2SM WITH MARCUS PAUL IN THE MORNING
TUESDAY, 20 OCTOBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Federal ICAC; Air Rorts; Sports Rorts; WaterGate; JamLands; NSW community grants.
MARCUS PAUL, HOST: This fellow is also from the Australian Capital Territory, Labor frontbencher Andrew Leigh, who's written to more than 200 big companies - Apple, Maccas, Microsoft. He wants to get to the bottom of whether or not they've received JobKeeper subsidies and used the money to pay shareholder dividends or executive bonuses. I mean, that's not what the money was for. Absolutely, that's not what the money was for. And look, again, this is why we need to have a federal Independent Commission Against Corruption. I'm not obviously suggesting any corrupt behaviour by the government here, but certainly all this money needs to be accounted for and I would hate to think big business has received a bit of a leg up during this pandemic to pay, you know, bonuses to those who probably don’t need it. Let's be honest. 20 after 7, Andrew, good morning.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning, Marcus. Happy birthday to your mum. I hope she's out of hospital soon, mate.
PAUL: Oh, very kind, mate. Thank you so much. Yeah, me too. Look, it’s a long haul. What - two fractures in your pelvis and, you know, at least another month. Poor thing. Anyway.
LEIGH: Yeah, falls are just such a serious issue for older people, aren’t they?
PAUL: Absolutely. Absolutely. And Mum, we wish you all the best. And there you go, Andrew does as well. Thank you, it's very kind, mate. Now, under the Morison Government we've had Sports Rorts, WaterGate, JamLands and Paladin. We've had the big stack with over 60 former Liberal staffers, ministers and candidates and donors appointed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. I mean, where does it all end, Andrew? There’s so much going on.
LEIGH: It's just one scandal tumbling after another with this mob, Marcus. And the thing is, we need a federal integrity commission with teeth. The fact that the New South Wales ICAC is able to phone tap the Premier indicates that it is a body which is pretty powerful. It's brought down two New South Wales premiers in the past. It’s able to initiate inquiries of its own momentum. It’s able to do surveillance. But if the Morrison Government’s integrity commission gets up – who knows if that'll ever happen – it wouldn't have any of these powers. It wouldn't be a proper watchdog - it'd be a gummy shark. It wouldn't be able to start its own investigations, it wouldn't be able to do surveillance and it wouldn't be able to look at past behaviour. And you can see why the Liberals want an integrity body that doesn't have any teeth. They want to window dress, rather than to actually deal with the corruption that so many Australians are frustrated by. Now, that’s taxpayer money going to the Leppington Triangle-
PAUL: Yeah. All right, we'll get to that. But just on that, you say that ICAC is doing a good job in New South Wales. Look, even if the Premier of the state remains - which is looking likely - I've just gone on a bit of a rant earlier in relation to what the state opposition here in New South Wales and others are calling for, and that is for a ban on commissions payable to any MPs, any politicians within the New South Wales Government from property developers. Now surely, to save any face, the state government in New South Wales needs to push this through immediately. Get it done and dusted, so that people in this state can at least get something out of what's going on at ICAC. Because at the moment, I just worry that it's going to be you know, operation normal and things will return to as they always have.
LEIGH: Absolutely, A ban on developer donations makes total sense. It's something that's been recognised as being an area of potential corruption. But you also need those bodies that will follow through on it. The fact is, every state and territory now has an Independent Commission Against Corruption and it's just the federal level that lacks an integrity commission.
PAUL: Yeah. Well, you want to know and I want to know and I'm sure most of the people listening, everybody should know why taxpayers paid a Liberal donor 10 times as much as what the land was actually worth out there at the Badgerys Creek - I call it the Leppington Golden Triangle. I mean, for goodness sake. I mean, it was – what, we paid nearly $28 million for a block of land that's worth just over three. What?
