Showing posts with label election funding. Show all posts
Showing posts with label election funding. Show all posts

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Morrison's refusal to release the written finding of the Gaetjens investigation into the allocation of Community Sport Infrastructure Grants during the 2019 federal election campaign is raising eyebrows


The handling of the Community Sport Infrastructure Grant Program during the 2019 federal election campaign - otherwise know as SportsRorts scandal - has already taken the scalp of former Agriculture Minister & Nationals Senator for Victoria, Bridget McKenzie, after poor personal polling on 12 January  and growing public anger on the release of the Auditor General's adverse report of 15 January 2020 caused Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to order an internal investigation into this $100 million dollar scheme.

Ms. McKenzie has been made Leader of the Nationals in the Senate as compensation for the fact that she was forced to resign in an effort to put a lid on the whole affair.

Nevertheless disquiet remains after Morrison refused to release the written finding of the Gaetjens investigation.......

Former head of the Departments of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Finance, and Employment and Industrial Relations and currently Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University, Michael Keating, writing in Crikey.com.au on 11 February 2020:

In my view the Gaetjens’ report reflects poorly on its author.

It would seem on the evidence that Gaetjens has produced a report whose only purpose was to get the government off a political hook.

One suspects that finding McKenzie guilty on the grounds of political bias in her administration of these grants would have implicated other ministers and/or their offices, and therefore she was exonerated on this charge.

However, as head of the public service, Gaetjen’s first duty is to uphold its values and integrity. And as set out in its enabling legislation, the Australian Public Service is meant to be apolitical, serving not only the government but also parliament and the Australian public.

Gaetjens should be setting an example for the rest of the APS — indeed the head of any organisation has their greatest impact on its culture.

My other concern about this sports rorts saga is what it tells us about the prime minister’s attitude to the public service.

As the High Court has found: “the maintenance and protection of an apolitical and professional public service is a significant purpose consistent with the system of representative and responsible government mandated by the constitution”.

But the Gaetjens’ report reinforces doubts about whether Morrison accepts the independence and impartiality of the APS.

Furthermore, this report comes on the back of the Morrison government’s rejection of all the recommendations from the independent ThodeyReview of the APS which would have strengthened that independence, and therefore reinforces that concern.

On 5 February 2020 the Senate resolved to establish a Select Committee on Administration of Sports Grants to inquire into and report on the administration and award of funding under the Community Sport Infrastructure Grant Program.

The first and, perhaps the only, hearing day is today Thursday 13 February 2020 -  beginning at 4.30pm when the Auditor General Grant Hehir will be giving evidence.

The closing date for submissions is 21 February 2020 and the committee is to present its final report on or before 24 March 2020.
BACKGROUND
Terms of Reference 

1. That a select committee, to be known as the Select Committee on Administration of Sports Grants, be established to inquire into and report on the administration and award of funding under the Community Sport Infrastructure Grant Program, with particular reference to: 
a) program design and guidelines; 
b) requirements placed on applicants for funding; 
c) management and assessment processes; 
d) adherence to published assessment processes and program criteria; 
e) the role of the offices of the Minister, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, and any external parties, in determining which grants would be awarded and who would announce the successful grants; and 
f) any related programs or matters. 

2. That the committee present its final report on or before Tuesday 24 March 2020. 

3. That the committee consist of 5 senators, as follows: 
a) 2 nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate; 
b) 2 nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate; and 
c)1 nominated by the Leader of the Australian Greens. 

4. That: 
a) participating members may be appointed to the committee on the nomination of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate or any minority party or independent senator; and b) participating members may participate in hearings of evidence and deliberations of the committee, and have all the rights of members of the committee, but may not vote on any questions before the committee. 
c) a participating member shall be taken to be a member of a committee for the purpose of forming a quorum of the committee if a majority of members of the committee is not present. 

5. That the committee may proceed to the dispatch of business notwithstanding that not all members have been duly nominated and appointed and notwithstanding any vacancy. 

6. That the committee elect as chair one of the members nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and as deputy chair the member nominated by the Leader of the Australian Greens. 

