A TWITTER STORM ensued last week across social media about the very biased reporting that became apparent on Our ABC in the leadup to the Federal Election! With some research it was readily apparent that a number of ABC journalists previously worked for Murdoch!
Former News Corp and Foxtel Chief, Peter Tonagh, former Seven Executive, Mario D’Orazio, and former QANTAS and Telstra Chief Information Officer, Fiona Balfour were appointed for five-year terms, beginning immediately in May 2021.
Mr Tonagh was most recently involved in the effort to save newswire Australian Associated Press, which received $15 million in funding over two years in the latest federal budget.
He was also Co-Leader of the Government’s Efficiency Review into the ABC and SBS in 2018. * About the funding and job cuts perhaps?
Mr D’Orazio spent 30 years with Channel Seven Perth, including eight as managing director. In 2019, he was also appointed to the Australia Council board, the Australian government’s principal arts funding body, for three years.
Ms Balfour, meanwhile, has extensive experience in the aviation, telecommunications, financial services and education sectors.
IN October 2018 Mike Seccombe wrote in The Saturday Paper, ‘ABC BOARD stacking rife’
WITH the majority of the current ABC Board Members appointed by Mitch Fifield Communications Minister in the Turnbull Government, it is perhaps no wonder, they have come from backgrounds in real estate and mining! Only two board members had the relevant media experience!
6 of the 8 ABC Board Members have been involved in real estate and/or mining:
Mike Seccombe revealed that:
-the most blatant stack was when John Howard gave directorships to lunar-right luminaries Janet Albrechtsen, Keith Windschuttle and Ron Brunton
–Maurice Newman served two stints on the ABC board; the first was truncated after evidence came to light of his partisan political interference
In 2009, Labor moved to apply the principles of a report on ABC board appointments.
They were pretty simple:
-positions should be openly advertised
-the applicants assessed by an independent panel and then further interviewed
-and then the successful candidate would be publicly announced
‘The Labor government also was intent on restoring a staff-appointed member to the ABC board.
Nick Minchin, godfather of the Liberal Party’s hard right, then shadow minister for communications, got to his feet in the Senate to express his concerns. The Liberal Party, he made clear, was dead against allowing the workers any say in the ABC’s governance.
It wasn’t Labor that did it.
It was Mitch Fifield, communications minister in the Turnbull government. Almost as soon as he was given the portfolio Fifield set about appointing people to the ABC board without regard to whether the nominations panel approved of them.
The long-running practice of stacking the ABC board with politically partisan appointees has come under renewed criticism after the rancorous departures of Justin Milne and Michelle Guthrie.’
THE LIST … of ‘financial mirages, sports rorts, car park rorts, grants rorts, land deal scandals and pork barrelling bushfire recovery funds … all part and parcel of the current Federal political landscape’
ADD to the Mix the Scandals of NSW:
–$40Bn rail corporation described as a RORT by former NSW Auditor-General Tony Harris
-the workers’ compensation scheme ICARE; Dominic Perrottet will continue to be dogged by the scheme; that failed to serve injured workers
-a land deal near Parramatta under an ICAC investigation
-Gladys Berejiklian in the ICAC witness box due to her former lover Daryl Maguire
–shredding of documents relating to Berejiklian’s approval of grants from the Stronger Communities Fund
-NSW INC planned to borrow more than $10Bn to inject into its NSW Generations (Debt Retirement) Fundto play the financial markets
-the creation of a $40Bn rail entity in 2015 to hide the costs of the NSW rail system by shoving assets into a shell company; to dupe the public the budget was better than it was
-in 2018 NSW Treasury was able to use TAHE to mask the government slipping into a deficit
.when the accounting rules changed the government was under pressure to turn TAHE into a legit independent commercial entity through hiring PwC to achieve that
.the government was considering commercialising the entire public transport and road networks
.the government, it appears, were willing to breach procurement rules or hire consultants without going to tender; paid $big bucks to do this
.KPMG prepared separate reports for Treasury and for Transport of NSW
.TAHE created a deep rift between Treasury Secretary Mike Pratt and then head of Transport, Rodd Staples about safety issues yet Staples was sacked without cause
‘With a parliamentary inquiry in the wings and shadow Treasurer Daniel Mookhey on top of his brief, as well as the Auditor General scoping a performance audit into TAHE, it is only a matter of time before the truth dribbles out.’
