Julie Bishop

Is the ministerial standards system broken? Bernard Keane noted that the standards are “almost impossible” to breach and seemingly unenforcable. Crikey readers added a few suggestions for how to prevent former ministers from parachuting into high-paying industry roles that directly benefit from their portfolios. Elsewhere, readers discussed the visa scams that the government chooses to overlook.

On fixing ministerial standards

Alex McKean writes: As with so many other things, there is no silver bullet remedy. Change the content of the statement of ministerial standards: the fact that Pyne and Bishop are not caught by the current casting of the standards does not mean that what they have done is OK, it means the standards have to be changed to prevent such conduct getting a green light. As they currently stand they do not pass the pub test. There is precedent in legal profession regulation for avoiding conflicts in situations where a lawyer has formerly acted for a client who is now the opposition. Even “soft” areas of knowledge can be reason for disqualifying the lawyer who is found to be conflicted. Secondly, make the standards enforceable. One measure which has been introduced in Queensland is the publication of ministerial diaries. Transparency measures like this can be effective in allowing people (mostly journalists I suspect) a line of sight into who a minister is meeting with, where and on behalf of whom.

Amy Huva writes: Surely the simple solution to the unbreachable ministerial standards would be to require all outgoing ministers to spend 18 months on Newstart payments to ensure no conflicts?

Kym Smith writes: How about government procurement or purchasing or contracting be forbidden with firms who engage, directly or through typically “liberal” employment means, former ministers of any departmental responsibility. These politicians already receive generous for-life super. They should not be allowed anywhere near another dollar of taxpayers money.

John Richardson writes: The only way to establish and enforce meaningful standards of behaviour for anyone is to legislate them, include meaningful penalties for those who breach them and make someone other than a politician responsible for vigilant oversight and determining if a prosecution should be pursued. There is absolutely no point creating codes of conduct that rely on individual honesty and integrity, Ministerial or otherwise, as politicians are devoid of any ethical or moral principles.

On visa scams

Mark Dunstone writes: Unfortunately, because a lot of visa scams are to do with agricultural enterprises wanting to pay extreme low wages to workers, I wouldn’t expect any action from this government, except tougher penalties on people exposing the scams. Remember we have lots of proposals at the moment to enable farmers to conceal crimes on animal cruelty dressed up with the lies and falsehoods about biosecurity and “vegan activists”.

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Peter Fray

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