7. That the deputy chair shall act as chair when the chair is absent from a meeting of the committee or the position of chair is temporarily vacant. 

8. That, in the event of an equality of voting, the chair, or the deputy chair when acting as chair, have a casting vote. 

9. That the committee have power to appoint subcommittees consisting of 3 or more of its members, and to refer to any such subcommittee any of the matters which the committee is empowered to consider. 

10. That the committee and any subcommittee have power to send for and examine persons and documents, to move from place to place, to sit in public or in private, notwithstanding any prorogation of the Parliament or dissolution of the House of Representatives, and have leave to report from time to time its proceedings and the evidence taken and such interim recommendations as it may deem fit. 

11. That the committee be provided with all necessary staff, facilities and resources and be empowered to appoint persons with specialist knowledge for the purposes of the committee with the approval of the President. 

12. That the committee be empowered to print from day to day such papers and evidence as may be ordered by it, and a daily Hansard be published of such proceedings as take place in public. 

The resolution establishing the committee is available in the Journals of the Senate No. 37 - Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Australian National Audit Office (ANAO), Award of Funding under the Community Sport Infrastructure Program, Report NO. 23 OF 2019–20, which found:
  • The award of grant funding was not informed by an appropriate assessment process and sound advice.
  • The successful applications were not those that had been assessed as the most meritorious in terms of the published program guidelines..... 
  • There was evidence of distribution bias in the award of grant funding. Overall statistics indicate that the award of funding was consistent with the population of eligible applications received by state/territory, but was not consistent with the assessed merit of applications. The award of funding reflected the approach documented by the Minister’s Office of focusing on ‘marginal’ electorates held by the Coalition as well as those electorates held by other parties or independent members that were to be ‘targeted’ by the Coalition at the 2019 Election. Applications from projects located in those electorates were more successful in being awarded funding than if funding was allocated on the basis of merit assessed against the published program guidelines.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Political Donations 101: cause and effect 2019-2020


THE CAUSE: Reliance on political donations

Individuals and corporations making large or regular political donations are rarely giving money for philanthropic reasons - they usually want something in return.

Sometimes it is access to a prime minister or premier, sometimes access to a particular minister and sometimes it is a barely concealed bribe in order that the donor gets a specific outcome from a particular government.

The Guardian, 3 February 2020:

The Liberal party received $4.1m from a single donor before the 2019 election, one of the largest amounts in political history, dwarfing former leader Malcolm Turnbull’s $1.75m gift before the 2016 election.

The donations, revealed in Australian Electoral Commission disclosures published on Monday, are second only to the $83.3m donated by Mineralogy Pty Ltd to Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party.

Both major parties also took significant sums of money from the fossil fuel industry, including multinational giant Woodside, something environmentalists say explains government inaction in the “face of a rolling national emergency driven by climate change”.

The $4.1m donated to the federal Liberal party and its state branches was given in multiple instalments by Sugolena Pty Ltd, a company linked to philanthropist Isaac Wakil, who made his fortune in the clothing industry and invested heavily in property, with his wife Susan, around the Sydney suburb of Pyrmont…..


The Liberals declared $22.6m in donations Labor $18.2m. Total receipts, which include all donations regardless of the $13,800 reporting threshold, other payments, returns from financial investments and loans, amounted to $165m for the Liberals and $126m for Labor.

Australia’s weak donation disclosure system continues to mask a huge chunk of political financing. 

Analysis by the Centre for Public Integrity shows that $1bn in party income has not been disclosed between 1999 and the last reporting year, almost 36% of total party financing.

But the disclosures that have been made continue to show the significant influence of the fossil fuel industry in Australian democracy. Clive Palmer’s Mineralogy, which gave $83,681,442 to Palmer’s United Australia Party, was by far the single biggest fossil fuel donor.

An analysis by the Australian Conservation Foundation found a further $1.89m in fossil fuel donations to Australian political parties.

This data explains why even in the face of a rolling national emergency driven by climate change and community demands for change, the government continues to defend and promote the industries that are the root cause of the problem,” ACF’s economy and democracy program manager Matt Rose said.

Serious donations reform is needed now to make sure our political system works for the benefit of all Australian, not just those with the biggest wallets.”

