Corruption and incompetence flourish under Turnbull Government

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Events in November have reinforced the notion that the party of corruption, incompetence and criminality in Australia today is the Liberal Party.​Alan Austin assembles the evidence.

A quiz question has bounced around the social media this month. Readers are invited to have a shot:

Over the last 30 months, since May 2013, 17 state or federal parliamentarians have been forced to resign from the executive or their party following allegations of illegal conduct. How many were Labor Party MPs?

(a) All 17.
(b) Eight, fewer than half.
(c) Only five.
(d) One.

Answers seem to vary with exposure to mainstream news reports, particularly on the trade union royal commission. Answers (a) and (b) are most popular among consumers of newspapers, and commercial radio and TV. But sometimes (c).

The correct answer is, in fact, (d) one. Of the last 17 state or federal MPs sinbinned, 15 are Liberal Party members. One is a National and one is Labor. More on these delinquents shortly.

This is just one pointer to the reality that the party of corruption, incompetence and criminality in Australia today is the Liberal Party. At least seven other issues have emerged just this month. Each demands a full inquiry.

1. The mysterious Mantach

Senior Liberal Party executive Damien Mantach was gaoled this month on charges relating to the disappearance of $1.5 million over a four-year period. This follows reports that, in 2008, financial irregularities forced him to relinquish a senior Liberal job in Tasmania.

An inquiry must investigate why audits took four years, who appointed Mantach, who knew of the 2008 matters, who exercised oversight, who else was involved in the alleged fraud and what is happening in other Liberal state branches.

2. Huge "fees" for Liberal donors

According to the Financial Review, transaction fees for this week’s sale of the NSW power grid were a 'massive’ $134 million:

‘Banking sources place the fees for their advisers JP Morgan and Royal Bank of Canada at about $20 million. Each. Plus a cut of the debt and equity fees. Sweet Mary! As for the government's advisers UBS and Deutsche Bank, disclosure on the NSW tender website "estimated" they would each earn $17.5 million for their work ...’

Three of these recipients – JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank and UBS – have been generous donors to the NSW Liberal Party. An inquiry must determine why so many beneficiaries reaped such huge ‘rewards’ from the public purse.

3. Windfall gains in Victoria

Liberal Party members, executives and donors reaped multi-million dollar profits from the former Baillieu government's failed urban renewal project at Fisherman’s Bend in Melbourne.

Investigations in The Age this month claim the Liberal federal treasurer

‘... is among a slew of party activists and donors who either bought into the renewal precinct before it was rezoned or were long-term property owners that pressed for redevelopment of the area.’

Taxpayers are now picking up an expensive tab. Inquiry essential.

4. Construction fatalities

Two construction workers killed on Wednesday bring total fatalities in the sector this year to at least 21. The total killed last year was 29. That compares with 17 for 2013.

But here’s the thing. Bureau of Statistics data shows construction activity fell substantially in 2014 — down 3.9% on 2013. It fell disastrously in 2015 — down 14.2% on the previous year. That’s the worst annual decline since data collection began.

How is such a steep rise in fatalities possible when activity is severely contracting? Perhaps this. For years the Liberal Party has vowed to reduce constraints on business profit-making.

PM Malcolm Turnbull said in May:

“One of the important things we should do is make sure that we remove as many obstacles to enterprise and entrepreneurship as we can ... That is one of the reasons the Abbott government has been so assiduous in cutting regulation and red tape.”

An inquiry must investigate the link between promises to scrap regulations and deadly non-compliance.

5. Ashbygate police investigation

Federal Police investigating an alleged stolen diary visited the home of senior Turnbull minister Mal Brough last week. Then Clive Palmer claimed in Parliament on Wednesday that Brough asked him for “at least $200,000" to help "destroy" former speaker Peter Slipper through court action. The investigation is reported to embroil Liberal MPs Christopher Pyne and Wyatt Roy and former staffer James Ashby.