-Alana Matheson, former Liberal deputy mayor of Campbelltown given a $387,960 per annum post as a Fair Work Commissioner on April 1; 26-year-long, $10 million post; appointed until 2047
–Sophie Mirabella, former Liberal MP also made a FWC commissioner on the same salary, on the same day; appointed until 2033
The end dates of their terms reflect when the two women will reach 65 and have to retire.
–former deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss being re-appointed as chair of the Australian Rail Track Corporation; on a part-time salary of $166,290
-former Liberal minister Bruce Billson being appointed Small Business Ombudsman on a $360,250 salary
-former backbencher Eric Hutchinson being re-appointed as Administrator of Norfolk Island with a $304,830 salary
-former Liberal senator Kay Patterson being re-appointed as Age Discrimination Commissioner on $360,250
-former Liberal Party federal and state director Tony Nutt; re-appointed a director of the Australia Post; a minimum of $96,890 per year; and re-appointed as a Member of the National Museum of Australia Council on $22,180; re-appointed as a contractor to the Australian Public Service Commission on a $45,000, eight-month contract
. Nutt worked for John Howard, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison
-former NSW Liberal Premier Nick Greiner appointed Consul-General in New York
–Victorian state minister Mary Wooldridge appointed to a $360,250 per year job as Director of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency
–former Liberal Finance Minister Nick Minchin appointed the Independent Food and Grocery Code Reviewer on $1,499 per day
-Scott Morrison’s former chief of staff Charles Wann; named chief operating officer in the Health Department; annual salary from $317,250
-former Liberal staffers Peter Conran and Jason Marocci appointed to $800 per day advisory roles with Sport Integrity Australia
-former Liberal MP Jane Prentice, former Liberal staffers Rachel Da Costa and Naomi Dougall; recently appointed to the AAT
‘Year of the mate’: At least 13 former Liberal MPs, staffers given plum jobs
‘I remain completely opposed to the fast-tracking of all medium and high-density development in my electorate of Baulkham Hills,”
In ‘developer speak’ he said he acknowledged the need to expand Sydney.
DESPITE the acceleration of development since 2011 during the terms of the Liberal Coalition in NSW, how is it that they hold the Labor administration responsible for denying The Hills the infrastructure it will need to match even more medium and high-density housing?
AS revealed in this Macro Business Report it is both an issue of infrastructure and population policy …
‘Australia’s recent migrants don’t want more immigration’
The infastructure appears to always be an afterthought … whether it be for:
The consequences include the electorate being packed in like sardines in trains; inadequate health care to meet the doubling of the population;
Children schooled in demountable classrooms
Why do the Hills people believe that ‘Infrastructure’ is the Solution?
Because the ‘overdevelopment’ has occurred since the reign of the NSW Libs since 2011 … so how can the Labor administration be held responsible for denying the Hills the infrastructure that it will need to accommodate even more medium and high-density housing?
YET despite being sold out in Crane Road some from The Hills stop short of saying anything about the government. Why is this so?
An example of this … CAAN spoke to a family formerly residents of Crane Road, Castle Hill … now known as the ‘CRANE ROAD PRECINCT’.
The mother we spoke to said it still upsets her to shop at the nearby Castle Towers because ‘the developers were underhand’ …
That within 6 months of being forced to sell their home the property prices shot up and they were unable to buy back in Castle Hill. They had to move away!
Background … The Hills Development Control Plan (DCP) 2012 Crane Road Precinct located within the Castle Hill Major Centre . It is bordered by the Old Northern Road, Terminus Street and Crane Road, and a portion of the Old Northern Road Reserve. Referred to as the Crane Road Precinct.
