Posts Tagged ‘Arthur Sinodinos’

Lately I have been watching episodes of Boardwalk Empire, a series about a crooked City Treasurer of Atlantic City, Enoch Thompson, at the start of the prohibition era in the USA. Corruption is the name of the game with the power of the older Jewish and Irish crime gangs being more widely challenged by the growing power of the Italian gangs that became the Mafia as we know it.

In contrast I picked up a copy of a newspaper for a read. You could be forgiven for thinking this would be quite different to the Nochy Thompson story. But it is?

On what now seems almost a daily basis, more startling news emerges from the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in New South Wales. It seemed to start with former Labour MP Eddie Obeid accused of corrupt dealings and abuses of political power. The more the investigations continue, the more Obeid-tainted politicians and officials seem to keep cropping up. Initially the Liberal Party of Australia must have been delighted with things, seeing political destruction of the Australian Labor Party. Then-Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, now Prime Minister, quite gleefully used Question Time in the Federal Parliament to cast aspersions on the Labor Party as a result of earlier ICAC findings. But then Obeid’s net was show to have gone wider than just party political lines.

The NSW Premier, leader of the NSW Liberal government, resigned after denying receipt of a gift of a $3000 bottle of wine from the Obeid-related interests, only for his written acknowledgement of the gift turning up. Questions are being asked at ICAC about activities of other NSW Liberal politicians in relation to the Obeid affair. At the same time, other activities involving NSW government politicians, unrelated to the Obeid affair, have resulted in yet more government ministers being forced out for corrupt activities including corrupt acquisition of party donations. The former chief fundraiser of the NSW Branch of the Liberal Party was found to have been liberally helping himself to the funds raised. With a touch of political irony, even the NSW Police Minister was forced out because of corrupt dealings.

The Obeid-tarbrush has tainted more than just NSW officials. At the Federal level, Assistant Treasurer, Arthur Sinodinos, a Minister in the Abbott government, stood down from his portfolio after being named by ICAC in relation to the Obeid case through his involvement with Obeid’s Australian Water Holdings. Abbott loudly claimed that Sinodinos had only stood down because he was an honourable man, not because of any actual corrupt dealings, despite allegations he stood to make up to $20 million from a deal with AWH. However once Sinodinos was shown to have been paid $200,000 by AWH for a paltry 100 hours of work while a Director of the company, the insistence on the integrity of Sinodinos seemed frankly pathetic. Matters grew even murkier when board minutes from AWH showed Sinodinos involved with a million dollar success fee with Liberal Party lobbyist, Michael Photios, to get a public-private partnership with the NSW Government.

After so much time spent figuratively beating his chest and loudly insisting on a holier-than-thou attitude as Leader of the Opposition, Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Liberal Party is being shown to be full of dodgy operators. Was it a product of his Jesuit training which allowed him to be so blind to what was going on and thinking nobody would ever find out?

Matters are hardly just limited to the Liberal Party. Questions have long been asked about activities of major unions and their role with the Australian Labor Party. Power factions involving union interests have been playing roles in who gets selected for seats or holds whatever positions within parliaments. But how many of these results have involved union corruption. Within the former Labor government of Julia Gillard, Labor MP, Craig Thompson, was named in investigations into his activities as a senior union official. He was subsequently found guilty on counts of fraud and misappropriating union funds for personal activities including funding his election campaign. Questions have been asked about the path taken to the top by current Leader of the Labor Party, Bill Shorten, via his union activities.

Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has put together a Royal Commission into Australian union activities. While taking his predictable holier-than-thou attitude, I have no doubt whatsoever that his only interest in this is the political mileage to be made out of it. But I equally have no doubt that the Commission could uncover easily as much corruption, if not more, than NSW ICAC has discovered to date.

We now come to an important question. Why should State and Territory governments or other bodies such as unions, act any more honourably than our Federal politicians as a whole? Once you enter that level of governmental politics, you enter a whole new regime where you are exempted from ever so many things that the rest of us could find ourselves possibly in prison over. A particular case in point is that of ‘electoral’ expenses. Under current arrangements, all our beloved Federal pollies get to claim expenses for legitimate ‘electoral expenses’ ie expenses incurred while conducting electoral business. But there is no meaningful judge on what constitutes a legitimate electoral expense. Take for example Tony Abbott receiving an invitation to the wedding of his then-fellow Liberal MP, Sophia Mirabella. As Abbott was then his party’s manager of business within parliament or some other such title, he declared that the invitation was made to that manager of business, not to him personally, thus qualified for all his travel to the wedding to be worn by the taxpayer. Another of his colleagues flew interstate, along with his wife, business class naturally, to take possession of a newly purchased luxury holiday home. And drummed up some nonsense reason for him being there on electoral business. And independent media investigation discovered case after case of Federal politicians milking the public purse for all manner of personal expenditure, claiming it to have been electoral business. Exactly how does buying recipe books for your kitchen, qualify as ‘electoral business’?

Back in the real world, if you take something that isn’t yours and you had no right to, making up nonsense to justify your taking what you know you weren’t entitled to, it can easily become a criminal matter of theft. After all a bank bandit has just justified the arm robbery by the fact he desired the money. But not for pollies. Under the appropriate protocol, something naturally approved and implemented by previous pollies means that provided you pay it back, the slate is wiped clean. Does it matter how big a lie you have told to justify originally claiming the expenditure? Nope.

Quite simply, for far too long, far too many Australian politicians, on both majors sides of the fence, have been acting as if they are above the laws applying to the rest of us. And matters of blatant milking of the public purse for personal benefit and gain are simply wiped clean if caught.

In contrast, Nochy Thompson’s Atlantic City corruption almost seems honourable.

Ross sig