Coalition corruption: Turnbull’s tawdry tenure terminates

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Will Malcolm Turnbull’s departure end one of the worst periods of corruption in Australia’s history? Alan Austin finally closes the ledger of shame.

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IT IS UNLIKELY any administration of three years or less anywhere in the Westminster world has, on its record, 113 separate instances of corruption. That is the total of documented actions which have benefited Turnbull Government members or their mates – financially or in other ways – at the expense of the community.

While few of these 113 rorts benefited former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull personally, they happened on his watch. Here is the final tally.

101. French au pairs in, Iraqi men out

Young white women have been waved through immigration by minister Peter Dutton at the request of ministers or other mates. Refugees in urgent need of entry for medical care have been refused.

102. Reef funding rort

Close to half a billion dollars in taxpayers’ money was given to a bizarre group with ties to the mining industry called the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. Why remains a mystery. The dodgy process – or non-process – was analysed soundly here and pilloried hilariously below.

103. Secret payments to private schools

Hidden payments of $7.1 million were made to 102 independent schools in 2018. Most were in NSW and many recipients are among the richest schools. This was revealed in documents obtained under freedom of information by the Australian Education Union.

104. Super profits gifted to foreign companies

Billions in potential revenue, which should be collected from the resources sector, remain in the coffers of the big mineral and energy exporters. This is due to the Coalition Government’s refusal to implement any effective resources tax — as recommended by the Henry Review in 2010.

Oxford University’s Juan Carlos Boué told a Senate inquiry Australia would be $90 billion better off if it adopted the resource tax policies in place in Europe.

105. ABC tax story pulled

The national broadcaster yielded to pressure from Federal ministers to withdraw a forensic exposé on corporate tax avoidance embarrassing to the Government and certain large corporations. ABC management claimed the article – available here in its original version – contained several errors. Others, including The Guardian’s Greg Jericho, have disputed this.

106. Lobbyists do whatever they want

An audit of the Government's Register of Lobbyists has found record-keeping by Turnbull's Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet was so poor that it was ‘not clear from the department’s records’ how many times lobbyists breached the rules.

The damning National Audit Office report said the department ‘has not established effective performance monitoring and reporting arrangements’.

The audit found the department had identified 11 instances of non-compliance. But it ‘did not remove or suspend any these 11 registrants or use this information to inform future compliance activity’.

107. Canberra homes rort

MPs who own homes in the nation’s capital are still billing taxpayers for staying there during parliamentary sittings. This rort reportedly cost $1.1 million last financial year.

108. Canavan’s property

Federal Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Matt Canavan, was sprung failing to declare the family home he bought for $555,000 last November. Canavan blamed the failure on “an administrative error”.

109. Barnaby’s land conflict

Barnaby Joyce is still holding on to land he said he would sell after admitting his ownership was a conflict of interest. The land is next to leases where Santos is exploring coal seam gas extraction, an industry Joyce has energetically spruiked.

110. Barnaby’s footy rort

Parliamentary documents show Joyce claimed $442 in travelling allowance in May last year for an overnight stay in Melbourne, citing “official business” as Deputy Prime Minister. He declared in his member’s interests register that he was a guest at an AFL match at the MCG and received 'hospitality in the form of food and drinks'.

The New Daily revealed Joyce was then the sole passenger on an Air Force flight from Melbourne to Tamworth the next day, Mothers’ Day — at a cost of $6,440.

111. Barnaby’s contra deal

It was revealed in Federal Parliament that Barnaby Joyce’s statement that he had not approached businessman Greg Maguire for free accommodation for himself and his pregnant mistress was contradicted by Maguire’s statements that Joyce had indeed approached him.

More damaging, however, were revelations that Maguire had benefited from government functions held on his properties while Joyce was agriculture minister.

112. Funding from China

Liberal Party leader in South Australia, Steven Marshall, has now admitted to having had Chinese businesswoman Sally Zou at his home on several occasions. He is yet to explain, however, what happened to a cheque Ms Zou made out to the Liberal Party for $1,212,018.

That curious amount is now understood to represent the date of Marshall’s birthday party — 21 January 2018. But the SA Electoral Commission’s website does not show a donation of that amount on its political donations register.

113. Illegal donations

The NSW Liberal Party was forced to repay nearly $250,000 in donations from two wealthy candidates which the Supreme Court found were illegal.


Fortunately, the MP whose name has recurred most frequently in this compilation of Coalition corruption, Barnaby Joyce, is no longer a member of the Morrison ministry. Others still in the ministry have, however, featured prominently here. Scott Morrison, to his credit, has not.

Let’s hope this is a sign that the new PM will have the vigilance and strength to stem this tawdry tide of trickery. He can start by supporting a Federal Independent Commission Against Corruption.

You can follow Alan Austin on Twitter @AlanAustin001.

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