ANAO asked to investigate pre-election appointments with Coalition links

By Tom Ravlic

April 8, 2022

Senator Rex Patrick during senate estimates the day after he sent the letter to ANAO. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

South Australian senator Rex Patrick has asked the Australian National Audit Office to conduct a deep dive into a pre-election series of appointments to government bodies of individuals with links to the Coalition parties.

Patrick’s April 5 letter to Grant Hehir, the commonwealth auditor-general, said he was writing to the ANAO regarding recently announced appointments to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Australia Council board, Murray-Darling Basin related bodies and the National Disabilities Insurance Agency board of directors.

“It has been brought to my attention that recent appointments to the AAT are [to] people with links [to] the Liberal Party, including those with no legal experience and who otherwise appear to lack special knowledge or skills relevant to the duties of a senior member or member of the AAT as required by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975,” Patrick’s letter says.

Patrick also noted other appointments, such as that of a former Victorian premier to the National Disability Insurance Agency board of directors, a former New South Wales minister to the Australia Council board, and a former Liberal National Party member of parliament to a body grappling with issues to do with the Murray-Darling Basin.

“More broadly, it is far from clear whether the processes leading to a range of recent government appointments of statutory and other offices, obviously made in a rush before the imminent Federal election, are consistent with the Government’s Merit and Transparency Policy,” the letter says.

Patrick has asked the audit office to consider advertising of roles, candidate shortlisting, and due diligence with regard to a candidate’s background and suitability for such a position.

If the ANAO deals with an inquiry into appointment processes of appointment that resulted in a raft of people with links to the coalition parties being appointed to different bodies it will be yet another example of partisan decision-making investigated by the audit office.

Two previous reviews done by the audit office into sports club infrastructure and car parks found decisions were not based on the needs of clubs that applied for grants as identified by bureaucrats or committees.

They were decisions designed to win favour in electorates the Coalition parties either wanted to win or retain.


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