Crikey readers reacted yesterday to the news that the Big Four — the world’s four largest accounting firms — were revealed as Australia’s dominant political donors in 2017-18. As expected, we weren’t happy, or surprised, about the news. Elsewhere, readers discussed the fight for sex work decriminalisation in Queensland.

On the Big Four accounting firms

Catherine Rossiter writes: Since John Howard was in office, government agencies seem to have spent more and more on “consultancies” and less and less on utilising the expertise already within their own departments. I well remember some of the consultancies which were undertaken while I was a senior policy officer in a government department, none of which were notable for the quality of their work. Most seemed to be there to tell the government what it wanted to hear.

Peter Schulz writes: These firms are often used by governments to provide “independent” advice on the economy, and of course, their advice invariably recommends extending privatisation, which then provides the same firms with a never-ending trail of further consultancy work and commissions (e.g. privatisation of SA’s electricity supply in the 1990s).

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Joe Weller writes: The accounting firms’ audit teams are seen at every big corporate collapse. Their audits allow the punters to assume that it is all hunky dory. Not much good paying large audit fees if there is no quid pro quo. You may be aware that the law on negligence has been massaged: the Civil Liability Act 2002 allows proportionate liability to take some of the pain from the audit firms when a large collapse occurs. Perhaps the MPs responsible passed the Act simply through innate wisdom, or maybe they were assisted by some lobbying from those in pin stripes with abacuses.

On sex work in Queensland

Mark E Smith writes: Well done Crikey for running this piece. Queensland laws are well known to encourage unlicensed operations. I won’t use the term illegal as there’s no reason to regard trading sex between consenting adults as illegal. It’s not correct that all other states allow regulated or decriminalised sex work. SA doesn’t, Victoria is regulated.

NSW is the only decriminalised state — that is where sex work operates subject to usual planning and workplace laws but not criminal law. Changes to such laws require a rare confluence of timing, political capital and the right leaders so I doubt Queensland will change these laws soon.

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Peter Fray
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