Anne Davies produced this interesting story in The SMH
on Saturday about Bob Carr’s newest gig – a consultancy with
billionaire Dick Pratt and his Visy recycling and packaging empire.

Putting aside the moral questions of agreeing to work for an outfit
that has allegedly run an illegal cartel ripping off customers for the past few years, there
is the even more important consideration of policy benefits that the
Carr Government delivered to Visy over the years. Davies listed the
connections between Visy and the NSW Government as follows:

The State Government is responsible for many policy areas that affect Visy’s
business. The state-owned Forests NSW runs plantations and Visy uses its timber.
It also governs the water and energy industries and sets rules on recycling of
packaging. The state public service is also a big customer of Visy products and
services. For example, NSW Parliament uses Visy for its recycling.

However, it goes further when you consider the fast-tracking of
Visy’s huge pulp mill at Tumut, complete with sweetheart timber supply
deals. The Howard Government handed over a whopping $40 million grant
to Visy when
the first $450 million Tumut project went ahead in the late 1990s and
there have been more generous contributions from both levels of
government with stage two.

There is also a sweetheart power supply deal for Visy’s Smithfield recycling plant although this Carl Scully spray makes it clear the deal was done by the previous Liberal government.

Under that stuff-up, BHP and US firm Sithe Energy built a $400 million
plant on Visy’s Smithfield site and the NSW government utility Integral Energy agreed to take the 160 MW of
electricity at an exorbitant $55 per MWh, about double the market price at
the time, whilst Dick saved $1 million a year taking the steam for his
plant.

We should not be surprised that Visy and Carr have joined forces
because Pratt is arguably Australia’s most prolific influence-acquirer
through political, union and cultural connections. When self-declared rising Labor star
Bill Shorten got engaged, Pratt hosted the function at his Melbourne
mansion. Similarly, Bob
Hawke, Gough Whitlam, Nick Greiner and former Victorian Premier Sir
Rupert Hamer have all been on the Visy payroll over the years.

Given Bob Carr’s passion for environmental issues, this hiring makes
more sense than joining Macquarie Bank, but it is still far too premature given he only left parliament eight months ago.

NSW Opposition leader Peter Debnam will write to
ICAC highlighting the earlier recommendations from the corruption
watchdog that Ministers have a two-year cooling off period before
taking up such gigs, but his comments smack of hypocrisy given the
disgraceful performance of former Howard Government minister Peter
Reith, Richard Alston, Michael Wooldridge and Larry Anthony in doing
exactly the same as Carr.

Check out Crikey’s list of what retired ministers are doing now and
send through any corrections or additions to [email protected]

Peter Fray

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