LEIGH: Absolutely. You could think of it as the Bermuda Triangle for taxpayer dollars, because we flushed nearly $30 million extra taxpayer dollars into that land purchase – a purchase which the Deputy Prime Minister reckons is a good deal. Well, if he believes that, I’ve got a bridge from one side of Sydney Harbour to the other that he might want to buy. The fact is, this stinks to high heaven. The auditor general says in five years in the job, he’s never had to refer anything to the Federal Police before. This is the first time he made a reference of this kind. So we’ve got to get on top of corruption and the poor Auditor General - at the time in which he’s exposing these sorts of rorts, he's having his budget cut and he's able to do less audits. You can understand why the Morison Government want to be cutting his budget, but there's nothing in the public interest.
PAUL: Well if Michael McCormack thinks, you know, the Leppington Golden Triangle was a good deal - quote, unquote - I mean, I wouldn't like to have a meal or get the bloke to shout. He’d short change you, for God's sake. I mean, that's a ridiculous statement. Really, saying - and I heard that he made it and I just, to this day, can't believe that they're treating us like mugs, Andrew.
LEIGH: Yes, exactly. We’ve got to get to the bottom of this one, but we’ve also got to have a body which is able to systematically scrutinise the government. Scott Morrison promised at the end of 2018 that he would have legislation on an integrity commission within 12 months. Well, he’s nearly 12 months behind on his self-imposed deadline. He is delaying on the federal corruption commission because of this succession of rorts. Stuart Robert and Angus Taylor are walking exemplars of why we need the integrity commission.
PAUL: Well, that's true. I mean, Angus Taylor - boy, oh, boy. We really got nothing, nothing at all from you know discussions that were made, and apparently emails that were directed and perhaps even concocted allegedly in regard to the Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore. I mean, that was just a debacle from start to finish. But anyway, again, nothing done about it. Nothing said about it. The man remains in his job. A little like Don Harwin and others. We've got the icare scandal in New South Wales – I know it’s a state issue, but again - you know - we've got this Dominic Perrottet who’s apparently if Gladys does go, he's the man for the job. God help us if that's the case.
LEIGH: And as a parliamentarian who prides himself on my integrity, Marcus, I find this incredibly galling. So many of my colleagues work hard every day for their constituents. We're out there working on issues we care about, trying to build a better Australia. And that's true for the vast majority of parliamentarians on both sides. And that's why we've got to have an integrity commission, to make sure that the few shonks and spivs that are there are weeded out very quickly and they don't drag the rest of us down-
PAUL: I love that word-
LEIGH: Once you drag down the standing of politicians, people start disengaging from politics and the whole democracy’s at risk at that stage.
PAUL: I love that word, spivs.
PAUL: Spivs. A little like stooge – stop being a stooge for property developers. I mean, Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister, calls this a quote unquote fringe issue. Ripping off the Australian, New South Wales, Queensland, Victorian, South Australian, ACT, Tasmanian, Northern Territory – have I missed anybody - ripping off taxpayers around the country is not a fringe issue, Prime Minister.
LEIGH: That’s right. I mean, this is the same bloke who called a royal commission into the banks a ‘populist whinge’ and voted against it 26 times. He seems to push these issues off to one side while creating new slush funds. The latest budget, Marcus, had more than $4 billion of additional slush funds being set up. Discretionary funding which ministers are able to hand out to mates, which creates the very potential for the sort of sports rorts affair that we've seen in the past.
PAUL: Sports rorts. Well, I've got something for you, Andrew Leigh. This makes sports rorts look miniscule. This is sports rorts on steroids, the latest thing we're delving into in New South Wales. $252 million worth of community grants – 95 per cent of them ahead of the last state election provided to LNP seats. 95 per cent of them. $252 million. That makes sports rorts on a federal scale look miniscule - but nothing to see here, Andrew. Nothing to see.
LEIGH: It certainly does, Marcus, and it gives the lie to a government that claims to be governing for everyone. If you're serious about governing for everyone, then you don't play these sorts of partisan games. You don't punish people because of how they voted. Fundamental to a democracy is the idea that you can disagree with the government. This kind of allocation of money to mates and to favoured electorates - now that's what you expect to see in corrupt dictatorships, not in strong democracies like Australia.
PAUL: All right, mate. Great to have you on. We’ll chat soon. Thanks again.
LEIGH: Thanks, Marcus. Take care.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra