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Politics Editorial

Scott Morrison’s gold standard ICAC distractions

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Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons

It’s both comical and disconcerting to see the Prime Minister huffing and puffing over a few, admittedly expensive, gold watches.

As news of Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate’s up-market gifts for her senior executives surfaced this week, Morrison was apparently incensed.

The PM bellowed that he was “appalled”, he was “disgusted” with the “abuse of taxpayers’ money” and that it was “disgraceful”, before the suitably theatrical finale of, “And it’s not on!”.

It’s firstly comical that the PM can say the words “gold watch” with a straight face, given another gold watch fiasco a few years back. During that particular gift bonanza, it was Coalition ministers who received gold watches. Worth $250,000, those Rolexes were worth ten times as much as the "bargain basement" ones Holgate bestowed. One of the recipients of those earlier and classier timepieces was also Stuart Robert — a senior minister in the current Morrison Cabinet.

This, however, Morrison was neither shocked nor appalled to discover. 

Morrison’s confected outrage over Holgate's gifts to executives is even more disconcerting when you consider that it is his hand-picked Australia Post board that approved these particular gold watches in the first place.

Yet, in his characteristic, "let’s-find-a-scapegoat" style, it is only the current CEO who has warranted the PM's furious displeasure.

And Communications Minister Paul Fletcher jumped on the outrage bandwagon faster than you could say "Western Sydney Airport land deal".

Fletcher contributed:

"I was as shocked and concerned as everybody else to discover this … I have asked the chair [of Australia Post] to provide the full support of the company for this investigation, and I have also asked the chair to inform the chief executive that she will be asked to stand aside during the course of this investigation."

Holgate, who also scrapped $7 million in executive bonuses this year, said:

"I have not used taxpayers’ money. We do not receive government funding. We are a commercial organisation … It was a recommendation from our chair that these people get rewarded.”

In an added twist, hundreds of post office licensees across the country are each mailing Prime Minister Scott Morrison a $5 note in a show of support for the Australia Post CEO.

Licensed Post Office Group executive director Angela Cramp said:

‘"There's a huge groundswell of support for Christine Holgate."

According to Cramp, the watches were "minuscule in the face of $100 million in savings each year for five years" and a fraction of the money Holgate has saved Australia Post licensees and taxpayers.

Areas that should warrant some of the outrage the PM found for the watches but apparently do not, include, but are not limited to:

Then there are the CEOs still raking in the mega bonuses while claiming JobKeeper handouts and even sacking staff, such as:

  • Star Entertainment Group CEO Matt Bekier, who received an $800,000 share bonus, laid off 90 per cent of staff and raked in $64 million in government handouts;
  • SeaLink Travel Group CEO Clinton Feuerherdt, who received $504,000 in short-term bonuses, paid shareholders $18.9 million in dividends and received $8.6 million in JobKeeper payments; and
  • 1300 Smiles managing director Daryl Holmes, who will get around $2 million out of the total $3 million shareholder dividends paid and received $2 million in JobKeeper payments.

If we extend the scope of Morrison’s dubious moral compass to include state premiers, it seems incongruous that his “gold-standard” premier, Gladys Berejiklian, whose deeds have her mired in alleged corruption, have, by contrast, only inspired the PM to pledge his absolute support.

Lastly, if none of the above warrants Morrison’s immediate attention or outrage, then his Government’s growing list of failed promises should at least warrant ours.

Here are a few that come to mind:

  • the $2 billion Bushfire Recovery Fund where just 291,000 of the 7.1 million people impacted by the 2019-20 bushfires have received disaster recovery payments and which may also be pilfered for other projects;
  • the HomeBuilder scheme which has 11,367 applications of which only 780 have been funded;
  • the $100 million recycling fund that has yet to invest in any recycling projects;
  • $600 million promised for community projects to boost the economy which has failed to materialise;
  • the $2 million COVIDsafe app (and additional advertising costs) which managed to identify a grand total of 17 people; and
  • the promised 450,000 jobs to be generated by JobMaker now revealed to only be 45,000.

It's easy to brag about gold standards and make promises you have no intention of keeping; as easy as feigning outrage over four gold watches while billions are being pilfered.

Instead of the endless PR and diversion tactics, it is time the Morrison Government was held to account. Perhaps Scotty from Marketing needs to invest in a good time-keeping mechanism to help him find the time to finally organise a Federal independent commission against corruption.

This is only half the story! Read the rest of this editorial in the IA members-only area. It takes less than a minute to subscribe to IA and costs as little as $5 a month, or $50 a year — a small sum for superb journalism and lots of extras. 

You can follow managing editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @VMP9Follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.

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