Feds defend appointment spree
The Federal Government has pushed through almost 50 appointments to boards, advisory councils and postings before calling the election.
On the cusp of calling an election, dozens of taxpayer-funded roles have been filled, with a range of former Liberal and Nationals MPs landing plum positions.
Of the 49 new appointments, the following seven went to former Liberal or National Party MPs and senators:
- Former Liberal Party president, senator and arts minister Richard Alston has been appointed to the National Gallery of Australia council
- Former Liberal MP Phillip Barresi to the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation board
- Former Liberal MP Ewen Jones to the board of the National Film and Sound Archive
- Former Liberal MP Chris Pearce to the board of Creative Partnerships Australia
- Former Victorian state Nationals MP Hugh Delahunty to the Sports Australia board
- Former ACT Liberal MP Tony De Domenico to the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation board
- Former Liberal senator Karen Synon to the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation board
Additionally, former Liberal staffers Malcolm Roberts and Philip Lindsay have been appointed to the Productivity Commission and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, respectively.
It comes a few weeks after former National Party federal director Scott Mitchell was appointed to the board of Snowy Hydro.
The Government's Senate Leader, Mathias Cormann, described the appointments as “good housekeeping”.
“This is just the Government making sure that as we approach the election, and as we approach a period where decisions can't be made, that the house is in order,” he told a Senate Estimates hearing earlier this week.
Many of the most recent appointments were made by Minister for Communications and the Arts Mitch Fifield.
“The Communications and Arts portfolio has 222 board positions, a number of which were due and have been filled in the usual way,” he told reporters.
“Only nine of the 222 board members have served in Parliament, which includes former Labor Leader Simon Crean.”
The Federal Government cannot make any appointments now the election has been called.
Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen has described the appointments as “utterly outrageous”.
Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus criticised the appointments.
“I think when you are this close to an election, a minute to midnight, the Government really should stop,” he said.
“They could actually leave these vacancies to whichever government is elected by the Australian people within a matter of weeks.”
Mr Dreyfus has also asked questions about Attorney-General Christian Porter’s appointments to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).
“There are some 57 of the appointments the Liberal government has made — to a tribunal that has only got about 250 members in total — have got direct Liberal Party connections,” he said.
In particular, he questioned the appointment of Professor Paul Fairall from the Curtin University Law School to the AAT.
“[Prof] Fairall provided a job to Mr Porter when he was between his position as a member of the State Parliament in WA and a member of the Federal Parliament,” he said.
“It might be that Paul Fairall is qualified for this appointment but our general concern about the AAT appoints … is that this Government has not had a transparent, merit-based system.”
Mr Porter defended Professor Fairall's appointment.
“He did not appoint me to any position. Appointments were made by the vice-chancellor,” he said.
“I was keen to have him on the AAT as he will be one of the most experienced and qualified lawyers that we've been able to attract to the tribunal.”