Friday, October 25, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

The minister is not even pretending to be accountable

© Mick Tsikas / AAP Image

Where is a federal anti-corruption agency when you need one? We now have a federal minister, Angus Taylor, whose office is implicated in a possible criminal offence – which Labor today referred to NSW Police – and who may well have misled parliament about it. A minister who held a meeting with environment officials over an endangered grasslands listing and a compliance action affecting farmland he has a financial stake in. A minister who has been linked to a company in the Cayman Islands that appears to have hoovered up $80 million in public money in a dubious water buyback. A minister who deliberately and repeatedly misleads the public. There needs to be another word for a minister like Taylor – let’s call him a spinister. Taylor is so bad at his job he is actually an asset for Labor; his office is an engine room of debacle and disgrace. Unfortunately, while he continues to hold high public office, Taylor is a disaster for the rest of us.

Equally unfortunately, expectations that there will be any accountability for Taylor’s latest apparent misdemeanour are zero. After Labor yesterday gave the government a deadline of 24 hours to refer to police allegations that Taylor’s office had supplied a forged document to The Daily Telegraph so it could do a hit-job on Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced today that he would not call the police in on the matter. Labor followed through, with shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus penning a two-page letter asking NSW Police Commissioner Michael Fuller to consider investigating “this highly concerning matter”. Expectations of criminal charges being laid are not especially high on the Labor side. There is a feeling that Taylor may not have been able to survive another day of tough questions in parliament – and would have thrown a staffer under the bus, for example – but the moment has passed and the four-week recess does not help the cause of ministerial accountability.

However, Taylor did the one thing yesterday that nobody expected: he dug a deeper hole, by continuing to assert the impossible – that the false document was downloaded from the Sydney council website. This makes no sense. Taylor’s office did not respond to questions from me today. Given that his office could clear this up in a nanosecond by releasing the falsified document, including its metadata that would show when it was created and altered, the continuing silence is deafening. Taylor, as a minister of the Crown, is not even paying lip-service to accountability. He continues in his job with the full support of the PM. Shadow climate minister Mark Butler said at an Adelaide press conference today, “Instead of the prime minister actually putting his words into action and putting this into the hands of the New South Wales police, he has shown that there is one rule for one group of Australians – cabinet ministers in the Morrison government – and another rule for everyone else, including the journalists who are currently under threat of prosecution for doing their jobs.”

Politics just continues to hit new lows, and Taylor’s latest scandal illustrates perfectly the failings of the Coalition’s model for a toothless integrity commission, which will only investigate matters referred by the government, will not be able to investigate matters occurring before it was established, will not hold public hearings and will not be able to make corruption findings against a minister. On all counts, Taylor’s office would continue to escape investigation.

Public governance expert Howard Whitton says that given the gravity of the accusations against Taylor, “it would be appropriate to consider whether a criminal offence of this kind, if proved, amounts to corruption or misconduct in public office”. It is not impossible, in fact, that the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption may investigate the scandal, given that it involves an attempt to influence a local politician, Clover Moore. We might expect a referral forthwith.

“If you abdicate leadership you rarely get it back … The US must not allow itself to walk away from its trade leadership role otherwise it will inevitably pay a very significant economic price … Being open to the world made America great in the first place; it will keep you great.”

Australia’s outgoing ambassador to the United states, Joe Hockey, denounces Donald Trump’s protectionism and isolationism.

“I reckon we should do the opposite of what the big energy companies say because they are a big reason why we are in this mess. They have no interest in ending a mess that they make lots of money out of. So let’s build coal!”

The resources minister hits back at Origin Energy chief Frank Calabria, who today criticised the government for propping up ageing coal-fired power stations.

To Howard with love
Paul Bongiorno on how the Liberal Party celebrates and how the National Party brawls.


The proportion of visitors to Uluru who choose to climb the rock these days, down from 74 per cent in the early 1990s, according to a joint statement today by Labor MPs Linda Burney, Pat Dodson, Warren Snowdon and Malarndirri McCarthy.

“Today’s result is in no way a default by the Commonwealth of Australia. Treasury Notes are a short-term debt instrument and as such are not part of planned issuance to achieve the AOFM’s annual funding task.”

The Australian Office of Financial Management calms bond markets this morning after it fell $64 million short on a $1 billion Treasury debt issue.

The list

The climb to the top of Uluru officially closed today. Oslo Davis presents some options of what to clamber next.

“Scenes of dreary everyday life in Luton – whether they be picket lines outside the factory gates or harassment by racist skinheads at the local caff – begin to effloresce into all-singing, all-dancing Springsteen tributes. I never knew there might be such a thing as too much Springsteen until this film made me flail beneath the load of its affection for the man and his music. When you wish the folks onscreen would stop singing ‘Thunder Road’? That, my friends, is too much Springsteen.”

“By her own admission, Tolentino doesn’t have one subject that consumes her. Rather she’s ‘attracted to writing about things that contain poles within them … that can be true and false at the same time. Things that are magnetic but also repulsive, that are full of promise but also punishing.’”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Body Count: How Climate Change Is Killing Us, Inside the Greens and Born To Rule: The Unauthorised Biography of Malcolm Turnbull.


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