Moore / Barnaby rolls out the pork barrel

EJECTING ethics is becoming the hallmark of the Turnbull government. Pork barrelling is not new in politics. However, it remains unethical. Racism is wicked. Taking from the poor to give to the rich is dissolute. Having an attorney-general attempting to out manoeuvre the High Court to undermine national interest is simply immoral.

Michael Moore

Michael Moore.

National Party Leader Barnaby Joyce’s latest pork-barrelling effort will see the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) moved to his own electorate of Armidale. This fulfils a desperate promise he made to the electorate during the election campaign when he had the former Independent MP Tony Windsor breathing down his neck. He is fortifying his position against a Windsor comeback.

As Deputy Prime Minister, Joyce should put the national interest ahead of his own re-election chances. On the one hand, he is in a leadership role in a government that is constantly telling the Australian people that there is not enough money and ordinary taxpayers will have to learn to live within their means.

On the other hand, he is prepared to splash $25million just on moving the APVMA to his own electorate and risk ongoing costs of nearly $200 million a year.

The shallow attempt to dress this pork barrelling as general decentralisation is supposedly supported by a regulation by Finance Minister Senator Mathias Cormann issued two days before the APVMA announcement.

The Cormann regulation requires any agency regulating agriculture to be further than 150 kilometres by road from Canberra.

The regulation by-passes parliament and allows justification of Joyce’s move as he states: “Our government, the Liberal National Coalition, believes in the process of decentralisation where that can be achieved”.

No-one is having the wool pulled over their eyes by the leader of the National Party. This is simple, blatant, straightforward pork barrelling and inappropriate, unprincipled and dishonourable for the Deputy Leader of our nation.

MEANWHILE, the Attorney-General, George Brandis, has let down his own office, failed to show appropriate leadership and, I believe, neglected his duty to the nation.

It now appears that a shady deal was done with the WA State Liberal Attorney-General to bypass a decision-making process of the High Court. The deal has all the hallmarks of supporting a government that is in trouble approaching an election, putting the interests of the Liberal Party way ahead of the national interest.

In the end, the High Court made a 7-0 decision against allowing WA to take control of the $1.8 billion remaining assets in the failed Bell Group of Alan Bond. The attempt was to allow WA government legislation to facilitate first dibs on the compensation ahead of the Australian Taxation Office. It now seems that the issue of putting Australian national interests first was behind the falling-out of Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson with Brandis and the reason for his resignation. It is Brandis who should be resigning.

THE racist comments of Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, regarding people of Lebanese Muslim background were put into context by Richard Cooke in “The Monthly”.

Cooke pointed out a 1-in-3600 risk of terrorism offences from Lebanese Muslims and compared it to the 1-in-150 risk of Catholic priests actually being charged with criminal offences.

Simply put, these priests are “about 250 times worse than Lebanese Muslims” and taking cultural issues into account “Catholic priests are literally thousands of times worse than Lebanese Muslims”. I wonder if Peter Dutton’s many Catholic colleagues in Cabinet had thought this through and would feel justified about a similar attack on the Catholic clergy.

TAXATION breaks for big corporations while cutting back on social services, mental health and community organisations is Robin Hood in reverse. My column in last week’s CityNews (at citynews.com.au/2016/moore-conservatives-play-greed/) explains how the government is exacerbating the growing disparity in our society. How can this be ethical?

Any Prime Minister wishing to retain and build an ethical government should be demanding much higher standards of ministers.

Michael Moore was an independent member of the ACT Legislative Assembly (1989 to 2001) and was minister for health.

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