Gavin Atkins on the election:
Was Gillard’s offer to Oakeshott a bribe?
Julia Gillard’s conduct in offering a ministerial position to the Independent, Rob Oakeshott while he was deciding who to support in creating a minority Government has remarkable parallels to the actions that caused the New South Wales Premier Nick Greiner to resign in 1992.
If Rob Oakeshott accepts the offer to become a Minister in the Gillard Government, he stands to gain more than $75,000 in addition to his backbenchers’salary of $131,000, a bigger office, and influence that he has never before experienced.
Julia Gillard, in the meantime, is set to gain the Prime Ministership, $220,000 in addition to her backbencher’s salary, and a lifetime of benefits, thanks to Oakeshott’s parliamentary support.
The offer that Julia Gillard has made to Oakeshott would undergo close scrutiny in many state government jurisdictions, including New South Wales, where the Independent Commission Against Corruption upholds the following rule:
a. A Member must not knowingly or improperly promote any matter, vote on any bill or resolution or ask any question in the Parliament or its Committees in return for any remuneration, fee, payment, reward or benefit in kind, of a private nature, which the Member has received, is receiving or expects to receive.
b. A Member must not knowingly or improperly promote any matter, vote on any bill or resolution or ask any question in the Parliament or its Committees in return for any remuneration, fee, payment, reward or benefit in kind, of a private nature, which any of the following persons has received, is receiving or expects to receive…:
In fact, it was an ICAC investigation that led to the resignation of former NSW Premier, Nick Greiner in 1992. Greiner was accused of offering a job to an MP outside Parliament so that he could increase his majority. In this case, Gillard has offered Oakeshott a job within Parliament to achieve a majority. If Greiner’s actions were considered by ICAC to be "an act of corruption", then how are we to explain Gillard’s actions?
One man who would know plenty about this subject, incidentally, is Tony Windsor, who helped tip Nick Greiner into a minority Government in 1991.
In addition, it is not clear whether Kevin Rudd’s official Ministerial Code of Conduct is, or ever was, used by Julia Gillard, but she may like to take notice of the following excerpt:
2.17 Ministers must not seek or accept any kind of benefit or other valuable consideration either for themselves or for others in connection with performing or not performing any element of their official duties as a Minister. Ministers shall ensure that they do not come under any financial or other obligation to individuals or organisations to the extent that they may appear to be influenced improperly in the performance of their official duties as Minister.
If Oakeshott accepts a ministry, any decision he makes about the continued viability of the Government would have to be done in the light of a personal $75,000 pay cut and the loss of staff and other privileges. And even if Oakeshott does not accept a position, the rest of us will be left forever wondering if Julia Gillard’s appeal to his vanity won her the day.
Either way, this offer amounts to the first test of Gillard’s claim that this Government will be "more accountable than ever before". If it is going to be as accountable to the people as Greiner’s NSW Government, she may have to resign.