Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

How much more scandal can Australian politics take?

Image of Barnaby Joyce

AAP Image / Steve Gonsalves

Australian taxpayers still don’t know who were the beneficiaries of the Cayman Islands–based trust that owns Eastern Australia Agriculture (EAA), which sold $79 million worth of water to the Commonwealth when Barnaby Joyce was water minister and deputy prime minister. Joyce knows, of course, but all he would say in last night’s insufferable interview with RN Drive host Patricia Karvelas was that it was not his remit to find out who was behind the trust, and that he didn’t care if an inquiry was held because he was following a precedent set by “Labor, Labor, Labor, Labor Labor”, who had previously bought water off the same company … As if that’s an adequate answer.

Current energy minister Angus Taylor, who was a director of EAA when it was set up, insists that he is no longer associated with the company and did not benefit from the transaction. The Cayman Islands is a secrecy jurisdiction, as investigative journalist Michael West told Hamish Macdonald on Friday, so how would we know? Labor’s shadow water minister, Tony Burke, has released a list of questions that the prime minister must answer about #Watergate; but after Helloworld, the suspect Adani approval earlier this month, #Reefgate, and the AWU raids in 2017, the real question is: how much more scandal can Australian politics take? 

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud today referred all water purchases to the auditor-general, no doubt to report after the election, in a transparent attempt to kick the scandal off into the long grass. Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick, who has pursued this matter doggedly, was unimpressed, tweeting: “Sorry @D_LittleproudMP but a similar request was made to the Auditor General last year. Don’t try to flick this off into the future. Release the full unredacted documentation today – as I asked you to last year.”

Australian politics needs a clean-up, and the steps that need to be taken now are quite clear: first, a full royal commission into the Murray–Darling Basin Plan, as proposed by the Greens and which Labor may now support; second, establish a proper federal ICAC with teeth and the power to conduct retrospective inquiries; third, thorough reform of political donations, banning all corporate donations more than $1000; and lastly, a crackdown on tax havens is long overdue. Labor frontbencher Andrew Leigh flagged today that a Shorten government would introduce a comprehensive suite of policies designed to expose the use and abuse of tax havens that undermine the Australian tax system and are used to hide the proceeds of fraud and corruption.

When Labor hit rock bottom in 2013, the front page of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph screamed: “KICK THIS MOB OUT”, and deservedly so. Might we expect a repeat performance from the News Corp stable as the Abbott–Turnbull–Morrison government sinks into the mire of sleaze and scandal? Unlikely.


“The AEC should at least review the script it is giving to booth officials and indeed the instructions on the ballot paper. If the point of the new Senate voting system was to empower voters, then there is a real danger that the opposite could be happening. In tight counts, this could make a difference in who gets elected.”

Ben Oquist, executive director of The Australia Institute, on research showing that almost one in two voters mistook giving ‘six’ to a party as voting that party last.


“I don’t think there’s a need for a review … We want a transparent process, for this mine and any other mine, otherwise these things become political footballs, and political parties just say, ‘well, we’re with this one because it’s electorally popular and we’re against this one because it’s electorally unpopular’ – that’s not a way to run a resources industry.”

CFMMEU national president Tony Maher discussing Environment Minister Melissa Price’s recent approval of Adani’s Carmichael mine on the ABC’s RN Breakfast.

The Number

The amount that Clive Palmer is expected to spend on political advertising in the federal election campaign, and which has seen him emerge as kingmaker in a Newspoll out today showing an average 8 per cent of primary votes for Palmer’s United Australia Party across four key marginal seats: Herbert, Deakin, Lindsay and Pearce.

The Policy

“Labor will increase the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) immediately to $65,000 with annual indexing – up from the current level of $53,900 … The TSMIT has been frozen since 2013 under the Abbott–Turnbull–Morrison Government … meaning it has become cheaper to bring in an overseas worker than pay a local worker.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten announces an overhaul to 457-style skilled visas for foreign workers.

The list

“All signs indicated that Solange would, in time, create something like her new, fourth album, When I Get Home: a recording built from simple repetitions, the cumulative effect of which is sculptural. It moulds space and – because it is music – shapes time.” 


“‘Our goal simply is to remove the hard right,’ says GetUp! national director Paul Oosting. And it has a fair record of success. At the last election, in 2016, the organisation targeted 12 Coalition seats. Five of them fell – Bass and Braddon in Tasmania, Macarthur and Macquarie in New South Wales, and Mayo in South Australia.” 


“From the early days of Dame Edna Everage, with her trademark ‘Excuse I’, and the waving of the flesh-pink gladdies, Humphries made us laugh and he made us squirm, which was exactly what he intended. Humphries crashed the barriers, and was constantly outrageous from the beginning. One of his earliest creations, a pair of wellies full of custard with the title “Pus in Boots” made it clear where he was going.”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is also the author of three books, including a recently updated unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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