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If Bishop and Pyne believe they’re following the rules, we need to change the rules

Julie Bishop and Christopher Pyne believing they’re ok to work for companies they gave taxpayer funds to is indicative of something we should not ignore.

 

 

Regarding the recent spate of politicians securing private-sector jobs, I believe we can’t see the forest for the trees. Pyne was the first stop in this recent tour, with the news that he’ll be consulting part-time with Ernest & Young (EY). Pyne soon responded to the allegations that he broke the code of conduct ministers are held to.

 

 

The same went with Julie Bishop, who took a job with private aid contractor Palladium, with the minds of the opposition calling for a similar breach of parliamentary conduct.

Now while both parties have been questioned about whether it breaches something as irrelevant (in the public eye) as the Ministerial Code of Conduct, the words of politicians criticising each other will surely ring hollow with a tired populace.

With that being said, we should pay attention to these moves because of three separate aspects: Who they are, what portfolio they represented, and who their new employees are.

In both Pyne and Bishop’s moves, they’re moving to companies that have directly benefitted in contracts with the recent Liberal government. EY has an interest in defence funding, one boosted by the arrival of Pyne, with the company saying that his employment was to “ramp up its defence capabilities”. According to Greg Bean’s analysis for Michael West, “When Christopher Pyne headed up Defence Industry in 2016, this was the first year in which government spending on defence surpassed all other agencies combined at 57 per cent of all contract fees. It was even higher the next year at almost 60 per cent.”

In analysing AusTender, Greg Bean believes our defence spending is growing at an alarming rate, figuring it to be $16.5 billion in 2019 so far, peaking to a historic $36 billion by the end of the calendar year.

Julie Bishop gliding under the wing of Palladium presents the same problem. During her tenure, Bishop was responsible for privatising foreign aid spending, who is now working for one of the biggest beneficiaries of that very policy. As foreign minister, she canned AusAid, the Government’s longstanding aid delivery organisation, allowing private companies to enter that market. Labor estimates that $500 million is directly tied between Bishop and Palladium.

Bishop, for the record, also believes she’s in compliance with the standard. The standing ministerial standard forbids former ministers from taking “personal advantage of information to which they have had access as a minister, where that information is not generally available to the public”.

Well, clearly, if they’re working within the system, then that system needs to be cast into the biggest bin we can find. The mindset for exiting politicians is clear, one should make as much money from the public office as they personally can before they bow out. Legacy, it seems, is far less important than the stuffing of one’s pockets.

We’re living in a strange time, at the same time that minimum wages are being reduced, our politicians (with the lowest paygrade being $200k) are either readily accepting pay rises or accumulating their own wealth, or both.

Today, Liberal MP Tony Pasin castigated Pyne’s EY role, albeit with a massive caveat. Pasin stated that it “doesn’t meet the pub test”, but stopped short of calling for an inquiry.

That very topic will be subject to debate in the Senate tomorrow, as crossbencher Rex Patrick is moving to have Pyne subject to an inquiry.

“These inquiries are ultimately toothless – they will shine a light on these issues but they don’t have any teeth in terms of what they can do functionally,” Mr Pasin said.

“Ultimately this a question of personal judgment – ministers who leave this place, who have been given the great privilege of those offices within the executive, should think seriously about whether decisions they make once they leave are in the spirit of the code or not. It doesn’t reflect well on the political class.”

Not big enough Pasin, allowing exiting politicians to rely on their moral compass has placed us in this very position.

Inquiry now.

 

 

 

 

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