Showing posts with label political probity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label political probity. Show all posts

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Australian Politics in 2017: Financial Fog Unlimited #2


The Byzantine financial arrangements of yet another member of the Liberal Party of Australia…..

The Age, 14 September 2017:

The father of Turnbull government MP Stuart Robert says he was unaware he was a director of a private investment company that held shares in his son's IT service business which has won tens of millions of dollars worth of government contracts.

Alan Robert, 80, has also told Fairfax Media that the private investment company, Robert International, was run by his son during the six-year period he and his wife, Dorothy, were the company's only directors. It is a revelation that would link the Queensland MP with the IT services business, GMT Group, at a time when Stuart Robert claims to have "ceased involvement" in GMT.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 13 September 2017:

Mr Robert only resigned his directorships and offloaded his shares in his GMT Group in 2010 – three years after he was first elected to Parliament. The Queensland MP told Fairfax Media he structured his affairs in a way that did not breach the rules, but has refused to provide any evidence to support this claim.

But Fairfax Media has uncovered fresh details about Mr Robert's connection to the GMT Group, an IT service company he co-founded prior to his political career.

Mr Robert had said he "ceased involvement" with GMT prior to the 2010 election. But new documents show that Mr Robert later transferred key aspects of another private company, Robert International, to the home address of his parents, Alan and Dorothy Robert, who were aged 74 and 71.

At this time, documents show Robert International held shares in GMT……

Robert International continued to hold shares in GMT until the end of 2011 - well after the 2010 election, and more than year after Mr Robert claimed he had "ceased involvement" with GMT.

Between 2007 and December, 2011, GMT picked up 356 government contracts worth more than $37 million. The average contract was worth just over $105,000.

More than 45 government agencies have used GMT, including the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Department of Veteran's Affairs, and CrimTrac. Mr Robert was a member of Parliament's Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence committee while many of those contracts were awarded. 

Mr Robert did not respond to a request to explain why he had listed his parents as directors and shareholders.

Robert International held shares in GMT until at least December 22, 2011. On that date, Mr Robert's business partner, Andrew Chantler, notified ASIC he was moving GMT's eight remaining shares in Robert International over to Chantler & Associates. The eight shares were valued at a combined $10,000. ​

ASIC documents show Robert International was re-registered to Mr Robert's home address in September last year, and the MP's most recent register of interests shows he is a director of the company - a position he resumed when his parents ceased to be directors in February 2016. Mr Robert paid $2 for the share previously owned by each of his parents.

Gold Coast Bulletin, 14 September 2017:

John Price, from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, told a parliamentary economics committee hearing in Canberra on Thursday the watchdog would make inquiries, after Labor questions on whether he had seen the media report.

"Will ASIC be investigating that?" Labor MP Matt Keogh asked.

"I think we'll make some inquiries into that, yes," Mr Price said.

ASIC confirmed in the hearing no identity check was needed for someone to become a company director, but rather it was a matter of filling in a form.

Without directly commenting on Mr Robert's case, Mr Price said knowingly lodging a false or misleading document was an office under corporations law with a maximum term of five years in jail.

The Member for Braddon in 2016:


Friday, 8 September 2017

Australian Politics 2017: Greed Unlimited #2


Former Liberal MP for Dunkley Bruce Fredrick Billson is to be investigated.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 September 2017:

Bruce Billson in Parliament. Photo: Andrew Meares

Former government minister Bruce Billson will be examined by a bipartisan committee to determine whether he acted in contempt of Parliament by taking undeclared payments from a business lobby group.

Mr Billson, who retired from Parliament at the July 2016 election after being dumped from the ministry when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull took over as leader, announced in March last year he was taking up a position with the Franchise Council of Australia. However, the income from this new position was not declared on his parliamentary register. 

Since the failure to register the separate income was revealed, Liberal MPs have expressed surprise that the former small business minister began receiving his $75,000 salary from the industry group while serving as an MP and he has faced calls to donate the amount in question to charity.

Manager of opposition business Tony Burke, who sought the inquiry, said the committee would investigate if the dual employment raised "any issues that may constitute a contempt of the House or to any issues concerning the appropriate conduct of a member" regarding his responsibilities to voters.