HOW soon before Castle Hill looks like Top Ryde … Macquarie Park … Epping … ?
‘Protecting the Hills lifestyle’: Minister slams fast-track planning in his electorate
The new generation at the top is aligned to the Prime Minister and … These are people who will literally shape the Australian story for the foreseeable future.” … senior policy manager at the Property Council of Australia, Tourism … “There was a definite shift in donations and support after Morrison took over
Morrison worked as national policy and research manager for the Property Council of Australia from 1989 to 1995. He then moved into tourism, serving as Deputy Chief Executive of the Australian Tourism Task Force
BSc(Hons) (University of New South Wales). National Manager, Policy and Research Property Council of Australia 1989-95. Deputy Chief Executive, Australian .
Morrison drains the swamp his own way
A hard-nosed clique of reformers has been deployed by the PM to underwrite a new set of credentials for the Coalition.
Scott Morrison is building a new power bloc around his leadership, dismantling the old “Canberra club” with a network of friends, confidants, bureaucrats and trusted allies tasked with reshaping Australia’s political, cultural and policy direction.
The shake-up marks a generational shift in the power base of the mandarins and political class who have ruled over economic, environmental and social policy, national security and the role of business in government decision making.
It has been deliberate, methodical and politically nonpartisan but purposefully calibrated to serve a dual purpose.
The new generation at the top is aligned to the Prime Minister and his agenda in a way not seen since the early days of the Howard government, and has been instructed to design and build new foundations for how the country is run. Morrison’s hard-nosed clique of reformers has been deployed to underwrite a new set of credentials for the Coalition’s 2022 election agenda by delivering real outcomes.
“These are people who can deliver, they are about action, not theory,” a senior government insider told The Weekend Australian. “It has been deliberately set up, and in a nonpartisan way … not Labor or Liberal but rather action versus inaction. These are people who will literally shape the Australian story for the foreseeable future.”
A tight-knit group of newly minted department heads, senior staff and friends has been anointed as part of Morrison’s inner and outer sanctums of power.
The Weekend Australian was provided a rare glimpse into the workings of the new power circle on Thursday morning. The Prime Minister had called a meeting of his leadership group ahead of axing five department heads and establishing four new super departments.
Sitting around the table were Josh Frydenberg, to whom he is closest, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham, Attorney-General Christian Porter, Nationals leader Michael McCormack and his deputy Bridget McKenzie, Liberal Party federal director Andrew Hirst and new addition, Health Minister Greg Hunt.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne, the most senior woman in government, has a broader role in the leadership group. Morrison has known her for more than 25 years, establishing a close friendship. She is Morrison’s eyes and ears on the factional warring within the moderate wing of the NSW branch of the Liberal Party. Frydenberg, McCormack and Cormann are also more than advisers. They are the first voices he relies on for wisdom and counsel.
Sitting on the sidelines of the meeting were key players in Morrison’s inner sanctum. His closest political advisers are chief of staff John Kunkel, a former Rio Tinto executive and Howard staff member; principal private secretary Yaron Finkelstein; and Andrew Shearer, a former national security adviser to John Howard and Tony Abbott, brought back by Morrison from a Washington think tank to become one of the most influential figures in government. Other inner-sanctum figures include communications director Andrew Carswell, a former chief of staff at The Daily Telegraph; Nico Louw, who as Morrison’s executive officer is the Prime Minister’s “link to everything and everyone” and barely leaves his side; and national security adviser Michelle Chan.
With the exception of the Treasurer, West Australian MP Ben Morton, the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, is considered the closest to the PM. Morton, who like Morrison was a former Liberal Party state director, acts as a conduit to the business community and is a key figure in the Australian Public Service shake-up.
While not publicly visible or involved in the day-to-day running of the Prime Minister’s office, Morrison’s two close friends outside of politics, David Gazard and Scott Briggs, are perhaps as influential as anyone.
