A fortnight ago Anna Bligh took a significant step forward in accountability in Queensland — well, one of several. She decided lobbyists could no longer serve on Government boards, and told a number of high-profile lobbyists to make up their minds: walk the corridors of power as a lobbyist or as a Government appointee. The days of doing both are over.

Which brings us to Mr Jody Fassina, who in the same week was appointed by Stephen Conroy to the board of the Tasmanian NBN company.

Fassina used to work for the late Senator Peter Cook and has strong Labor links (and possibly links to Stephen Conroy). His involvement in Tasmanian politics was the subject of Crikey comment some time ago.

But apart from that, Fassina is also a registered lobbyist. If Kevin Rudd adopted Anna Bligh’s rule, Fassina would have to choose whether to continue representing the likes of Grocon and Tenix in Canberra or enjoy his NBN gig, which is probably rather less remunerative.

Fassina almost certainly isn’t alone. But only extensive research will reveal those listed on the lobbyist register who have received gigs under the Rudd Government. Special Minister of State Joe Ludwig has said the Register is “under review”. If he wants to improve it, he can adopt Anna Bligh’s register template — and add a section on board appointments.

Better yet, the PM should ban lobbyists holding government appointments.

Earlier this week, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young moved a motion of support for WW2 “comfort women”, calling on the Government to urge the Japanese Government to apologise to and compensate women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese during the way. The Government opposed the motion on the basis that it didn’t like dealing with “complex international matters” via such motions and that the Japanese Government had issued the “Kono Statement” in 1993 on the issue.

In fact as Amnesty International has pointed out, any number of Japanese politicians in the last sixteen years have repudiated the Kono Statement, which itself didn’t even admit Japanese responsibility for the ordeal inflicted on women throughout its occupied territories. And the “complex” nature of the issues didn’t stop the US Congress, the British, the Europeans, the Canadians, the Dutch and even some Japanese local governments from passing similar resolutions. But apart from that, the Government’s reasoning was sound.

Yesterday’s launch by APRA of the long-awaited superannuationleague tables was bad news for retail super funds, which are mostly controlled by the big banks, and their workforce of financial planners who mostly live off commissions from advising customers to go into retail funds. The tables unambiguously showed that industry superannuation funds had outperformed nearly every single retail fund in the country.

Still, Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia chief executive Pauline Vamos tried to make the best of it, cautioning that the APRA figures covered only the five years to June last year, and failed to take into account the GFC.

Alas, SuperRatings data to 30 June 2009 shows, like the APRA data, that industry funds dominate the top ten best performers in the last twelve months, while retail funds hog the bottom ratings with five-year performance of less than 2% or, in one case, negative growth over the last five years to end of June. Still, always next year, right?

This morning the Liberal Party of Tasmania admitted to involvement in the Exclusive Brethren’s disgusting election attack on transs-xual, gay and lesbian people during the 2006 Tasmanian election. Human rights activist Martine Delaney took the Exclusive Brethren and the Liberal Party to the Tasmanian human rights tribunal. Two Brethren representatives issued an apology earlier this week.

This morning Delaney and the Liberal Party issued a joint statement that bears repeating in full.

JOINT PUBLIC STATEMENT MARTINE DELANEY & THE LIBERAL PARTY OF AUSTRALIA (TASMANIAN DIVISION)

The Liberal Party of Australia (Tasmanian Division) and Martine Delaney have agreed to resolve her complaint concerning the advertisement that appeared in State newspapers in March 2006.

In early 2006, the then State Director met with Graham Lewis, a member of the Exclusive Brethren. They discussed brochures and strategies for targeting the Green vote and techniques to highlight what Green policies were and meant.

The State Director explained to Mr. Lewis the requirements for compliance with the Electoral Act, including the need for authorisation of any advertising material, and discussed with him the names of advertising agents who might be available to assist him in placing a political advertisement.

Subsequently, employees or volunteers working for the Liberal Party of Australia (Tasmanian Division) converted into a suitable electronic format a handwritten version of a proposed advertisement which had been provided to them for that purpose by Mr. Lewis. The then State Director checked the proposed advertisement to ensure that it complied with the Electoral Act, and satisfied himself that it did. It was then forwarded by the Liberal Party of Australia (Tasmanian Division) to the advertising agent retained by Mr. Lewis for the purposes of placing the advertisement in the three Tasmanian newspapers in which it subsequently appeared.

Ms. Delaney has agreed to withdraw her Anti-Discrimination Tribunal complaint against the Liberal Party of Australia (Tasmanian Division).

Like Ms. Delaney, the Liberal Party is vitally concerned with the rights of all citizens, including minorities such as transgender and inter-sex persons, to freely and publicly air their personal, political, religious and other beliefs.

We shouldn’t have heard the last of this. The Tasmanian Liberals have yet to fully account for who authorised the peddling of that sort of extremist garbage and why they were getting into bed — so to speak — with an extremist mob like the Brethren.

Peter Fray

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