MPs who fail to properly complete their register can be declared in contempt of Parliament, risking a fine of up to $5000 or imprisonment for up to six months. 

Speaker Tony Smith said the House of Representatives still had jurisdiction over former MPs for their actions while in office, as in the case of disgraced Labor politician Craig Thomson who was formally reprimanded in 2015 after leaving Parliament in 2013.

Permitting the referral, Mr Smith noted two possibly relevant matters of contempt in Parliament's procedural handbook: "corruption in the execution of a member's office" and "lobbying for reward or consideration"

On 7 March Billson informed the Registrar of Members’ Interests that he was now the director and a shareholder in a new private company, added a private vehicle to his list of assets, outlined hospitality received as an MP and ended what was the last registry update of his political career with the memorable line:
By 23 March 2016 while still MP for Dunkley Bruce Billson was announcing to the world (but not to the Registrar) that he was now Executive Chairman of the Franchise Council of Australiaa paid position which commenced on 9 March.

Billson retired from parliament at the July 2016 federal election still not having declared this chairmanship or the $75,000 annual salary that went with it to the Registrar of Members’ Interests.

Seventeen months later he is calling this glaring omission “an administrative failing on my behalf”.

Not the words I would use to describe his actions.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Coalition MPs just cannot stay out of the headlines


Hot on the heels of the discovery of how many Coalition parliamentarians are involved in the dual citizenship disaster.... 

Prior to entering the South Australian Parliament in March 2014 the then Liberal  now Independent Member for Mount Gambier, Troy Bell, was a teacher, online wine purveyor, restaurateur and manager of the Independent Learning Centre at Mt. Gambier.

According to its website History page; The Independent Learning Centre (ILC) opened its doors in Mount Gambier in January 2007 as a co-operative pilot program between the State Government’s Department of Education and Children’s Services, the Federal Government FOCiS on Youth initiative, and, later, the Innovative Community Action Networks (ICAN) initiative.


PUBLIC STATEMENT BY THE HON. BRUCE LANDER QC INDEPENDENT COMMISSIONER AGAINST CORRUPTION
14 AUGUST 2017

Prosecution pending On Friday 11 August 2017, a public officer was charged with 20 counts of theft and six counts of dishonestly dealing with documents, being seven minor indictable offences and 19 major indictable offences, as a result of an investigation by my office. It will be alleged that the 43-year-old man from Mount Gambier dishonestly dealt with a substantial amount of public money. It will be further alleged that the public officer used documents known to be false, with the intention of claiming a benefit for himself. The alleged offending is said to have occurred between 9 July 2009 and 18 March 2013. The man has been summonsed to appear in the Mount Gambier Magistrates Court at 10:30am on 22 August 2017.

ABC News, 17 August 2017:

State Liberal MP for Mount Gambier Troy Bell has resigned from the party after being charged with stealing a substantial amount of taxpayers' money.

Liberal Party state director Sascha Meldrum confirmed she had received and accepted Mr Bell's resignation on Thursday.

The first-term MP intends to remain in Parliament and has released a statement saying he is "innocent of these allegations of theft and dishonesty and will defend them in court".

Last week, Mr Bell was charged with 20 counts of theft and six counts of dishonestly dealing with documents.

He's due to appear in the Mount Gambier Magistrates Court next Tuesday.

It will be alleged Mr Bell dishonestly dealt with a substantial sum of public money, and that he used documents known to be false, with the intention of claiming a benefit for himself.

The alleged offences are said to have occurred between July 9, 2009 and March 18, 2013, prior to his time in Parliament.

The former teacher ran an Independent Learning Centre in Mount Gambier before his election in 2014.

Mr Bell confirmed in a statement he had been "charged with a number of offences" and he denied any wrong doing.

ABC News, 18 August 2017:

Liberal leader Steven Marshall has come under fire for his party's response to the controversy engulfing Mount Gambier MP Troy Bell, who is facing criminal charges and has resigned from the party after an anti-corruption investigation.

It was revealed today Bell's decision, which has thrown Liberal preselection in the seat in South Australia's south-east into turmoil, followed a probe by the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (ICAC) Bruce Lander.

Bell will appear in court on Tuesday to face charges including 20 counts of theft that allegedly occurred over four years, before he became an MP.