Central to Morrison’s strategy has been the purge of the public service — a clean-out that is far from over but designed, according to insiders, to not impose “a night of the long knives”. There is now a handful of new bureaucratic clusters, led by people with whom Morrison has forged tight relationships through the crucible of policy and political hardships during his days as treasurer, social services and immigration minister.
Leading the reform agenda across the whole of government is the new Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet head Phil Gaetjens, Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo, Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy, Infrastructure and Transport tsar Simon Atkinson, Social Services chief Kathryn Campbell, and David Fredericks, tapped to head the new Department of Industry, Energy, Science and Resources. The links to Morrison are as stark as some of the links these new mandarins have to each other.
Gaetjens was installed as Treasury secretary from his role as then-treasurer Morrison’s chief of staff, the same job he held in Peter Costello’s office. The two would speak regularly and became close. Gaetjens represented the first move in the changing of the guard when he was installed as DPMC head after it became clear Martin Parkinson was unlikely to be part of Morrison’s long-term team. As part of this week’s APS clean-out, Parkinson’s wife Heather was one of the five secretaries told their services were no longer required.
Gaetjens’s replacement as Treasury boss is Kennedy, who had driven the infrastructure portfolio for the past two years after rising through the ranks of multiple departments and considered by insiders as a pragmatic “doer”. Kennedy, who held senior roles under the Rudd government, also worked with Pezzullo in Defence.
Pezzullo, the former defence adviser to Kim Beazley who has become a controversial “hard man” in charge of national security, came to Morrison’s attention early on and was hand-picked to roll out Operation Sovereign Borders in 2014 as the new head of immigration and border protection. The public service veteran, who joined the Department of Defence as a graduate in 1987, was recently reappointed by Morrison and wields significant power across the APS as head of Home Affairs, a mega-agency he was crucial in setting up. As a former Labor staff member, Pezzullo had risen through the ranks with Fredericks, who had been a former senior adviser to Beazley, Kevin Rudd and Penny Wong.
Atkinson, a former chief of staff to Cormann instrumental in shaping the budget, and then cabinet secretary under Malcolm Turnbull, was promoted last month from his Treasury deputy secretary role to take charge of an expanded infrastructure department. The new job, which now includes responsibility for the national broadband network rollout, is viewed as key in delivering major infrastructure projects, a key plank of Morrison’s economic stimulus plan. The qualified barrister, who worked with Pezzullo on the 2009 defence white paper, is close friends with Shearer.
Orbiting this group are Campbell, the Army Reserve commander, Defence secretary Greg Moriarty and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary Frances Adamson, a former ambassador to China whom Morrison rates despite rumours she was also for the chopping block.
Moriarty, a former defence intelligence officer, had forged a relationship with the PM as ambassador to Indonesia when Morrison was working on the regional architecture for Operation Sovereign Borders. Campbell had led the welfare reforms that Morrison implemented during his stint as social services minister and is considered one of the most effective public service chiefs.
Morrison’s nonpartisan approach to a more subtle version of Donald Trump’s draining of the Washington swamp has retained key people from the Turnbull administration, resurrected some from the Abbott era and empowered mandarins who worked under Labor. A surprising move came this week, when Morrison resurrected the APS career of Andrew Metcalfe, who was removed following Abbott’s election victory in 2013. He now leads Agriculture, Water and Environment, a new super department set up to streamline government delivery on drought and water policy.
A member of Morrison’s inner sanctum described it as a “focused” group.
“Scott comes to the job with a very clear idea of what he wants to do … a clear judgment, and an instinct of what the politics are,” they said. “It is a very tight-knit group … and it’s not a chinwag and a chat. It intelligently deals with issues as they arise … like drought … and while Morrison gives ministers autonomy he also gives them very clear expectations that ministers have to deliver. That’s how the Westminster systems are meant to work, right?”
Morrison has moved to reshape Australia’s national security architecture led by Pezzullo. The retirement of long-time ASIO chief Duncan Lewis and Australian Federal Police commissioner Andrew Colvin, and speculation over powerful National Intelligence director-general Nick Warner’s future, has provided an opportunity for Morrison to inject new blood into the security community.
