Barnaby Joyce relocates three research organisations from Canberra to regional Australia

February 10, 2016 – 12:48PM

Phillip Thomson

PUBLIC SERVICE REPORTER AT THE CANBERRA TIMES.

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Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce says decentralisation is "a real priority for this government".

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce says decentralisation is “a real priority for this government”. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce will move public service jobs out of Canberra to parts of regional Australia.

On Wednesday Mr Joyce announced three Canberra based research organisations will have work shifted out of the national capital.

The Grains Research and Development Corporation, based in Barton at the foot of Parliament House, will have four offices outside Canberra at Dubbo, Toowoomba, Adelaide and Perth even though the GRDC recently signed a new lease.

AusTender documents say the 10-year, $12.2 million lease for the grains corporation’s office in Barton was signed in December 2013 and expired in 2024.

The Rural Industries RDC, also based in Barton, will shift its main operations to Wagga Wagga.

The Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, based in Deakin, will establish a regional office in Adelaide.

“Decentralisation is not just an abstract idea but is a real priority for this government,” Mr Joyce said.

“Today’s announcement is tangible evidence of this election commitment being put into action.

“I have accepted proposals from three Canberra-based research and development corporations to increase their regional presence, which will boost jobs and growth in Dubbo, Wagga Wagga, Toowoomba and other areas.

“As well as being home to vibrant farming communities, these regions also have some of the best agricultural universities and research facilities in the country.

“It is logical that strong links should exist between the RDCs, universities and farmers on the ground in each industry.

“Being geographically closer to the industries they serve will strengthen their relationships and help the RDCs better understand their individual industry’s needs.”

Some jobs would be left behind in the national capital but about 100 Canberra positions would be relocated with up to half of the existing jobs at each entity going to regional Australia.

Mr Joyce said the proposal to relocate the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, located in Symonston, to Armidale will go through the process of an independent cost-benefit risk analysis, which would then be looked at further by the government.

In May last year Mr Joyce announced intentions to relocate RDCs.

Later in the year a parliamentary committee heard it would cost $31.2 million to move grains corporation, $4 million to relocate the fisheries corporation, $6.4 million to move the pesticides authority and $2.5 million to shift the rural research corporation.

These figures were calculated when the regional relocation plan looked significantly different. Under the old plan GRDC was going to be moved to Wagga, RIRDC to Albury-Wodonga and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation to Hobart.

On Wednesday Professionals Australia ACT director David Smith said moving RIRDC to Wagga instead of the GRDC showed the plan had always been “complete pork barreling”.

Almost 300 staff were employed at these organisations in the ACT and last year the committee heard redundancies would be on the cards if staff did not want to move.

At the time Grain Producers Australia criticised his plans to spend $30 million – much of it coming from levies on graziers – to relocate up to 50 of the grains research corporation’s staff to regional Australia.

GPA wanted to see a business case, was concerned about disruption to GRDC and was worried growers levies being used to pay for the move.

Source : The Canberra Times

Barnaby Joyce: I hope we don’t become too politically correct after Briggs, Dutton affairs

January 5, 2016 – 4:12PM

Matthew Knott

Communications and education correspondent

A blue field with the Union Flag in the upper hoist quarter, a large white seven-pointed star in the lower hoist quarter, and constellation of five white stars in the fly – one small five-pointed star and four, larger, seven-pointed stars.

Deputy Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce says he hopes Australian politics doesn’t become “sterile” and overly politically correct following outrage over the behaviour of colleagues Jamie Briggs and Peter Dutton.

If you invite me out for a drink, you want me to speak frankly and freely rather than ring up 13 media advisers and get encrypted babble

Mr Briggs resigned from the frontbench last week after being “overly affectionate” towards a public servant in a Hong Kong bar while Mr Dutton apologised for sending a female journalist a text calling her a “mad f—ing witch”.

Barnaby Joyce is set to become Australia's deputy prime minister.

Barnaby Joyce is set to become Australia’s deputy prime minister. Photo: Andrew Meares

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has described Mr Dutton’s text message, mistakenly sent to veteran journalist Samantha Maiden, as “clearly inappropriate”.

Mr Joyce, who is the frontrunner to become Nationals leader and deputy prime minister when Warren Truss resigns this year, told Fairfax Media: “I never want our country to be completely sterile.”

“I like that Australia is to the point.

Peter Dutton, Jamie Briggs and Malcolm Turnbull arrive for question time earlier this year.

Peter Dutton, Jamie Briggs and Malcolm Turnbull arrive for question time earlier this year. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

“One of the great things about Australian politics is our informality and directness and I’d hate to lose that – even if there can be faux pas.”

Mr Joyce apologised to National Party colleague Bridget McKenzie in 2012 for referring to her in Parliament as a “flash bit of kit”. Mr Joyce admitted to consuming alcohol beforehand but denied being drunk.

Mr Joyce said Mr Dutton had made a “stupid” mistake by sending Maiden the text but said people criticising him should not lose perspective.

It is understood Mr Dutton thought he was sending the text to Mr Briggs, but instead sent it to Maiden, who had been highly critical of the ex-minister in a column published on Sunday.

“It’s what one bloke thought he was saying to another bloke,” Mr Joyce said.

“If I got upset about every time I have been abused on Twitter or in the newspaper or in text messages, I would be a case for an asylum.

“You have to roll with the punches.

“For a robust member of the fourth estate like Samantha, she would think this was water off a duck’s back and pretty funny.”

Maiden has said she accepted Mr Dutton’s apology and hoped he was not sacked from the frontbench for the mistake.

Mr Joyce said he hoped politicians would not become overly cautious following the Briggs incident in Hong Kong and are still willing to socialise with colleagues and journalists.

“I don’t like to be in the holier than thou crowd,” he said.

“Jamie made a mistake and has fallen on his sword.

“If you invite me out for a drink, you want me to speak frankly and freely rather than ring up 13 media advisers and get encrypted babble.”

Mr Briggs was forced to resign after a young public servant complained about his behaviour at a Hong Kong bar in November. Sources have said Mr Briggs told the woman she had “piercing eyes” and tried to kiss her on the cheek, while others said it was her neck.

Mr Briggs sent a photo of the woman to colleagues which was later leaked to the media, a move which drew an angry response from Mr Turnbull. Such behaviour could deter women from coming forward with complaints about workplace misbehaviour, he said.

Source : Canberra Times

Tony Abbott set to crack down on politicians’ dubious travel claims

November 9, 2013 – 7:45AM

Fairfax journalists

A  blunder of the first order: Tony Abbott.

Think twice before charging the taxpayer … Tony Abbott is expected to introduce a raft of tough rules to stop politicians making dubious travel claims. Photo: Andrew Meares

The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, will cave into massive public pressure today and set tough new rules on politicians’ travel expenses after a Fairfax Media campaign exposed politicians regularly claiming taxpayer money to attend weddings, football matches and check on their far-flung investment properties.

The strict new measures will clamp down on politicians claiming expenses on weekend stopovers at destinations en route to Canberra.

They will also stop politicians employing relatives in parliamentary or electoral offices.

Barnaby Joyce during a State of Origin touch rugby match at Parliament House Canberra on Wednesday 26 June 2013. Photo: Andrew Meares

League lover … Barnaby Joyce during a State of Origin touch rugby match at Parliament House Canberra on Wednesday 26 June 2013. Photo: Andrew Meares Photo: Andrew Meares

Politicians who have their travel claims rejected will be hit with a fine that is 25 per cent of the total amount, which will be paid back to the Department of Finance as well.

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Mr Abbott is expected to approach the remuneration tribunal with the planned changes today.

The rule changes, to be detailed by Special Minister of State Michael Ronaldson on Saturday morning, come after widespread public anger at the travel rorts scandal in Canberra that has embroiled a growing number of MPs.

Fairfax Media led a vigorous campaign on the issue, exposing dubious claims by politicians for attending weddings, rugby league matches and other social functions. Flights, hire cars, taxis and accommodation have all been billed to the taxpayer for such events, with expense claims from both sides of parliament coming under scrutiny.

