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Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce quietly appointed the head of a Liberal Party fundraising body to a plum job on a taxpayer-funded board in the 46th parliament’s final days amid a flurry of other government gigs handed out before Scott Morrison called the election.
Ryan Arrold, who chairs the Hume Forum, which raises funds for Energy Minister Angus Taylor and the Liberals, was made a non-executive director of the Australian Rail Track Corporation on March 30 — the day after the federal budget.
Barnaby Joyce on the campaign trail.CREDIT:JAMES BRICKWOOD
Joyce did not announce the appointment in a press release or other statement, but Arrold’s name and biography appeared on the company website. The taxpayer-funded job pays $83,150 a year, and there are typically eight board meetings annually.
The ARTC is a federal government-owned corporation that owns and maintains an 8500-kilometre railway network across five states. Its current chair is former deputy prime minister Warren Truss, who was appointed to the job in 2018 by then deputy prime minister Michael McCormack, and reappointed last year.
The Hume Forum is typical of Liberal Party fundraising bodies or campaign accounts — such as the Federal Forum, Millennium Forum or Joe Hockey’s former North Sydney Forum — in that it exists to raise money for the party primarily through events.
In 2018-19, the Hume Forum contributed $180,000 in donations to the federal party’s coffers and another $33,000 in “other receipts”. It appears not to have contributed since but still exists.
Joyce did not answer questions about whether he was aware of Arrold’s Liberal Party activities or why he did not announce the appointment. But in a statement, a spokesman for Joyce said Arrold “brings over two decades of legal and financial expertise to the [ARTC] board, including as an internationally experienced lawyer, corporate adviser and company director”.
“His appointment will complement the skills of, and further strengthen ARTC’s leadership team as it continues to oversee the delivery of important initiatives such as the nation-building Inland Rail project,” the spokesman said.
Arrold did not return calls or texts.
According to his ARTC bio, Arrold is co-founder of medical investment and advisory firm Nautilus Life Sciences and has worked for New York-based law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher & Flom, JPMorgan and Aspen Nutritionals Hong Kong, which he also co-founded.
Last year, Guardian Australia reported that in October 2020, Arrold accompanied Taylor on a charter flight to inspect the Beetaloo Basin fracking operations of Empire Energy. The flight was paid for by the company, which had also reportedly received $21 million in grants.
Arrold’s ARTC appointment was one of dozens the government made in the final days of the 46th parliament, many of which involved Liberal Party figures. Among others, former Victorian premier Denis Napthine was appointed to the board of the National Disability Insurance Agency, former NSW minister Pru Goward was made a senior member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and Don Harwin, former NSW arts minister, was appointed to the Australia Council board.
Taylor also reappointed his former energy adviser John Hirjee to the board of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency two days before the election was called.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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