From travel rorts to Paladin, to union raids and the Banking RC, hiding is what the Morrison Government is about, writes Canberra correspondent John Passant.
Need a holiday? Contact Matty Cormann Travel. Book your adventure, give us your credit card details and we’ll forget to charge you.
Terms and conditions apply. First, you have to be a senior government minister. Second, you have to know the CEO of a multimillion-dollar travel agency through your shared political organisation, which happens to be in government. It helps if that person is the honorary treasurer of the party in government. Then you have to phone him and ask him to arrange the travel for you. Finally, that travel agency or related parties have to be involved in contracts with the federal government.
Minister Mathias Cormann’s unbilled holiday has seen the Prime Minister defend him — he just forgot to check his credit card bill. The man in charge of Australia’s finances can’t manage his own. Seriously? As the Prime Minister also helpfully pointed out, Senator Cormann has now paid for his $2,780.82 holiday. Yes, Prime Minister, after the media revealed his "mistake". Maybe the dog ate his credit card bill?
The surrounding circumstances – a Liberal Party crony, direct phone calls to the CEO of this multimillion dollar company and the government contract matter – mean there is a rotten smell about this holiday. We should know all the details. We won’t.
The story is not yet dead and buried. Labor’s Jim Chalmers in Question Time asked the Prime Minister if the PM was certain of the propriety of other ministers’ travel arrangements organised by Andrew Burnes. Burnes is the head of HelloWorld, Honorary Treasurer of the Liberal Party and the man who organised Senator Cormann’s travel. He responded that there was nothing within his knowledge to suggest impropriety. Given Jim Chalmers question, we may wonder who else has booked their (possibly unpaid) holidays through Burnes?
Hiding the truth from the public is what this Coalition Government is about. We will never know the full story about the Cormann family holiday. We probably will never know the full story about the farce that is the Paladin Manus Island security contract.
During Question Time, the Government tried to play to its perceived strength — border protection. They have become more confident since an IPSOS poll conducted for Nine Media (formerly Fairfax) on Monday (18 February) showed a tightening of the race between the two parties. It indicated the Government on 49% two-party preferred and so, apparently back in the race.
The Government seems to think this improvement in its fortunes of 3-4% is due to Labor’s support for evacuating sick refugees to Australia, indicating weakness on border protection. It believes that this enough to bring the doubters back to the Coalition fold.
The question is, would 4% of voters abandon Labor based on a few days of xenophobic politicking on this issue? Labor and Labor supporters can relax. It is possible this was an outlier. The 3% swing against Labor and to the Government compared to the last poll in December could be just a margin of error result. Ipsos is not always reliable.
‘Ipsos has a reputation for being volatile and it always has the Greens too high. Both the volatility and the high Greens vote may be explained by Ipsos being the only live phone pollster in Australia — Newspoll, Essential and ReachTEL use either robopolling, online methods or a combination.’
The Queensland Galaxy poll of 52% to Labor and 48% to the LNP suggests this IPSOS is an outlier, but we will know more when the next polls are released. First cab off the rank will be Newspoll in The Australian on Monday. It is likely to show Labor still comfortably in front.
The mantra of border protection itself hides the truth. The Medivac Bill reveals the reality that five or six years of locking up people who have committed no crime can make people extremely sick. Nauru is hiding the truth, presumably at the Australian Government's urging, by passing legislation to ban sick people being medically evacuated from Nauru. And the Government has finally admitted it is re-opening Christmas Island to further brutalise these sick people.
The Government has also been hiding the truth about the AWU raids and the leaks to the media. This is likely to have been politically motivated because the person who stood to lose most from these raids if anything untoward came up, which it has not, is the current leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten.
Not only that, but the Government can play the guilt by association card: raids; police; AWU; Shorten. Senator Michaelia Cash denied in Court that the raids were politically motivated. Ben Davies, her former head of staff, disagreed. He said that having TV cameras there at the time of the raid was ‘to the political detriment of Mr Shorten'. One of them has to be wrong.
Minister Cash, despite the Prime Minister’s assertions, did not cooperate with Australian Federal Police, twice refusing to give a statement. Not only that but according to the AFP, some evidence relevant to their enquiry into the leaking of the raids may have been destroyed.
When a unionist refuses to answer questions from the Australian Building and Construction Commission they can be gaoled for six months. Any union official under suspicion of destroying documents to derail a police investigation would likely be prosecuted.
Labor’s focus in Question Time was on asking the Government to extend Parliamentary sitting days to deal with the 76 Banking Royal Commission recommendations. When Parliament rises this week, it is likely there will be at maximum three consecutive sitting days in total from 2 April (and taken up with the budget), before Parliament is prorogued for the 2019 Election due in May.
There could easily be eight sitting days set aside in March to debate and pass key banking legislation.
Again, in its answers, the Government hid. It takes a long time to get these things right, they muttered. We shouldn’t rush into it. Just like they did not rush into and, indeed, voted against a banking royal commission 26 times.
The Government are dragging their feet on implementing the recommendations of the Hayne Royal Commission into banking. The last thing they want is their pro-bank responses to the fairly soft recommendations of the Hayne Royal Commission made public and debated before the election and shown up for what they will be — a slap on the wrist with a wet lettuce for the banks.
You can follow Canberra correspondent John Passant on Twitter @JohnPassant. Signed copies of John's first book of poetry, Songs for the Band Unformed, are available for purchase from the IA store HERE.
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