Tasmanian Times

Featured - Row 2

Corruption makes losers of everyone

Satire: Flickr

To all appearances, my grandfather was a respectable man, a pipe-smoking elder of the Methodist church. It was only after his death that my mother told us the family secret.

Grandpa Porritt had worked at a fruit importers on England’s Teesside. And all through the war, had been a black marketeer – diverting fresh fruit to rich people while ordinary folk grew hungry and thin. It must have been more than a few bananas because at the war’s end, stern faced men in gaberdine coats, straight out of an episode of Foyle’s War, showed up at his house.

He was charged, convicted, and only avoided prison by paying a fine of a thousand pounds. To give that perspective, he had to sell three terraced houses to raise the funds; the financial impact affected generations of our family.

Corruption has always angered me, because its at the heart of what is wrong with our world, and we all pay a terrible price for letting it go on.

The real reason we don’t have climate action is the influence peddling, and outright ownership of politicians by the mighty fossil fuel industry. They literally endanger us all.

In Tasmania last year, an election that was strongly tipped to swing back to Labor, was slimly lost because the company with the poker machine monopoly poured money into a scare campaign based in pubs and clubs, and donated funds to the Liberal party directly, which in this country is totally legal, though in more advanced countries is banned as being undemocratic.

A group of concerned Tasmanians has formed to get to the bottom of what has come to be called “The Bought Election”. Amounts donated for Tasmanian elections do not appear on the record for at least a year, and even now several million dollars are unaccounted for.

The campaigners are asking for all future donations to be put online, in real time, so we can know who and why before we vote.

They also want all meetings held by government ministers and MPs to be diarized online, for their constituents to see who they are associating with. We pay these people handsomely, they work for us, and we have a right to know.

Tasmania has long been wracked with vested interests hijacking democracy.

In Launceston the city’s leading businessman, owner of the newspaper, TV station, and board member of the infamous Gunns Limited, was sent to jail after he tried to bribe an MP to cross the floor.

Not long after, influence peddling, this time on the Labor side, brought forestry to its knees in the Pulp Mill debacle. We could have had a modern, clean, modest but sustainable industry like better governed countries overseas, instead vast plantations of the wrong kind of trees in the wrong places rot where they stand, and many timber jobs are gone.

Another symptom – also outlawed in countries with good governance, is the practice of MPs or public servants, being rewarded with corporate jobs with the companies they once regulated. Examples of this abound in Tasmania.

This state of affairs is sad for politicians of all stripes because instead of respect for their long, hard years of public service, they end up being remembered as a bunch of spivs. Its in their interests to clean things up, and regain the respect of ordinary people.

Premier Will Hodgman, who always seemed like a decent person who had fallen in with the wrong crowd, these days looks anything but triumphant. By passing transparency laws some respect can be regained across the political spectrum.

If a corporation wants to affect government policy – its CEO, its board members, its shareholders can vote just like the rest of us.

That should be the end of it. But if they lobby and worse, influence by payment or favour the decision makers, that is wrong. It means they have more power than is their right, more than ordinary citizens.

Corruption is so normal that it skews every law we have – it delayed by thirty years proper tobacco controls, causing millions of deaths, it weakens health regulations and pollution laws, diverts money to the wrong things, builds roads where they shouldnt go, cuts taxes to the wrong people.

Corruption in the Pacific Rim countries was named by the UN as the leading factor behind the failure to thrive of a dozen nations. According to Transparency International’s report this year, Australia has seen a “serious decline” in the past 10 years.

My grandfather, when confronted by his wife as the raincoated men left his house, had a reply which has gone down in family legend. My mother actually heard him, as she and her sisters clustered on the stairs to listen.

“What can you say, he shouted, when someone puts a ten pound note in your pocket?” Who knows the pressures he felt, but I wish he had been able to say “Sorry, that isn’t right. I can’t take your money”.

It would have changed history.

