Raising the Ethical Bar in Burwood

Stephen Mayne
January 15, 2008

26 November 1999 Stephen Mayne Published November 26, 1999 Probity Tests For MPs Key Plank Of Accountability Policy

www.Jeffed.com policy on ethics is a key plank of Stephen Mayne's platform as the only independent candidate for Burwood, and an MP who could add value to the three Independents in Parliament. Today, we announce the key elements of the policy. As always, please email us with any feedback.

Jeffed.com's major complaint against the former member for Burwood essentially came down to ethics. We supported many of the economic policies but there was not enough transparency, accountability or tolerance of criticism.

Ethical standards in government deteriorated because the former Premier's own ethical behaviour left a lot to be desired.

Labor, in part prompted by the Independents, have gone some way to introducing institutional change that will improve conduct and accountability in public life in Victoria.

But there is a long way to go before the public's understandable cynicism towards politicians is redressed.

Labor and the Coalition have for decades enjoyed a cosy duopoly on political power in Victoria. If Labor was terrible (as they were in their last term), the Coalition only had to be a bit better to get into power.

Both sides have institutional branch stacking in their candidate selection process, although Labor's is obviously far worse amongst some of its constituencies.

When one side commits some terrible sin, they can usually point to an equivalent sin on the other side to defend it.

You cannot underestimate the power of the state and the importance it holds in society - yet we continue to get dozens of dills elected to Parliament who feather their own nests and do not provide a good service to the community.

How can this be changed? www.Jeffed.com policy on ethics is a key plank of Stephen Mayne's platform as the only independent candidate for Burwood. These are the key elements of the policy.

1. Before a candidate can nominate for an election, they must pass a probity test similar to the Victorian Casino and Gaming Authority process for people seeking a casino licence. If they fail the test, they are out. The public is invited to make submissions during the probity test and the test results must be made publicly available on the web. After all, people need a licence to own a dog yet anyone can stand for Parliament.

2. All candidates must sit an IQ test before the election and the results must be made publicly available.

3. The rules governing an MP's register of interests must be tightened substantially. The value of commercial holdings must also be disclosed - not just a desription of it. For instance, I have a policy that the State should buy back Transburban now and therefore it should be disclosed that I own two Transurban units worth about $3700. It does make a difference if your potential conflict of interest involves $2000 or $2 million but at the moment this does not have to be disclosed. Similarly, holdings by your immediate family should also be disclosed to avoid the situation where Jeff Kennett queue-jumped his way into hot floats and then placed them in his wife's name to avoid disclosure. This practice should be banned.

4. A well-resourced, independent anti-corruption body should be established with an annual budget of more than $10 million. They would conduct the probity tests on would-be politicians and investigate any other corruption allegations by the public.

5. The upper house should be abolished and replaced by a larger lower house with better paid members. The better pay would attract higher-calibre candidates, in spite of the tougher ethcial and qualifying environment.

6. New guidelines will be introduced which ban Ministers, their immediate family and political staffers from working as government lobbyists or for beneficiaries of government policy for a period of two years after they have left office. This would avoid the situation where Felicity Kennett is a paid promoter of Docklands Stadium, which received substantial incentives from the Government. Similarly, it would be illegal for Jeff Kennett to be bankrolled into the purchase of 3AK with Ron Walker (as has been suggested in the press), someone who personally made $30 million out of the monopoly casino licence awarded by the Kennett government.

7. The amount spent by political parties on elections and the identity of donors must be disclosed within four weeks of each election. This way voters can get a sense if a new government is particularly beholden to any one financial supporter.

8. All candidates must disclose who they have been supported by or could be in debt to before an election.

Stephen Mayne's Corporate Gifts Disclosure

In the 10 years I have been a business journalist, I have been feted by many major companies with free gifts, entertainment, tickets to events and trips. To demonstrate the importance of the ethical standards I have outlined I will disclose the details of this, although I don't believe it affected how I reported on these companies. Often these meetings were an invaluable opportunity to learn more about a company. They should not be banned, they should simply be disclosed so that people can make up their own minds.

The following is a list of about $30,000 worth of benefits I've received over the years. It was a very interesting exercise doing this; I would encourage all journalists to sit down and total their benefit list. The dollar values are obviously estimates and I would be delighted to hear from anyone who believes something has been omitted, overstated or understated. The list is ranked in terms of companies by value and because it is so long, we have a cut of $200 in benefits.

Mayne's Top 40 Freebies

1. Mayne Nickless: $6000. 1995 week long tour of European freight and logistic operations in England, Holland, Belgium and France flying business class and staying in good hotels. I was the only journalist on the trip not to write about it.

