Thursday, May 24, 2012

Minister Crean on Regional Australia Institute - cORRUPTION OR sTUPIDITY?

I really don't know what to make of this one. People try to tell me Australia is not corrupt, but from where I sit it's just more careful and dressed up...

From: Barnaby Joyce
Date: Thu, May 24, 2012 at 4:59 PM
Subject: Joyce - Media Release - Questions for Minister Crean on Regional Australia Institute

Cwth coat of arms

Senator Barnaby Joyce

Shadow Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Water
Leader of the Nationals in the Senate

Questions for Minister Crean on Regional Australia Institute

Any person dealing with another person’s money, especially taxpayers’ money has to be extremely careful that there is not the perception that there is any direct personal benefit of the appropriation of those funds.

When Mr Crean started the process of setting up a Regional Development Policy Centre, at the behest of Mr Windsor and Mr Oakeshott, Mr Crean appointed a Reference Group to appoint the Board of the Regional Australia Institute.

It is not clear how this Reference Group appointed the Board, but no positions seem to have been advertised for. In any case, it was a lucky coincidence that the Reference Group picked two of their own, Mr Mal Peters and former Labor MP Mr Christian Zahra, to be members of this Board as confirmed by Deputy Secretary of the Department of Regional Australia, Stephanie Foster:

Senator Joyce
Did the reference group appoint the Board?
Stephanie Foster
That's correct Senator.
Senator Joyce
Correct me if I am wrong, wasn't Mal Peters and Ian Sinclair on the reference group?*
Stephanie Foster
That's correct Senator.
Senator Joyce
So they appointed themselves.
Stephanie Foster
That's correct.

The Regional Australia Institute was then lucky enough to be given $8 million for the establishment of the promised Regional Development Policy Centre.

The Regional Australia Institute is a registered company with ASIC, not a government agency, so it can’t be scrutinised by Parliament. The Department can’t tell us how much the Board will be paid, that is a matter for them, or even what in detail they are doing with the money.

Even so, the government has given $8 million, up front, to a new body, established by people who were appointed by the Minister. The government has not linked payments to performance despite this new organisation having no record or history.

There are a number of serious questions that Mr Crean must answer about these appointments.

- How did the Minister select people to the Reference Group to appoint members of the Board of the Regional Institute of Australia?
- Was the Minister aware that people of this Reference Group had the power to appoint themselves?
- What selection process did the Minister require the Reference Group to go through in selecting the Board?
- What assurances has the Minister received that the Board will set their remuneration at appropriate levels?
- Why has the government decided to grant $8 million to a new body rather than tie payments to their performance?

*Stephanie Foster later corrected the record to say that it was Christian Zahra who was on the reference group and was subsequently appointed to the board of Regional Australia.

  24 May 2012

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