On Sunday March 3rd a public meeting will be held at Hobart Town Hall, at 11. a.m. There are wonderful speakers including James Boyce, and Michael West. Join them for what promises to be a vital discussion. And to demand that our state be run democratically.

Steve Biddulph AM is the author of 10 Things Girls Need Most, Raising Girls, Raising Boys; Complete Secrets of Happy Children, and The New Manhood. Visit Steve’s website www.stevebiddulph.com for details. 

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. Clive Stott

    March 4, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    Remember the bumper stickers which read, “Tasmania, explore the corruption”?
    Michael Ferguson MP once told me he disagreed with them because it let mainlanders think we were corrupt down here in Tas.

    • Russell

      March 5, 2019 at 3:18 pm

      If the shoe fits…

  2. John Hawkins

    March 4, 2019 at 9:32 am

    Former Gunns boss John Gay to pay $500,000

    The former Gunns Limited boss was convicted of insider trading in 2013 after he sold Gunns shares worth about $3.1 million in December 2009.

    As part of the conviction, Mr Gay was fined $50,000 and banned from running companies for fiver years.

    The Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions commenced civil proceedings against Mr Gay, seeking him to repay the benefit his insider knowledge reaped.

    This month Justice Stephen Estcourt ruled Mr Gay had benefited from selling the shares before the information was made publically available in February 2010, and ordered Mr Gay and the CDPP to undergo mediation.

    Following mediation before former Supreme Court Chief Justice Ewan Crawford, Mr Gay agreed to pay a pecuniary penalty of $500,000 within 120 days.

    Justice Estcourt made an order to this effect on December 11.

    That is all the Examiner had to say about this matter.

    Only in Your Corrupt Tasmania

  3. John Hawkins

    March 4, 2019 at 9:18 am

    December 16, 2015 12:09pm

    FEDERAL prosecutors say justice has been served with disgraced timber magnate John Gay being ordered to pay a $500,000 penalty order stemming from his insider trading conviction.

    The settlement comes after mediation on December 7 between prosecutors and the former Gunns boss before retired Chief Justice Ewan Crawford.
    JBH Why was mediation required and why did the Mercury neither explain nor take a position?

    Gay was convicted of insider trading in 2013 and fined $50,000 after selling $3.1 million worth of Gunns shares in 2009 while privy to price sensitive information.

    “The interests of justice have been met because Mr Gay has been made to disgorge his benefit resulting from trading his shares when he should not have, regardless of the motivation behind the selling of his shares,” Commonwealth Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) Shane Kirne said.
    JBH I dispute that the interests of justice have been met a fine of $50,000 and a profit on insider trading as assessed by mediation of $500,000 do not equate. Why did the Mercury not ask why he was only fined $50,000 and take a stand on behalf of its readers?

    ‘Those that choose to illegally benefit through insider trading should expect to face the full force of the law.”
    JBH Not in Tasmania! The full force of the law required time in the chokey as Rivkin found out. Then he did not live in Tasmania protected by the maaaates.

    The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) boss Cathie Armour said the corporate regulator was committed to pursuing profits and benefits derived from engaging in insider trading.
    JBH This would have been a perfect Royal Commission Case for Justice Hayne.

    “An important aspect of (ASICs) approach to market integrity is deterring misconduct by individuals who may otherwise assess the risks as worth taking,” she said.

    “ASIC acknowledges the CDPP for commencing this action and for achieving an outcome that should send a strong message about the significant consequences of criminal actions.”

    ASIC sought to go after Gay’s assets in 2014 after there was widespread criticism of his $50,000 fine for insider trading.

    ASIC chairman Greg Medcraft told a Senate Estimates committee last year that “the whole country” was disappointed with the scale of the punishment.
    JBH Did the Mercury join the outrage -Nah Nah Nah -not in your corrupt Tasmania.

    The corporate watchdog initially referred the case to the Australian Federal Police which declined to pursue the matter.
    JBH WHY and why did the Mercury not ask and publish the reasons?

