AUKUS, the gift that keeps on giving to ex-politicians

William Forgan-Smith writes: Re “Scott Morrison joins growing list of politicians profiting from AUKUS”: although I would like all former politicians to have at least three years free of Parliament, or indeed retire gracefully (as most do), I am not sure how, even with legislation, that can be enforced. 

It appears former prime minister Scott Morrison’s new roles are hardly at the leading edge of likely AUKUS profit-making, or even of an overly large remuneration package. Unless I am missing something, the two roles suggest that no “big” firms see him as a real talent, just a doorman.

Chris Abbott writes: I think it is alarming that so many ex-politicians are joined up with businesses flogging this incredible project. This is especially so when billions are tied up in a long-way-away project that ties us, yet again, to America’s apron strings.

Politicians should be banned from taking up positions connected with any of their recent or proposed government activities for a minimum of five years. (Crikey has previously chronicled former defence minister Christopher Pyne’s AUKUS-linked business interests.) Taking these positions straight after leaving doesn’t seem particularly ethical — potentially exploiting their insider access for their own gain. The nation needs them to step in more meaningful ways to overcome inequality, poverty and deprivation. They need to work for the common wealth, the common good. 

I wonder how many of them commit to any regular voluntary work.

John Ford writes: Thanks for shining some light on the ex-pollies lining up at the trough of the AUKUS leftovers.

How did we get involved in such a squandering of resources when the average taxpayer is struggling? We need our dollars spent on more pressing needs: housing the less well-off and bringing some fairness back to Australian society; solving the crisis of living for First Nations peoples; getting a foothold into PNG to rekindle long-lasting friendships etc. 

How about these retiring has-beens forgo their over-generous pension if they have a job or two lined up as reward for their generosity to big business?

Gary Paul writes: This story just confirms to me that politicians are in the game for themselves, not for Australia or its citizens. One can’t blame them for milking the cow for their own and families’ financial future, but why do we working taxpayers still have to support these dodgy characters with all their benefits and freebies?

All politicians must be made accountable, the same as workers and businesses. If they stuff up, they get stuff-all entitlements — only what everyone else is entitled to.

For old bastards like me who have done it hard, our great country is now divided, shonky and full of wimps.

Chris Toohey writes: In the (reportedly) famous words of the late great comedian Robin Williams: “Politicians should wear sponsors’ jackets like NASCAR drivers, so we know who owns them!”

Sadly, since the unleashing of the neoliberalism beast in the ’70s, (championed by Milton Friedman and anyone else he could persuade to “drink the Kool-Aid”), we now live in an environment of widespread corporate dictatorship, with corporations pulling the strings and deciding how best to distribute the wealth of the world among themselves and using handsomely rewarded politicians as enablers.

The middle class may eventually realise it is being duped by politicians and the corporations that own them, and at some point may have something to say about it. The rest don’t have a chance, with no real opportunity to effectively voice their dismay at the endless list of disappearing rights and benefits one ought to expect in a humanitarian society.

Without the onset of some sort of global catastrophe to compel the world at large to initiate change, it’s probably already too late to hope for any real societal reform.

George Butt writes: This came up in 2002 or so when former defence minister Peter Reith joined Tenix. As minister, he was the recipient of any number of commercial-in-confidence briefings concerning the capabilities of businesses and companies. I’m not suggesting he did anything unethical or illegal, but there needs to be a significant breathing space between a ministerial responsibility — where a minister, within probity, has a responsibility to deal fairly with all Australian defence businesses — and moving to the private sector and a single company seeking means for advantage over its competitors. 

Roy Hives writes: We know what we got in exchange for Scott Morrison’s treachery: AUKUS; season tickets to America’s wars; Gaza; bombing Yemen; assassinating Iranians; UNRWA; China. And a special thanks for submarines instead of social housing.

Crime does pay

Pauline Croxon writes: Re “Why do Australian employers keep ripping off migrant workers?”: one of the most alarming aspects of the deliberate underpayment of migrant workers is the requirement that they stay with the employer who sponsored them to come to Australia, regardless of whether they are correctly paid and properly treated. This legal link between migrant workers wanting to stay in Australia and having to put up with whatever their employer wants is the most urgent thing that the Labor government needs to change (along with creating some rights for workers in the gig economy).

As a former industrial relations manager I can understand that some awards and agreements can be complex to read, understand and implement. But underpayments usually arise when an employer is trying to reduce wages and costs to the bone rather than trying to implement the award and pay the minimum award rate.

Inevitably some will either just pay what they think they can get away with, or what they think passes for a minimum wage. There are no excuses as the Fair Work Commission usually makes it very clear what the minimum hourly rate is, but problems can arise with overtime (paid and unpaid), and shift allowances. The areas where work is contracted out — such as security and cleaning — are particularly vulnerable. 

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke has a lot of work to do yet cleaning up the system, but breaking the link between migration and employment is a critical first step along with increasing penalties for underpayments (including jail time for employers who traffic migrants who end up working as slaves).

Anthony McIntyre writes: Our legal system is based on the idea of deterrents. The idea is to make it so crime does not pay. The problem with wage theft is that crime does pay. If the penalty is less than the proceeds of crime then the deterrent fails.

It is time for there to be real deterrents. Jail time would be good, but at least fines that are many times the money they have stolen.

Leave a Comment