Why Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop fail the ‘pub test’ with their new jobs



Questions have been raised about the new private-sector roles of former ministers Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop.
Lukas Coch/Mick Tsikas/AAP

Yee-Fui Ng, Monash University

Labor has criticised former ministers Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop for taking up new roles related to their government portfolios, saying these actions breach ministerial standards.

Pyne, the former defence minister, was appointed as defence consultant to consulting firm EY a month after leaving parliament, while Bishop, the former foreign minister, was appointed to the board of the private overseas aid consultancy firm Palladium, less than a year after quitting the ministry.

Following the threat by Senator Rex Patrick to call a Senate inquiry into Pyne’s new job, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has sought advice from the head of his department on whether there has been a breach of ministerial standards.

What do the ministerial standards say?

Ministerial standards set out the standards of conduct expected of ministers. The principle underlying the standards is that ministers should uphold the public’s trust since they wield a great deal of power deriving from their public office.

Morrison’s statement of ministerial standards proclaims

All ministers and assistant ministers are expected to conduct themselves in line with standards established in this statement in order to maintain the trust of the Australian people.

In the cases of Pyne and Bishop, the standards further state that ministers must not “lobby, advocate or have business meetings with members of the government, parliament, public service or defence force” for 18 months after leaving parliament on matters they dealt with in their final 18 months as ministers.

It also prohibits ministers from taking personal advantage of information to which they have had access as a minister, where that information is not generally available to the public.

Pyne and Bishop have both claimed their new jobs are consistent with the ministerial standards.

Pyne argued that providing occasional high-level strategic advice in his new role at EY does not equate to lobbying or involve the use of information he had acquired in his portfolio.




Read more:
Cabinet ministers Pyne and Ciobo set to head out door


Bishop, meanwhile, has defended her new role by saying

I am obviously aware of the obligations of the ministerial guidelines and I am entirely confident that I am and will remain compliant with them.

Regardless of their statements of assurances, it can be argued that neither of these new positions pass the “pub test.”

Why should we have cooling-off periods for ministers?

The Grattan Institute has found that one in four former ministers go on to take lucrative roles with special interest groups after leaving politics.

Likewise, as my co-authored discussion paper for the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption shows, more than one-third of lobbyists are former government representatives (that is, former politicians, senior public servants or ministerial advisers).

There is, thus, a well-established revolving door between government and lobbying due to the extensive and beneficial networks developed by public officials in the course of their duties.




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The post-ministerial employment restrictions have been put into place to reduce the risk of corruption and undue influence by former public officials-turned-lobbyists hoping to sway their former colleagues and underlings and influence public policy for the benefit of their clients.

There are three main ethical and democratic issues underlying this phenomenon.

The first is the possession of confidential information by former officials.

Second, there is the issue of a minister-turned-lobbyist’s access to and influence over key decision-makers in government – connections that can be used to benefit cheque-writing interest groups.

And third, there is the risk that powerful industry groups may approach ministers while they are still in office with promises of lucrative positions after politics if their grants or applications are approved.

Despite these issues, the cooling-off periods for ex-ministers who go on to lobbying roles have been historically poorly enforced. As a result, former politicians are often able to take up roles in breach of these post-employment restrictions without any repercussions.

For example, former Australian trade minister Andrew Robb walked into a $880,000-a-year consultancy with Chinese company Landbridge five months after leaving parliament in 2016. The then-special minister of state ruled that this did not breach ministerial rules, claiming that someone with a broad portfolio like Robb should not be prohibited completely from work after they leave parliament.

How can we fix the system?

The post-employment separation requirements serve a legitimate purpose in reducing the risk of corruption and undue influence in our democracy.

The first step for the government to address the problem is to properly enforce the cooling-off periods. Having these requirements in ministerial standards does no good if prime ministers turn a blind eye to these kinds of appointments. We need to pass a law to give an independent commissioner the power to punish those who are in breach.




