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Archive for the ‘Corruption’ Category

Will Driscoll be charged with lying to parliament?

In Corruption, David Marler on April 21, 2013 at 9:41 PM


By David Marler
April 21, 2013

BRISBANE, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman lost another seat in parliament this week with the resignation of Scott Driscoll from the LNP.

The tally of MP’s quiting the LNP now stands at four with  Newman’s 78 seat majority falling to 74. In addition, 3 Ministers have resigned over nepotism and incorrect ministerial record keeping.

Driscoll had been suspended from the party several weeks ago but will now serve as an Independent for his seat of Redcliffe.

He is also facing seven investigations over financial  mismanagement with community group Regional Community Association Morton Bay (RCAMB) and retailers union Queensland Retail Traders and Shopkeepers Association (QRTSA).

On Friday 12th April, the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) heard multiple irregularities in the way Driscoll had presided over QRTSA.

Alarmingly, it was alleged he deliberately excluded many key executive committee members to meetings where elections were held. One of those excluded was John Hockings, who had brought the official complaint to the QIRC.

Documents had been lodged with the QIRC stating that Hockings had resigned his position from QRTSA. He confirmed through his lawyers that this was not the case. The legal team requested access to all documents lodged with QIRC as it was likely other executive members had been struck off also. It now raised serious fraud questions.

The QIRC was also told that Driscoll had wrongly disposed of QRTSA assets and property. Requests from Hockings to Driscoll for the receipts of sales were repeatedly ignored.

The Industrial Registrar also noted a discrepancy between the 835 QRTSA members officially lodged with QIRC and the 164 members that had been supplied to Electoral Commission Queensland (ECQ). These irregularities pointed to a gross mishandling of elections.

With the beginning of a sitting week in the Queensland Parliament, Driscoll did not attend, stating he needed to care for wife Emma who was home with an undisclosed illness.

In his absence, the Government removed him in his position on the ‘Parliamentary Health and Community Services Committee’. His replacement was the failed former Arts Minister, Ros Bates who was embroiled in nepotism claims.

Led by LNP President Bruce McIver, the party executive was also done with him. They scheduled him to appear at a Saturday meeting to ‘show cause’ as to why he shouldn’t be expelled from the party.

As this news broke, The Courier Mail released February text messages in which Driscoll vowed to an associate that he would never be pushed out the back door but to go out ‘guns blazing’ and that he would release a book of ‘where the bodies were buried’.

However, for all his bravado, he remained a political coward and resigned the night before the meeting.

His resignation letter was bizarre and he blamed Labor for the whole smear campaign against him.

“Now all Labor seem to want to do is throw mud and attack people on a personal and family level. Smear and slander based on gossip and rumour is not a valid alternative to having a good policy platform and having an honourable intent to serve the Queensland community. I don’t think they quite get that concept yet.”

He made odd references to movies in order to absolve himself of any wrongdoing. Read the rest of this entry »

What happened to honest politics in Queensland? Scott Driscoll shames Newman

In Corruption, David Marler on April 8, 2013 at 12:15 PM
Scott Driscoll with Campbell Newman during the election campaign in 2012. Source: The Courier-Mail

Scott Driscoll with Campbell Newman during the election campaign in 2012. Source: The Courier-Mail

By David Marler

April 7, 2013

The Queensland State election of 2012 delivered the traditionally safe Labor seat of Redcliffe to Scott Driscoll of the Liberal National Party (LNP).

Driscoll was born in Redcliffe and was involved in a number of community groups which helped raise his profile in the electorate. He became president of the Queensland Retail Traders and Shopkeepers’ Association (QRTSA); a lobbying group which represented the interests of small retail businesses, and was a patron of the Redcliffe Community Association of Moreton Bay (RCAMB), a community group which helped the homeless and those with mental illness.

He was also the largest single donor to Premier Campbell Newman’s election campaign, donating  $55,000.Upon entering Parliament, he was appointed a member of several Parliamentary committees, the State Development, Infrastructure and Industry Committee and Health and Community Services Committee.

In February this year The Courier Mail revealed that Driscoll had not disclosed his pecuniary interests in the community groups. It alleged that he had been directing QRTSA and RCAMB throughout 2012 whilst an MP, and that donations and disposed assets of QRTSA had not been properly accounted for. This prompted former employees of Driscoll’s to come forward citing sexual harassment claims.

It then emerged that Driscoll had used his electorate office for meetings of his extra-parliamentary interests and had staff working on QRTSA and RCAMB projects, and had had approached Woolworths and Coles on behalf of QRTSA to seek donations for lobbying on their behalf. Both companies declined his offer, and Woolworths reported the approach to the Liberal Party hierarchy.