The biggest fossil fuel donor to the major parties was Woodside, Australia’s biggest LNG exporter. It gave $135,400 to Labor, $136,750 to the Liberal Party and $11,190 to the Nationals. The gas industry lobby, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA), was also a significant donor. [APPEA donated a combined total of $24,990 to the federal Liberal and Nationals parties]

Prime minister Scott Morrison recently identified gas as a key “transition” fuel for Australia’s economy, saying “we need to get the gas from under our feet”. 

He also recently struck a a $2bn deal with the New South Wales government to increase gas supply and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector…..

The federal Liberal party also declared two donations from Adani Mining Pty Ltd totalling $50,000….. [the Australian Electoral Commission identified a combined total of $97,300 as donations directly from Adani Mining Pty Ltd to the federal Liberal and Nationals parties]

Carmichael Rail Network, another wholly-owned subsidiary of Adani Australia, gave $50,000 to the federal Liberal party and $100,000 to the Nationals….. [my red annotations]

THE EFFECT: Requirement to fulfil the terms of the unwritten contract between a political party and its donors

Within the 8 months following the May 2019 federal election the Morrison Government acted to benefit certain of its donors in the gas industry sector.

Santos Limited which had donated a combined total of $42,723 to federal Liberal and Nationals coffers in 2017-18 went on to donate another $78,854 in 2018-19, with this result......

According to Lock The Gate Alliance on 31 January 2020:

The ‘energy deal’ announced today between NSW and Federal Governments looks designed to unleash coal seam gas drilling in north-west NSW, threatening drought-affected farmers and allowing Santos to drain 37 billion litres of groundwater.

Crucially, it will do little to bring down greenhouse gas emissions due to its reliance on dirty, polluting unconventional gas.

Media reports indicate the NSW Government has been compelled by the Commonwealth to make a commitment to supply 70PJ of gas for the east coast market in exchange for up to $2 billion in Federal funding for renewable energy and unquantified reduction incentives.

The volume of gas mentioned in the deal is similar to the amount Santos expects to produce at its proposed water-hungry Narrabri coal seam gasfield.

To facilitate the creation of one or more gasfields in north-west New South Wales the Berejiklian Coalition Government held a second hearing into the NSW Chief Scientist’s recommendations on coal seam gas in NSW on 4 February 2020.

As the Berejiklian Government failed to act on the Chief Scientist's original recommendations, this second hearing was a cause for concern......

Lock The Gate Alliance, 3 February 2020:

CSG hearing round 2 must deliver more than just hot air

The holding of a second hearing into the NSW Chief Scientist’s recommendations on coal seam gas in NSW is evidence the Berejiklian Government is not prepared to deal with the repercussions of the destructive industry, according to Lock the Gate Alliance.

The hearing, to be held tomorrow, is only happening because the Government was unable to properly answer questions about CSG at the original hearing, held in December last year.

Lock the Gate NSW coordinator Georgina Woods said it was even more crucial than ever now for the Government to answer questions about its forgotten promises on coal seam gas, given the state and federal governments look poised to sacrifice the north west following last week’s energy deal announcement.

It was deeply troubling to watch government representatives scratch their heads when asked basic questions about their oversight of this damaging industry at the last hearing. It demonstrated an alarming lack of attention to the serious risk coal seam gas poses to groundwater in North West NSW,” Ms Woods said.

Last week’s energy deal with Canberra has raised the very real risk that state and federal governments will run roughshod over the facts and heap political pressure on planning authorities to approve Santos’ destructive Narrabri coal seam gas proposal.

This inquiry has shown how unready and unaware the Government is for the environmental, social and economic damage that will inflict.

There is still time to stop Santos’ Narrabri gas project from puncturing holes in a recharge aquifer of the Great Artesian Basin, one of western New South Wales’ most precious groundwater resources. There is still time to make this important area a no-go zone for coal seam gas and safeguard the water resources of north west New South Wales.”

Ms Woods said it was clear from the last hearing that major recommendations made by the Chief Scientist had not been implemented.

