The former NSW roads minister Duncan Gay has joined the list of recently resigned NSW MPs who have taken lucrative jobs with corporations associated with their former portfolio.
Gay, a former National Party leader, left parliament at the end of July. A parliamentary ethics committee has only just become aware that he is working as an advisor with MU Group — a company bidding for, and winning, NSW government transport contracts.
The MU group has recently been awarded contracts for consultancy services on the Parramatta Light Rail project worth more than $1.6 million. How convenient to have Gay on board as consultant just as the NSW government plans to privatise the Sydney Motorways Corporation, the body overseeing the controversial and scandal-ridden WestConnex tollway.
According to John Evans, the Parliamentary Ethics Advisor, former ministers are not supposed to seek and gain employment in fields that relate to the portfolio responsibilities they held over the previous two years. Ministers are also supposed to seek advice on post separation employment to “ensure that there is no cause for any suspicion of impropriety that the former minister’s conduct while in office was influenced by the prospect of employment or the former minister might make improper use of confidential information to which they had access while in office”.
Both houses of parliament adopted a code of conduct for members in 2007, which includes clauses relating to disclosure of conflict of interest, bribery, gifts, use of public resources, use of confidential information, duties as a member of parliament and secondary employment or engagements.
Unfortunately, the code does not appear to have any ability to sanction an offender, other than to name the person who may have breached the code. In this case, Gay is not considered to have breached any code.
Gay is already receiving more than $100,000 a year in pension “entitlements”. Now he is working — for an undisclosed sum — for a company that is actively seeking more government contracts.
When not even the chair of the parliamentary ethics committee sees a conflict of interest in what Gay has done, it means the bar has been set way too low.
He is not the first, however. NSW premiers Mike Baird and Bob Carr quit politics and walked straight into lucrative bank jobs at National Australia Bank and Macquarie Bank respectively. Baird went from $358,000 a year as premier to just over $1 million a year plus performance-related bonuses — which some have suggested could easily top $2 million.
The NSW government’s intended privatisation of the multi-billion-dollar WestConnex project makes Gay’s new “job” with the MU group even more galling.
It also highlights how too many MPs see their role: in parliament they help the corporations make mega profits at the public’s expense. Out of parliament, they can continue to help, along with picking up extra financial bonuses.
No wonder there is a deep and growing distrust of parliamentary politics and the methods of the major parties.
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