Former trade minister Andrew Robb (foreground) and former foreign minster Bob Carr

Former NSW premier and federal foreign minister Bob Carr launched a blistering attack on Four Corners in The Weekend Australian, which was designed to downplay concerns about Chinese influence over Australian politicians.

Carr, like so many other Australian politicians, has chosen to personally profit from Chinese advocacy and business interests since leaving Parliament. In an environment of heightened community cynicism about the political class, it was a bold move to attempt to discredit the work of Nick McKenzie, Sashka Koloff and Anne Davies on the national broadcaster’s flagship investigative program, Four Corners.

Not surprisingly, Carr got absolutely smashed in the comments under his News Corp column by people who said his credibility on the subject was compromised by his own position, something that The Australian and Carr both failed to explicitly disclose.

For the record, as one of the commenters observed: “Bob Carr is the director of the Australia China Relations Institute (ACRI) at the University of Technology Sydney. ACRI was setup with a $1.8m donation from Xiangmo Huang who is one of the two Chinese donors who were the subject of the Four Corners expose Bob Carr seeks to downplay in this article.”

Chris Uhlmann made this obvious point in a piece for The Australian yesterday, which sparked a lead letter response from Bob Carr today.

John Hempton, who is arguably Australia’s most successful and best known short-seller, attended a recent ACRI event and published this blog post on Saturday, which was very sceptical about the message Carr’s outfit was touting.

Carr’s column alleged Four Corners was beating up the issue with little substance but he ignored arguably the most egregious disclosure: the $73,000-a-month retainer that former federal trade minister Andrew Robb has snaffled from the well-connected Chinese billionaire who bought the Port of Darwin.

All of these revelations are timely given that Crikey is going to build a list tracking what former federal MPs do for a living, once they leave Parliament. Here are eight initial entries that focus on China and the gambling industry, two of the most sensitive sectors when it comes to influence-pedalling in Australia:

John Brumby

Former federal MP for Bendigo (1983-90) and later served as Victorian premier and treasurer during a 17-year stint (1993-2010) in the Victorian Parliament. Busier than ever now. Currently chair of  City of Melbourne subsidiary Citywide, chair of the MTAA super fund, chair of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, chair of the Fred Hollows Foundation, deputy chair of Industry Super Australia, Vice-Chancellor’s Professorial Fellow at both the University of Melbourne and Monash University and a Director of the controversial Chinese outfit Huawei Australia, which has been banned from tendering for NBN work. Brumby generated a page lead in The Australian today talking up Chinese investment through his role as chairman of the Australia China Business Council.

Mark Arbib

NSW Labor senator (2008-12), former NSW general secretary and national convenor of the right in federal Parliament. Now works full time for gambling mogul James Packer and also chairs Athletics Australia, where he has become a political fixer for embattled AOC president John Coates. He’s even talked about as a potential successor to Coates.

Bob Carr

Spent 22 years in NSW Parliament (1983-2005) including 10 as premier and then less than two years in the federal Parliament (2012-13) as foreign minister. Was paid $500,000 a year to consult for Macquarie Group after serving as premier and after his foreign minister role finished four years ago, he took on the China-funded UTS gig, where he is also a professor in international relations. Has also thrown his weight behind the Palestinian cause in recent years.

Stephen Conroy

Former Victorian ALP senator (1996-2016) and communications minister who resigned shortly after winning another six-year Senate term last year and quickly landed a job as executive director of the James Packer-backed Responsible Wagering Association. After spending years supposedly resisting Murdoch influence, also quickly took a paid gig to appear on Sky News. Also doing other lobbying work, such as for Latrobe University, which has raised questions about his continuing position on the ALP national executive.

Helen Coonan

NSW Liberal senator (1996-2011) and a former communications, arts and revenue minister. The third former communications minister to take Packer’s coin after she joined the Crown Resorts board in December 2011, which is currently paying $131,400 a year. Incredibly busy as she’s also a director of Snowy Hydro, chair of the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, on the Australian Advisory Council for JP Morgan and Aon, co-chair of GRACosway (Clemenger subsidiary), director of Obesity Australia, trustee of the Sydney Opera House, consultant to Samsung Electronics, corporate council member for the European Australian Business Council and on the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce advisory council. It gets even busier when you consider she is also an Ambassador for the Menzies School of Health Research and of the GUT Foundation, while also serving on the Advisory Council of the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Andrew Robb

As Four Corners highlighted, the former trade minister negotiated a free trade agreement with China and then stepped straight out of Parliament (Goldstein, 2004-2016) into a role with the new Chinese owner of the Port of Darwin on a deal worth $73,000 a month. Also represents Gina Rinehart on the board of Ten Network Holdings.

Paul Keating

Served in the Federal Parliament for 27 years (1969-1996) including eight years as treasurer and five years as prime minister. Has been chair of investment banking firm Lazard, spent 10 years on the board of listed tiddler Brain Resource Company and remains a visiting professor of public policy at the University of New South Wales. He also made millions on the talk circuit and is a former member of the international advisory council for the China Development Bank.

Kelvin Thomson

Former ALP member for Wills (1996-2016) who held a range of shadow portfolios including attorney-general. Now working against the interests of Mark Arbib and Stephen Conroy as a part-time campaign manager for the Alliance for Gambling Reform.  

*Disclosure: Stephen Mayne this week commenced a part-time role working with the Alliance for Gambling Reform on a one year contract worth $45,000.

Peter Fray

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