One Darwin businessman with overseas experience said he is delighted to see that the Federal Government is now closely monitoring the way Commonwealth money is being spent and allocated in the Territory. He went so far as to allege that certain individuals and groups had “obviously” been “ ripping off” the system for years . (Little Darwin wishes to make it clear that it does not infer in any way or manner that any particular person , company , or group , past or present , has , or is now engaged in any illegality , or improper or corrupt actions. ) . He continued by saying he did not think the Ombudsman , Auditor –General and police had sufficient powers to handle any investigations into alleged corruption.
Over the Christmas break an excellent ABC Background Briefing report covered the concern about corruption which , in all its forms, has been blamed for the present global economic crisis. The World Bank has gone so far as to say corruption is at the heart of most of the planet’s economic and social troubles. Corrupt officials are said to pocket one trillion dollars – one million million - in bribes .
Presented by Ian Townsend , the Background Briefing report began by stating that recently 160 public servants and government contractors were called to a breakfast meeting in a plush Brisbane hotel to learn the meaning of ethics and integrity.
Townsend said the meeting was part of a flurry of activity , sparked by a string of scandals,especially the jailing in the past two years of two former Queensland Cabinet ministers. Former Tourism Minister Merri Rose was imprisoned for trying to blackmail the then Premier, Peter Beattie, and former Health Minister, Gordon Nuttall, was jailed on 36 counts of corruptly receiving secret commissions. Other matters of concern were 25 police implicated in exchanging cash and favours with prisoners and deep concern about former politicians being paid huge sums for helping businesses win government contracts.
Former special prosecutor , Doug Drummond QC, told the breakfast gathering that the Queensland government faced a crisis of public confidence. Despite the elaborate framework set up as a result of the Fitzgerald inquiry more than a decade ago, there was a perception that things had run off the rails . There was a feeling that ethical standards had slipped, not just in the Sunshine State, but everywhere. Brisbane based ethics consultant Howard Whitton who gives talks about corruption to the United Nations and others was quoted as saying middle level public servants were deeply ignorant of the proper role in relationship between public servants and ministers , and had no conception of how they should respond to improper requests from a minister or staffer, for example, for information or to do something .
At Brisbane's Griffith University two months ago, on the 20th anniversary of the Fitzgerald Report into Queensland corruption , Tony Fitzgerald QC launched a scathing attack on the Queensland government for letting things slide too far. Fitzgerald said secrecy was established by sham claims that voluminous documents were Cabinet-in-confidence. Access could now be purchased, patronage was dispensed, mates and supporters were appointed, and retired politicians exploited their connections to obtain success fees for deals between business and government. He went on to say neither side of politics was interested in these issues except the short-term political advantage as each enjoyed or plotted impatiently for its turn at the privileges and opportunities which accompany power >>>