"It will be alleged that the 43-year-old man from Mount Gambier dishonestly dealt with a substantial amount of public money," Mr Lander said in a statement.

"It will be further alleged that the public officer used documents known to be false, with the intention of claiming a benefit for himself."

The former teacher ran an Independent Learning Centre in Mount Gambier before his election in 2014, but is maintaining his innocence and vowing to fight the charges.

Labor is calling on Bell to immediately resign from Parliament and force a by-election, but he has committed to remaining as an independent.

He today spoke publicly about the matter for the first time, and is refusing to rule out contesting the next election.

"That's too early to determine. This has taken a very heavy toll on my family and my staff," he said.

The Advertiser, 18 August 2017:

CHARGED MP Troy Bell did not tell the Liberal Party he was the subject of an internal Education Department inquiry before his alleged crimes were referred to ICAC for investigation.

Sources told The Advertiser that Mr Bell — who is facing 26 criminal charges and has quit the Liberal Party — was aware of an investigation into financial irregularities at the learning facility he managed at Mt Gambier as early as April last year.

Mr Bell on Friday refused to comment on this, stating that his lawyer had advised him not to response to further questions.

Opposition Leader Steven Marshall said his office had not been advised of any internal investigation into Mr Bell and he first became aware of the ICAC inquiry on Sunday when told by Mr Bell.

As the political storm over the scandal deepened, Premier Jay Weatherill said Mr Bell should resign from Parliament immediately and he attacked Mr Marshall’s leadership on the issue, citing his silence, lack of decisive action and backing for Mr Bell to remain in parliament.

Friday, 28 July 2017

One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts' British citizenship renunciation timeline not clear



On Sunday 8 May 2016the Prime Minister announced there would be a federal election on 2 July that year.

Writs were issued on 16 May and the rolls closed 23 May 2016.

At 12 noon on Thursday 9 June 2016 close of nominations for both House of Representatives and Senate candidates occurred.

Early voting commenced on 14 June and Election Day ended at 6pm on 2 July 2016.

According to One Nation Senator Malcolm Ieuan Roberts as reported in The Age on 27 July 2017; he wrote to the British authorities on May 1 last year to ask them whether he was a British citizen, given he was born to a Welsh father in India.
He says he got no response so he wrote a further email on June 6 - three days before nominations closed - saying that if he was a citizen he fully renounced. He subsequently nominated as a candidate and won a Queensland Senate seat.

However, this tweet by Chief Political Correspondent, Sydney Morning Herald & The Age, James Massola, throws Malcolm Roberts assertion that he was not a British citizen at the time of nomination into doubt.


It appears that U.K. authorities and Mr. Roberts may possibly have different views of when he ceased to be a British citizen.

I strongly suspect that the High Court of Australia would be inclined to accept the word of the U.K. Government over that of Malcolm Roberts if this difference is confirmed.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Liberal Senator Matt Canavan reveals he has dual citizenship but refuses to resign from the Australian Parliament


COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA CONSTITUTION ACT - SECT 44, Disqualification, “Any person who: (i) is under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power; “

Liberal Senator for Queensland Matthew “Matt” Canavan has admitted to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that he held dual citizenship when he was nominated for the Australian Senate in 2013.

His mother Maria and he, along his brother and sister, were registered as Italian citizens in January 2007. He would have been 26 years of age at the time.

Mr. Canavan knew that his mother was an Italian citizen but would have the world believe that he was unaware that he was so registered until 18 July 2017.

This is the official spin the Turnbull Government is offering the national electorate:

SENATOR THE HON GEORGE BRANDIS QC
ATTORNEY-GENERAL
LEADER OF THE GOVERNMENT IN THE SENATE

SENATOR THE HON MATT CANAVAN

Transcript of Statements on Senator Canavan’s Citizenship, Brisbane

25 July 2017 

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Yesterday afternoon, Senator Canavan approached the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and me to tell us that he had received advice from the Italian Embassy that, according to their records, he was registered as an Italian citizen.   

