Tony Abbott’s Implied Mining Companies Should Give One Of His Ministers A Cushy Retirement Job

Jobs for the boys.

Tony Abbott

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One of the long-simmering issues in Australian politics is trust. Polls show that most people have little confidence in politicians, and a 2013 Lowy Institute study found that less than half of adults under 29 think that “democracy is preferable to any other kind of government”.

Given our politics is frequently rocked by expense and conflict-of-interest scandals, has a deeply broken political donations system, and is seemingly dominated by hyper-wealthy plutocrats with little conception of how ordinary people live, it’s not hard to see why Australians don’t have a great deal of faith in the political system that supposedly represents them. The situation’s so bad that both major parties continue to oppose the creation of a federal anti-corruption body, despite overwhelming public support for one.

It’s not often that we get a real look into how the murky world of politics and lobbying works, but last night former Prime Minister Tony Abbott provided one, albeit accidentally. As picked up by the Guardian’s Katharine Murphy this morning, Abbott gave a speech in the federal House of Representatives last night paying tribute to those members of his government who have retired or are retiring at the next election. One of the people Abbott singled out for praise was Ian Macfarlane, the Abbott government’s Industry Minister from 2013 to 2015 who was instrumental in repealing the former Labor government’s mining tax.

Speaking on that dubious achievement, Abbott offered the following:

“It was a magnificent achievement by [Macfarlane] in his time as minister … and I hope the sector will acknowledge and demonstrate their gratitude to him in his years of retirement from this place.”

In case you’re wondering what form that “gratitude” the mining industry apparently owes Macfarlane might take, it’s worth looking at the career trajectories of the men who’ve held his portfolio before. Former Deputy Prime Ministers John Anderson and Mark Vaile went from their high office to work for CSG giant Santos. Vaile is now chairman of Whitehaven Coal. Former Labor energy ministers Greg Combet and Martin Ferguson also clocked time with Santos, as well as AGL Energy. Six months after leaving politics Ferguson became the chairman of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, one of Australia’s largest lobby groups.

Abbott seems to be suggesting that the mining industry, which benefited enormously from Macfarlane’s work repealing the mining tax, should line up a cushy ‘consulting’ gig for him now that he’s left Parliament. From there, he can use his political contacts to push for policies and project approvals on behalf of his new paymasters. His replacements in government, who are meant to act as watchdogs against the kind of rapacious greed of mining companies that has caused social and environmental devastation so many times before, are unlikely to stand up to him or his employers.

In fact, they’re more likely to use their office to pass laws outlawing protest on mining sites, for example, or forbidding environmental activists from taking miners to court. After all, they want jobs after their parliamentary careers are over too.

The ‘revolving door’ between government and industry lobbying has been exhaustively documented before, but it’s difficult to picture how it works when so much of it happens behind closed doors. Abbott didn’t mean to, but he’s given people outside the political-corporate bubble a real insight into how the whole show operates. As Murphy says, “it’s a dropping the mask moment that should make us all ropeably angry”.

Via The Guardian.