August 27, 2012 | Graham

Why not a trust fund?

The Prime Minister says it is defamatory to say she advised on setting-up a trust fund for former partner and client Bruce Wilson to hold funds for his re-election campaign. It was her reason for calling her snap media conference last week, but it is hard to see how the  claim could actually be defamatory in itself.

The AWU Workplace Reform Association, that she did advise on seemed to have been designed to act in a similar way to a trust fund, which is more or less what it did – holding money for Wilson and his co-conspirator, Ralph Blewett, and distributing it to them.

On the PM’s explanation the purpose of the association was to raise monies for their re-election campaign and that if there was a falling-out the money could be properly accounted for.

So, on the traditional test that for a comment to be defamatory it must bring a person into disrepute, or cause others to “shun ridicule or avoid”, it’s hard to see how it was defamatory, unless you thought that no competent legal practitioner would have set one up in the circumstances.

Which is where the mystery comes in to me.

I’ve been involved in a lot of campaigns, and I’ve never seen anyone set-up an association to hold the money. You would normally set up a bank account for the purpose which would be in effect a trust fund. If you couldn’t trust any of your associates you might approach a solicitor, or some other professional, to hold the money on trust for you.

Solicitors in fact have trust funds that are designed for just these types of purposes.

So why did Gillard advise Wilson and Blewett that they should set up an association?

I can understand why they might have thought it was a good idea. Their track record shows that they were able to get companies to pay money to the association in the mistaken belief that it was going to the union. They wouldn’t have made that mistake if it was just the Wilson-Blewett re-election account.

(Another issue that arises here is whether companies claimed a tax deduction for the monies paid to the association. If they did, then another question is whether the formation of the association facilitated tax evasion.)

The Prime Minister was apparently unaware of the fundraising techniques of Wilson and Blewett, so why did she think this was an appropriate way to hold money? Why didn’t she advise them to set up a trust account?


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August 20, 2012 | Graham

The future spending gambit as sandbag

I saw this technique at work in the minds of some at the end of the Fraser government. The gambit was that you weighed promises not on the basis of whether they were responsible or affordable, but on whether they improved your chances at the next election, which you didn’t expect to win.

If you lost the election, then your successor was lumbered with the policy. They could either find the money, or wear the odium of dismantling the policy while you scored political points and hope to hold seats you might otherwise lose. If by some chance you won the election, then you inherited these problems, but hey, being in government beats being in opposition.

The Gillard government is racking up an impressive list of policies that they have no easy way of funding. First the NDIS, which the Productivity Commission thinks might add another $6.5 billion net to Commonwealth outlays, and now the Gonski Report at $6.5 billion too.

In a twist on the gambit the government doesn’t expect to fund all of these costs themselves, but hopes to shove a proportion  onto the  states, which just happen to be managed by their political rivals. So added to the benefits they gain against Abbott, they also manage to position the Liberal states as being uninterested in “reform”, as well as providing a friendly public relations field on which to display their care and compassion.

And in the world of CV building it also provides the PM and her government with another dot point on history’s page.

I didn’t approve of the gambit back in 1982, and I don’t now. It’s another sign of a government that has lost the will to govern and is consuming itself with in the quest to secure its legacy and fork its opponents so that in the long game it’s successors get back into power faster than otherwise.


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August 09, 2012 | Graham

Fine cuts – tell me about public service overmanning or featherbedding

This article is about a staff of 42 that managed to handle just 6 cases in a year. It is also the first in what I hope will be a series of articles looking at specific areas where the Queensland public service could be trimmed without any loss of services.

The aim is to base the articles on first hand information. So if you have any examples of public service overmanning or feather-bedding send me the details via this survey link.

The department in question is the adoption agency, and the raw figures are a staff of 42 and only 6 adoptions. In my organisation that would be managed by a staff of less than one.

Which leaves me wondering what the other 41+ staff are doing. They have a page on the Community Services Website and it does have a very comprehensive list of publications, but even if they write every publication from scratch every year, I can still only see employment for another half a person at most.

Perhaps someone in the department has a justification for these numbers.


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