2. South African Airways: $5000. 1997 week long tour to South Africa visiting Johannesburg, game parks, Cape Town and various companies. Only journalist on the trip not to write about it.

3. Rio Tinto: $2500. Trip to Queensland coal operations in 1994, meals and accommodation at Argyle diamond mine, short flights and hire car to visit Pilbarra iron ore operations. Various lunches and entertainment

4. Crown/PBL: $2500. Various lunches including business class flight to Sydney for a Channel Nine boardroom lunch. Invitation for two to gala Crown opening night. Attended lavish New Year's Eve party. Free gaming vouchers.

5. Lion Nathan: $2500. Business class flight to Auckland for profit announcement. Accommodation. Australian Open men's tennis finals. Various lunches, dinners and beer tastings. AFL games.

6. Phillip Morris: $2500. U2 concert, Derby Day, Joffrey Ballet from New York, Portsea tennis day, various meals, Australian Open men's and women's finals tickets for two.

7. AMP: $2000. Flights and entertainment to Bathurst, formula One grand prix ticket and entertainment, Bledisloe Cup ticket, various lunches in corporate box at football.

8. Telstra: $1800. Rolling Stones concert tickets, showbags plus pre and post-concert meals and drinks. Bledisloe Cup ticket, various sporting boxes, Christmas parties.

9. Transport Workers Union: $1200. Business class trip from Sydney to Melbourne for theatre and lunch. Suspect Qantas provides the flights for free so maybe this should be attributed to them.

10. BHP: $1100. Various lunches, dinners, corporate boxes and entertainment.

11. Alcoa: $1000. Various lunches and dinners. Two tickets for Australian Open women's final.

12. Grocon (Grollo brothers): $1000. Various lunches and dinners. Various AFL games and cricket matches in the corporate box.

13. Commonwealth Bank: $800. Flight to Sydney for prospectus launch. Two tickets to Carmen at Sydney Opera House. Lunches.

11. Leighton Holdings: $700. Various lunches and dinners. Declined invitation to trip visiting Indonesian operations.

12. AGL: $600. Various lunches.

13. GIO: $600. Various meals and tickets to see Melbourne Tigers basketball team. Test match cricket. Lunches.

14. Gavin Anderson Kortlang (PR firm): $500. Lunches, dinners, breakfasts, gridiron tickets.

15. Norwich Union: $300. Lunches and dinners.

16. BRL Hardy: $300. Dinners and wine tastings.

17. National Mutual: $300. Various lunches and AFL games.

18. Price Waterhouse Coopers: $300. Various lunches.

19. Victorian Government: $300. Grand Prix, lunches.

20. KPMG: $300. Various lunches and dinners.

21. Amcor: $200. Lunches and football.

22. Transport Accident Commission: $200. Golf at Huntingdale. Lunch.

23. Seven Network: $200. Opera in the park. Lunch.

24. ANZ: $200. Grand Prix, lunch, football.

25. Australian Stock Exchange: $200. Annual dinners.

26. Gas & Fuel Corp: $200. Lunches, theatre.

27. WMC: $200. Lunch, tour of Kalgoorlie operations.

28. Brian Thornton & Associates: $200. Lunches, drinks, Christmas Party.

29. Liberty Partners: $200. Lunches, Christmas Party.

30. Foster's Brewing: $200. Lunch, Australian Open tennis.

31. Shell Australia: $200. Lunches, Sandown motor racing tickets.

32. IOOF: $200. Driving day at Calder Raceway, lunch.

33. NEC: $200. AFL grand final tickets.

34. Accor: $200. Lunch, breakfast, golf at Twin Waters resort.

35. Brashs: $200. Rolling Stones tickets.

36. Normandy Mining: $200. Dinners.

37. Melbourne City Council/National Tennis Centre: $200. Concerts.

38. ICI/Orica: $200 Football tickets.

39. National Australia Bank: $200. Lunches, breakfast.

40. Deloittes: $200. Various lunches.

It is hard to believe I am almost two metres tall and only 12 and a half stone after reading that list of free feeds. Not suprisingly, I am a very ordinary cook, as that function has in part been outsourced to companies over the years.

However, all of this contact has also been instrumental in my building up a good knowledge of business over the years. It is this knowledge that would add a lot of value to the Parliament and give a vital new ingredient to the perspective taken by the three existing independents.

On returning to Australia, I will also disclose the companies I own shares in and the number of shares held.