Friday, November 16, 2007

Vaile - The $300 million dollar man

I began this blog with a focus on corruption, a long time fascination of mine. Corruption and politics might excite my thinking, but generally the issue is so pervasive people simply turn off and ignore it.

So when a major scandal drops just eight days out from an election, one involving my local member and deputy prime minister, it’s not surprising to expect another great voter yawn.

I have, over the past couple of years, taken on Mark Vaile over the $300 million Food for Oil scandal centred on the Australian Wheat Board and Vaile’s political responsibilities. The only actual response I received from him was a bland note about my ‘allegations about him and his colleagues’. The issue was never prosecuted.

Now he is implicated in the most monumental pork barrelling ever uncovered in this country. Another $300 or possibly $400 billion scam. Vaile is up to his ears in this one too, I’m just sorry about the timing of the Auditor General’s release.

A few months back I was asked to identify, fairly urgently, a funding source for a local community program which I saw as a fantastic return on investment for the individuals involved and the wider community. I will be a bit circumspect here, because the whole thing is still in play.

Going through funding options I hit on ‘The Regional Partnerships’, overseen by our own Mark Vaile. My advice to the applicant body was to ignore the normal bureaucratic niceties, as this was a political source. Corrupt perhaps, but I wasn’t going to change that program and the funding proposal is more than worthwhile.

I advised that, with the election looming, the application should be lodged quickly to take advantage of the obvious pork barrelling involved. Unfortunately the applicants failed to understand my meaning and went through the normal processes.

So the questions, I expect, are:

Why did I think the funding program was corrupt?

Being involved in a campaign against Vaile, why didn’t I go public with my beliefs?

The second question first: It is one thing to identify corruption, it is another to be in a position to garner any real proof, at least court level proof. I simply don’t have the resources or powers of an Auditor General.

But what indicated the corruption. Those issues show up in the website for the program, but then repeated by the AG:

The Regional Partnerships Programme is a very flexible discretionary Grants programme. It has broadly based assessment criteria, and projects are subject to continuous assessment rather than being considered through structured funding rounds. Funding decisions are taken by Ministers.

  • community services, activities and facilities supported by non profit
  • organisations;
  • regional tourism, business and skills planning and development;
  • civic and community infrastructure works;
  • commercialisation of new and emerging technologies;
  • the initiation of new businesses or growth of existing businesses; and industry assistance measures.

Vaile and the coalition are now doomed to defeat, corruption not withstanding, they simply can’t claw back in a week what they have failed to regain over the past year. If the latest corruption revelation makes no impact they are still around 8% behind on primaries and the senate is drifting out of the control of both major parties.

In the way of these things retribution will be delivered in the new parliament, and it will be delivered courtesy of the independent Auditor General.

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