Senator Canavan will explain circumstances in which he came to be registered as an Italian citizen. In brief, it occurred in 2006 when Senator Canavan’s mother, who is of Italian heritage, registered both herself and members of her family, including Senator Canavan, with the Italian consulate in Brisbane as an “Italian Resident abroad,” which is a form of citizenship. Senator Canavan, who was an adult at the time, did not authorise this to be done on his behalf. The first he became aware that she had done so was when she raised the matter with him on 18 July. He then sought urgent advice from the Italian embassy, which was only confirmed yesterday afternoon.

In the meanwhile, the Government has taken advice from the Solicitor-General and we are in the process of taking advice from experts in Italian citizenship law. It is the Government’s preliminary view that, because the registration was obtained without Senator Canavan’s knowledge or consent, that he is not in breach of s. 44 of the Constitution. Nevertheless, in view of the legal uncertainty concerning the matter, when the Senate convenes on Tuesday week, the Government will move to refer the matter for determination by the High Court.

MINISTER CANAVAN:  Well thank you, George. As George has outlined I have become aware that according to the Italian Government, I am a citizen of Italy. I was not born in Italy, I’ve never been to Italy and, to my knowledge, have never stepped foot in an Italian consulate or embassy. Until last week, I had no suspicion that I could possibly be an Italian citizen. In 2006, my mother lodged documents with the Italian consulate in Brisbane to become an Italian citizen. In doing so, it would appear that she made an application for me to become an Italian citizen as well. I was 25 years old at the time. My mother was born in Australia but was able to obtain Italian citizenship through her parents, who were both born in Italy. While I knew that my mother had become an Italian citizen, I had no knowledge that I myself had become an Italian citizen, nor had I requested to become an Italian citizen.

Following the reporting of Senator Ludlam and Senator Waters last week, my mother raised with me, the possibility that I was in fact an Italian citizen, on Tuesday evening. I have, since then, taken steps to check my citizenship status with the Italian authorities and that has confirmed that I was registered as an Italian citizen in January 2007. The Italian authorities have confirmed that the application for Italian citizenship was not signed by me. To my knowledge, until this week I have not received any correspondence from the Italian authorities about my citizenship status and they have not been able to provide any such records.

In the short time available, I have not been able to obtain definitive legal advice as to whether my registration as an Italian citizen, without my knowledge or consent, was valid under Italian law. I am seeking to obtain that advice presently. On the basis of the advice the Government has obtained, and that George outlined, it is not my intention to resign from the Senate. However given the uncertainty around this matter, I will stand aside until the matter is finally resolved and resign as the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia. I have informed the Prime Minister of that course of action. Thank you.

The bottom line for Mr. Canavan is that by 2013 when he nominated for the Australian Senate he had known his mother was an Italian citizen for at least five years and he did not take reasonable steps to discover if her citizenship by descent had any impact on his own citizenship status.

Matt Canavan should do the honourable thing and resign from parliament immediately as other members of parliament have done before him.

UPDATE

The Courier Mail, 26 July 2017:

It also emerged today that Senator Canavan discussed Italian citizenship with his mother almost a decade ago.

It has also been alleged that the Italian Government has sent him voting forms for the last ten years.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

And Australian federal politicians wonder why they are held in such low esteem


The majority of those Teflon-coated, masters of entitlement sitting in the Senate and House of Representative in Canberra wouldn’t even make the gesture……


Fewer than a quarter of federal politicians have agreed to commit to new ethical standards devised by legendary corruption fighter Tony Fitzgerald - and there is not a single Turnbull government MP among them.

The former judge teamed up with the left-leaning Australia Institute think tank to survey every federal politician on their values as part of a plan to clean up Canberra and build momentum for a federal anti-corruption body.

The Queensland QC – who presided over the Fitzgerald Inquiry that ultimately led to the resignation of former state premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen – developed the questionnaire to test MPs about their attitudes towards accountability, integrity, nepotism, deception and the spending of public money.

But the response from MPs was underwhelming, with just 53 of the 226 signing up to the so-called "Fitzgerald Principles". Thirty-six refused to commit and 137 did not reply to repeated requests to participate.

"The refusal of a majority of politicians to commit publicly to normal standards of behaviour puts the need for an effective anti-corruption commission beyond doubt," Mr Fitzgerald said. 
"The major parties surely realise that the public wants politicians to behave honourably and that the scandals which are causing Australians to lose faith in democracy involve their members."