More than $20,000 has been repaid in the last in the past month by politicians since Fairfax Media revealed on September 29 that two of Mr Abbott’s most high-profile ministers claimed thousands of dollars for attending the wedding of close friend and Sydney shock jock Michael Smith. Attorney-General George Brandis and Deputy Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce subsequently repaid $1683 and $615.90 they had respectively claimed for the trip.

Fairfax Media also revealed that West Australian MP Don Randall and a family member flew to Cairns for an overnight stay in November 2012. Mr Randall claimed the $5259 trip was “electorate business”, despite it being 3446 kilometres from his electorate of Canning.

Mr Joyce has also come under fire for claiming $5300 worth of expenses for attending three NRL games last year.

The Deputy Nationals leader, who was given free tickets to watch a State of Origin game and two NRL finals in corporate boxes, claimed flights to Sydney, Comcars and overnight travel allowances to the value of $4615 as well as $741 to fly a family member Sydney and join him at the NRL grand final on September 30.

He has so far refused to pay back these costs, telling ABC Radio:

”The only reason you go to them is because you’re invited [as] an official guest. The only reason you’re an official guest is because you’re a politician. By reason [of] you being there, they talk to you about their business.”

Mr Abbott himself repaid $1095 for attending the wedding of former colleague Sophie Mirabella in 2006 and $609 for Mr Slipper’s event the same year.

A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said on Saturday that an announcement would be made “strengthening the rules governing parliamentarians’ expenses”. The Prime Minister, who is in Western Australia at the Liberal Party state conference, is expected to speak about the changes later today.

The Prime Minister would not need to introduce legislation to implement most of the new rules on travel expenses but is expected to seek bipartisan support if any legislative amendments are needed.

Readers were invited to help Fairfax Media investigate politicians’ expenses with links to MPs’ expense reports from July 2008 to December 2012 posted on Fairfax media websites.

Fairfax readers contributed leads on possible travel rorts to our journalists and provided commentary on the debate online. The scandal clearly rankled with hundreds of comments posted regularly on articles.

One reader dryly observed:

‘‘The moth ‘plague’ is no doubt the result of so many politicians having to open their wallets to repay dubious travel expenses.’’

A story on the Prime Minister claiming expenses to compete in the Port Macquarie Ironman attracted 570 comments alone.

The Sydney Morning Herald

Pollies pay back $20,000 in claims

October 20, 2013

Bianca Hall

Bianca Hall is political correspondent

Joyce and Brandis

Barnaby Joyce and George Brandis: claims.

Federal politicians have repaid taxpayers more than $20,000 in the three weeks since Fairfax Media first revealed two of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s most high-profile ministers had claimed thousands of dollars in entitlements for attending the wedding of close friend and Sydney shock jock Michael Smith.

The revelation sparked controversy over dubious entitlements claims made by politicians, with at least eight vowing to repay the money they had spent on accommodation, attending weddings, book tours and more.

Attorney-General George Brandis and deputy Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce repaid $1683 and $600 they had respectively claimed for the trip, although Senator Brandis said he had done nothing wrong.

According to published figures, politicians have repaid more than $110,000 of taxpayers’ money spent on perks since 2005, including $20,820 in the past three weeks. But the figure is likely to be just a fraction of the money repaid, with the Department of Finance saying it will not comment on the use of entitlements by individual senators and MPs.

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Between 2005 and 2010, politicians repaid $93,000 in entitlements. An examination of individual MPs’ claims since then shows the department does not make clear why ”readjustments” have been made to the amount politicians claimed; for example whether the claim was erroneous or, for example, because a flight was cancelled and money was recovered.

Among those to repay money in the past three weeks are Labor senator Don Farrell, who had claimed $1000 to travel to the AFL grand final in Melbourne in September, and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, who claimed $354 to attend the wedding of West Australian Liberal MP Steve Irons.