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For example, Canada has a law mandating a five-year post-separation period for ministers, MPs, ministerial advisers and senior public servants before taking up positions as third-party or in-house lobbyists. This law is strongly enforced by an independent commissioner of lobbying. Breaches are an offence punishable by a C$50,000 fine.

Second, the rules need to be tightened to avoid technical arguments about compliance. For example, laws are needed to explicitly ban former ministers, their advisers and senior public servants from carrying out lobbying activities for a certain period of time, whether as individuals, or on behalf of organisations or corporations, including consulting firms.

More broadly, there is also a need for greater transparency in the lobbying industry – specifically, what types of individuals and organisations are successfully gaining access to and influencing government.

Due to concerns over this, the NSW ICAC has launched a public inquiry into the regulation of political lobbying called “Operation Eclipse.” The outcome of this inquiry should provide many options for reform at both the federal and state levels.

The regulation of the revolving door between politicians and lobbying groups has been extraordinarily weak in Australia. The phenomenon of ministers taking up plum positions that create actual or perceived conflicts of interest has continued unabated for many years.

To restore public trust in government, it is time to tighten the rules and be serious about enforcement.The Conversation

Yee-Fui Ng, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Cabinet ministers Pyne and Ciobo set to head out door



File 20190301 22844 3xeu2f.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Christopher Pyne (left) and Steve Ciobo are set to announce they will not contest their seats at the May election.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Defence Minister, Christopher Pyne and the Defence Industry Minister Steve Ciobo, both cabinet members, are set to announce they are quitting parliament at the election, in the latest of multiple high profile exits from the Morrison government.

These foreshadowed departures – in this case within the same portfolio area – open the government further to Labor’s criticism of being a lame duck administration.

Cabinet ministers Kelly O’Dwyer and Nigel Scullion, junior minister Michael Keenan, and former deputy leader and foreign minister Julie Bishop have earlier announced they are leaving at the May election.

Pyne, 51, Leader of the House and a moderate within the Liberal Party, has been in parliament since 1993 and is an active factional player. He holds the South Australian seat of Sturt which is on a margin of 5.4% Pyne only reached his long held ambition of becoming defence minister in the reshuffle after the removal of Malcolm Turnbull.

Ciobo, 44, holds the Queensland seat of Moncrieff and has been in parliament since 2001. His seat is on a safe margin of 14.6%.

Ciobo was demoted in the Morrison reshuffle last year, losing the trade job although remaining in cabinet.

Scott Morrison, in North Queensland to announce a relief package for farmers and graziers after the devastating floods, batted away questions about the expected announcements. The government had hoped to push the story into the dead Saturday news time but it leaked out.

Both ministers have been fending off questions about their futures. On the show they share on Sky on Friday, Labor’s Richard Marles asked Pyne about whether he was resigning.

Pyne told Marles: “Once I decide to announce my retirement you will be the first to know”.

Marles said Pyne had had a stellar career and if it were true that he was going, “I for one will miss you”.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Australian Politics 2018


Pyne’s self-indulgence damages Turnbull because it reinforces what Liberal right-wing malcontents believe



File 20170626 12696 pb80b0
A leaked recording of Christopher Pyne boasting of the success of the Liberal moderates threatens to further divide the party.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Sometimes it’s hard to believe Christopher Pyne is actually a politician, let alone a cabinet minister. Often he seems a Peter Pan figure who treats federal politics like it was a university campus.

To anybody who knows him, it’s unsurprising that at the moderates’ “Black Hand” knees-up during the Liberal party federal council he boasted that the faction was “in the winner’s circle”.

“Two years ago … Malcolm Turnbull was the communications minister and now he’s the prime minister,” he said. “Our fortunes are pretty good at the moment”, with moderates holding very senior ministerial positions in a Turnbull government.

“Now there was a time when people said it wouldn’t happen, but George [Brandis] and I kept the faith. We voted for Malcolm Turnbull in every ballot he’s ever been in.”

