Now that the date of the election has been called, and the Liberal Party has to actually pay for the election stunts and advertising of Morrison and his nearly invisible front bench1, the uncovering of rorts and corruption seems to have slowed.
As a consequence, this instalment on the appalling corruption of the Liberal Party is the shortest, as the election is under two weeks away. This series has been going for only 14 months, but the fact that it has required so many instalments has staggered and disgusted me2-12. I have been watching politics for several decades and this level of corruption is like nothing I have ever seen in Australia. It is clear that several others have felt the same way, with the Chaser compiling a detailed list of the Coalition’s misdeeds13, as have New Politics14. It has also been the subject of numerous articles in various parts of the independent media, including Independent Australia15, Crikey16, The Saturday Paper17, and The Monthly18, among others. Given this, it demonstrates how bereft of integrity are those in the Murdoch media and the Nine media in not covering this to anywhere near the same extent. One of he most important jobs in a functioning democracy is that of a journalist. Unfortunately, in the current media landscape, calling someone who works for the Murdoch media a journalist is usually false advertising19,20, while some of those working for the Nine media are either not up to the task, or like those in the Murdoch media, are lacking principles21. In the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, there are several journalists, such as Laura Tingle, who are peerless, up there with Kerry O’Brien, Paul Lyneham, Andrew Olle, and Laurie Oakes among others, while some appear to be more like stenographers than journalists, as they seem to slavishly regurgitate Liberal talking points22, or gullibly jump on the dead cats that Morrison drops in front of them23.
We need rules to make the media behave in the best interests of our democracy, not of their corporate masters. Here is what I hope will be the last list I provide of Coalition corruption.
Canavan’s family trip to Brisbane
The Liberal National party senator Matt Canavan billed taxpayers $3,676 in flights and unscheduled transport to travel with six of his family for a three-nights in Brisbane, during which he headlined Christmas drinks for the Australian Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), that planned to donate part of the night’s proceeds to him.
Canavan says he was in Brisbane for legitimate parliamentary business, including for debates and community meetings24.
The ECG Advisory Solutions scandal
In late 2018 or early 2019 Naval Group hired David Gazard to help “improve a rocky relationship with the Defence Department and to secure a crucial Strategic Partnering Agreement (SPA)”. David Gazard is well connected with the highest levels of the Liberal Party. He was an adviser to John Howard, Peter Costello and Tony Abbott, in the lobbying business with Peter Costello for a time, and is also reportedly a member of prime minister Scott Morrison’s inner circle. In the 2010 federal election, Gazard stood for the Liberals in Eden-Monaro. After two years of negotiations, in December 2018, the government announced that negotiations to build Australia’s new submarines had concluded. In February 2019, the ‘contract of the century’ was signed. Gazard and Naval Group declined to provide details on his role or the amount his lobbying firm, ECG Advisory Solutions, was paid25,26.
The Esther Foundation scandal
The Esther Foundation is in the seat of Hasluck, in Western Australia, held by cabinet minister Ken Wyatt on a rather small margin of about 2%. On March 7th, 2019, Morrison announced the grant of $4 million during an in person visit to the foundation. On May 18th, Wyatt was returned at the federal election. On June 11, the federal government’s grants portal announced the grant had been approved. The grant was made under the Community Health and Hospitals Program (CHHP). This was announced by Morrison, with $1.25 billion in funding, to be solely at the federal government’s discretion, the ideal system for pork barrelling. The fact that Morrison announced it weeks before it was approved by the CHHP makes it clear that he decided the cash should go to them, and any guidelines were superfluous to requirements27.
The Aspen Medical scandal
Health Minister Greg Hunt wrote and signed a letter of recommendation for the politically connected healthcare company Aspen Medical while it was in the midst of negotiations with his department for lucrative multi-million-dollar PPE deals. The company would go on to win taxpayer-funded contracts worth more than $1.1 billion, without a public tender. After combined losses of $7 million over 2018 and 2019, these deals have seen the company’s pre-tax profits soar to more than $420 million during the pandemic. While Aspen Medical had no prior experience in such large-scale procurement, its PPE deals with the Department of Health were worth $500 million more than any other government supplier, including those with a background in the industry28.
The only time I want to hear about Coalition corruption again is when a principled media (a big ask, I know) reports on the investigations of the federal integrity commission into the rampant corruption of the last nine years, and when they report on the crimes of the perpetrators as they are being dragged off to gaol.