Norsefire, a company owned by Driscoll’s wife Emma, was paid by both QRTSA and RCAMB for consultancy work. Emma was also added to the RCAMB payroll as HR administrator.

Driscoll denied all financial improprieties in a parliamentary speech, but would not speak to the media. He resigned his directorships and updated his pecuniary interest register claiming an ‘oversight’. He also significantly updated his pecuniary interest register to include several properties and sent flyers to his constituents informing them that all allegations were false, including the sexual harassment claims.

RCAMB subsequently collapsed due to lack of funding. Twenty three staff were stood down owed 2 weeks wages. During 2012, RCAMB had received $1.4 million in funding from both State and Federal Governments. Two weeks earlier, Queensland Minister for Communities Tracy Davis told Parliament her department was working with RCAMB to resolve the financial problems, but RCAMB staff told the media no one had been in contact.

QRTSA is now largely defunct, and a new association was created in its place called the United Retail Federation (URF).

At first Premier Newman backed Driscoll, stating it would be up to voters to decide at the next election and calling for an end to trial by media. He defended Driscoll in Parliament, calling the allegations an Easter egg hunt.

Ultimately he was forced to suspend Driscoll from the LNP. He referred Driscoll to the Parliamentary ethics committee but stopped short of referring him to the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC). Newman then adopted a ‘Sgt Shultz’ defence, saying he knew nothing about the allegations and could do no more as Driscoll was no longer a member of the Government.

Queensland LNP President Bruce McIver had been warned about Driscoll’s attitude pre-election but took no action.  To the 2013 allegations, he told the media all information had been passed to the relevant authorities – but would not specify exactly what information or to which authorities – and that he had not informed Newman.

McIver then attended the Redcliffe branch of the LNP and spoke of his fears of losing the seat should something be found wrong with Driscoll, and that the scandal had jeopardised the Liberal’s chances of taking the Federal seat of Petrie from Labor at the upcoming Federal election.

The Driscoll affair currently involves six investigations:

  • Queensland Health has commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct a forensic investigation into RCAMB.
  • The CMC is assessing the documents by the RCAMB whistleblower.
  • Driscoll has been referred to the Ethics Committee over pecuniary interest declaration.
  • Another complaint on ‘ghost invoicing’ at RCAMB was received by Queensland police.
  • Complaints relating to RCAMB have been received by the Queensland Auditor-General.
  • The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission is investigating complaints received on QRTSA.

The details of the saga with links are at Norsefire burning.

Democracy, ethics, tolerance and public civility

In Corruption, Democracy, Tony Fitzgerald on March 9, 2013 at 12:14 AM
Part of the Corruption board game, which appeared in The Cane Toad Times. Source: Supplied

Part of the Corruption board game, which appeared in The Cane Toad Times. Source: Supplied

By Tony Fitzgerald
December 08, 2012

Margo: Tony has kindly given me permission to publish a piece he wrote for the Oz late last year.

There are about 800 politicians in Australia’s parliaments. According to their assessments of each other, that quite small group includes role models for lying, cheating, deceiving, ‘rorting’, bullying, rumour-mongering, back-stabbing, slander, ‘leaking’, ‘dog-whistling’, nepotism and corruption.

A recent editorial valiantly suggested that ‘toxic debates test ideas, policy and character’, but a more orthodox view is that ethics, tolerance and civility are intrinsic elements of democratic society and that the politicians’ mutual contempt and aggressive, ‘end justifies the means’ amorality erodes respect for authority and public institutions and compromises social cohesion.

Even some insiders are worried by the standard of Australian public life: a former Minister, Senator John Faulkner, has said that this is ‘a dangerous moment for our democracy’, which ‘is drowning in distrust’.

However, insiders see problems with insiders’ eyes, recognise only some of the problems and few of the causes and suggest insiders’ solutions with voters as mere bystanders. The usual, and sometimes intended, outcome is a flurry of superficial activity, appointment of a suitable group of other insiders to report, lengthy discussion of their report, considerable navel-gazing, a feel-good pronouncement and business as usual.

Realistically, since politicians are unlikely to support any significant change which might reduce their power, genuine reform will be extremely difficult. However, it is not impossible if it is owned and driven by the community.

One modest, uncontroversial proposal which I favour as a starting point is a free, non-partisan website to provide voters with clear, accurate, impartial information to assist them to compare candidates for election, make better informed choices and avoid voting for unsuitable candidates merely because they have party preselection. As the United States Supreme Court observed about twenty years ago, ‘the ability of the citizenry to make informed choices among candidates for office is essential, for the identities of those who are elected will inevitably shape the course that we follow as a nation’.

