom received his portfolio. He did not disclose the conflict of interest when the crown land was leased to a company controlled by his brother. It has been said that Michael Groom had stood aside during the decision process; however, a reference to that has not been found in the Tasmanian Parliament’s Hansard16.
The Kangaroo Island port scandal
South Australia’s Deputy Premier and Attorney-General, Vickie Chapman, misled state parliament and should be referred to the state’s ombudsman for a conflict of interest, a parliamentary committee has been told. Rachael Gray QC, the lawyer leading the inquiry into Ms Chapman’s refusal of a deep-sea port on Kangaroo Island, has made the recommendations on the final day of a two-week committee hearing looking into whether she had a conflict of interest. Chapman has vehemently denied she had a conflict in making the decision as Planning Minister. Chapman owned land across the road from a forest which would have been felled if the port went ahead. Gray said Chapman should have had “some doubt” as to whether or not she had a conflict and she “should have at least reported it to Premier” and “the Premier, pursuant to the ministerial code of conduct, has a responsibility to address any failure to disclose a conflict of interest”17.
The Safer Communities grants scandal
The Coalition used five rounds of its Safer Communities grants program, to fund 225 applications were awarded funding worth $47.9m against the recommendations of the Home Affairs Department; Peter Duttonwas then home affairs minister, with the assistant minister Jason Wood, who visited some of the applicants who received grants. The decisions to award grants against the recommendations of the department had been influenced by the lobbying of MPs and senators. It raised concerns about applicants having direct access to decision-makers. The audit report found the program favoured Coalition-held seats in the lead-up to the 2019 election, and was critical of how grants were awarded with more than half being without a “clear basis for the decision”. Some of the projects funded were even ineligible under the guidelines18.
The Costa Group Scandal
The Morrison government has awarded $630,000 in funding for the installation of fibre-to-the-premises NBN to a single business in the electorate of the Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, despite the government having previously argued against taxpayer funded fibre upgrades. Fruit and vegetable grower Costa Group, which has reported a 2021 yearly net profit after tax of $64m, is the sole beneficiary of a planned upgrade from satellite NBN services to a full fibre to premises service. The upgrade is for the company’s tomato glasshouse facility in Guyra, in the New England electorate, as part of the federal government’s Regional Connectivity program. In Joyce’s register of interests, he discloses his partner, Vikki Campion, has shares in Costa Group, although the register does not indicate how many shares she holds. The funding decision was made by the former regional communications minister Mark Coulton, with the communications minister, Paul Fletcher. In late 2021, when Labor promised to add another 1.4m premises to the government’s existing plans to upgrade more homes to fibre across the country, Fletcher accused the opposition of wasting taxpayers’ money with the upgrade. Now it seems that is OK19,20.
The Australian Property Reserve Pty Ltd scandal
Services Australia awarded a $3.59 million property contract to a close friend and associate of Morrison government cabinet member Stuart Robert at a time he was the minister responsible for the agency. The tender was awarded to Australian Property Reserve Pty Ltd for the continued lease of its Central Coast Smart Centre at Tuggerah, NSW, in July 2020.
Australian Property Reserve was registered as a company in August 2015 and lists John Margerison, a former LNP fundraiser who Mr Robert has described as a “very good friend”, as its sole director. According to ASIC documents, all shares are owned by United Marketing Pty Ltd and United Marketing, in turn, is owned by Margerison. Margerison was also a long-term chairman of the Fadden Forum, Mr Robert’s fundraising machine named after his Gold Coast electorate21.
The Urannah Creek Dam scandal continues
The federal government’s announcement of funding to help build the Urannah Dam in north Queensland would direct $500m to a project facing serious questions about its economic benefit. An economic analysis, commissioned by local environmental groups, found the Urannah Dam project could return as little as 26c for every dollar invested by the government. A subsequent investigation found that $12m in federal funding announced since 2018 ultimately flowed to Bowen River Utilities, which at the time of the $12m grant– was worth $100 on paper and run by John Cotter Jr, a former member of the LNP executive.
It has been reported that the additional $500m grant would go to that same company22-24.
The coal for Ukraine scandal
On Sunday, the prime minister, Scott Morrison, announced the government was buying 70,000 tonnes of thermal coal from Liberal donor, miner Whitehaven Coal to donate to Ukraine even before finalising the cost to the taxpayer, which is likely to be about $31 million – and failed to approach at least one other major coalminer to gauge their interest25.
The Emissions Reduction Fund scam
The Morrison government’s Emissions Reduction Fund, has wasted more than a billion dollars of public money on projects that don’t reduce net emissions. Three-quarters of the projects awarded lucrative carbon credits by the government yielded no environmental benefit, according to Professor Andrew Macintosh, one of Australia’s foremost experts on environmental law and policy and the director of research at the Australian National University law school. He described Australia’s carbon market as a “sham”. “People are … getting credits for growing trees that are already there,” he says. “They are getting credits for growing forests in places that will never sustain permanent forests. And they are getting credits for operating electricity generators at large landfills that would have operated anyway.”26
Another dam scandal
The deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, has dissolved the national advisory body established less than two years ago by his predecessor, Michael McCormack, to scrutinise major water projects. This came after an expert member of the body, Stuart Khan, expressed concern, in letters to other members, that the government’s funding announcements to build dams had been made for “brazenly political purposes” and without the advisory body having been given an opportunity to consider the proposals. The advisory body was not consulted before the announcements of $5.9 billion in funding – to build the Urannah and Hells Gates dams in north Queensland27.
The Future Leaders scandal
This year’s budget included the establishment of a multi-million-dollar scheme known as the Australian Future Leaders Program. The budget papers show the government plans to provide $18 million over five years from 2021-22, and an additional $4 million per year after that. The money would be handed to a foundation called The Australian Future Leaders Foundation Limited. There was no tender process, and the foundation had no office, website or staff and was established in April 2021. It has no record of previous leadership experience. The address in Barangaroo it lists as its registered office is occupied by a law firm. In the December budget update, the government amended the tax law to list the foundation as a deductible gift recipient (DGR), which means it can receive donations that are tax deductible and backdated this to July 202128.
This corruption never stops. As I have said many times; I have been watching politics for decades and this government is by a country mile the most corrupt I have ever seen. They make Queensland’s famously corrupt Bjelke-Petersen government look like amateur criminals by comparison.