3 min read

You scratch my back

It’s no surprise that people clamour hand over fist to win preselection for one of the two major Australian political parties when the rewards are far greater than those individuals might expect to receive in the private sector. Not just the power and status, but the financial windfalls awaiting them upon retirement:

“Former WA premier Mark McGowan has taken on a senior role at the former federal treasurer Joe Hockey’s consultancy firm, among four new jobs, including appointments to mining companies Mineral Resources and BHP.

Mr Hockey’s firm, Bondi Partners, promotes trade and business ties between Australia and the US. It confirmed Mr McGowan commenced his appointment this month.

It is the fourth private sector role the former Labor leader has taken on since his shock exit from state politics, citing exhaustion, five months ago.”

For those who don’t know, Joe Hockey is a former Commonwealth Treasurer for the Liberal Party – the party Mark McGowan ‘fought’ against his entire career. Funny how as soon as they leave the political theatre, ideology doesn’t matter so much. Or perhaps it never mattered at all?

Mr McGowan also has an indexed State-funded pension that’s currently worth $A274,867 per annum, something to which he is entitled because of how long he has ‘served’ – the scheme was turfed due to its obscene generosity back in 2001. Another recently retired Premier, Victoria’s Dan Andrews, will get “up to $300,000 a year and a private driver for the rest of his life”, also thanks to a since-abolished pension scheme.

No doubt Mr Andrews, like Mr McGowan, will soon be joining the Boards of various companies for whom he granted favours over his 20-year political career. But he certainly won’t be able to offset the damage he has caused to Victorian taxpayers, whom he slugged with four times as much debt as when he started and left with the worst credit rating in the country, with annual interest payments topping $A8 billion.

But back to Mr McGowan. Every good hero needs a villain and Mr McGowan had his in Clive Palmer, the eccentric billionaire-through-questionable-means who waged war on Western Australia over a royalties dispute. The local rag, owned by Mr McGowan’s good mate and media tycoon Kerry Stokes, was more than willing to take a side:

The West did not portray Clive Palmer in a good light. Source.

Perhaps that’s why the media has been relatively uncritical of Mr McGowan’s post-political appointments – he was always willing to help a mate out, including through an export exemption given to the Waitsia gas project owned by… oh would you look at that, Kerry Stokes!

But the favours flowed well beyond the media. The State’s mining companies owe Mr McGowan far more than he’s now getting in his role as an ‘advisor’: BHP was granted exemptions from the State’s strong pandemic restrictions (gotta keep those royalties flowing!), and Mineral Resources was given around $250 million* in royalty rebates because Mr McGowan, as Minister for Mines and Petroleum, conveniently ‘forgot’ to put any kind of price cap on a Support Package he delivered to its Koolyanobbing iron ore project.

People spend a lot of time and energy arguing for and against ’left’ this, or ‘right’ that. But the people who are actually in power honestly couldn’t give a toss either way, so long as they’re able to line their pockets at your expense. But that’s just life in a two-party democratic system, “the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard” (Mencken really had some cracking quotes, didn’t he?).

The system is set up to allow crony capitalism to flourish and Mark McGowan and Dan Andrews are just two recent examples of where it has been pushed to its absolute limits – they truly are giving it to us good and hard!

*The Government is understandably cagey about how much it has pissed away into Mineral Resources’ coffers to ‘protect’ a handful of jobs. $250 million is my back of the envelope calculation but you can estimate it yourself using the information provided in Hansard. Average iron ore price * 30 million tonnes * 7.5% (the State’s royalty rate).