One of the more peculiar things that I’ve noticed about the current parliament is that nobody’s done a really thorough analysis of Prime Minister Julia Gillard‘s Pecuniary Interests (aka “Members’ Interests”) over the course of the past three years. While there’s been the occasional reference to her house in the Electorate of Lalor and Mr Tim Mathieson buying a small amount of land as a weekender, there’s been little to no examination of whether or not she’s been regularly receiving gifts throughout her administration and if she’s been properly reporting them on time. The same goes for shares, trusts and other sources of funds that she may have access to as a result of her relationship with Mathieson, not to mention the death of her father in 2012.
Take for example the limited number of pecuniary interest statements that Prime Minister Gillard has supplied to the Registrar of Members’ Interests over the course of the past 18 months.
Note – This Pecuniary Interest Statement was obtained from an official APH Public Register, which is accessible to the public via the APH website.
Now whenever a Head of Government is overseas for high level talks, they are normally provided with gifts of one sort or another from either the government, association or individual that they are being hosted by, not to mention receiving preferential treatment amongst various service providers and their facilities. As of early April the Prime Minister had clocked up an impressive tally of 23 nations that she’s visited during her term in office, with various nations receiving multiple visits throughout that time. This was at it’s peak in 2012, with Prime Minister Gillard making an astounding 10 foreign visits, which in one year nearly allowed her to eclipse her predecessor “Kevin747” Rudd’s tally of 14 overseas visits, which were predomiantly conducted during the initial throes of the Global Financial Crisis.
If you looked at the Prime Minister’s pecuniary interests however you would find this hard to believe though, as most of the 4 submissions that she made to the register throughout this time were in relation to her partner, Mr Mathieson. Since early February 2012, Prime Minister Gillard has received 9 gifts from both foreign and domestic sources, while Mr Mathieson has received over 14 instances of accommodation, flight upgrades, complementary memberships, hospitality, football and concert tickets throughout the period in question.
Now ordinarily this wouldn’t raise my interest all that much, however when you take into consideration that there were at least two instances throughout the 43rd Parliament where the Prime Minister neglected to correctly declare gifts for periods between 6 to 12 months in her register, not to mention going four to six months on occasion without making an update to her register after either selling or purchasing assets, some concerns start to arise about the accuracy of parts of the Prime Minister’s submissions. Needless to say, you’ve got to wonder if there’s any other gifts, hospitality, upgrades or accommodation that haven’t been properly registered by the Prime Minister’s office, even if they were appropriately surrendered to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
But the really interesting part of Prime Minister Gillard’s Pecuniary Interest statement revolves around the issue of various personal and investment properties.
Up until recently, Prime Minister Gillard owned a property in the Canberra suburb of Kingston, as shown on pages 3, 4, 20 and 42 above. This property was leased on the 27th of January 2011 for investment purposes after the Prime Minister had taken residence in The Lodge in 2010, then was sold in January 2013 for $615,000. As evidenced by Section 6 of Prime Minister Gillard’s initial Pecuniary Interests statement at the start of the 43rd Parliament, the Prime Minister had a Mortgage Investment Property loan on the Kingston house with Westpac in 2010, which wasn’t cleared from the register after the settlement of the sale of the property. On top of this, Prime Minister Gillard also has a Residential Mortgage and an Investment loan with Westpac, savings accounts with both the Commonwealth Bank and Westpac, as well as credit cards with Mastercard and American Express.
Now given both rental and sale prices in Canberra, it would be interesting to see what exact level of income the Prime Minister derived from this property throughout her ownership of it, whether it be via sub-letting while Parliament isn’t sitting or for tax reduction purposes. Whether these agreements took place at equal to, below or above market value and with whom would also be of interest as well, given the unique stature of her office. Needless to say, I’m perplexed that the “Mortgage Investment Loan” wasn’t discharged on her Pecuniary Interests register, unless it was switched to another property that she’s recently invested in. This however opens another can of worms though, as such an investment doesn’t appear to have been registered in her name, within a month of the sale transaction taking place.
This is further complicated by the news that Mr Mathieson has recently purchased land in the Jamieson region of Victoria, as referenced on page 43 of Prime Minister Gillard’s statement. While Mr Mathieson is the former owner of “Tim Mathieson Hair”, he is also registered as being a partner of “Mangrove Distribution”, which is a seafood distribution company based in the Thornbury suburb of Melbourne. Whether Prime Minister Gillard helped Mr Mathieson purchase the $115,000 property is unknown, however given the aforementioned uncleared mortgage and the close dates of settlement, it could be a possibility.
Given the fickle nature of modern politics and personal interests, I can’t help but feel that an Independent Commission needs to be developed that can oversee the investments, business activities and conflicts of interest of the nation’s Federal politicians. As we’re continuing to see in New South Wales, the transparency of information is key to addressing the nation’s concerns about the fallibility of our politicians and the people that surround them. Not only would such a commission be in a position to more appropriately investigate issues such as the Slipper, Thomson, Cobb, Colston, OzCar (aka UteGate), Sinodinos/Obeid and Hanson affairs when they arise, but it would also be able to streamline the reporting and investigation mechanisms at the federal level of politics, similar to what we’ve seen with the various Independent Commissions Against Corruption at the state level.
More to come.