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Byron Shire
September 26, 2023

International revolving doors

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Revolving doors. Adobe.

Corruption takes many forms, and has become more refined since the days of brown paper bags. In Australia, we have lobbyists, interests and politicians, with the traditional dividing lines between these three now all but invisible, and numerous examples of people moving from one position to another, and then back again, as they prioritise personal gain over what’s best for the country.

It’s not a problem unique to one political persuasion, or industry. Labor’s Martin Ferguson went from being Resources Minister to being the chairman of APPEA. Mark Arbib left the Senate to lobby for Kerry Packer and Crown, and Mike Kelly went from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security to a job with Palantir Technologies, a data-mining corporation with Pentagon and CIA connections.

On the Liberal/National Party side, Ian Macfarlane jumped from heading the federal Industry and Resources portfolio to becoming CEO of the Queensland Resources Council, Sophie Mirabella went to work for Gina Rinehart, and Larry Anthony left the big house in Canberra to lobby just down the hill on behalf of mining, banking and media interests (in his case overlapping this activity with his role as National Party President).

There are far too many other examples to name, but Michael West Media have had a red hot go here.

Former Trade Minister Andrew Robb. Photo EPA/Erik S. Lesser

China and America

Recently, Australia’s political revolving door has taken on an increasingly international flavour.

The most famous example is former trade minister Andrew Robb, who walked straight out of parliament and into an $880,000 a year part-time job working for a billionaire named Ye Cheng, a close ally of the Chinese Communist Party.

Mr Ye’s company Landbridge acquired the Port of Darwin for 99 years in 2015. Mr Robb has said he had nothing to do with this deal, although he did publicly support it later, in very glowing terms. He has used his unique connections and knowledge to assist other Chinese-Australian business relationships. Mr Robb has since left Landbridge.

This month, former Prime Minister Scott Morrison publicly entered the international revolving door, taking on an advisory position at Washington-based think tank the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a body with strong ties to the military-industrial complex and major donors including Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Boeing. James Murdoch sits on the board.

This follows the former PM’s invite to the strategic advisory board of another Washington-based think tank, the Hudson Institute, late last year. Although Scott Morrison is still theoretically the Member for Cook, there is widespread speculation that all this think tanking will be followed by a private role for Mr Morrison in the British defence industry.

From an outside perspective, it smells a lot like payment for setting up the $368 billion AUKUS deal, now apparently a done deal despite the change of government, although the Australian people were never asked if they wanted it.

Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison thrilling the locals on a visit to Lismore in 2022. Photo Jeff ‘not sleeping, praying’ Dawson.

Whatever happens, whether he leaves politics or remains on the back bench, Mr Morrison looks likely to remain living in the style to which he’s become accustomed, even before his extremely generous government pension kicks in at 60.

The golden path to defence lobbying/contracting has been well worn by previous Liberal party figures, including Christopher Pyne, who was employed by the same private contractor which received $98 million from his government while he was defence minister, and the late, unlamented Peter Reith, who started work for Tenix Defence (now BAE Systems Australia) two days after he quit politics, having funnelled large amounts of taxpayer’s money in the company’s direction while he was minister.

What!?

Theoretically, there’s an ethics code which prohibits departing ministers from lobbying or advocating to the government (or public service) on any matters they previously dealt with as a minister, for eighteen months, but in practice this is rarely policed, and carries no meaningful consequences for those who breach the code.

More often than not, those who leave politics citing health concerns or a fervent desire to spend time with their families pop up soon after working at a senior level in the very same industries, but on the other side of the revolving door. This further erodes the public’s trust in the whole political process.

As for Scott Morrison, his departure from the back bench is the last thing that Liberal leader Peter Dutton needs right now, as it will trigger another by-election. Cook would require a 13 per cent swing to change hands, but after Aston, anything is possible.

Mr Dutton dropped by for a curry at the Morrisons recently and claimed the former PM had said nothing about resigning from parliament any time soon. Based on past form, this probably means Mr Morrison will be gone next week.


David Lowe
David Lowe. Photo Tree Faerie

Originally from Canberra, David Lowe is an award-winning film-maker, writer and photographer with particular interests in the environment and politics. He’s known for his campaigning work with Cloudcatcher Media.

Long ago, he did work experience in Parliament House with Mungo MacCallum.


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25 COMMENTS

  1. One glaring omission is Kevin 07 David !!
    How was it remotely possible that the worst
    Prime Minister this country has had by a mile
    Lands the Plum Job in the US ..Ms Gillard
    Should have been a shoe in .. !! You know
    Equal opportunity.. for Men & Women..
    Hypocrites..

    • Rudd’s still working for the Australian Government – it remains to be seen what he does once he’s out of THAT job…

      • Yes correct Eve ..however it was job
        for the lads ..Nudge ..Nudge ..& a wink..
        Ms Gillard was certainly a better candidate
        and First Female for that particular Role !!

