12 December 2006

"A public scandal" as PM's chief of staff moves to corporate world

In today's Crikey Stephen Bartos
Director of the National Institute of Governance at the University of Canberra, writes about Arthur Sinodinos, who has moved from his position as the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff to a seat on the Goldman Sachs J B Were board.

GSJBW undertakes extensive business for the Australian government, Mr S's move, says Bartos, creates "massive conflict of interest" problems, and is something which wouldn't be allowed in many Australian states and other countries.

He cites an online Parliamentary Library e-brief (issued 15 June 2006, updated 19 July 2006), which includes a summary table showing that in Australia only the Federal, Vic, Qld and NT parliaments do not have policies regarding post-separation employment.

While Bartos does not allege that Mr Sinodinos is making improper use of information he acquired during his time as the PM's chief adviser, he points out that conflicts of interest can be potential as well as actual:

Post departure, given Arthur Sinodinos as the Prime Minister’s top adviser was privy to every important government policy decision, how can he avoid a perception that he’s able to use that knowledge to unfairly advantage Goldman Sachs?

Sinodinos is undoubtedly ethical and will not deliberately take advantage of his inside knowledge or disclose sensitive information. But we’ve not yet invented the Men in Black device for removing memories: so there can be no certainty that his information won’t indirectly influence his work. Conflicts of interest are about not only actual but also the perceived potential for conflict.

PS As I post Stephen Bartos is speaking on ABC RN's Perspective, this time about AWB. The link takes you to the transcript.

He also participated in a panel discussion about the effectiveness of Australia's overseas aid on this week's Counterpoint, another ABC RN program.

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