March 13, 2007 | Graham

Santoro’s misdemeanor a flea compared to the real elephant in the room

It’s a pretty open secret that Santo Santoro and I aren’t the best of mates, and that I think the Queensland Liberal Party would be best off without him. But, try as I may, I can’t see too much in his latest controversy. He appears to have bought a small parcel of shares in an unlisted pharmaceutical company CBio. The company made a number of placements in 2005 (as you do when you’re losing $8 million per year).
The only possible area for a real conflict of interest would appear to be the award to the company of a $6 million grant through the Federal Government’s Pharmaceutical Partnership Program.
Interestingly, for a company making sustained losses, Santoro’s shareholding apparently doubled in value, but he laid off any possibility of accusations of personal profiteering by donating the profit to a charity – Family Council of Queensland – which is a “non-profit, non-party political, ecumenical association of pro-family community organisations and churches which seeks to promote family values and strengthen marriage and the family unit in society”. The organisation seems to be well supported, gaining sponsorships for a Family Expo that it ran in 2004 from state and federal governments as well as the University of Queensland.
Santoro appears to have been technically wrong, but practically in the clear.
What Labor needs to be careful of is that it is possible to be technically in the clear, but practically in the wrong. That’s the position that Kevin Rudd finds himself in.
Rudd’s wife’s business Igneus is a major contractor to the government, and while she is the proprietor, it’s hard not to see this as a family business. The sort of conflicts this can present to a future prime minister are evident in this 7:30 Report transcript from 2000 (and talking of conflicts of interest, the interviewer is Maxine McKew!).
The more Labor attacks government ministers over minor misdemeanours, the easier it will be for the government to level its guns at Rudd over his conflict. If Rudd really wants the Prime Ministership, his wife may need to find another job and soon. Even selling a shareholding in a business like this at a good price presents a conflict if Rudd wins the next election because its value lies in its future cashflows, not its past ones, and they depend on future government policy.

Posted by Graham at 12:06 pm | Comments (2) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. If the Liberal party organisation does not have the intestinal fortitude required to dismiss Senator Santo Santoro – who is not a novice minister remember – over this blatant breach of ministerial standards then the voting public will extract a very high price at the next ballot. Albeit, that the victims of this voter retribution and disillusion will be lower house candidates representing the coalition, primarily in Queensland – not Mr Santoro himself, who once again puts self ahead of…well everyone really.
    PM Howard will defend this Senator and Santoro will not resign. They will both be chuckling at Ian Campbell’s expense as they steadfastly try to ride this one out. The Beattie Liberals (Gemini Voters) will use this to further justify their increasingly serious flirtation with the idea of switching their to Rudd Labor votes.
    Much of the damage from this issue comes from the flimsy defences of forgetfulness and trying to claim that $12,000 worth of shares is chump change. Neither of these twin arguments work well in the real world and they only entwine to weigh each other down.
    The ministerial code of conduct includes consideration of public perception because that is just as damaging to the institutional office as actual misconduct.

    Comment by David B — March 14, 2007 @ 12:39 am

  2. ho. hum. are there really crooked pollies? in the laboral party? strewth!
    the cattle will keep their heads down on whatever grass their masters have left for them, the chatterati will go on pretending that their opinions matter, and the politicians will go on shearing and butchering, stroking and cuffing, always serving the peepul in great humility whenever they lift their greasy mouths from the public trough.
    meanwhile, the daily news should convince anyone interested in justice, or effective use of public money, or simple survival of australian society, that leaving australian policy in the hands of political parties is suicidal.
    santoro? just another minor zit on the pox-ridden face of oz politics.

    Comment by al loomis — March 15, 2007 @ 10:17 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.