‘Informed choices among candidates for office’ are especially important in Australia. The Constitution omits important checks and balances which commonly restrain the misuse of power. Australia’s version of democracy is founded on concepts of representative government and parliamentary supremacy which are in turn based on a premise that majority decisions by elected representatives constitute the collective wisdom of the community.

Those elected are not chosen to exemplify society’s flaws and vices but to act with integrity, make decisions for the public benefit and, as it was put by the late Professor Julius Stone, exercise power ‘subject to the restraints of shared socio-ethical conventions’. The cynicism and debased standards of modern party politics totally disregard those principles.

Political parties are effectively unregulated private organisations. The major parties, a coalition representing business and rural interests and an alliance between trade unions and socialist groups, include principled, well-motivated people but also attract professional politicians with little or no general life experience and unscrupulous opportunists, unburdened by ethics, who obsessively pursue power, money or both.

Little-known and often unimpressive factional leaders exert disproportionate influence. Under their guidance, the major parties have consolidated their grip on political finance, the political process and political power. As a result of their own parliamentary decisions, parties are publicly funded without a binding reciprocal obligation to act in the public interest. The power of these few, surprisingly small, unregulated groups is for now impregnable. For the foreseeable future, they will dominate public discussion and debate, effectively control Australia’s democracy and determine its destiny. Read the rest of this entry »

To perform our democratic function we need and are entitled to the truth: Tony Fitzgerald

In Corruption, Democracy, Margo Kingston on March 6, 2013 at 11:26 PM
Tony Fitzgerald

Tony Fitzgerald  Photo: Tamara Voninski Brisbane Times

By Margo Kingston
March 6, 2013

News of the accidental publication of secret documents from the Fitzgerald Royal Commission got me thinking about my hero in the context of recent examples of our corrupt and dishonest politics. Tony Fitzgerald exposed the corruption at the heart of the Bjelke-Petersen government and laid out a blueprint for ethical government.

Tony Fitzgerald and Mike Ahern

Tony Fitzgerald and Mike Ahern

Southerners were smug, but it’s since been shown that their governments were much more corrupt than ours.

In 2004 Tony launched my book Not Happy, John! Defending out democracy and made some harsh judgments about the state our democracy. It’s got worse, and last year he noted with dismay the cronyism in the Queensland LNP government

After awful news out of the NSW corruption inquiry, this week the Victorian Liberal National government was revealed to have sold access to ministers and the Premier to developers, an unethical practice now commonplace in Australian politics.

So, on the night the Victorian Premier resigned amid evidence of cover-up, ministerial perjury and the payment of hush money, I publish Tony’s 2004 speech and urge both big parties to develop and announce serious policies to return honesty and ethics to public life.

June 29, 2004
Source: Webdiary


Justice Tony Fitzgerald’s speech launching my Not happy John! Defending our democracy at Gleebooks in Sydney on June 22. Michelle Grattan reported on the speech at Fitzgerald berates both sides of politics

In a speech last year, the author Norman Mailer described democracy as ‘a state of grace that is attained only by those countries which have a host of individuals not only ready to enjoy freedom but to undergo the heavy labor of maintaining it’. Not Happy John! is Margo Kingston’s admirable contribution to the ‘heavy labor’ of maintaining democracy in Australia.

As the title hints, Margo has focused her analysis on the behaviour of the current Commonwealth government, especially the Prime Minister. In the words of the publisher: ‘Not Happy, John! is a gutsy, anecdotal book with a deadly serious purpose: to lay bare the insidious ways in which John Howard’s government has profoundly undermined our freedoms and our rights. She doesn’t care whether you vote Liberal or Labor, Greens or One Nation. She isn’t interested in the old, outworn left – right rhetoric. What she’s passionate about is the urgent need for us to reassert the core civic values of a humane, egalitarian, liberal democracy.’

You will observe the force of Margo’s argument when you read her book, as obviously you should. My brief remarks will be directed to the damage that mainstream politicians generally are doing to our democracy.

Australians generally accept that democracy is the best system of government, the market is the most efficient mechanism for economic activity and fair laws are the most powerful instrument for creating and maintaining a society that is free, rational and just. However, we are also collectively conscious that democracy is fragile, the market is amoral and law is an inadequate measure of responsibility.

As former Chief Justice Warren of the United States Supreme Court explained: ‘Law… presupposes the existence of a broad area of human conduct controlled only by ethical norms.’

Read the rest of this entry »