Thirty-eight members of the ALP agreed to the principles, including Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus. Seven members of the Australian Greens signed up, as did all four members of the Nick Xenophon Team, two independents and One Nation's Pauline Hanson.

No Coalition MPs - who are often instructed not to take part in surveys - signed up.

The Australia Institute, 28 January 2015:

The Fitzgerald Principles are:

1. Govern for the peace, welfare and good government of the State;
2. Make all decisions and take all actions, including public appointments, in the public interest without regard to personal, party political or other immaterial considerations;
3.  Treat all people equally without permitting any person or corporation special access or influence; and
4.  Promptly and accurately inform the public of its reasons for all significant or potentially controversial decisions and actions.

The Australian Government has a Statement Of Ministerial Standards which all federal government ministers are obliged to uphold. However, currently there is no general code of conduct for all members of parliament and, it appears that most of those we elected in 2016 like the freedom to do as they please which this allows and are loathe to alter the status quo.

Friday, 9 June 2017

The optics are not good when it comes to the former Australian Minister for Trade and Investment


According to former Australian Minister for Trade and Investment & former Liberal MP for Goldstein Andrew Robb he is now in the business of providing "boutique investment, trade and major projects counsel for companies and organisation's globally, with a focus on the Asia-Pacific region" through his company Andrew Robb Pty Ltd which is contactable "C/- Ellerston Capital". 

The website goes on to state that; Mr Robb is currently a Board Member of the Kidman cattle enterprise and the Network Ten television station, Chair of Asialink and CNSDose, and strategic advisor to Beef Innovations Australia, as well as a range of national and international businesses.

On 13 July 2016 the Australian Financial Review added an investment bank to the list:

Former trade minister Andrew Robb has joined investment bank Moelis & Company, where he will focus on deals with China.
Robb had announced this appointment on the same day.
By 2 September 2016 Landbridge Group Co Ltd, a Chinese corporation based in Rizhao, China, had informed the world that Mr. Robb was now a senior economic consultant with the group effective two months earlier. 


According to The Age on 6 June 2017:

The details of the consultancy have never been disclosed by Mr Ye or Mr Robb. Neither has the fact that Mr Robb is being used to spruik a Chinese Communist Party-backed trade park as part of his consultancy agreement.

Mr Ye frames much of his business activity, including the acquisition of the Port of Darwin lease, in terms of advancing Beijing's ambitious global trade and infrastructure project "One Belt, One Road".

The port's acquisition sparked a major controversy after then US president Barack Obama complained he hadn't been forewarned. The Defence Department and ASIO have vetted and cleared Landbridge's acquisition of the port. But the director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Peter Jennings, said the port deal might benefit Beijing's long-term strategic interests, and not necessarily those of Australia.

Mr Ye publicly announced on September 2 last year that Mr Robb had been appointed as a "high-level economic consultant". At the time, Mr Robb had already been working for Mr Ye for eight weeks, and had earned $146,000, including GST but minus expenses…..

In April 2016, less than three months before his consultancy agreement began, Mr Robb visited China with an Australian delegation in his capacity as Australia's trade envoy. The delegation was lobbied by Rizhao Communist Party deputy secretary Liu Xingtai to support the trade park as part of a "Two Countries, Two Parks" proposal.

"The proposal has been fully recognised and highly affirmed by the Shandong Province Party Committee, the Provincial Government and the Department of Commerce," the Chinese government statement said.

The statement also said deputy secretary Liu had met Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and NT Chief Minister Adam Giles on April 14, 2016, and "proposed the co-operative model of Two Countries, Two Parks".  

Mr Ye placed Mr Robb on his payroll 10 weeks later.

Now if memory serves me correctly on 11 February 2016 Mr. Robb announced that he would not recontest his seat and the Australian Parliament was dissolved on 9 May 2016 ahead of the federal election.

As he was on his feet in the House of Representatives on 4 May and was listed as a sitting member in the Hansard of 5 May when the Budget was delivered after which all federal politicians then returned to their electorates, one can be forgiven for assuming that he did not officially retire until 9 May 2016 when the parliament was dissolved.

Twenty-three days later on 1 July 2016 (the day before the 2016 federal election day) Andrew Robb was on the Landbridge payroll according to ABC TV Four Corners 5 May 2017 transcript:

From that date, he's be[ing] paid $73,000 a month, or $880,000 a year, plus expenses.

