If Scott Morrison’s snippy and dismissive responses to fair questions didn’t tip you off, his government has proven itself time and time again even more averse to scrutiny than most.
Beyond its commitment to defund or undermine regulators, it habitually sits on unflattering reports. And when it does release them, it’s often after an inordinate delay.
The results of the inquiry into the death of teenage worker Josh Park-Fing took more than four years, and the inquiry into religious freedoms and even the recent review into the Epping Gardens and St Basil’s aged care facility COVID-19 outbreaks came out only after concerted pressure.
The Shipton report
After a scandal which required ASIC chairman James Shipton to stand aside — in which taxpayers had footed a $118,000 bill for personal tax advice — an independent review of ASIC’s remuneration benefits was commissioned, to be completed by former inspector-general of intelligence and go-to writer of these reports Vivienne Thom.
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According to The Australian Financial Review, there’s a fear within the corporate watchdog that the Morrison government will delay the report “until it finesses the sweeping changes it plans to make to the regulator’s management structure”.
The Holgate Cartier report
As we have noted, the report into the conduct of former Australia Post chief executive Christine Holgate was quietly shelved right before Christmas, on account of the fact it most likely makes Morrison look like a right berk.
As it happens Holgate was acting well within Australia Post board procedures which, essentially, allow her to make bonuses of up to $150,000 without board approval. According to the AFR the report made a specific finding that Holgate had “not breached any rule, policy, procedure or governance requirement or committed any impropriety”.
The prime minister kicked up a huge performative stink over Holgate’s decision to pay four staff bonuses (in the form of gold Cartier watches) totalling almost $20,000. He told parliament he was “appalled” by her behaviour, and more or less explicitly asked her to resign if she wasn’t willing to “stand aside”.
Not that we’d know for sure.
Sports rorts report
After the incredible saga of the sports rorts affair — wherein then sports minister Bridget McKenzie’s office took control of a government grants process and directed it to marginal seats — Phil Gaetjens, Morrison’s former chief of staff turned head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, was given the job of putting together a report.
Unlike that produced by the Australian National Audit Office, which brought the sorry story to light, Gaetjen’s report appeared to let the government off the hook. It’s never been released.
The Badgerys Creek land payment
Infrastructure Department secretary Simon Atkinson apparently launched four separate investigations (one being conducted by Thom) into the deal which saw his department pay a pair of liberal donors 10 times the value for a parcel of land next to Western Sydney Airport.
None have been made public. The only reason we know about it is, as ever, because of the work of Australian National Audit Office — which is having its funding slowly chipped away.