The biggest gaps include failure to provide a three-tiered environmental insurance scheme, failure to establish a standing expert committee, and failure to develop systems that can detect cumulative impacts of the industry on precious water resources,” she said.

There are 11 expired and unused legacy coal seam gas licences languishing over the farmland, towns, and precious water resources of the drought-stricken north west that have never been through the Government’s new system for assessing areas for gas exploration.

The NSW Government is leaving farming communities in the north west exposed to unforeseen and irreversible loss or contamination of water resources and other environmental and health impacts from the CSG industry.

We need a reset from the Government that prioritises water security, people, and the needs of future generations and that means stopping the Narrabri gasfield.”

Brisbane Times reported on 3 February 2020 concerning the Adani Group's strategically timed donations:

On April 5, $12,500 was donated to the Liberal Party; that was four days before then-Environment Minister Melissa Price signed off on the groundwater management plans for Adani's central Queensland mine. 

Another $100,000 was donated to both parties in the month after Ms Price gave final federal approvals to the mine.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC): the case of the $100,000 cash political donation


Sometime after 2 November 2015 the NSW Electoral Commission appears to have noticed that on 12 March 2015, around two weeks before a NSW state election, an organisation known as Chinese Friends of Labor raised $138,000 from an event held in a 750-seat Chinese restaurant in Haymarket, Sydney. 

What piqued the Electoral Commission's interest was that $100,000 of this money appears to have been raised by Chinese Friends of Labor as cash from 12 donors - five of whom were employees or former employees of a second 350-seat Haymarket restaurant usually described as being serving staff, two who were related to that restaurant's general manager and two who were associated with property development company Wu International Investments Pty Ltd.

The NSW Electoral Commission began to wonder if some of the named donors were perhaps 'straw men' for one or more property developers.

Property developers are of course prohibited by law from making political donations in New South Wales. 

As members of the NSW Liberal Party will recall if they think back on the 2016 NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) Operation Spicer investigation into political funding which found the Free Enterprise Foundation and "Raymond Carter, Andrew Cornwell, Garry Edwards, the Hon Michael Gallacher MLC, Nabil Gazal Jnr, Nicholas Gazal, Hilton Grugeon, Christopher Hartcher, Timothy Koelma, Jeffrey McCloy, Timothy Owen, Christopher Spence, Hugh Thomson and Darren Williams acted with the intention of evading laws under the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981 (the election funding laws) relating to the disclosure of political donations and the ban on donations from property developers. Messrs Grugeon, Hartcher, Koelma, McCloy, Owen, Thomson and Williams were also found to have acted with the intention of evading the election funding laws relating to caps on political donations. The Commission also found that Craig Baumann, Nicholas Di Girolamo, Troy Palmer and Darren Webber acted with the intention of evading the election funding laws relating to the disclosure of political donations and that Bart Bassett knowingly solicited a political donation from a property developer".

On 15 January 2018, after further investigation, the Electoral Commission referred the matter of Chinese Friends of Labor & Labor Party state campaign accounts to ICAC and on 26 August 2019 public hearings in Operation Aero began. 

Five witnesses are to be called this week: Kenrick Cheah (NSW Labor community relations director), Steve Tong (former employee Wu International Investments), Kaila Murnain (General Secretary of NSW Labor)Ernest Wong (former NSW Labor MLC) and Sam Dastyari (former Federal Labor senator).

It has been alleged that Chinese billionaire property developer Huang Xiangmo was the source of the $100,000 cash donation. 

Readers might remember that this particular billionaire was the subject of allegations that he paid a five-figure sum in order to have a private lunch with Minister for Home Affairs and Liberal MP for Dickson Peter Dutton during the period he was seeking Australian citizenship.

Political tragics can follow the hearings here.