This of course is in addition to his parliamentary superannuation lumpsum and/or periodic payments based on Commonwealth contributions equivalent to est. 15.4% of salary/wages per the Parliamentary Superannuation Act 2004 (Robb turned 65 years of age in August 2016) and remuneration for aforementioned directorships and other consultancy positions.

On 1 July Mr. Robb would have reached the end of any period in which he was eligible to receive a percentage of his base parliamentary salary as a departing MP not standing for re-election.

Looking at this timeline I wouldn't be surprised if the formal contract with Landbridge was not signed even earlier than 1 July, that the ink was probably still drying on this document when Robb told parliament of his intention to resign and stood down as trade and investment minister on 18 February 2016.

Monday, 29 May 2017

IN MATES WE TRUST: that all too familiar stench begins to drift across Parliament Drive once more


Prime Minister John Howard with Bob Day then a Liberal donor and party figure
The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 September 2008

On 17 May 2017The Guardian reported on the matter of the eligibility of Family First’s Bob Day1 to sit in the Australian Senate:
A majority of the court found that Day was ineligible from 26 February 2016. He was paid close to $130,000 between then and his November resignation.

Ryan said Day had been warned he was required to repay the salary and superannuation he earned as a senator, and similar letters had been sent to former One Nation senator Rod Culleton.

Barely eight days pass and then……
ABC News, 25 May 2017:

The Federal Government has agreed to waive debts owed by former senator Bob Day, after receiving advice that he may not be able to repay the money.

Special Minister of State senator Scott Ryan told a Senate estimates committee he decided to waive the debts in line with decisions made in similar cases in the past.

In April, the High Court ruled Mr Day was not validly elected to the Senate last year, due to a complex arrangement involving a building previously owned by Mr Day being leased by the Commonwealth.

It was recently revealed the Senate and Department of Finance were pursuing Mr Day and fellow disqualified senator Rod Culleton, seeking the repayment of their salaries and other allowances.

Both men received letters informing them of the situation, potentially owing hundreds of thousands of dollars between them.

Senator Ryan told the estimates hearing Mr Day took up an option to formally request the debt be waived.

The Minister said he was advised pursuing the debts may not be fair.

"It may be seen to be inequitable for the Commonwealth to recover the debt, given Mr Day performed his duties as a senator in good faith," he said.

"The [advisory] committee also noted Mr Day's personal financial circumstances."

Remembering of course that the Liberal Party and its financial backers have a history of propping up Mr. Day…….

The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 February 2017:

A wealthy fundraising body linked to the Liberal Party has quietly begun bankrolling the organisations behind two of the Coalition's biggest crossbench supporters in the finely balanced Senate.

The Cormack Foundation has donated more than $40 million to the Liberal Party over the last 18 years – including more than $3 million in 2015-16 – making it one of the party's biggest benefactors.

The foundation is an investment company and "associated entity" of the Liberals that donates dividends from its share portfolio. It has stakes in a number of blue-chip companies – including the big four banks, Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, Telstra and Wesfarmers – raising about $3.9 million last year.

But for the first time in its 30-year history, the foundation last year donated to parties other than the Liberals – giving $25,000 each to the conservative Family First and the libertarian Liberal Democrats, according to the Australian Election Commission annual returns released this week.

The foundation has eight listed shareholders, who are also the company's directors. They include Rupert Murdoch's brother-in-law John Calvert-Jones, former Reserve Bank board member and Business Council of Australia president Hugh Morgan and former ANZ chairman Charles Goode.

The donations came in a year that the Abbott and then Turnbull governments were highly reliant in the Senate on the votes of Family First's Bob Day and the Liberal Democrats' David Leyonhjelm….

It's believed to be the first occasion an "associated entity" has linked itself to more than one political party at a time.

ABC News, 2 November 2017:

The Abbott government ignored the advice of its own bureaucrats when it approved the lease agreement with former Family First senator Bob Day regarding his Adelaide electorate office in 2014.

