Developments take a tricky turn up north
The chairman has left, the redundancy bill is heading northwards and the Commonwealth Ombudsman has taken an interest, so there should be a lot of questions for the federal government’s $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility at a Senate estimates hearing on Thursday night.
The development financier provides loans to infrastructure projects in the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia and is in the process of renewal, with legislation aimed at extending its lifespan and broadening its ability to fund job creation.
But the Cairns-based organisation has hit heavy seas.
Founding board director Barry Coulter is just the latest to leave. The former Northern Territory deputy chief minister signalled his pride in facilitating loans for the Humpty Doo Barramundi farm but felt it was time to do other things.
A sentiment shared, it seems, by departing chairman Khory McCormick.
While the lawyer is praised by his firm, Holding Redlich, as a “market leader in the field of dispute and conflict resolution both nationally and internationally”, Minister for Northern Australia Keith Pitt managed only a cursory 24 words thanking Mr McCormick for his work at the bottom of his press release announcing the departure.
In contrast, the release sang the praises of former investment banker Justin Mannolini, now interim chair, over three lengthy paragraphs.
Happily, Minister Pitt was more forthcoming when contacted by CBD, revealing that it was McCormick’s decision to go. “Mr McCormick has led the NAIF since its inception five years ago and I thank him for the role he has played in the NAIF committing close to $3 billion worth of loans to drive economic activity in the north,” Pitt said.
It’s not only board members leaving. Executives Peter Ross and Tim Hallam left late last year, while Patrick Leung left last month. Staff churn is partly responsible for the soaring cost of “employee benefits” (including but not limited to redundancy payments), which shot up by $1m in the last budget.
And mystery surrounds why the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman included the infrastructure facility in its annual report in an appendix listing organisations that had prompted a “public interest disclosure” from a whistleblower.
CBD is sure Pitt’s upper house counterpart, Zed Seselja, will have all the answers at 8.15pm on Thursday. Should be a doozy.
Raising their voices
A group of political types and former staff including Brittany Higgins, Lucy Turnbull and Therese Rein are campaigning to improve the treatment of women in politics. The group of seven also includes Jessica Rudd, along with Malcolm Turnbull’s former chief of staff Sally Cray and Anthony Albanese’s former communications boss Fiona Sugden.
Group members have drafted a second open letter offering up their experience to Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins’ review of workplace culture and asking for a formal avenue for former staff to contribute. No doubt, Jenkins should prepare herself for a lot of feedback. Which is why the group is keen to ensure its message actually lands.
Illustration: Joe BenkeCredit:
Take a text message that the traditionally under-the-radar Cray, who now works alongside Anna Bligh as the Australian Banking Association’s corporate affairs boss, circulated to her network.
Cray makes it clear that the out-and-proud approach of an open letter isn’t necessarily her style but sometimes personal preferences have to be put aside for the broader group.
“I hate publicity but I feel like it can’t be all one sided and it has to be constructive,” she wrote. “I’m also not into letter writing demands so I’m trying to shift this group to be more behind the scenes with a formal path to contributing to the Jenkins review. Have a look at this draft letter and see if you want to sign. Publicly or anonymously.” Outside the group, high-profile former Liberal staff including Peta Credlin and Claire Kimball have been tapping their networks to consider contributing to the Jenkins review. On the other side of the fence, former Kevin Rudd staffer Annie O’Rourke has also reached out to Labor women via Labor’s Elizabeth Reid Network.
News to the PM
What HR incident was Prime Minister Scott Morrison referring to on Tuesday during his spat with Sky News political editor Andrew Clennell when he suggested the News Corp employee check if his own corporation’s house was in order before taking shots at the government over its handling of workplace complaints?
Miller did, however, refer to a “verbal exchange” between two News Corp employees in Parliament House last year over a non-sexual workplace issue. “It did not take place in a toilet and neither person made a complaint,” he said, adding that the non-incident had apparently been resolved.
So what happened? Well, CBD actually covered that spat in December during elections for the eight-member Federal Parliament press gallery committee. The race became “messy as s#!t” (according to one gallery member) when two News Corp reporters, Jade Gailberger and Tamsin Rose, amicably agreed to run against one another. But controversy ensued when gallery veteran Samantha Maiden appointed herself – unprompted – as unofficial campaign manager for Rose.
Gailberger won a seat on the press gallery committee and Rose missed out. News Corp HR ended up writing to one of the three people involved. Messy, but we can’t help but agree with commentators who suggested the Prime Minister has much more pressing matters rather than a passive-aggressive attack on the news outlet responsible for breaking the Brittany Higgins news story.
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