Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie (Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

If anything means anything anymore, surely former sports minister Bridget McKenzie should be sacked as agriculture minister.

The detailed revelations from the ABC’s Andrew Probyn yesterday — the actual spreadsheet, the exact scores of those clubs funded and those overlooked, the warnings McKenzie explicitly received — have managed to make her position even more tenuous. 

But if she does resign or is sacked, is she headed for a life of shame, disgrace and a modest job in retail? Far from it. We hear McKenzie’s a hot tip for the high commissioner job in New Zealand.

There is precedent for this. Here’s what happened to other ministers and MPs who’ve left public service in disgrace:

John Sharp

Transport minister in the Howard government, John Sharp was forced to resign over a parliamentary travel allowances affair. Sharp had voluntarily amended his travel claims and repaid almost $9000 of misuse of his travel allowance, but did not publicly disclose this information; neither did the administrative services minister David Jull, who oversaw the process.

And yet, Sharp boasts a impressively packed post-politics CV. He went on to become chairman of the Aviation Safety Foundation of Australia and, between 2001 and 2015, he was a director of Airbus Group Australia Pacific. He is currently chairman of Pel-Air Aviation Pty Ltd and a director of Power and Data Corporation Pty Limited, Luerssen Australia and the Australian Maritime Shipbuilding Export Group. He is also deputy chairman and an independent director of regional airline Rex. 

Sam Dastyari

Former Labor “bagman” Sam Dastyari points to another possible post-politics career for McKenzie: media expert on resigning in disgrace.

Dastyari quit following a series revelations about his relationship with the Chinese Communist Party — getting them to cover travel costs, asking colleagues not to meet with pro-democracy campaigners, et al.

Since then, Dastyari has stayed in the public eye, doing reality TV, spilling salacious politics goss on the radio, and regularly tweeting along the lines of “can you imagine if I did this?!” Indeed, it was absolutely no surprise to see him called on to write a column about the sports rorts affair

Jim Short

The last chaotic decade often makes John Howard look like our great statesman, but there was a rash of resignations (seven altogether) in his first term. Short was assistant treasurer when it was revealed he’d granted a banking license to a subsidiary of a bank in which he held shares.

He resigned, and walked more or less straight into a three-year appointment as the Australian member of the executive board at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London. He was then appointed as Australia’s special envoy to Cyprus

Santo Santoro

Santoro resigned as minister for ageing in mid-March 2007 after it was revealed that he had failed to disclose shareholdings in companies, some of which appeared to amount to conflicts of interest. Santoro, a Liberal, resigned from the Senate in April.

The following year he wandered into a lobbying gig and has stayed there ever since. Last we heard, he was offering Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo access to Santoro’s “best friend”, then-immigration minister Peter Dutton. According to a Four Corners/SMH investigation, Santoro was paid tens of thousands of dollars for arranging a meeting between the pair in 2016. 

Bronwyn Bishop 

After Bronwyn Bishop took a little taxpayer-funded helicopter ride, she eventually resigned from her role as speaker and was was dumped by Liberal preselectors. She then moved seamlessly into Sky News.

It was here — decked out in pearls and a fur stole, she complained about socialism (this has happened many times) and accused people with “a bit of depression” of “rorting” the disability pension.

Jim Cairns

In 1975, the “loans affair” (attempts to secure loans from Pakistani businessman Tirath Khemlani, rather than using the Treasury’s normal channels) claimed the scalps of deputy treasurer and deputy PM Jim Cairns, minerals and energy minister Rex Connor, and eventually the whole Whitlam government.

After politics, Cairns went into the counter-culture: he got into meditation, founded the ConFest bush retreats, and sold his self-published economics books outside Melbourne suburban markets.  

Of course, McKenzie might instead want to take a leaf or two from the book of her Coalition colleagues and just wait for the whole thing to blow over. As it turns out, this is remarkably easy to do even after a full year of scandal

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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