PETER VAN ONSELEN: How the hypocritical Greens are in love with an endless roundabout of wasted time, money, and moralising

The Senate committee looking into the practices of the consultancy industry has finally handed down its report after delaying it on four separate occasions.  

After 18 months, thousands of questions on notice requiring endless productivity-sapping time to respond to them all, and literally dozens of hearings costing God only knows how much money, what were the committee’s key recommendations? 

That the kangaroo court that it quickly became gets to hold more of these hearings, and the organisations that have appeared before it should promise to keep re-appearing each and every year into the future. Forced to participate in the painful and meaningless process over and over again. 

You wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy. 

It is a pointless exercise, feathering the nest of senators who get paid extra to run committees such as this one. Is it a coincidence there are now well over 100 parliamentary committees operating all at once? More than any time since Federation. 

Greens senator Barbara Pocock (pictured) wants greater transparency from government consultants but is silent on the lack of transparency within her own political party

These committees almost always just get ignored by governments anyway. They are like a play thing for backbenchers and crossbenchers, to give them something to occupy their time. 

This particular senate committee has allowed countless erroneous claims to be aired under parliamentary privilege, rarely correcting the record when mistakes are made. 

The Greens of course split from the majority report both major parties signed up to, demanding stronger actions be taken which they as a party don’t abide by themselves. 

Hypocrisy is thy name for Australia’s left-wing minor party, and the Greens may soon control the balance of power in both the upper and lower houses. 

Greens senator and committee member Barbara Pocock, who had engaged in a tag team with Labor’s Deb O’Neill talking down Australian business during the hearings, split from her senate colleague in denouncing the committees recommendations. 

At least Senator O’Neill finally saw the light.  

But what about the Greens? If they want to make demands for greater transparency why don’t they practice what they preach? 

Readers might not be aware of this, but the Greens don’t even allow public access to their party conferences the way the major parties do. They hold them in secret, a closed shop away from the public glare. 

Political parties are private organisations, meaning that they are essentially just businesses, in the business of getting members elected to public office. Yet they are not subject to privacy laws the way other businesses are. That’s because parliament has passed laws excluding political parties from privacy act protections other businesses must comply with.

However unlike the public sector, you cannot do freedom of information searches on what goes on within political parties. Those transparency laws don’t apply to them either.   

They dovetail their operations with all manner of taxpayer funded assistance – staffing, election funding and massive allocations of publicly funded office resources. 

And there is a profound lack of oversight to ensure they don’t misuse their taxpayer funded entitlements.  

Labor senator Deb O'Neill (pictured) split from her Greens committee colleague, a sign that she was moving on from previous performance art

Labor senator Deb O’Neill (pictured) split from her Greens committee colleague, a sign that she was moving on from previous performance art

Yet despite all of this secrecy, and conflating of public funding with a privately run political party such as the Greens, Senator Pocock takes aim at consultants that do work for government by using her platform to suggest all manner of untoward goings on. 

Evidence to support the accusations that get made is ‘a take it or leave it’ option. Allegations are treated as fact. Silence is the only response when the hypocrisy of the (mis)conduct political parties engage in gets raised. 

No wonder the public has little time for those who represent us in Canberra. 

The Greens recently called for an end to voluntary unpaid work – right when leader Adam Bandt was advertising for volunteers to work in his office. 

You couldn’t make this up if you tried. 

Hypocrisy and the Greens isn’t a new phenomenon. After many years of railing against big money donations in politics, in 2011 the Greens secured the largest single political handout from a private donor in Australian history – $1.6million from the founder of Wotif travel website, Graeme Wood. 

Suddenly the Greens had no problem with big donations. Then leader Bob Brown said he was ‘forever grateful’ for it. Yet they still whinge whenever donors to the major parties get revealed. 

Values only matter when they are reflected in one’s actions and when they are universally applied, not just when it is convenient to do so. Unfortunately that’s not a creed the Greens live by.