The decision by Steve Bracks to take a lucrative gig with accounting giant KPMG just weeks after resigning as Victorian Premier has once again ignited the debate about conflicts of interest and misuse of privileged information.

Outgoing Queensland Premier Peter Beattie made the case against such a move very eloquently when interviewed by Mark Colvin on PM last month:

The truth is that I have a lot of information as the Premier of the state and it would be wrong of me to make money on the back of that, and morally I couldn’t. That’s just not the way I am. So, most of those jobs would be out for me, and I think that’s fine. I couldn’t pick up the phone to any of my former ministers when I go and ask them to deal with a particular project, that’s not the way I operate. That would be unethical for me, so most of those jobs are out.

Whilst Steve Bracks was widely praised for his selfless offer to help East Timor, the undue haste in which this KPMG job has emerged tarnishes his reputation somewhat.

It should be stressed that it isn’t as bad as people like Bob Carr and former Victorian Treasurer Alan Stockdale, who both left office for Macquarie Bank which had made huge profits from direct dealings with their governments.

Similarly, the Bracks gig is not comparable with Peter Reith inking a consulting deal with Defence contractor Tenix on the weekend after he quit as defence minister.

Even worse was Michael Wooldridge authorising a $5 million handout to the GPs which then started coming back to him a few weeks later. Bracks won’t be subjected to this sort of Kerry O’Brien introduction on The 7.30 Report from March 11, 2002:

O’BRIEN: A pre-election decision to fund a building in Canberra for a doctors’ organisation is in limbo tonight after the Prime Minister ordered an investigation into how the decision was made. The grant to the Royal College of General Practitioners was ticked off by former health minister Michael Wooldridge one week before the election was called. Dr Wooldridge is now a paid consultant of the college.

There are more former politicians sitting on public company boards these days. Michael Wooldridge chairs the Prime retirement village trust, John Anderson is about to assume the chair of Eastern Star Gas and former environment minister Ian Campbell is chairman of Perth-based IT consultants ASG.

Larry Anthony crossed the ethical line when he joined the ABC Learning board in 2005, given that he was the minister responsible for handing out almost $1 million a day to the childcare behemoth.

The Bracks gig isn’t great, but there have been plenty worse over the years.

Peter Fray

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