    ASIC then approached the CDPP which agreed to take it on.

    Prosecutors subsequently started civil proceedings against Gay under proceeds of crime laws, seeking a money penalty order equal to the “benefit” he derived from his insider trading.
    JBH The benefit to Gay was initially assessed at $3.1 million. Then agreed Federally as restitution under the Proceeds of Crime at $500,000. In The pro Gay Tasmanian courts a fine of $50,000 and he could keep the $500.000 was seen as the Tasmanian way. The Mercury sees nothing wrong here and as a result makes no comment.

    They initially sought the entire $3.1 million Gay made when he illegally sold the shares but this was rejected by Supreme Court judge Justice Stephen Estcourt.

    During subsequent legal proceedings prosecutors argued Gay benefited by avoiding a loss of between $600,000 and $700,000 on the sales of his Gunns shares.

    This was based on the same amount of shares being worth just $2.5 million two months later when information similar to that held by Gay became available to the market.

    Gay’s high powered legal team from Melbourne took a different direction.

    They argued that because Gay had made a loss of $37,000 when he sold the shares, compared to what he bought them for, he derived no benefit from his criminal activity.

    On December 1 barrister Neil Clelland, SC, said a money penalty order against Gay, based on him avoiding a loss, would amount to a double punishment.

    But in his decision Justice Stephen Estcourt rejected the argument.

    ‘I do not accept that it can be said in the present case that one would readily accept that [Gay] derived no benefit from his offending simply because he sold the subject shares for less than he paid for them,” he said.

    Justice Estcourt ordered the parties to mediation to settle exactly what that benefit amounted to.

    Gay agreed on a $500,000 pecuniary penalty order following mediation and on Friday Justice Estcourt made a court order to this effect.

    JBH If we had no Tasmanian Times I would not be able to raise this matter. The Mercury never upsets the sponsors and the Examiner is nowhere to be seen.

    This appalling saga reflects very badly over the workings of the judicial system in Tasmania.

  4. Mike

    March 3, 2019 at 5:23 pm

    The example you give with your Grandpa is a rare case where the corruption was probably not approved by the powers that be and hence the fine.

    It is far more common that when you investigate and trace corruption you discoverer that there is no particular level where the corruption stops, IE it goes all the way to the top.

    For example, the land that the UN resides on was donated by an a heir to fortune of a snake oil salesman who profited by selling kerosene to cancer victims on the bases that drinking it would cure them.

    • Jon Sumby

      March 4, 2019 at 2:19 am

      The Rockefellers went into business in the 1950s?

      Kerosene: Paula Ganner’s Cancer Cure
      “This is a fantastic piece of history and an effective and powerful remedy that was in use by our grandparents and great-grandparents and is still used in many rural areas.”
      – Dr. Jennifer Daniels
      The idea of using kerosene as a cancer cure began in the early 1950’s, when a 31-year-old Austrian woman by the name of Paula Ganner had been given two days to live by her doctors. She had metastasized cancer and colon paralysis after surgery. Remembering that in Eastern Europe kerosene had been used as a cure-all, she began ingesting a tablespoonful each day. Three days later she was able to get up out of bed, and 11 months later was alive and well and gave birth to a healthy boy. When her boy was three, he contracted polio, and Paula cured it using one teaspoon of kerosene daily for eight days. After spreading the world about her amazing results using kerosene for health problems, she received 20,000 thank-you letters with success stories.

