February 12 - 18 2023: Issue 571


Scamps Leads Charge on Ending Toxic  'jobs for the boys' Culture in politics

Adhering to one of her election platforms, Mackellar MP Dr. Sophie Scamps announced this week her work on ending the culture of nepotism that has crept into Australian politics is now on her agenda for this term of parliament.

Considering how many emails come in on a weekly basis from residents livid at a perceived misuse of public funds for political campaigning or a belief that appointments for terms of years that effectively ‘game’ the system Trump-style further into political bias 'just in case' an incumbent government loses power at an upcoming election, Dr. Scamps is taking local representation to a level where long called for reforms can finally occur. 

Dr Sophie Scamps MP stated this week that ending the jobs for mates culture in politics requires an independent public appointments process.

The same approach was the result of a 2022 Grattan Institute report 'Depoliticising Taxpayer-Funded Advertising: New Grattan Institute Report Recommends Political Parties Should Repay Taxpayer-Funded Politicised Advertising'.

The Grattan Institute stated Government advertising campaigns should be allowed only where they are necessary to encourage specific actions or drive behaviour change. Campaigns that promote government policies or programs, without a strong call-to-action, should be prohibited.

''An independent expert panel should assess all government advertising campaigns before they are launched. If the panel deems a campaign to be politicised, or otherwise not value for money, it should not run.

These rules and processes should carry real penalties. If an Auditor-General finds that an advertising campaign was approved by the minister without certification from the independent panel, or that the government changed the campaign after certification, the governing party should be liable to pay back the entire cost of the campaign.'' the Grattan Institute states.

The resaerch found that over the past 13 years about $630 million, or a quarter of all federal campaign advertising, was spent on campaigns that spruiked government achievements – and spending spiked on the eve of each federal election. In the lead up to the 2019 federal election, the government spent about $85 million of taxpayers’ money on politicised advertising campaigns – on par with the combined spend by political parties on TV, print, and radio advertising.

Similarly people find political party cohorts and former politician members appointed to decision making boards that overrule local structures as versed in LEP's and DCP's to implement their party's policy. They do not take into account the details of why, for instance, a particular zoning applies to a chunk of land (it floods), visit the site, or deign to take into account the protests of residents. They have been given a mandate versed through an overriding policy to implement and that's what they're there to do - no ifs, buts or maybes. This benefits developers who will be long gone once they have made more millions and left the community to pick up the tab for what happens as a result. 

Jobs for the boys places people where they have access to those they may want to influence from an elevated position of power. Jobs for the boys rejects a better suited and more qualified applicant to appoint someone to a 'retirement' role that not only benefits them financially but extends how long they will have a hand in the public purse. Jobs for the boys sees people appointed to federally created public boards they would derive private benefits from - 'the gas-led recovery' plan to funnel millions from ARENA to perpetuate a dependence on fossil fuels reads like it must be unbelievable - fantastical movie stuff - but it was true.

ARENA was established by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency Act 2011 (Cth), which came into effect under the Gillard Government in 2012. ARENA’s role is to improve the competitiveness of renewable energy technologies and promote innovation to increase Australia’s renewable energy supply.

As the legislation currently stands, ARENA is limited to only providing funding for renewable energy projects. By 2021 it had invested over $1.7 billion in 586 projects across Australia, covering a range of renewable energy technologies, including electric vehicles, battery storage, and large-scale solar, wind, geothermal, and hydrogen energy production.

The then proposed regulations by Angus Taylor and Mr. Morrison would have broadened the scope of ARENA’s funding abilities, allowing it to invest in low-emission technologies, such as carbon capture and energy storage projects. The regulations would also have allowed ARENA to financially assist any project that controls or prevents the emission of greenhouse gases, including non-renewable energy projects. To support the motion, the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources told the Senate that the proposed regulations could conceivably allow funding to be delivered to gas projects.

A fox in charge of the henhouse?

'No thank you' the Australian public says.

By shifting the narrative  and making that the standard Australians could see the best person for the appointed task in charge. Someone without strings attached and with a real passion and knowledge to bring to the role undertaken. 

