Mark Vaile, former Deputy Prime Minister and Trade Minister has taken personal leave from the parliament to travel to the middle east to work at a second job as a lobbyist for ServCorp Ltd, a company with which he had dealings while minister. Wilson Tuckey is currently on a cruise ship making a dollar by giving lectures to international tourists about the Australian political structure, the environment and Climate Change. He too is on personal leave. And of course it was widely publicised that Alexander Downer felt his time could be better spent having lunch in a five star restaurant than sitting in his seat in the parliament listening to the Deputy Prime Minister.
Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson has been embarrassed by the behaviour of his colleagues and should be able to expect better. It has been reported that Dr. Nelson said that he would not have approved leave to Mr. Tuckey if he had known about it, and that he would have advised Mr. Vaile “in the strongest possible terms” not to undertake his lobbying activites. Of course, Mark Vaile is not a member of the Liberal Party so that’s about all Brendan Nelson could do, but again he was caught out by not knowing about the problem until after the event.
With friends like these, who needs enemies. Senior Liberal Nick Minchin has called on the former ministers Mark Vaile, Peter Costello, Alexander Downer, and Peter McGaurin to declare their intentions. It is widely expected that they will all retire, and Senator Minchin says that it’s time for them to either commit to completing their terms or gracefully get out.
At least that’s what he has said publically. There is also the view expressed by some that if the round of by-elections that would ensue are held too soon the coalition could lose even more seats. The theory is that if the outgoing ex-ministers wait till after the May budget than the Government might by then have lost some of its popularity. Nick Minchin is well aware of that, so either his comments are a smoke screen or maybe he realizes that waiting until later won’t make much difference.