Angus Campbell — who had worked with Morrison in establishing OSB — had been appointed chief of the Defence Force only a month before Turnbull’s demise. In addition to General Campbell, Morrison has appointed Mike Burgess as ASIO director-general and Reece Kershaw as AFP commissioner. The Australian Signals Directorate will also have new leadership in the coming months.
Morrison’s assault against Labor’s obsession with the “big end of town” contrasts his own dealings with business chiefs. As a former treasurer, Morrison naturally retains a wide pool of contacts and networks across corporate Australia. But unlike some of his predecessors, Morrison doesn’t chase their approval or support. He has a laser-like focus on the interests of suburban families and aspirational Australians and knows — like Trump — there is little appetite for the bad behaviour of big banks and financial institutions or tax-dodging multinationals. This approach shapes his contact with corporate high-flyers. Morrison’s key advisers are not the usual millionaires and high-achievers. They are executives and business leaders who have unique backstories, are leaders in their field or with whom he has forged ties throughout his career.
Former colleagues and contacts from his time as NSW Liberal Party state director, senior policy manager at the Property Council of Australia, Tourism Australia managing director — and more recently in parliament — act as sounding boards for Morrison.
The contact may not be frequent but Morrison will reach seeking practical advice to assist in the implementation of his economic and social vision.
Mark Bouris — the founder of Wizard Home Loans who later launched Yellow Brick Road — is one of Morrison’s mates. His is an extraordinary tale, the self-made entrepreneur who took on the big banks and became Australia’s Trump on The Apprentice. The pair — who were photographed at the footy after Morrison became PM — speak about small business and housing reforms and Bouris backed-in Morrison hard against Bill Shorten’s big taxing agenda.
Macquarie Group’s trailblazing Shemara Wikramanayake is another who has crashed through barriers. The Macquarie Group executive is the only female chief executive among Australia’s 20 biggest companies by market value and the first Asian-Australian woman to head an ASX 200 listed company.
Another friend, Adrian Harrington, was tapped to join the government’s National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation board, illustrating a Morrison tendency to recruit contemporaries and promote allies into key roles. Harrington and Morrison remain close after working together at the Property Council of Australia in the early 1990s.
A common theme sprinkled across Morrison’s inner and outer sanctums is the Prime Minister’s faith. Friends and advisers including Stuart Robert, his former flatmate who won a promotion to lead Morrison’s government services overhaul, and former NSW police commissioner Andrew Scipione, are devout Christians.
Briggs — chairman of Morrison’s Cook federal electoral council and factional backer who helped engineer the numbers to deliver his close mate the leadership by five votes — remains a key adviser. Visibility around Morrison’s closeness to Briggs — a board director at the Cronulla Sharks — has been limited due to Briggs’s role in a consortium bid aiming to secure a government visa-processing contract estimated to be worth $1bn.
Morrison’s inner sanctum is considered more consultative and nimble than the offices of Abbott and Turnbull, which were dominated by smaller spheres of influence. Unlike his predecessors, Morrison remains the dominant figure in his office, with staff making recommendations or offering advice.
Reactive press conferences and daily announcements that dominated the first six years of Coalition rule have been dumped by Morrison in favour of controlling government messaging through social media, personalised videos and a targeted policy agenda. Hirst and Carswell have developed and implemented Morrison’s digital communications strategy, directly connecting the PM with voters.
Insiders told The Weekend Australian that Kunkel — who ran Howard’s cabinet policy unit before shifting to the private sector — acted as the “gatekeeper” and “decision maker” while Finkelstein took charge of “networking, speaking to stakeholders and keeping in touch with backbenchers and minister’s offices”.
The other post-Turnbull bounce, which has continued following the election, was a surge in donations.
“There was a definite shift in donations and support after Morrison took over. Post-election the party has done well. There’s lots of people who have come back with tails between their legs,” a senior party source said.
Turnbull’s demise triggered a procession of high-profile retirements, handing Morrison a rare opportunity for leadership and cabinet renewal. He continues to face pressure from Queenslanders and ambitious backbenchers for promotion but like Howard, he won’t be cornered.
