May 6, 2016

It’s a pre-election clearance sale: all roles must be filled

The government has filled an astonishing number of posts in its last day before caretaker mode kicks in. And of course, there are some jobs for the boys. Josh Taylor and Sally Whyte report.

In the flurry before the election was called on Sunday and the government entered caretaker mode, ministers rushed to make appointments to government positions. Many are worthy appointments, or re-appointments, and there were also several jobs for the boys/girls. More than 100 government appointments were made in the lead-up to the election. Just last week alone, there were three Human Rights Commissioners appointed, four federal court roles, a new Reserve Bank governor in Philip Lowe, a new Reserve Bank board member in Ian Harper (of the Harper review), new members to the National Museum council, new members to the National Maritime Museum council, new members to the Australia Post board, new members to the classification board, and several new ambassadors (something Labor could undo if it wins, following the precedent set by the Abbott government). Dozens of emails were sent out by the government in the last hours of Friday listing positions to be filled. In a single press release, Brandis announced 76 appointments or re-appointments to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. This includes:
  • Denis Dragovic -- appointed to the AAT full time for seven years after losing a battle for Liberal Party preselection to Tim Wilson in the seat of Goldstein;
  • Judith Troeth -- former Liberal senator, appointed to the AAT for five years, part time;
  • Theodore  Tavoularis -- a former in-house counsel to the Freemasons, appointed to the AAT for five years, full time;
  • John Sosso -- former director-general of the Justice and Attorney-General's Department in Queensland, appointed by Campbell Newman and sacked by Labor, part time on the AAT board for seven years;
  • Saxon Rice -- former Queensland LNP MP ousted in the last Queensland election by Labor's Stephen Miles. Appointed to the AAT part time for seven years;
  • Ann Brandon-Baker -- former chief of staff to Treasurer Scott Morrison when he was immigration minister. Appointed to the AAT part time for five years;
  • Louise Bygrave -- former staffer for Tim Wilson when he was Human Rights Commissioner. Appointed to the AAT part time for five years;
  • Michael Manetta -- unsuccessfully ran for South Australian Parliament as a Liberal last year. Appointed to the AAT part time for five years; and
  • Adrienne Millbank -- has called for Australia to ditch the UN convention on refugees. AAT appointment for five years, part time.
If we've missed any, please let us know. The full list is here. Brandis also appointed two new members of the Federal Circuit Court and one each to the Family and Federal Courts. Aside from those, there were also several appointments in the Communications and Arts sector. There were 18 reappointments to the boards and councils of various institutions, including SBS and Creative Partnerships Australia. Fifield also appointed Michael Ronaldson, ex-Senator for Victoria who retired to make way for James Paterson, to the Australia Post board as a non-executive director for three years. Treasurer Scott Morrison appointed four people to the Australian Competition Tribunal, with two reappointments. Productivity Commissioner Karen Chester -- interviewed by Crikey last week for the release of the IP report -- was appointed deputy chair of the commission, and Commissioner Jonathan Coppel was re-appointed for five years. Justice John Middleton has been appointed as a part-time president of the Australian Competition Tribunal, while Justices Andrew Greenwood, David Yates, and Alan Robertson have been appointed as part-time vice presidents. Employment Minister Michaelia Cash appointed Lyndall Dean to the Fair Work Commission yesterday. To its credit, the government did re-appoint several Labor appointees, including John Stanhope (not to be confused with former ACT chief minister Jon Stanhope) to the Australia Post board and Catharine Lumby to the Council of the National Museum of Australia.

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7 thoughts on “It’s a pre-election clearance sale: all roles must be filled

  1. Pete Sasa

    Well the list looks pretty qualified to me! So what you guys have done is set aside good quality journalism by which you’d find people who aren’t qualified and instead you have tarnished the names of people who have both successful careers as well as the courage to contribute to public life. Great one guys. That’s a wonderful way to encourage others to put their hands up for politics–do so and you’ll get smeared by journalists.

    1. CML

      What a ridiculous load of twaddle! Pete…if you don’t understand what the article is about, then STFU!!
      IMHO all these ‘positions’ should have been advertised, applications sought and the usual process of appointments made by independent persons totally unconnected with ANY parliamentarian.
      Why do we citizens of this country allow our so=called representatives to ‘buy’ influential positions for fellow travellers with OUR money?
      The whole set-up smacks of corruption…the laws should be changed to stop any such behaviour in the future.

        1. Des Delaney

          Can’t follow the acronyms but Pete’s got a point. So five of the people listed above have Liberal connections, that means of the 72 appointments five are associated with Libs. Is that really such a big deal? And the point Pete was making is that they appear qualified. Judith Troeth is a former Senator (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judith_Troeth), she would know about administrative law better than most, Dragovic according to his website (www.denisdragovic.com) has worked with refugees and has a doctorate so presumably would know about asylum cases, Bradon-Baker worked a senior policy officer with the Minister of Immigration…that’s about as far as I got. So to Pete’s point, they’re qualified and they have political association. What’s the big deal? Does anyone know whether they did or didn’t actually apply for the positions?

  2. joyjan

    This rush to fill public offices with your own people when many have remained vacant for too long suggests a chutzpah bordering on the maniacal by the Coalition to exploit their authority, planting their stooges in positions of influence and thereby entrench their ideology in the system no matter what the outcome of the election. The long held understanding between parties that you didn’t do that sort of thing so close to before or after an election was rudely tossed away under Howard. That man and his Treasurer have a lot to answer for.

  3. Tom Beem

    I am reminded of the Newman government in Queensland. Mindful of their likely demise they rushed to scramble as many eggs as possible before the election.

  4. Adam James

    At present politicians receive an overly generous superannuation and benefits, in essence a defined benefits scheme (starting at 65% of $185K [indexed] after only 8 years rising to 75% with additional years served, on top of that they get generous additional benefits based on the committee positions held just before retirement) and so they that are not exposed to the same market risks and low market returns that everybody else has to live with. With politicians enjoying an incredibley generous system makes it impossible for them to understand the anxieties faced by everyone else saving for retirement, whether those anxieties are due to wild market gyrations, low returns or the shifting sands of the rules governing superannuation and pensions.

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