Friday, 12 April 2019

Morrison’s plan to use whatever is left in Coalition MPs and Senators electoral communications parliamentary allowance to fund his national election campaign has been scuttled



Australian Senate Hansard, 3 April 2019, excerpt:

REGULATIONS AND DETERMINATIONS Parliamentary Business Resources Amendment (2019 Measures No. 1) Regulations 2019 Disallowance Senator FARRELL (South Australia—Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (21:29): I move: That item 4 of the Parliamentary Business Resources Amendment (2019 Measures No. 1) Regulations 2019, made under the Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017, be disallowed [F2019L00177]. The PRESIDENT: The question is that business of the Senate notice of motion No. 2, standing in the name of Senator Farrell, relating to the disallowance of item 4 of the Parliamentary Business Resources Amendment (2019 Measures No. 1) Regulations 2019, be agreed to. The Senate divided. [21:34] (The President—Senator Ryan)
Ayes ......................34 Noes ......................26 Majority.................8

The New Daily, 4 April 2019:

The Morrison government has lost a bid to allow MPs to use taxpayer-funded electoral allowances to pay for TV and radio advertisements during the looming federal election campaign.

Late on Wednesday night – in one of this parliament’s last votes before the election is called – the Senate dumped a government regulation allowing $22 million of public money to be used for political ads in the lead up to May’s federal poll.

MPs have a budget of about $137,000 for electorate communications, while senators have up to $109,000.

Under existing rules, they cannot use office expenses money to pay for content on television or radio. The government’s changes would have allowed them to use printing entitlements to buy TV and radio ads for the first time.

The Coalition had argued lifting the ban on TV and radio promotions would have put Australian media on a level playing field by ensuring all communities had the same access to information from their federal MP.

But Labor frontbencher Don Farrell, who moved the disallowance motion in the Senate, accused Prime Minister Scott Morrison of wasting taxpayers’ money in a bid to save his job.

“Publicly funded office budgets are for members and senators to communicate with their constituents – not for spamming voters with hollow election slogans from the ad man, Scott Morrison,” he said.

With the support of the Greens and a handful of crossbench senators, Labor won the disallowance vote.... 

The heroes of the hour who saved us all from what was clearly an attempt to create a lasting rort at taxpayer’s expense were:

Bilyk, CL. Carr, KJ. Chisholm, A. Ciccone, R. Di Natale, R. Dodson, P. Farrell, D. Faruqi, M. Gallacher, AM. Griff, S. Hanson-Young, SC. Hinch, D. Ketter, CR.  (teller) Kitching, K. Lines, S. Marshall, GM. McAllister, J. McCarthy, M. McKim, NJ. O'Neill, DM. Patrick, RL. Polley, H. Pratt, LC. Rice, J. Siewert, R. Smith, DPB. Steele-John, J. Sterle, G. Storer, TR. Urquhart, AE. Waters, LJ. Watt, M. Whish-Wilson, PS. Wong, P.

Well done one and all!

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Australian High Court rejects NSW Berejiklian Government's 2018 electoral funding reforms


In May 2018 the NSW Berejiklian Government announced plans to cap election-related spending by unions, environmental groups, and churches at a maximum of $500,000. 

The Electoral Funding Act 2018 No 20 came into force on 1 July 2018.


Australian Financial Review, 29 January 2019:

In July 2018, the Berejiklian Government reduced the amount that unions and other third parties could spend in the six months before an election from $1.05 million to $500,000. A political party and it candidates, however, can spend up to $22.6 million if it stands candidates in all 93 seats.

The High Court said NSW proved that aiming to "prevent the drowning out of voices in the political process by the distorting influence of money" was a legitimate purpose.

However, it said "the reduction in the cap applicable to third-party campaigners was not demonstrated to be reasonably necessary to achieve that purpose".

The court did not accept NSW's argument that $500,000 was still a substantial sum that would allow third parties to "reasonably present their case".

The lead judgement of Chief Justice Susan Kiefel and Justices Virginia Bell and Patrick Keane said "no enquiry as to what in fact is necessary to enable third-party campaigners reasonably to communicate their messages appears to have been undertaken".

The reforms also sought to ban third parties from acting "in concert" by pooling money into multi-million-dollar campaigns, such as the "Stop the Sell-off" campaign against energy privatisation for the 2015 poll. Those who breach the act would have faced up to 10 years' jail.

Former Commonwealth solicitor-general Justin Gleeson SC was lead counsel for Unions NSW and the five unions which also signed up for the challenge.

