June 2

2020 Summit Subjected to Senate Scrutiny


The 2020 Summit has been criticised both for  the way in which the delegates were chosen,  reflected in the 98:1 vote in favour of a republic, and also the  way in which its conclusions on a republic were changed when it was realised they were based on an elementary misunderstanding of the law.

Now the cost of the Summit, and the way in which open tenders were not used in awarding contracts is coming under scrutiny.

This came before  the  Senate Estimates Committee on Finance and Administration on 27 May, 2008. The proceedings are reported in Hansard, http://www.aph.gov.au/hansard/senate/commttee/S10846.pdf. [They are on pages 99-132 of the PDF]

Senator Robinson has been scathing both about some of the sums spent and of the process of appointment of some contractors.

The appropriation for the Summit was $2.6 million, of which $1.9 million has been spent so far. Further accounts are expected.

The largest sum, $317,000, was paid to the office of Summit Co-Chairman and close friend of the Prime Minister, Professor Glyn Davis. This was for various costs incurred by the University of Melbourne.

The project director, Linda Hornsey, was paid over $100,000. As with Professor Davis, this appointment was a direct appointment without any tender.

Parliament House charged over  $162,000 for guides, nursing, IT and other services.

Security costs were under $40,000, surprisingly low when compared with the sums charged for Royal Tours.

Various events companies, and the Hyatt Hotel, were paid over $7000,000.

Each delegate was asked to record what they would like to see in 2020, and what they would do to achieve that in a time capsule. The construction of this cost almost $12,000, a little less than the legal costs for the Summit.

The appointment wothout any tender of a company called CMAX Communications has created some interest. In The Age of 25 April 2008, “PR job for wife of Labor staffer, ” Kenneth Davidson and Jewel Topsfield  reported that this company is  run by the wife of a government employee.

According to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, CMAX is solely owned by Christian Taubenschlag, who is media adviser to the Minister for Defence, the Hon.  Joel Fitzgibbon. but a spokesman for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told The Age that  Mr Taubenschlag had stopped  playing any active role in the company.

The company was paid $56,000.

John Roskam, the executive director of the Institute of Public Affairs, said the awarding of the contract raised questions of conflict of interest, according to a further report by Jewel Topsfield in The Age of 26 April 2008,  “2020 PR contract ‘jobs for the boys.”

He said Mr Rudd and Special Minister of State John Faulkner had made a great deal about the need for accountability and transparency when it came to proposals to expose the lobbying industry to greater public scrutiny.

“This is perhaps not the best way for a government to start a reign which is supposed to be recognised for transparency and accountability,” Mr Roskam told The Age. “Sadly we might end up with politicians behaving like politicians.”

Democrat Senator  Andrew Murray said  “It seems someone somewhere has not been upfront enough.”   Where a tender process is not used, he said, “it is incumbent on the Government to ensure that the process is absolutely above board, there is no perception of conflict of interest, or of special favours to mates or insiders.”


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