Independent Australia conducted an intensive three year investigation into this matter, culminating in a new book released last month. The information contained in this exposé, written by Sydney bureau chief Ross Jones, should form the basis of the full inquiry that is desperately required into this tawdry affair.

6. $55 million to Cambodia

A fifth refugee was sent to Cambodia last week under a bizarre $55 million deal. An inquiry must determine how such a crazed scheme – sending five refugees from the richest country in the region to the poorest, at such a phenomenal cost – was ever conceived. Was the money spent to protect asylum seekers — or the Liberal Party?

7. TURC footage for political ads

Earlier this year, the Liberal Party produced a three and a half minute anti-Labor TV ad accusing Opposition leader Bill Shorten of corruption. The ad used documents and footage generated by the Trade Union Royal Commission (TURC), which this month cleared Shorten. The ad, however, is still online.

An inquiry must investigate whether generating political attack ads was in fact the TURC’s primary purpose and, if so, enforce the reimbursement of the $80 million cost to taxpayers.

These seven follow several earlier findings or allegations of illegality or corruption.

8. Bribing people traffickers

Witnesses to these violations of international law have made credible reports to authorities in Indonesia and Australia. Full inquiry essential.

9. Cayman Islands

We know prominent Liberals invest in this notorious destination for tax evaders and other criminals. An inquiry must determine the extent of tax evasion via offshore havens, what this costs, how it can be stopped and how funds can be recovered. If this embroils other political parties, so be it.

10. Expansion of tax avoidance and evasion

The Senate inquiry found multinational companies making huge profits in Australia use various accounting tricks to avoid taxes. Chevron Australia – a Liberal Party donor – has admitted paying $248.00 in tax on $1.7 billion profit. Full inquiry urgently required.

11. Expenses rorts

These include travel expenses which cost Liberal speaker Bronwyn Bishop her job, Tony Abbott’s PR exercises “volunteering” in Aboriginal communities – including $80,000 for catering – and many others. A full independent inquiry is long overdue.

12. Selective application of criminal law

Commercial broadcaster Ray Hadley’s public demand that minister Scott Morrison swear on a bible in September breaches section 20 of the NSW Oaths Act. Why no prosecution?

13. ICAC corruption findings

The Independent Commission against Corruption has exposed multiple instances of illegal donations to the Liberal Party in NSW involving party officials and MPs.

Which brings us back to the quiz question. Liberal MPs expelled over party donations were Chris Hartcher, Chris Spence, Darren Webber, Barry O'Farrell, Bart Bassett, Andrew Cornwell, Tim Owen, Garry Edwards, Marie Ficarra, Mike Gallacher and Craig Baumann,

Liberals pinged for other reasons in the last 30 months round out the 15: Greg Pearce, Troy Buswell, Bronwyn Bishop and Arthur Sinodinos.

Making up the 17, Adam Marshall and Adem Somyurek are National and Labor respectively. Not all stood aside are necessarily guilty. At least one has been rehabilitated.

So what about Craig Thomson, Eddie Obeid and Bernard Finnigan? Their resignations took effect earlier, as did those of Independent Terry Martin, Nationals David Gibson and Richard Torbay, Liberal Mary Jo Fisher and former Liberal Peter Slipper. Labor MPs Billy Gordon (now an Independent) and Cesar Melhem avoid listing as they were not ministers and remain party members. They may be added later.

Clearly, no party is squeaky clean. The quiz highlights, however, the fact that media focus on Bill Shorten has succeeded admirably in depicting Labor as the party of corruption. It isn’t.

You can can follow Alan Austin on Twitter @AlanTheAmazing

The book ASHBYGATE, by Ross Jones (published by Independent Australia, 2015) will be officially launched at 10.30 am, 10 December 2015 at the Shearwater Resort, 79 Edmund Street, Caloundra. All are welcome. Refreshments will be served. You download this book as a eBook HERE, or purchase as a paperback HERE.

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