BACKGROUND

HIGH COURT OF AUSTRALIA, Judgment Summary, 18 December 2018:

UNIONS NSW & ORS v STATE OF NEW SOUTH WALES [2013] HCA 58

Today the High Court unanimously held that ss 96D and 95G(6) of the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981 (NSW) ("the EFED Act") are invalid because they impermissibly burden the implied freedom of communication on governmental and political matters, contrary to the Commonwealth Constitution.

Section 96D of the EFED Act prohibits the making of a political donation to a political party, elected member, group, candidate or third-party campaigner, unless the donor is an individual enrolled on the electoral roll for State, federal or local government elections. The EFED Act also caps the total expenditure that political parties, candidates and third-party campaigners can incur for political advertising and related election material. For the purposes of this cap, s 95G(6) of the EFED Act aggregates the amount spent on electoral communication by a political party and by any affiliated organisation of that party. An "affiliated organisation" of a party is defined as a body or organisation "that is authorised under the rules of that party to appoint delegates to the governing body of that party or to participate in pre-selection of candidates for that party (or both)".

Each of the plaintiffs intends to make political donations to the Australian Labor Party, the Australian Labor Party (NSW Branch) or other entities, and to incur electoral communication expenditure within the meaning of the EFED Act. The second, third and sixth plaintiffs are authorised to appoint delegates to the annual conference of the Australian Labor Party (NSW Branch) and to participate in the pre-selection of that party's candidates for State elections. A special case stated questions of law for determination by the High Court.

The High Court unanimously held that ss 96D and 95G(6) burdened the implied freedom of communication on governmental and political matters. The Court held that political communication at a State level may have a federal dimension. The Court accepted that the EFED Act had general anti-corruption purposes. However, the Court held that the impugned provisions were not connected to those purposes or any other legitimate end.

· This statement is not intended to be a substitute for the reasons of the High Court or to be used in any later consideration of the Court’s reasons

Thursday, 20 December 2018

The ethics or otherwise of Liberal Party funding


The Australian, 18 December 2018:

Image: Twitter

Promotional material for the expo also touted stalls for government agencies, including Centrelink and the Australian Electoral Commission, although there is no evidence they were charged.

The expo was not billed as a political fundraiser.

Mr Robert yesterday conceded he had instructed exhibitors to pay their fees into the LNP campaign account, which were declared as donations.

“Under electoral guidelines, we couldn’t set up a different account for the event so the money had to be paid into the LNP campaign account, and yes, they were declared as donations,’’ he said.

Federal Assistant Treasurer and Liberal MP for Fadden Stuart Robert insists that the entire expo attended by an est. 10,000 people and all its events ran at a loss, therefore none of the $300,000 in donations is capable of being used in an election campaign.

Given Robert's party fund raising history I suspect that assertion requires a fact check.

He has not been alone in running senior's expos.

Liberal MP for Bonner Ron Vasta also held a senior's expo in November 2018, an event which had fifty stall holders. One has to wonder if they paid a fee for their expo sites which also went into Liberal Party coffers.

Indeed, these expos were quite popular with Liberal MPs. Minister for Home Affairs and Liberal MP for Dickson Peter Dutton held one on 30-31 August this year. As did Liberal MP for Forde Bert Van Manen and Liberal MP for Moncrieff Steve Ciobo in their electorates in September 2017.


Friday, 23 November 2018

This was Australia’s faux prime minister Scott Morrison proudly pointing out that he had been fundraising at considerable taxpayer expense


This was Australia’s faux prime minister Scott Morrison proudly pointing out that he had been fundraising at considerable taxpayer expense in order to fill the election campaign coffers of the the Liberal Party of Australia.....

The Courier-Mail, 19 November 2018, p.6:

While he was on the Queensland blitz early this month, Mr Morrison confirmed he attended fundraisers. Many of the donations came from Rockhampton and the Sunshine Coast.

“I’m meeting with supporters all around Queensland and I don’t make any apologies for that,” he said.

“We’re raising funds for our campaign to make sure Bill Shorten never becomes prime minister in the country.” Mr Morrison was the special guest at Liberal National Party fundraising events in several ­regional towns.

