There have been plenty of inappropriate political appointments at all
levels of politics over the years, but rarely have we seen a frenzy
like the Rob Gerard affair. Given that only Crikey and The Advertiser reported the tax dispute when it hit the courts in 2003, what has changed?

It seems a pretty clear cut case of the power that can be unleashed when
the media and the opposition team up and launch a concerted campaign
whilst the Federal Parliament is sitting.

The AFR chose to make a huge splash with a five page special
investigation last Tuesday which will be a contender for the Gold
Walkley next year. However, even more important was the opposition’s
decision to drop every other issue and devote several days of Question
Time to the Gerard affair.

If the Opposition had instead decided to focus on industrial relations,
anti-terror laws, welfare-to-work and the various other issues that are
far more relevant to millions of Australians, Rob Gerard would probably
still be a Reserve Bank director.

The Opposition’s frenzied attacks on Gerard send a salutary lesson to
major political donors. If you favour one side strongly over the other,
don’t expect any favours if you ever get into trouble. Rob Gerard gives
nothing to Labor so he didn’t have an insurance policy and he was
afforded no protection by Labor which saw an opportunity to damage
Peter Costello.

By way of contrast, Frank Lowy’s Westfield group has been a major donor
to both sides of politics over the years, which might explain why the
numerous controversial business practices inside the world’s biggest
shopping centre empire are rarely criticised in Parliament.

Frank Lowy’s 1999 admission that Westfield funded a bogus community
group to stymie a rival shopping centre development was a clear breach
of the RBA’s code of conduct but it was never raised by Labor because
Lowy has traditionally been close to the likes of Bob Hawke and Paul
Keating.

The attacks on Gerard have been a fine example of accountability in a
democracy, but it is a shame that numerous other dodgy appointments do
not receive the same treatment. The opposition should move on from
Gerard to John Pascoe, the chief federal magistrate who had a woeful
record with the ACCC during his long tenure running bread manufacturer
George Weston Foods.