But many MPs have refused to repay money for questionable spending on the public dime, including Mr Abbott, who has – according to a Fairfax Media analysis – claimed more than $23,000 on trips associated with the 2012 Coffs Coast Cycle Challenge, the 2011 Bathurst V8 Supercar Race, the 2010 Melbourne Cup, the 2010 Boxing Day Test match at the MCG and the 2011 Birdsville races.

Similarly, Senator Brandis has defended his $20,000 personal library built over four years, having spent $13,000 on books and $7000 on a bookcase ordered in 2010.

The latest MP to vow to repay money is Liberal MP Don Randall, who bowed to mounting pressure on Thursday night and promised to repay taxpayers after Fairfax Media revealed the West Australian MP and a family member took a $5259 publicly funded trip to Cairns last November for ”electorate business”.

A week after returning from the overnight stay in far north Queensland, Mr Randall updated his pecuniary interests register to declare he and his wife had ”taken possession of the house at the Cairns location” and intended to rent the house as an investment.

His office has repeatedly declined to reveal the nature of Mr Randall’s ”electorate business” in Cairns.

The Sydney Morning Herald

Why Slipper’s Cabcharges may be different to PM’s weddings

October 9, 2013

Opinion

Richard Ackland

Sydney Morning Herald columnist

 

Peter Slipper says it’s unfair. He has been charged with misuse of MPs’ travel entitlements, while others have been allowed to refund the Commonwealth and wipe their hands of the infraction.

He says the allegations against him have destroyed his life and he can’t have children because it has become too stressful for his wife to undergo IVF. He adds that he has offered to pay back the money spent on Cabcharge dockets to inspect vineyards in the ACT region. However, unlike recent MP reimbursements to the Department of Finance, he has not been allowed to do this.

Peter Slipper.

Charged with “general dishonesty”: Peter Slipper. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Slipper’s lawyer, Peter Russo, who also acted for the Howard era’s terror fit-up Mohamed Haneef, said: ”It’s a bit unusual that such a matter has been progressed to this stage through the court system.”

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However, there are some salient elements in Slipper’s case that might explain the differences between his circumstances and the now reimbursed wedding claims of Tony Abbott, George Brandis and Barnaby Joyce.

Slipper has been charged with three counts under the ”general dishonesty” provisions of the Criminal Code Act. The offence has three ingredients: dishonestly causing a loss or risk of a loss to ”another person”; knowing or believing that the loss or risk of a loss will occur; and that the other person is a Commonwealth entity.

Tony Abbott competes in the Port Macquarie Marathon.

Ironman expenses: Tony Abbott billed taxpayers more than $1000 to travel to and compete in the 2011 Port Macquarie event. Photo: Peter Gleeson

The AFP’s statement of facts, which went to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, spells out the allegations against the former speaker in detail.

The first vineyard excursion was on January 20, 2010, in a hire car driven by Gary Green. The car was equipped with a GPS tracking system, so the digital fingerprint comes into evidence. Slipper was accompanied by ”a male associate” and he required Green to drive him from Parliament House to wineries in Murrumbateman.

First stop was Doonkuna Winery for about 17 minutes, then to Clonakilla (12 minutes), Yass Valley Wines (19 minutes), Shaw Estate (16 minutes), then to Poachers Pantry (a felicitous choice) before arriving at Gallagher Wines for 27 minutes.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

Overseas study: Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop (pictured), along with Barnaby Joyce and Teresa Gambaro collectively claimed more than $12,000. Photo: AP

The trip had taken four and a half hours by the time the party arrived back in Canberra. At $75 an hour for the hire car, the total bill came to a little more than $337.

The federal police claim that Slipper then asked the driver: ”Could we process this manually and break up the payment, putting it down as suburb to suburb, so it’s processed easier?”

Green apparently replied: ”Whatever way you want.”

George Brandis.

Senator George Brandis: Spent nearly $13,000 of taxpayer funds on his personal library. Photo: Paul Harris

Even though the car had eftpos facilities, four Cabcharge vouchers were manually processed through what is known as the Farrington card imprinter. They were broken up as $87 from Parliament House to suburbs; $80 from suburbs to Parliament House; $75 from suburbs to suburbs; and $95 from suburbs to suburbs.