      • Chattham House (globalist think tank) says on its website – “Kevin Rudd became president and CEO of Asia Society in January 2021 and has been president of the Asia Society Policy Institute since January 2015.”
        According to charitywatch.org, that do nothing consulting gig nets him US$1,035,960 per year, not including bonuses nor expenses.

          • Jun 23 2021 ‘Former Aussie PM Kevin Rudd joins Crimson Global Academy as education adviser’. Couldn’t find a disclosure for his salary for that one, but it’s a startup that was worth US$622 Million just off of its initial seed funding. Funded by the usually suspects, of course.

          • Found another one, Chairman of the board of Sanitation and Water For All 2015-present
            They dig a few wells and hand out some ‘Lifestraws’, but they must be gold-plated, given the money they receive to do it.

          • “Liz, I’ve got a deal for you. I’ve got this mate I owe a favour, if you put him on the board of your ‘charity’, my corporation/nation-state will ‘donate’ 20 mil. Got to show that doing favours for me, has results.”

    • Barrow, worst Prime Ministers you wail.
      You missed the mark by a long shot. The war criminal, ‘Honest John’ Howard, wins your award hands down.

      • Joachim that is your opinion.. however
        Howard must have had some appeal
        For the constituents returned him from
        1996 to 2007 .. long shot ? Please ..

        • Barrow, yes ‘Honest John’ managed to keep the votes coming there.

          Lets have a closer inspection of the recent times Aussie attitude to War.
          Putin is globally ( he has some supporters, like Iran ) including locally in Australia slammed for his unprovoked war on Ukraine.
          What did ‘Honest John’ do? He teamed up with Bush and Blair to be the mainstays of the “Coalition of the Willing” in their unprovoked war on Iraq in March 2003.
          Two unprovoked wars but with differing attitudes from the general public.
          The takeout can only be that our war criminal ‘Honest John’ is good, having been re-elected October 2004, but an overseas war criminal, Putin, is the manifestation of evil that needs to brought to account.

          A war criminal is a war criminal.

    • I agree Barrow – howzat ‼️Julia Gillard would have been a much better choice and done a better job standing on her head. She may have been offered the role and not been interested – but I doubt it. Doubt that she was offered not that she’d turn it down.

      Julia was talented enough to be sought after and highly employable on her own merits without having to offer connections to government or mates or calling on past internal loyalties/favours. Eve’s right though, this isn’t the theme here. Rudd hasn’t picked up a nice little sinecure in the private sector. There may be some unkind enough to suggest it’s a nice little sinecure in the public sector.

      • Ms Gillard was interviewed and the question was asked Lizardbreath.. !! No was the answer.. don’t feel many would have
        Thought Ms Gillard was not deserving ..

        • Are you arguing with me Barrow? I told you I agreed with you! Didn’t see the interview but I’m not surprised she said no. I would be surprised though if she was ever considered.

          She was crucified regularly by the media with part of the narrative being her “knifing” of Kev – as if no one had ever challenged the leader before. But women are held to a different standard. Kev also made it awkward by refusing to put himself up for the vote 🗳️.

          When some senior Labor figures started explaining some of Kev’s shortcomings, Albo was outraged. My impression is that he’s long been a bit of a Kevin man.

        • It is my understanding that she used Australian taxpayers’ money to fund an Israeli government department, then got paid back with the ‘2013 Jerusalem Prize’ including prize money – And gave $88m taxpayer dollars to Hillary Clinton, then got paid back with the position of Chairman of the Clinton-affiliated Global Partnership for Education, a highly paid, do nothing position. I’m sure there is more.

  2. Barrow obviously has not appraised the efforts of Billy McMahon , Tony Abbott or the recently deposed Scott Morrison when s/he casts judgement on St Kevin.
    One would hope that David could find some former parliamentarians who jumped ship to do something worthwhile (those noted appear to have gone over to the DARK side).
    Only Ms Julia Gillard comes to mind; perhaps other readers can remember others.

    • Sheriff, nice that you bring in Billy, Tony and Scotty into the ‘awards’.
      This trio are only jostling for the minor placings of ‘worst ever PM’ after the war criminal ‘Honest Johnny’ won the prize in a canter.
      ‘Robodebt Scotty’ did give things a red hot go though. Fictitious debts forced upon some 400,000 innocent Australians, that caused immense financial distress; family, marriage and relationship breakdowns; suicides. What sort of creature does that?

          • Barrow an addon.
            The respective employers, of the four men that died, didn’t observe their OH & S responsibilities.
            Was any employer prosecuted?

        • The “pink bat” scheme (and actually some were yellow) was well intentioned. If the economy needs stimulus (remember the GFC and how Australia escaped recession) why not look at measures that help the environment and bring long-term benefits to householders.

          The main mistake was not being alert to how government largesse can be exploited by unprincipled operators. There were many fantastic and long lasting outcomes from the stimulus packages.

          The robodebt scheme was well intentioned? Saving the long suffering taxpayers from being rorted? Yeah sure thing. How many years was it continued after the dreadful shortcomings – and its illegality- was clearly apparent?

          I wouldn’t mention the two examples in the same breath.

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