Michael Pascoe writes:

Robert Gerard’s appointment to the
Reserve Bank board may not be the worst example of the Federal
Government’s liberal attitude to probity checks and happy defence of
Liberal mates when questionable matters subsequently come to light.

Crikey subscribers or viewers of the Seven Network’s defunct Sunday Sunrise will remember John Howard’s defence of his government’s appointment of John Pascoe as Chief Federal Magistrate.

Over
the years that Pascoe was either CEO or chairman of George Weston, the
company was a generous Liberal Party benefactor – $600,000 donated in
his last five years at the helm for example. George Weston also became
something of a serial offender under the Trade Practices Act, four
times coming before the beak and copping steadily escalating fines,
culminating in a $1.5 million slap courtesy of Judge Roger Gyles in the
Federal Court in August last year.

But that’s not the main
probity concern a reasonable person might have. Reading Judge Gyles’
scathing judgement, the same reasonable soul might form the opinion
that John Pascoe could be successfully blackmailed. The crux of the
case before Gyles was that a George Weston executive (subsequently
dealt with very generously by Pascoe) tried to arrange a little price
fixing with Dick Honan’s Manildra Group – another Liberal donor.

As
the Gyles judgement went to some length to detail, Honan’s reaction to
the price fixing attempt wasn’t to blow the whistle. According to
Honan’s own extraordinary evidence, he threatened Pascoe that he would
go the ACCC about the price fixing unless Pascoe agreed by 5pm to stop
the importation and re-export of gluten – a market Manildra dominates
in Australia. As Justice Gyles put it: “Later that day, Pascoe informed
Honan that the commercial matter was resolved in the manner sought by
Honan.”

And Pascoe didn’t inform the ACCC either, that was left to some subsequent whistle blower.

Apparently
it’s absolutely fine by John Howard that his Chief Federal Magistrate
behaved in such a way. Somehow, in my non-legal opinion, that seems a
bigger worry than having a tax shammer on the Reserve Bank board. Or
maybe it’s the government just being consistent.