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Audit Update December 2006

by Democratic Audit of Australia
Season's greetings from the Audit team. This is the last Update of 2006. To see the current team click here.

Victorian Election, November 2006
In a new Audit paper, Nick Economou, Monash University, reviews the Victorian State election (pdf) of 25 November 2006.

The Age reported that the covert advertising campaign against the Greens by the conservative Christian group, the Exclusive Brethren, had continued in the Victorian election. This had aroused concern in the Tasmanian State election earlier in the year.

Trust matters
Rebecca Huntley, author of The World According to Y: Inside the New Adult Generation, gave the 2006 National Republican lecture in Canberra on 29 November. Her lecture, ‘Trust matters: Politics, trust and the republican cause’ (pdf) is issued as a discussion paper for the Democratic Audit of Australia.

Representation for the Italian diaspora
In this Audit paper (pdf) Elisa Arcioni, University of Wollongong, considers the decision to include seats for the Italian diaspora in the Italian parliament. The decision was of even greater significance since it was the results in the Australasian seat that gave the Prodi government its majority in the Senate.

50 years of campaign finance
Colin A Hughes, Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the University of Queensland, looks at the history of the study of campaign finance (pdf) in Australia and why it has been so under-developed.

PM’s Chief of Staff leaves takes post with investment bank
Arthur Sinodinos, John Howard’s longstanding Chief of Staff, has left to take up a senior post with the investment bank Goldman Sachs JB Were. Sinodinos’ move has proved controversial because the company was involved with the most recent Telstra share floatation. Former public servants and politicians are prevented from moving straight into related private sector posts by ‘cooling off’ periods in many democracies, including Canada, the UK and the USA. This move, as well as former NSW Premier Bob Carr’s move to Macquarie Bank in 2005, has highlighted the absence of codes governing post-separation employment in a number of Australian jurisdictions. Read the PM’s press statement.

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Library’s e-brief on Codes of Conduct includes post-separation employment regulation.

The Cole inquiry reports
The Cole Inquiry into the AWB bribery scandal reported on 24 November 2006. The voluminous report (the summary and recommendations alone run to nearly 350 pages) concludes that responsibility lay entirely within the AWB and not with members of the government or the public service. Senior figures within the AWB had paid bribes to Iraq to secure wheat export contracts, and had consistently lied to cover themselves. The full report is available here.

The report is, however, critical of the lack of adequate procedures for responding to suspicions of corrupt practice, a point taken up by Prof Pat Weller who argues, in a piece in The Australian, that even if ministers and senior public servants had not deliberately turned a blind eye to AWB’s dealings, they should have known what was going on.

Queensland corruption inquiry
The Queensland premier Peter Beattie has forbidden all Labor members from any dealings with the former Industrial Relations and Health Minister Gordon Nuttall. Nuttall stepped down in September 2006, after it was revealed by the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission that he had received a large undisclosed loan from the CEO of a coal firm lobbying for a road and rail diversion to one of its mines. He is currently facing a ‘fast-track’ expulsion from the ALP. Read more in the Courier Mail (two stories).

UK party loans
The controversy surrounding party finance in the UK has continued, as the full extent of the major parties’ reliance on loans has emerged. Labour and the Conservatives owe around £59 million (more than AU$147 million at the current rate of exchange). These private loans have come to light since a change to the Electoral Commission’s disclosure regulations: loans were previously hidden as the disclosure rules only covered donations. Many of the loans were effectively donations as they were never intended to be repaid. Read more in The Guardian.

Canada strengthens accountability
The Canadian Federal Accountability Act received Royal Assent on 12 December 2006. Under the Act: All corporate and union donations to political parties and candidates are banned; The amount an individual can donate to a party or candidate is reduced to $1000 p.a., as is the contribution an individual can make to their own campaign; A new Commissioner of Lobbying is created, as an Agent of Parliament; Ministers, ministerial staffers and senior public servants are prohibited from lobbying the Canadian Government for five years after leaving office; The role of the Ethics Commissioner and the Auditor General is strengthened; Transparency of the commissioning of public opinion research and advertising is increased; An independent Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal is created, to increase protection for whistleblowers. AND there is more.

‘Politics and the media’ conference call for papers
Proposals are invited for papers (5000 to 8000 words) for presentation at a conference on ‘Politics and the Media’ to be held at The University of Melbourne in January 2008. The focus of the conference will be on political reporting/political journalism in Australia.

The papers should fit into at least one of the following categories:

  • Media reporting of politics and/or elections in Australia
  • Media reporting of the 2007 federal election
  • How legal issues impact upon media reporting of politics in Australia
  • How political economy issues impact upon media reporting of politics in Australia (e.g. resources, structures of media/news organisations, incumbency benefits, political finance issues).

Abstracts (no more than 300 words) for all papers are due on or before 15 January 2007. To submit an abstract please send details in the body of an email to Sally Young

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