Fahy, Michelle: LobbyLand ‘culture of cosiness’: colossal conflicts of interest in Defence spending blitz

Michelle Fahy

LobbyLand “culture of cosiness”: colossal conflicts of interest in Defence spending blitz, Pearls and Irritations, 13 October 2020

On corporate influence on government policy and how weapons makers cultivate relationships with politicians and top officials in the public service. Looks at defence industry export strategy, conflicts of interest in the sector, ‘revolving door’ arrangements between the Australian Defence Force and defence bureaucrats and arms manufacturers, potential for corruption, media blind eyes.

Cases mentioned include Christopher Pyne, Julie Bishop, Stephen Smith, Brendan Nelson, Linda Reynolds, and Duncan Lewis. Jim McDowell is a case of the revolving door in reverse, a movement from the arms industry to senior level in government.

Australia is far too lax about managing conflicts of interest, the revolving door between public life and industry, and other forms of undue influence. It is a problem in any domain of government, but it is particularly dangerous gap in the big spending, sensitive areas of defence and national security.

When respected senior leaders leave public service for the military industry, they take with them extensive contacts, deep institutional knowledge, and rare and privileged access to the highest levels of government, both in Australia and internationally. Their presence on the board of an influential industry corporation entrenches the influence of the weapons industry on government decision-making. Such moves increase the risk that the public interest is conflated with corporate interests.

This is Part 1 of three. For other work by Michelle Fahy use our Honest History Search engine. Use it also with the search terms ‘arms’ and ‘gunrunners’ to find other material on the subjects raised in Fahy’s article.

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