There was more. “We have to deliver a couple of things and one of those we’ve got to deliver before too long is marriage equality … we’re going to get it. I think it might even be sooner than everyone thinks. And your friends in Canberra are working on that outcome.”

Pyne, among factional mates and buoyant, forgot the basic lesson of contemporary politics: assume everything will get out. Especially if you say it to hundreds of people late at night in a bar.

Particularly unfortunate for Pyne, his comments not only leaked, but in the form of a tape, not conducive to even implausible deniability.

Pyne’s hubris has created trouble for Malcolm Turnbull at two levels. First there is the same-sex marriage issue itself, which is highly emotive within the Liberal Party. Turnbull immediately declared “our policy [for a plebiscite] is clear, we have no plans to change it full stop”; Pyne tweeted likewise. The conservatives won’t believe them.

Recently there were suggestions that Liberals wanting a parliamentary vote this term would likely raise the matter in the spring session, although there have been fears about the political implications. Talk about a postal vote, which would be absurd, floats around. Many in the party worry about what policy can be taken to the election, believing it can’t be just another plebiscite promise.

Any move to switch policy on this issue has the capacity to blow up Turnbull’s leadership.

More broadly, Pyne’s self-indulgence is damaging to Turnbull because it reinforces everything the party’s malcontents on the right believe.

The right sees Turnbull taking not merely centrist, but leftist, positions on a range of issues. The most recent is schools funding; now he is considering what the right strongly opposes – a clean energy target. And here’s Pyne fuelling its arguments by celebrating the power of moderate members of cabinet.

All of this is somewhat ironic. A little while ago, the prevailing criticism of Turnbull was that he’d capitulated to the conservatives.

The fact is that Turnbull tacked toward the right to get the party leadership – and to consolidate it, now he’s tacking in the other direction to try to revive his diminished electoral fortunes.

Predictably, the Pyne action produced a reaction from Tony Abbott, who (conveniently) had his spot on 2GB with Ray Hadley on Monday. Abbott warned against dumping the plebiscite policy, and took from Pyne’s comments that he had been disloyal while he was a member of Abbott’s cabinet.

When Hadley accused Pyne of failing to have the courage, after the leak, to come out and say he believed there should be a parliamentary vote on same-sex marriage, Abbott put the boot in: “This is one of the reasons why the public turn off politicians – because we don’t tell them what we think. And it looks like one of our number has been caught out. You’ve got to be fair dinkum with the Australian people and it looks like that’s not been true of Christopher.”

Once again, the Liberal divisions are on display and amplified.

The danger for Turnbull is that every discontent bleeds into the right’s wider criticism of him.

Take the Catholic backlash against the just-passed schools package. This might be manageable if it was just a lobby – albeit a very powerful one – outside parliament. But the Catholics’ complaints are being taken up by conservative Liberals and columnists, adding to other gripes against Turnbull.

What Turnbull has done on schools is seen by them as further evidence that he is betraying the party’s principles – that he’s not a true Liberal.

The dots of the various grievances against Turnbull become joined, and that increases the difficulty he will have in landing future policy.

Dissatisfaction with his schools policy and now suspicion that he or his allies might try to pull a swifty on same-sex marriage will make the right even harder to handle on energy policy, which is the next big challenge the government faces. The Finkel report’s clean energy target faced an uphill battle in the partyroom from the start; the forces aligned against it are getting stronger.

It might seem an extremely long bow to see any connection between issues as diverse as same-sex marriage, Gonski, and Finkel. But if a significant section of a party lacks goodwill toward the leader, and has little respect for his authority, and its views are amplified by strong voices in the commentariat, normal political hurdles can become near insurmountable.

The ConversationYet if in a few months he was forced to capitulate in the battle to get a credible energy policy, that would be a disaster for Turnbull and his government.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/kmkbw-6c3c94?from=site&skin=1&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=0

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Australian Politics: 13 November 2013 – A Former Prime Minister Retires