On Friday, the Prime Minister announced that his chief of staff, Arthur Sinodinos, is leaving to join bankers Goldman Sachs JBWere.
The Sydney Morning Herald described Sinodinos as “the nation’s most influential backroom political player”. Other media and other commentators offered similar lines. But no-one talked about the ethics of the move.
Saturday was UN International Anti-Corruption Day. And corruption isn’t just a matter of graft. It begins with a blurring of lines – and that’s what the Sinodinos appointment does. And many like it.
John Howard has welcomed the election of the Conservative Stephen Harper as Prime Minister of Canada. Harper has talked about how he looks up to our PM. On the issue of jobs for the boys, however, Howard should look at his younger Commonwealth colleague.
“Politics will no longer be a stepping stone for a lucrative career lobbying government,” Harper said at a press conference last year.
“Make no mistake. If there are MPs in this room who want to use public office for their own benefit or if there are Hill staffers who dream of making it rich by trying to lobby a future Conservative government, if that’s true of you then you better make different plans or leave.”
Canada has had a cooling-off period of two years for ministers and one year for most public office holders.
Harper has promised to extend the cooling-off period for those leaving politics for lobbying for five years.
The proposals have still been criticised by the public interest group Democracy Watch. They say the measures only include cabinet ministers, ministerial staffers and senior public servants. They claim MPs and staff are effectively free to move from politics to lobbying as long they or their bosses never make cabinet.
Canada’s opposition have said Harper’s Accountability Act doesn’t apply to former Conservative aides and defeated MPs who became lobbyists in the weeks after the Conservatives Party formed a minority government.
Still, it’s better than nothing – better than what we’ve got in Australia. Virtually all comparable countries have cooling-off periods. When are we going to get one?