Here is what he was not boasting about this month……

The Saturday Paper, 17-23 November 2018:

Seven years before he was sacked as managing director of Tourism Australia – amid serious concerns about his management practices – Scott Morrison was the subject of criticism in a New Zealand audit report examining his activities as head of NZ’s Office of Tourism and Sport.

News.com.au, 14 November 2018:

A 1999 New Zealand Auditor General’s report challenged the future Australian prime minister’s handling of an independent review of the Office of Tourism and Sport (OTSp) where he was managing director.

The OTSp was a quasi-independent body offering policy advice to the New Zealand government and experienced the loss of a number of board members and officials during Mr Morrison’s tenure. He finally resigned from the job in 2000 a year ahead of his contract schedule and returned to Australia….

During Mr Morrison’s time at the helm of OTSp in the 1990s, New Zealand’s then Tourism Minister, Murray McCully, praised his input and defended importing him for the job.

“Australia actually happens to do a bit better than we do out of both tourism and sport,” Mr McCully said at the time.

But the Auditor General and the NZ Labour Opposition questioned his performance.
In New Zealand in 1999, the Auditor General found Mr Morrison had launched a PriceWaterhouseCooper review of OTSp which precluded contributions from senior staff and the board.

He had said the review was independent of them, but it seems they were not aware of this.

“Mr Morrison’s explanation came as a surprise not only to (the office’s CEO and board members) but also to the Minister himself,” the report said.

“These people had regarded the PWC report as the review referred to in the purchase agreement.”

The Auditor General’s report said the board should have been told it had a duty,  under the review arrangements, to commission its own “independent” review.
“It seems that at no point did Mr Morrison do so,” the Auditor General found.

In June 2000, the New Zealand Herald quoted the Labour Opposition’s tourism and sport spokesman Trevor Mallard as blaming Mr Morrison for problems with the OTSp and the minister.

“And a key reason for that was that it was run by Mr Morrison, an Australian who was seen as Mr McCully’s ‘hard man’,” said the report.

“Australian standards of public sector behaviour ‘are lower than ours,’,” added Mr Mallard.

He was quoted as saying: “My experience with Australian politicians is that rules and ethics are not as important to them as they are to New Zealanders.”

Mr Morrison did not respond to the claims but was supported by the Tourism Minister as “highly regarded”.

He had lifted the energy levels and the competence levels substantially above those previously servicing tourism and sport, said Mr McCully.

Australian Labor is closely examining the Prime Minister’s career before he was elected to Parliament in 2007 and the New Zealand experience could be raised.

His next job after New Zealand was as NSW Liberal Party state director but was linked to the party’s 2003 election failure.

Mr Morrison became Tourism Australia managing director in 2004 but left in 2006, again ahead of schedule….

The Saturday Paper, 10-16 November 2018:

Ever since Scott Morrison was sacked from his job as managing director of Tourism Australia in 2006, the reasons for his dismissal have been kept secret.

At the time and since, public speculation has variously attributed the now prime minister’s removal to a personality clash with his minister, a falling out over changes to the organisation’s structure, and a dispute over the agency’s contentious “Where the bloody hell are you?” campaign.

But an auditor-general’s report completed 10 years ago, which has escaped public scrutiny until now, reveals that in the period leading up to Morrison’s dismissal, his agency faced a series of audits and a review of its contractual processes ordered by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, amid serious concerns about its governance.

The auditor-general’s inquiry into Tourism Australia – which followed these reviews, and was conducted after Morrison’s departure – reveals information was kept from the board, procurement guidelines breached and private companies engaged on contracts worth $184 million before paperwork was signed and without appropriate value-for-money assessments.

THE AUDIT REPORT OMITS THE NEXT EVENT IN THE CHRONOLOGY OF RELATIONS BETWEEN THE MINISTER AND TOURISM AUSTRALIA – THAT BAILEY SACKED MORRISON THE SAME MONTH.

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report examines three major contracts that Tourism Australia signed while Scott Morrison was managing director. It criticises processes in all three cases but especially the contracts for global creative development – advertising campaigns – and media placement services.

