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‘No limits to what Coalition will do to hide embarrassing information’

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Corporate Interference | Deceptive Conduct | Liberal Party | QED
Liberal Party

‘No limits to what Coalition will do to hide embarrassing information’

July 2020

The government is trying to stop the auditor general giving evidence to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal hearing about his 2018 report that was critical of a $1.3 billion arms deal. According to Guardian Australia, the French multinational arms manufacturer Thales was “aggrieved” by the report and asked the Attorney General to black out sections of it.

The Coalition used extraordinary powers to suppress parts of the auditor general’s report after pressure from Thales, according to Guardian Australia. The report found that Australia could have saved hundreds of millions of dollars had it gone to the United States to buy its new fleet of light protected army vehicles, instead of buying 1,100 of Thales’ locally built Hawkeis.

Documents obtained by Guardian Australia reveal that Thales was “aggrieved” at auditor general Grant Hehir’s finding and approached the attorney general, Christian Porter, in January 2018 and asked him to use extraordinary and largely unprecedented powers to black out sections. In particular, the arms manufacturer wanted struck out six paragraphs which found that Australia could have got a similar vehicle for half the price through the US joint light tactical vehicle (JLTV) program. Australia had pulled out of joining the JLTV program and decided on a locally built option after what the auditor general described as “extensive lobbying” from Thales and the defence industry.

Hehir had told a parliamentary inquiry that he had worked through his report with the Defence Department to ensure it contained no information that could jeopardise national security. Hehir said he remained “unaware as to why” national security grounds were used to justify the suppression of parts of his report.

According to Guardian Australia, the crossbench senator Rex Patrick has been locked in a freedom of information battle with the government in the administrative appeals tribunal (AAT) in an attempt to force it to release the unredacted version of the report and has issued a summons to the auditor general for him to give evidence. The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is objecting to the summons.

Said Senator Patrick: “The lengths the Morrison government appears willing to go to hide embarrassing information knows no boundaries. First they censored the auditor general in the parliament and now they’re doing everything they can to censor him in the tribunal.”

Brothers-in-Arms: the high-rotation revolving door between the Australian government and arms merchants

What's a rort?

Conflicts of Interest

Redirecting funding to pet hobbies; offering jobs to the boys without a proper tender process; secretly bankrolling candidates in elections; taking up private sector jobs in apparent breach of parliament’s code of ethics, the list goes on.

Deceptive Conduct

Claiming that greenhouse gas emissions have gone down when the facts clearly show otherwise; breaking the law on responding to FoI requests; reneging on promised legislation; claiming credit for legislation that doesn’t exist; accepting donations that breach rules. You get the drift of what behaviour this category captures.

Election Rorts

In the months before the last election, the Government spent hundreds of millions of dollars of Australian taxpayers’ money on grants for sports, community safety, rural development programs and more. Many of these grants were disproportionally awarded to marginal seats, with limited oversight and even less accountability.

Dubious Travel Claims

Ministerial business that just happens to coincide with a grand final or a concert; electorate business that must be conducted in prime tourist locations, or at the same time as party fundraisers. All above board, maybe, but does it really pass the pub test? Or does it just reinforce the fact that politicians take the public for mugs?

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