      Here are some testimonials reported in the German magazine “7 TAGE” between September 1969 and February 1970:

      A dog had a growth the size of a child’s fist on his neck and was given kerosene on sugar cubes. After two weeks, the growth disappeared.
      After breast cancer surgery, a woman (48) developed tumours in the uterus. After taking a daily teaspoon of kerosene she could stop using morphine, and after six weeks she aborted three tumours.
      Another woman took a teaspoonful of kerosene three times daily for two weeks, and repeated this after a two-week interruption. This not only cured her stomach ulcer, but also, to her surprise, her diabetes.
      A man cured a severe prostate problem (it is not mentioned if it was cancer) by taking one teaspoonful of kerosene each morning and evening for four weeks. Later, he overcame a stomach ulcer in the same way. His son successfully used kerosene to cure a chronic bladder problem, and he cured his dog of leukaemia after a seven-week kerosene cure.
      After a woman (60) had her right breast removed, cancer started in her left breast. She periodically took a teaspoonful of kerosene three times daily for two weeks and then paused for 10 days. She had no more cancer problems and no more fear of cancer.
      A young woman (35) was sent home to die with an inoperable large tumour in the pancreas that extended to the adrenal glands. On the fourth day home, she briefly awoke from a coma and was given a spoonful of kerosene. Hours later she showed the first signs of improvement, and after four days she wanted to get out of bed. The kerosene cure was continued for another 10 days before she was investigated at the hospital in Graz and later discharged as being healthy.
      After six days of using kerosene, a woman discharged dead tissue which was confirmed to consist of dead tumour cells (the type of cancer is not mentioned). After 14 days, the typical smell of terminal cancer disappeared. She took kerosene for 32, 25 and 14 days, with nine days of rest between each. As a pleasant side-effect, she was also cured of her rheumatic problems.
      A woman (68) had high blood pressure, heart and circulation problems and rheumatism. She could hardly walk. After four weeks on kerosene, she was asked by a friend what she was doing to look suddenly so much younger. People think she is in her 40s. Her husband, who used to have a bent back, now runs like a youth. When she sometimes gets some pain in cold weather, she rubs her body with a sponge dipped in kerosene and lets it dry; this quickly removes any pain.

      • Pete Godfrey

        March 4, 2019 at 9:31 am

        Fascinating story Jon. I have heard that Kerosene also kills harmful intestinal bacteria. I guess that it has not taken off as a mainstream cure because it is not able to be patented.
        Have you any other thoughts on the matter. It is also possibly placebo effect, if it is the cases you cite are very powerful placebo effects.

        • Simon Warriner

          March 4, 2019 at 1:29 pm

          Nope. More real evidence is needed to get me interested.

      • J. Haswell

        March 5, 2019 at 1:09 pm

        Rising 80, with the odd twinge and more to come, my interest is seriously aroused in kero as a cure-all.
        But I have to ask super-salesman Jon Sumby:
        Mate, have you tried it?
        In the meantime I’m not game… just yet.

      • Russell

        March 5, 2019 at 3:28 pm

        Is there any evidence of these being factual? AND how come they are ALL women?

        Seems more akin to religious fantasy to me.

  5. William Boeder

    March 3, 2019 at 11:35 am

    Tasmania is a classic example in where the dishonesty and corrupt engagements by politicians are far mor easier to determine in the expansive Shire of Tasmania.
    I say Shire as some of Australia’s Shire Electorates are geographically larger than Tasmania.
    EG: The Shire of Durack in West Australia measures out to 1.629.858 sq’ km.
    The entire of the Tasmanian island consists of 68.401 sq’ kms.
    This above helps to prove my point.

    The compactness and isolation of Tasmania allows for news to travel at rocket speed or even faster, on occasions certain news has arrived in Rosebery before it has become news in Tasmania’s capital of Hobart.

    The mechanism that propels the speed of certain news events (realizing that some events are never to be published or made public) happens to be the internet, or occasionally an immediate phone call with information that confirms certain corrupt ministerial activity has been the cause for certain new legislations to be speedily enabled.

    Now add to this mix the cronyism element, brown paper bags of cash being delivered, or simple money transfers to an out of State Bank Account.
    A person with a turgid history of unexplained wealth, a former Premier ‘also a certain gambling afficiendo’ he was known to haunt a Tasmanian Casino after hours, this had soon become the after hours office of this same.

