It seems that anything a LNP politician did to keep the Bill Shorten out of The Lodge and the ALP out power prior to the 2019 election was ipso facto justified. It’s either that or there is no such thing as integrity left in this government’s modus operandi.
Paul Karp at The Guardian reports Mounting calls for Bridget McKenzie to resign over ‘extraordinary’ grant allocation. Labor, the Greens, Pauline Hanson and Zali Steggall have called for her resignation. Centre Alliance has joined them in supporting a senate inquiry.
Christopher Knaus’s explainer reminds us that Ros Kelly resigned because she was an embarrassment to the Labor Government. It seems this government has no shame.
Knaus explains that the law setting up the grant scheme specifies that the Sport Australia should approve the grants. They set up criteria and scored the applications. The cut-off score was 74 out of 100.
- Yet a staggering 417 projects, or 61% of the total approved projects, received money despite being assessed below this score.
One of the projects that got the money received a score of 39. Scores that low were considered by Sport Australia to be “too low to fund without significant risk to the completion period and/or safe passage of the project”.
- The approvals, the auditor found, were plagued by distributional bias and tended to go to electorates that were marginal, or that the Coalition was targeting in the upcoming election.
When the grants list was sent to the minister’s office to sign off on, McKenzie’s office borrowed Sport Autralia’s spreadsheet and basically started again.
Karp points out that Labor MP for Moreton, Graham Perrett, had helped local soccer club the Sunnybank Saints win $135,000 for a clubhouse upgrade. Yet he was excluded from the announcement and his opponent, Liberal candidate Angela Owen, got to hand over a big cheque for $135,000.
In February 2019 the same thing happened to Rebekha Sharkie when her Liberal opponent, Georgina Downer, got to hand over the big cheque to the Yankalilla bowling club featuring her face and Liberal party logos.
No-one could remember anything like it – ever – except Simon Birmingham:
- The trade minister, Simon Birmingham, defended the cheque presentation on Sky News and said it was the “type of self-promotional act is what members and candidates do right across the country all the time to help raise the awareness of the fact that they’re working and fighting for their local community”.
No-one can tell porkies without batting an eyelid like Simon Birmingham.
Back then Katharine Murphy wrote that At least some MPs see themselves as partisans with knuckledusters. She instanced a string of instances of irregular behaviour by Coalition members, including Michaelia Cash refusing to give evidence to federal police investigating the tip-off to the media about police raids on the Australian Workers Union. Police said that impeded their inquiries. Then:
- Perhaps, even more bizarrely, the minister who used to be responsible for the federal police, Michael Keenan, also declined to give a proper witness statement to assist them with their inquiries. Wrap your head around that fact for a minute then ask the question that automatically suggests itself to any rational person: should either of them still be ministers? Why, pray tell, are they still there?
Former judge, Stephen Charles QC, who set up Victoria’s anti-corruption body and is now a board member of the Centre for Public Integrity, told ABC RN’s PM program that in the case of Bridget McKenzie we are dealing with a clear case of corruption.
The AFR editorial on Thursday Bridget’s field of dreams said:
- The arms-length Sports Australia had already decided which 426 proposals could be funded. But the Australian National Audit Office found that the minister’s office then borrowed the spreadsheets and added a political filter of marginal or Coalition target seats, changing the distribution entirely.
Ms McKenzie says that no unworthy project got funded, so what’s wrong? Just about everything. Why is a minister overriding a competent sports body?
It then goes on to ask another interesting question:
- Why is the federal government doling out such small-scale grants around the country at all?
Weeks ago, Scott Morrison insisted that fighting bushfires was a state responsibility that the feds should stay out of. Other than wasting taxpayers’ money on trying to buy votes, how does that square with Canberra handing out local grants to pay for synthetic grass on country bowling greens or installing lights on suburban football fields?
On page 19 of today’s Courier Mail there is a short piece reporting that 300 athletes have signed a petition protesting cuts to sports, including athletics, sailing and volleyball in November 2018. Former Wallabies captain Phil Kearns and Olympic gold medallist Kim Brennan managed to meet with PM Morrison.
- “It was clear… the Morrison Government didn’t give two hoots really about sport unless it was going to advantage them,” Kearns said.
On the Bridget McKenzie affair, the article says their are four other programs that have been referred to the Auditor-General by Catherine King, Labor spokesperson on infrastructure. One, the Regional Jobs and Investment Packages program, has already been found by the AG to involve political interference, little accountability and almost no management of conflict of interest.
So here we have it – Audit office blasts roll-out of Coalition’s $200m regional jobs and investment program:
- Ministers declined to fund 28% of grants recommended by officials, and approved 17% that had not been recommended to them
Michael McCormack and Darren Chester were up to their eyeballs in it. That 17% increased to 35% over time. They assembled panels of pollies to look at various phases of the grants, including Michaelia Cash, James McGrath, John McVeigh and Bridget McKenzie, it would seem to maximise self interest.
This goes back to 2017, when that bloke Malcolm Turnbull was PM. So we have to understand that what we are witnessing established practice for the Coalition government.
Last night I had the choice of listening to a serialised book reading about a nurse who delivered babies for 40 years or Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens talking with Jonathan Haidt, Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business, about Can we overcome terminal disagreement in our politics and morality? I chose the latter.
- If the recent glut of “democracy in crisis” books is anything to go by, there is a sense that something has gone wrong in our common life. At the heart of it is not this or that ‘bad actor’ — such as Donald Trump or Vladimir Putin or Rupert Murdoch or Mark Zuckerberg — but a breakdown of our capacity to speak to one another, to listen to one another, to accommodate one another, to be persuaded by one another. You could call this problem ‘terminal disagreement’ or ‘zero-sum disagreement’. And it is tearing the fabric of some of the world’s democratic cultures apart.
Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has diagnosed the increasing ‘tribalism’ in and of our civic and political life particularly acutely, and he joins Waleed and Scott to discuss whether and how we might break free from its Manichean absolutism.
Seems we should listen to people who disagree with us, and find common ground if democratic discourse is to be retrieved, not just call them out and demand that they change their behaviour.
They didn’t contemplate the situation we now face, which is that the other mob are just wrong and incorrigible. There can be no respect; they need to be politically destroyed and removed from the political scene.
The most pungent criticism I’ve found is Michael Pascoe’s Minister McKenzie spits in the face of decency, ethics and every decent Australian.
Any sports person caught cheating would be dealt with. Here we have a corrupt umpire, and in effect different games are being played. One is called ‘community’, the other ‘self interest’.
- The first recommendation of the ex-Telstra chief David Thodey’s public service review to be dismissed out of hand by the government was that political advisers should have a code of conduct. You can guess why.
- We need a real Federal ICAC yesterday. There’s no way this government will allow one.
Integrity is simply incompatible with the way they work. This is approaching the standard Papua New Guinea became notorious for.
The next time I hear a lazy or intimidated ABC journalist say, “they all do it” or “both sides are the same” I will silently scream, as I did yesterday at Phillip Adams. No-one in the parliament outside the Coalition thinks this is how politicians should behave.