More than 40% of Abbott-era Coalition MPs ended up with taxpayer-funded positions after leaving politics or losing their seats, an Inq analysis shows. This reveals the extent to which the government has used public office as a retirement gift or compensation.
Of more than 120 Coalition MPs and senators elected or serving in the 44th Parliament, 57 have since left politics — either by losing their seat, losing preselection or retiring (WA MP Don Randall passed away in 2015). Of those, 26 were able to secure a new job at the expense of taxpayers.
Seven of these 26 landed diplomatic positions: Joe Hockey and Arthur Sinodinos became ambassadors to the US, George Brandis was appointed high commissioner to the UK, Brett Mason became ambassador to the Netherlands, David Bushby is Australia’s consulate-general in Chicago, Sharman Stone is Australia’s ambassador for women and girls, and Mitch Fifield is a UN ambassador.
Four more secured Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) positions as part of the Coalition’s rampant stacking of that body, two became territory administrators, and three were at least temporarily employed as ministerial advisers.
Most, however, ended up in the wide range of board positions available to governments: Warren Truss is head of the Australian Rail Track Corporation; Louise Markus chairs the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare; Michael Ronaldson went to Australia Post and Snowy Hydro; Fiona Scott and Ewen Jones to the National Film and Sound Archive; Jamie Briggs to Moorebank Intermodal.
Tony Abbott himself was appointed to the Australian War Memorial Council in 2019.
All governments appoint former members to diplomatic roles and government boards, but this government has been unusual — not merely in the extent to which it stacked the AAT, but in its determination under Malcolm Turnbull to compensate MPs who lost seats in 2016.
Only five MPs who lost their seats at elections have not taken government positions, while 12 continue to be paid by taxpayers in some way.
Eight former MPs or senators are lobbyists, work at industry peak bodies and/or provide “strategic consulting” services. This includes Joe Hockey, now a K Street lobbyist in Washington, cashing in on the connections he forged as ambassador there; Julie Bishop, whose post-political career involves a number of corporate, consulting and lobbying roles along with the chancellorship of ANU; Christopher Pyne, who has a “strategic advisory” role via Pyne and Partners, including for EY; Ian Macfarlane at the Queensland Minerals Council; Luke Simpkins, who now heads the NSW Irrigators’ Association; and Bruce Billson, who has been busy with industry bodies since leaving politics (and is now administering Whittlesea Council in Melbourne).
Only a few former MPs have left any sort of involvement in politics or policy behind. Wyatt Roy runs the local arm of US big data firm Afiniti; Steve Ciobo is at a private equity firm; Andrew Southcott returned to medical practice; Craig Laundy returned to his family’s pub empire; Michael Keenan joined the board of a WA start-up.
Otherwise, public life continues to appeal for many — even after voters have discarded them.
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