Documents obtained under Freedom of Information reveal the Finance Department advised the Government not to allow Mr Day to relocate his electorate office from the Adelaide CBD to a building he owned in Kent Town, warning it had "concerns about how such a transaction might be perceived"……

Despite this advice, the then special minister of state, Michael Ronaldson, wrote to Mr Day in March 2014 telling him he was willing to consider the arrangement as long as the Kent Town property met Commonwealth standards and that no rent would be charged to the Commonwealth until the lease ended on the CBD office space.

Mr Day sold the building to Fullerton Investments and last December, the company entered into a lease agreement with the Commonwealth under which no rent would be paid……

Mr Day's company loaned Fullarton Investments money to make the purchase — and are ultimately liable for a National Australia Bank mortgage on the building.

Between 2004 and 2006 Bob Day’s company Homestead Homes donated $9,937 to the Liberal Party in South Australia. It is understood that the donation tally may be higher as Day owned more than one company and at least one trust which may have contributed to party coffers.

NOTES



Wednesday, 17 May 2017

FACTS OF THE MATTER: Trump, Russia and the 2016 U.S. presidential election


FACTS UNDER OATH

GRAHAM: OK. Do you stand by your testimony that there is an active investigation counterintelligence investigation regarding Trump campaign individuals in the Russian government as to whether not to collaborate? You said that in March...
COMEY: To see if there was any coordination between the Russian effort and peoples...
GRAHAM: Is that still going on?
COMEY: Yes.
GRAHAM: OK. So nothing's changed. You stand by those two statements?
COMEY: Correct. ……

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, D-CONN.: Thanks. Thank you Mr. Chairman. Thank you Director Comey for being here and thank you to you and the men and women who work with you at the FBI for their extraordinary service to our country, much of it unappreciated as you've wrote so powerfully in your opening statement. You have confirmed, I believe, that the FBI is investigating potential ties between Trump Associates and the Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, correct?
COMEY: Yes.
BLUMENTHAL: And you have not, to my knowledge, ruled out anyone in the Trump campaign as potentially a target of that criminal investigation, correct?
COMEY: Well, I haven't said anything publicly about who we've opened investigations on, I briefed the chair and ranking on who those people are. And so I can't -- I can't go beyond that in this setting. [FBI Director James B. Comey responds to a questions from Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (Democrat-Connecticut) during the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee investigation into “Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation”, commencing 10am US EDT 3 May 2017, transcript published in The Washington Post]

With respect to the Russian investigation, we treated it like we did with the Clinton investigation. We didn't say a word about it until months into it and then the only thing we've confirmed so far about this is the same thing with the Clinton investigation. That we are investigating. And I would expect, we're not going to say another peep about it until we're done. And I don't know what will be said when we're done, but that's the way we handled the Clinton investigation as well…….
In that particular investigation, my judgment was that it — that the appearance of fairness and independence required that it be removed from the political chain of command within the Department of Justice, because as you recall, it seems like a lifetime ago. But that also involved the conduct of people who were senior-level people in the White House, and my judgment was that even I, as an independent-minded person, was a political appointee and so I ought to give it to a career person like Pat Fitzgerald.
The Russians used cyber operations against both political parties, including hacking into servers used by the Democratic National Committee and releasing stolen data to WikiLeaks and other media outlets. Russia also collected on certain Republican Party- affiliated targets, but did not release any Republican-related data. The Intelligence Community Assessment concluded first that President Putin directed and influenced campaign to erode the faith and confidence of the American people in our presidential election process. Second, that he did so to demean Secretary Clinton, and third, that he sought to advantage Mr. Trump. These conclusions were reached based on the richness of the information gathered and analyzed and were thoroughly vetted and then approved by the directors of the three agencies and me. [JAMES R. CLAPPER JR., former Director Of National Intelligence August 2010–January 2017, giving evidence before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee investigation into “Russian Interference in the 2016 United States Election”, commencing 4.30am AEST 9 May 2017, transcript published in The Washington Post]
When the Intelligence Community obtains information suggesting that a U.S. person is acting on behalf of a foreign power, the standard procedure is to share that information with the FBI. The Bureau then decides whether to look into that information and handles any ensuing investigation, if there is one.
Given its sensitivity, even the existence of a counterintelligence investigation is closely held, including at the highest levels. During my tenure as DNI, it was my practice to defer to the FBI Director – both Director Mueller and Director Comey – on whether, when, and to what extent they would inform me about such investigations. This stems from the unique position of the FBI, which straddles both intelligence and law enforcement. As a consequence, I was not aware of the counterintelligence investigation Director Comey first referred to during his testimony before the House intelligence committee on March 20th, and that comports with my public statements[JAMES R. CLAPPER, former Director of National Intelligence, giving evidence before the U.S. Committee On The Judiciary Subcommittee On Crime And Terrorism United States Senate investigation into “Russian Interference in the 2016 United States Election”, 8 May 2017, transcript]
I had two in-person meetings and one phone call with the White House Counsel about Mr. Flynn. The first meeting occurred on January 26, called Don McGahn first thing that morning and told him that I had a very sensitive matter that I needed to discuss with him, that I couldn't talk about it on the phone and that I needed to come see him. And he agreed to meet with me later that afternoon.