Ten years since the audit, and 13 years since the contracts were signed, those two completed contracts appear not to be listed on the government’s AusTender website, where all contracts are required to be available for public viewing.

Searches, including by AusTender staff, have failed to locate them on the site this week. Procurement rules say they must be reported within 42 days of the contracts being entered. The 2005 request-for-tender documents announcing the proposed contracts are listed…..

The audit report criticises extensively the agency’s processes for drafting, executing and managing the contracts, the opaque accounting processes involved in aspects of them and poor communication with the board and regional offices, including by service providers. It details Tourism Australia’s failures at the time to adhere to guidelines – the signing of a contract without incorporating measurable performance indicators and non-existent risk assessments or value-for-money analysis.

Tabled in parliament on August 6, 2008, the report was one of more than 40 the Audit Office had produced in the previous 12 months.

It escaped public attention at least partly because it was not among the handful that parliament’s joint committee on public accounts chose to examine further in its role as chief audit scrutineer. At the time, the committee was chaired by then Labor MP Sharon Grierson with then Liberal MP Petro Georgiou as her deputy.

When the report was tabled, Morrison was a member of the public accounts committee, which was tasked with considering it for review. He resigned from the committee six weeks after the report was tabled and, it is understood, some months before the committee formally considered it. The Saturday Paper does not suggest Morrison influenced the audit’s treatment. Grierson says that as Tourism Australia had accepted its three recommendations, and nobody on the committee raised any issues, the report was not officially examined further – standard procedure in dealing with the volume of audits each year.

The Saturday Paper lodged detailed questions about the audit report with Morrison’s office but was told he was not able to answer them in the time available.

Performance reviews of the two key contracts between 2005 and 2007 – contained in the audit – revealed Tourism Australia had failed to disclose to its own board that it had underspent $3.9 million on one of the contracts in 2006-07.

It was found that in one case invoices had been raised before the contract was signed and that in another case the price paid in some areas of a contract was “more expensive than the benchmark”.

The audit report does not mention then tourism minister Fran Bailey’s sacking of Morrison in July 2006, nor any of the alleged preceding tension between them that has been the subject of public speculation since.

But The Saturday Paper understands the events and issues the audit report outlines played a significant role in Morrison’s removal. Unconfirmed news reports have since alleged that he received a payout of more than $300,000.

Asked to comment this week on the report’s contents in relation to Morrison’s dismissal, Bailey would only repeat the one comment she has made before: “I reiterate that it was a unanimous decision to get rid of Mr Morrison by the board and the minister.”

She added: “I have always treated confidential matters as confidential.”……

Read the full article here.

The Guardian, 18 November 2018:

The Morrison government has extended emergency three-month funding contracts to 16 more financial counselling, legal aid and charity groups to keep them open over the Christmas holiday period after it cut their funding with little warning.

The move was made without fanfare, logged quietly on the Department of Social Services website on Wednesday evening.

It comes as the social services minister, Paul Fletcher, faces continued criticism for his department’s decision to overhaul funding arrangements for key community services groups in the lead-up to Christmas.

In some cases, barely two months’ notice has been given to groups to prepare for dramatic cuts in the new year – a time of year when thousands of Australian families have traditionally needed more emergency assistance and financial counselling.

 On Wednesday evening, the Department of Social Services (DSS) released a document on its website saying it would extend emergency three-month funding contracts – covering the period 1 January 2019 to 31 March 2019 – to 16 organisations that had lost their funding in the latest round of grants:

FMC Relationship Services
EACH
Uniting (Victoria and Tasmania) Limited
VincentCare Victoria
Odyssey House, Victoria
Mallee Family Care Inc
Anglicare SA Ltd
Centacare Catholic Country SA Ltd
The Trustee for The Salvation Army (NSW) Property Trust
Southern Youth and Family Services Limited
Vietnamese Community in Australia NSW Chapter Inc
The Uniting Church in Australia Property Trust (Q.)
C Q Financial Counselling Association Inc.
Prisoners’ Legal Service Inc
Agencies for South West Accommodation Inc.
CentreCare Incorporated

Neither the government nor the department has drawn attention to the funding extensions……