Dr Scamps has stated:

‘’Last week I commenced briefing Government Ministers about my upcoming ‘Ending Jobs for Mates’ Private Members Bill which will establish a transparent and independent process for major Commonwealth public appointments. So I welcome the Albanese Government’s announcement of a review into public sector board appointments. However, if this review is merely targeted at board positions it will not go nearly far enough to restore the public’s trust in the political appointments process.’’

''Ensuring that Commonwealth appointments are made on the basis of experience and expertise is only one step. The process must also be transparent and independent so the Australian people can trust the decisions being made by the institutions that underpin our democracy. 

The Bill I have been drafting in partnership with the Centre for Public Integrity will go beyond just government board positions to ensure all major Commonwealth public appointments are made within an independent and transparent framework. 

The Bill I am finalising – with a view to tabling in the coming weeks – will legislate a Public Appointments Commissioner (PAC) and departmental Independent Selection Panels (ISP) overseen by a Parliamentary Joint Committee on Appointments. Importantly the Committee overseeing the PAC and ISPs will not have a government-led majority. This guarantees its independence from the government of the day. 

In my proposed framework, the discretion of the Minister is limited. The Minister will choose the successful candidate, but only from a shortlist of candidates selected by the departmental ISP. The Minister will not be able to select someone who is not on that list or be able to add candidates to it. 

Over the last decade, consecutive Coalition governments have severely eroded the public’s trust in our democratic institutions by stacking these bodies with party-friendly appointments. So I applaud the Albanese Government for attempting to restore trust to the public board appointments process. But anything other than a fully independent, transparent, and expertise-based appointment process will do nothing more than provide cover for the ‘jobs for mates’ culture in politics to continue under a false veneer of respectability. 

My ‘Ending Jobs for Mates’ Bill will soon be before Parliament. This Bill has the potential to end the ‘jobs for mates’ culture in federal politics for good – and I urge all sides of politics to back it.'' 

The Centre for Public Integrity states it is an independent think tank dedicated to preventing corruption, protecting the integrity of our accountability institutions, reining in executive power, and eliminating undue influence of money in politics in Australia.

''The Centre for Public Integrity collaborates with academic experts, legal practitioners and retired judges to conduct research on critical integrity reform. We are a not for profit charity funded by philanthropic foundations and donations from the public.''

Cleaning up politics has been a focus of the new government as well. 

On November 30th 2022, the National Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2022 and National Anti-Corruption Commission (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Act 2022-  were passed by the Australian Parliament. These Acts received Royal Assent on 12 December 2022.

The legislation provides for the establishment of the Commission, and for the transitional arrangements for the existing Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity to be subsumed into the Commission.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission will have broad jurisdiction to investigate public sector corruption and will have prevention and education functions to improve anti-corruption efforts in the Commonwealth public sector.

The Centre for Public Integrity, Transparency International Australia, the Human Rights Law Centre, the Accountability Roundtable, the Ethics Centre, the Governance Institute and the Institute for Ethics, Governance and Law joined together with Australia’s pre-eminent integrity advocates to call for the removal of the ‘exceptional circumstances’ test contained at clause 73 of the NACC Bill.

The Hon Anthony Whealy KC, Chair of the Centre for Public Integrity, said that “The proposed exceptional circumstances test is a serious restriction on the Commission’s ability to hold public hearings – even where it would be in the public interest to do so. It is also unnecessary, insofar as the Commissioner is already required to consider whether a public hearing would cause unfair prejudice to a person’s reputation, privacy and safety and be satisfied that holding a hearing in public would be in the public interest”.

However the ‘exceptional circumstances’ test remains in the Act as passed.

In related 47th Parliament of Australia MP for Mackellar and MP Warringah MP news, Dr Scamps has stated Mackellar MP Dr. Sophie Scamps has stated she will be seconding Warringah MP Zali Steggall's Stop PEP11 and Protect Our Coast Bill 2023 on Monday February 13th when Parliament returns. 

''The Northern Beaches is united on this - we will never accept drilling for oil and gas off our beaches!'' Dr. Scamps has stated

''Zali's Bill will rule out any consideration of an application to drill for oil and gas off our coast and protect our oceans and our coastline for good. 

It's time for the Albanese Government to do what the Morrison Government couldn't, and that's kill off PEP-11 for good and start investing in the future - clean, cheap and reliable renewables backed by storage technology.''

More in: Agreement To End PEP-11 Litigation Revives Applicants' Licence Extension Process - Issue 570