The Coalition ministerial team has been revamped with new blood, moving on from the divisive Abbott-Turnbull era. Morrison is positioning his new leadership group and public service chiefs to focus on the next three years, with an eye firmly on the 2022 election.
Two years ago, MB vigorously attacked the appointment of Phil Gaetjens – the former Chief of Staff of both Treasurer Scott Morrison and former Treasurer Peter Costello – to secretary of the Australian Treasury, claiming that it would make the once august department even more politicised.
Gaetjens then subsequently followed Prime Minister Scott Morrison to become secretary of PM&C last year.
A fortnight ago, we witnessed this politicisation first hand when Scott Morrison referred the sports rorts scandal to ‘yes man’ Phil Gaetjens for advice as to whether Bridget McKenzie breached ministerial standards.
Predictably, Gaetjens’ inquiry found that sports grants had not been improperly allocated during Bridget McKenzie’s tenure as sports minister, even though the Auditor-General had previously found that the grants often targeted electorates that were marginal seats the Coalition needed to win at the 2019 election.
Now, Labor leader Anthony Albanese is gunning for Phil Gaetjens’ head, claiming that it will use the resumption of parliament to demand the release of Philip Gaetjens’ investigation into the ‘sports rorts’ scandal, as well as calling for a full inquiry into the affair, including the role of Gaetjens:
Scott Morrison is refusing to release Mr Gaetjens’s report, which cleared Senator McKenzie from showing political bias in allocating sports grants but found she breached ministerial standards by failing to declare her membership of a Victorian gun club awarded $36,000.
Labor intends to pursue the Prime Minister in parliament this week over the role of his office in handing out sports grants and the release of his department’s report, which contradicted the independent Auditor-General’s finding that grants were directed towards Coalition target seats.
The Opposition Leader accused the secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet of letting Mr Morrison and his office “off the hook”…
“And for the Prime Minister to just dismiss the independent report of the Auditor-General because he has something from his former chief of staff, which conveniently lets everyone else off the hook, means that there needs to be a full and proper inquiry into this sorry saga.
“They have to go through various procedures of transparency that are there now that have been ignored.
“Phil Gaetjens, if he doesn’t know that, then I don’t know how he has got the job as the head of Prime Minister and Cabinet. It’s quite farcical, this whole exercise”…
Labor’s pursuit of Mr Gaetjens will be coupled with a larger campaign over what the Prime Minister’s office knew about Senator McKenzie’s handling of sports grants and how deeply involved it was.
Where there’s smoke there’s usually fire. Publicly announcing the findings of Gaetjens’ inquiry without releasing the report to the public shows a complete lack of transparency and poor political judgement.
Moreover, given Phil Gaetjens’ close ties to Scott Morrison and the Coalition, it is hard to believe that he would have reviewed the issue objectively.
The Senate crossbench has expressed support for an inquiry into the scheme. They should be tasked with the review.
The Morrison government now requires senior public servants to reveal gifts or benefits worth more than $100…
But Mr Gorman, who was once an adviser to prime minister Kevin Rudd, said there should be even more transparency about the financial and community links of senior public servants.
“We’ve only half-done the job,” he told The Sunday Age and The Sun-Herald.
Federal politicians, at the start of every parliamentary term, have to reveal their own and their family members’ financial and personal interests.
These include financial holdings such as mortgages, partnerships, shares, directorships and substantial assets…
Mr Gorman said that, by following the lead of politicians in declaring their interests, senior public servants would be able to quell any concerns about their advicebeing affected by financial or community links…
Mr Gorman, who envisages the register would be overseen by the Prime Minister’s Office or the head of his department, said public companies required their senior staff and directors to declare their financial interests.
Senior public servants should be no different.
This makes sense. Senior public servants hold considerable power and are incredibly well paid, with the highest ranked public servants earning close to $1 million (see tables below):
But why stop there?
How about a federal ICAC with full powers that include ability to investigate and charge politicians?