    I now refer to The Gifted Tasmanian Poker machine Licence, then it’s Licence renewal some years later by a certain Premier, this renewal may not have been necessarily, a smoothy agreed upon Licence renewal.

    Consider that all major negotiations had been conducted within a “Commerical in Confidence” environment.

    See James Boyce’s Publication of ‘Losing Streak’ How Tasmania Was Gamed by the Gambling Industry


    An extract from an intense investigative report had the revealed the following conclusion;

    (Later, many of the hotels would return their machines because their share of the profits proved to be so low.) It was an astonishing policy backflip and no satisfactory explanation for it has ever been made public. In effect, writes Boyce, a government had decided “TO GIVE AWAY THE MOST VALUABLE TASMANIAN PUBLIC LICENCE FOR FREE.”

    One is left to speculate the number of brown paper bags full of cash that had changed hands during the era of Tasmania’s love affair with poker machines since their arrival into Tasmania.

    Consider all this mentioned, commencing in the above being much the same when a prior Licence renewal date had loomed over Tasmania’s financial horizons.

    • MjF

      March 3, 2019 at 4:23 pm

      An interesting link william re casino history

      So what happened to the announced successful northern casino tenderer Stocks and Holdings Ltd back in 1971 ?

      I would have thought the collapse of the Bethune government afterwards would be irrelevant to the decision. Maybe have to read the book.

  6. Keith Antonysen

    March 3, 2019 at 10:18 am

    We need a Federal ICAC with very strong teeth. There should be no protection of politicians past or present. As far as trustworthiness is concerned, currently politicians are generally thought to be right at the bottom the barrel. Politicians need a code of ethics.

    Something we don’t hear anything about:


  7. Russell

    March 3, 2019 at 9:47 am

    Thanks Steve.

    I hope your event can travel around Tasmania for those who don’t live in Hobart and grows into a force to bring harsh Laws against political corruption and real integrity in enforcing/penalising them to the utmost, and to ban ALL donations. Donations to political Parties are just plain wrong! Political Parties are NOT a business. If they are they should have an ABN and pay tax like everyone else. BUT businesses being in Government are Constitutionally illegal.

  8. max

    March 3, 2019 at 8:46 am

    Corruption is a perverse action that starts out, possibly unintentionally takes hold and and grows into a way of life. It can start out as an innocent gesture and become a way of life. Take a coffee shop owner who gives the policeman on the beat a free cup of coffee one cold night. The policeman gets a welcome cup of coffee, the shop owner gets the welcome present of a policeman near his shop. They have both gained from this simple transaction and they have both started down the path of corruption. The first step is always the hardest but the next step is easier.
    Did the pulp mill start out with a simple cup of coffee? Initially are political donations the first cup of coffee?
    No matter how the insidious crime of corruption starts, the end result is a crime and we need a strong ICAC to stamp it out. It is so easy for the fox to become in charge of the hen house. This is what happens when our elected corrupted politicians design an ICAC. The fox may well build a new hen house, but he will always find away to leave the door open.

  9. Chris

    March 3, 2019 at 8:02 am

    There may be evidence that developer councils are close to helping overseas “clients” launder their money.
    The rapid building of flats, gated communities and apartments is a symptom in at least one council.
    I hope there is due diligence in this state by the relevant auditors to ensure transparency in all Four Corners of the State!

  10. Wining Pom

    March 3, 2019 at 7:42 am

    Great article Steve. Let’s hope enough people get on board.

  11. Simon Warriner

    March 3, 2019 at 7:13 am

    Really sorry I cannot be there.

    The one thing I would say to this meeting is that our hope lies in encouraging as many independents to stand as is humanly possible. Only by removing the party politics from the mix do we have anything better than a snowball’s in hell

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Receive our newsletter

Copyright © Tasmanian Times. Site by Pixel Key

To Top