Larry Anthony, the former children’s affairs minister who once admitted to
forgetting he’d left his kid locked in a car, has joined the board of childcare
behemoth ABC Learning in a move that should come as no surprise to anyone who has watched the
scandal-proof Howard Government over the years.

The PM loves following the Americans, except when it comes to some ethical
issues such as banning departing cabinet ministers and political staffers from
profiting in their area of expertise in their first 12 months on the outside.

Retired or defeated Howard Government ministers just don’t get it when it comes
to the appropriateness of private sector employment after departing the
political stage. After claiming he’d privatised more things than anyone else in the world,
former Federal Finance Minister John Fahey felt it was entirely appropriate
that he sign up as a consultant to JP Morgan as it attempted to board the great
privatisation gravy train.

Peter Reith waited about 48 hours after retiring as defence minister to accept
a lucrative consultancy with Australia’s biggest defence contractor Tenix and
Richard Alston was only six months out of Parliament when he was lobbying for
Austereo on digital radio policy. These quick little earners were not enough
for Reith and Alston who quickly got back on the taxpayer gravy trains with
government appointments in Europe.

Next up was former Health Minister Michael Wooldridge who redirected $5 million
from healthcare programs to help relocate the Royal College of General
Practitioners just seven days before the 2001 election. The GPs then used the money
to hire Wooldridge as a consultant after the election before then firing him
and paying out $382,5000 on an unfair dismissal claim in an exercise that added
about $600,000 to his gross wealth. This scandal was initially even too hot for
John Howard as you can see from this Lateline transcript in November 2002, when the PM told Parliament: “I do not rule out withdrawing
the Commonwealth’s offer to the Royal Australian College of General
Practitioners.”

Kay Patterson was the health minister left with that hospital pass and once
again she’s in the thick of it on AMthis morning defending Larry Anthony. But there is no sign that she’ll be
withholding any of the $350 million slated for ABC Learning in 2005. That’s a
tasty $1 million a day, more than any other listed company gets from the
taxpayer.

The Australian Stock Exchange is meant to be told all news first but ABC
Learning knows who butters its bread and former minister Anthony was in
Canberra meeting current Minister Patterson last week briefing her on an
appointment that should have absolutely nothing to do with government.

Larry was keen to stress that he had lost his ministerial position against his
will as he tried to distance himself from Alston, Fahey, Reith and Wooldridge
who walked voluntarily from Parliament mouthing platitudes about wanting to
spend more time with the family, before quickly trying to cash in.

The
issue will no doubt get a run in Parliament today and ABC Learning,
whose
CEO Eddy Groves is worth about $100 million, might come to regret
putting the
spotlight on just how lucrative their huge government-underwritten
enterprise
has become which is today worth $1.4 billion based on a $5.55 share
price. Entrepreneurial Eddy, the proud owner of the Brisbane Bullets
basketball team,
owns 16 million ABC Learning shares outright, whilst Le Neve Groves has
17.86
million and another director, Martin Kemp, can’t be unhappy with his
7.95
million shares which are worth $45 million.

Even former Brisbane Liberal lord mayor and company chair Sally-Anne Atkinson
must be pleased with the 500,000 shares and 210,000 options she owns which are
now worth about $4 million, more than $2 million of which is profit.

We’ve updated our list tracking what happens to former politicians on the site
here