I took a senior member of the national security division who was overseeing this matter with me to meet with Mr. McGahn. We met in his office at the White House which is a skiff (ph) so we could discuss classified information in his office. We began our meeting telling him that there had been press accounts of statements from the vice president and others that related conduct that Mr. Flynn had been involved in that we knew not to be the truth.

And as I - as I tell you what happened here, again I'm going to be very careful not to reveal classified information…..

So I told them again that there were a number of press accounts of statements that had been made by the vice president and other high-ranking White House officials about General Flynn's conduct that we knew to be untrue. And we told them how we knew that this - how we had this information, how we had acquired it, and how we knew that it was untrue.

And we walked the White House Counsel who also had an associate there with him through General Flynn's underlying conduct, the contents of which I obviously cannot go through with you today because it's classified. But we took him through in a fair amount of detail of the underlying conduct, what General Flynn had done, and then we walked through the various press accounts and how it had been falsely reported.

We also told the White House Counsel that General Flynn had been interviewed by the FBI on February 24. Mr. McGahn asked me how he did and I declined to give him an answer to that. And we then walked through with Mr. McGahn essentially why we were telling them about this and the first thing we did was to explain to Mr. McGahn that the underlying conduct that General Flynn had engaged in was problematic in and of itself.

Secondly, we told him we felt like the vice president and others were entitled to know that the information that they were conveying to the American people wasn't true. And we wanted to make it really clear right out of the gate that we were not accusing Vice President Pence of knowingly providing false information to the American people.

And, in fact, Mr. McGahn responded back to me to let me know that anything that General Flynn would've said would have been based -- excuse me -- anything that Vice President Pence would have said would have been based on what General Flynn had told him.
We told him the third reason was -- is because we were concerned that the American people had been misled about the underlying conduct and what General Flynn had done, and additionally, that we weren't the only ones that knew all of this, that the Russians also knew about what General Flynn had done.

And the Russians also knew that General Flynn had misled the vice president and others, because in the media accounts, it was clear from the vice president and others that they were repeating what General Flynn had told them, and that this was a problem because not only did we believe that the Russians knew this, but that they likely had proof of this information.

And that created a compromise situation, a situation where the national security adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians. Finally, we told them that we were giving them all of this information so that they could take action, the action that they deemed appropriate.

I remember that Mr. McGahn asked me whether or not General Flynn should be fired, and I told him that that really wasn't our call, that was up to them, but that we were giving them this information so that they could take action, and that was the first meeting.
[SALLY C. YATES, former Deputy U.S. Attorney-General & former Acting Attorney-General January 2015-January 2017, giving evidence before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee investigation into “Russian Interference in the 2016 United States Election”, commencing 4.30am AEST 9 May 2017, transcript published in The Washington Post]


‘ALTERNATIVE FACTS’




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HOLT: Monday, you met with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Did you ask for a recommendation?
TRUMP: What I did was, I was going to fire. My decision. I was not...
HOLT: You’d made the decision before they came into the room?
TRUMP: I was going to fire Comey. There’s no good time to do it by the way.
HOLT: In your letter, you said, ‘I accept their recommendation.’ 
TRUMP: Oh, I was going to fire, regardless of recommendation. He made a recommendation, he’s highly respected — very good guy, very smart guy. And the Democrats like him, Republicans like him. He made a recommendation, but regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey. [Excerpt from NBC News Lester Holt interview with Donald Trump on 11 May 2017]