The Commonwealth says that breaking up the total travel cost in that way, using the manual system of payment processing and describing the trips as to and from suburban destinations, shows Slipper was trying to hide his misuse of his cabcharge.

He must therefore, it says, have had the requisite knowledge or belief of his alleged wrongdoing.

Slipper repeated the same procedure on winery excursions on April 19 and June 27, 2010, with bills of $495 and $362 respectively, broken up into multiple manual vouchers.

There was the fetching detail in the April trip that Slipper’s staffer made a $42.40 purchase at the Dickson Dumpling House at 8.10pm – on his own credit card.

Cabcharges or government cars can be used for ”official business”, and that business seems to be more precisely defined that other aspects of the MP entitlement guidelines: properly constituted meetings of government committees or taskforces or functions representing a minister.

Car-with-driver services are also permitted for ”personal emergencies and compassionate circumstances”.

Visits to Poachers Pantry and other oenological excursions don’t readily fit the compassionate, emergency or business criteria. But then again, neither do attendances at wedding parties.

Twitter: @JustinianNews

The Sydney Morning Herald

Ministers claimed costs for wedding trip

September 29, 2013

James Robertson

Reporter

 

EXCLUSIVE

Joyce and Brandis

Taxpayer funded trip: Barnaby Joyce and George Brandis.

Two of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s most high-profile ministers claimed thousands of dollars in taxpayer entitlements for attending the wedding of close friend and Sydney shock jock Michael Smith.

It was a little less than two years ago and Smith had just left 2UE after a falling out over his attempt to raise allegations about then prime minister Julia Gillard’s relationship with a former union official and the misappropriation of funds.

He was tearing up the dance floor.

The shock jock did not have a best man. But two close friends spoke: George Brandis, then one of the Abbott opposition’s lead attack dogs and now Attorney-General, and deputy Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce. Mr Joyce read a poem called Fair Dinkum Love. Senator Brandis made a bridal speech before dominating the dance floor.

According to travel expenses lodged with the Department of Finance, the duo collectively billed taxpayers nearly $3000 for flights, hire cars and incidental expenses incurred on the trip.

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Senator Brandis claimed $1700, including more than $1000 on return flights, $143 on a hire car and the overnight ”official business” allowance designed to cover accommodation and incidentals.

He told Fairfax Media on Saturday that he regarded the wedding as a chance to ”foster collaboration” over Mr Smith’s work covering the then prime minister and the Craig Thomson scandal and it was therefore ”primarily a professional rather than a social engagement”.

”These were both matters of significant national interest on which I spoke frequently in Parliament and the media,” he wrote in a statement.

The federal Department of Finance’s guidelines state MPs are allowed to claim travel and accommodation expenses for official business including ”meetings of a government advisory committee or taskforce” or ”functions representing a minister or presiding officer”. Meeting with journalists is not a purpose sanctioned by the guidelines.

Senator Brandis let his hair down at the wedding reception at John Singleton’s boutique hotel, Bells at Killcare.

”He was tearing up the dance floor,” Mr Smith said about his wedding guest at the time.

But Mr Smith told Fairfax there were nearly 10 people working in the media at his wedding and the senators used it as a chance to network. Mr Smith and his wife arranged for the two senators to be dropped back at the Mantra Ettalong Beach hotel by stretch limousine.

Senator Brandis later claimed $349 in ”official business” entitlements for overnight trips and designed to cover accommodation, meals and incidentals. Mr Joyce did not claim that entitlement.

Mr Joyce claimed a flight to Moree the next day and about $500 worth of charges for the use of a Commonwealth car on the day of the wedding. He said he could not recall whether he had other meetings that day but defended the use of public resources to attend the wedding.

”There were, no doubt, lots of people there involved in politics,” he said. ”It was one of these things where you’re noted more by your absence than by your participation.”

In the last Parliament, Senator Brandis made the case for prosecutions of Mr Thomson and Peter Slipper.

The Sydney Morning Herald