***SHOCK RESIGNATION*** Thom quits after “review” doctored
The Federal Government’s “go-to investigator” Dr Vivienne Thom resigned from her four year-plus career at Canberra’s CPM Reviews immediately after Treasurer Josh Frydenberg released a whitewashed “abridged” version of her report into serious corruption at the top of the corporate regulator. This is bad news for Scott Morrison. It comes as he launches his latest “inquiry” – this time into who in his office knew what and when regarding the alleged rape of Liberals staffer Brittany Higgins. Anthony Klan reports.
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The head of the Federal Government’s “independent review” into corruption at the corporate regulator has resigned after Treasurer Josh Frydenberg published a whitewashed and reworked “abridged version” of her “investigation” three weeks ago.
The Klaxon can exclusively reveal that Dr Vivienne Thom, a former federal Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, has quit her long-standing senior role at private investigations and “workplace review” company CPM Reviews.
Thom joined the Canberra-based CPM Reviews after leaving her job overseeing the nation’s major security agencies in 2015, but quit after Frydenberg on January 29 published a doctored version of her investigation into serious wrongdoing at the corporate watchdog.
Both Thom and CPM Reviews repeatedly failed to respond to requests for comment from The Klaxon over the past two weeks, however it can be revealed that Thom’s name has been scrubbed from CPM’s website and her biography has been taken down.
In October Thom and CPM were appointed to conduct what Frydenberg termed an “independent investigation” into revelations that Australian Securities and Investments Commission chair James Shipton had received $118,557 in personal “tax advice” at the public’s expense.
CPM Reviews has been described as the Coalition’s “go to investigator” and it conducts “reviews” whose parameters are set by the government.
Many of those reviews, despite being taxpayer-funded, either never see the light of day or are “reworked” and later published by the government but with key details missing.
Also late last year, the Coalition appointed Thom and CPM to “investigate” the case of the Federal Government paying $30 million to Liberal donors Ron and Tony Perich for land at Badgery’s Creek, in western Sydney, that was valued at just $3m.
Thom handed her “final report” on the ASIC scandal to Treasury on December 17, however Frydenberg has refused to release it.
Instead, on January 29 – six weeks later – the Treasurer released an “abridged”, reworked, version which was “prepared by Treasury”.
Frydenberg’s 41-page “abridged version” of Dr Vivienne Thom’s review. Source: Department of Treasury
Frydenberg’s report, dated January 28 2021, cites Thom as “Executive Reviewer, CPM Reviews”.
Yet since February 10, if not before, all references to Thom have been removed from CPM Reviews’ website.
Before then, Thom’s biography appeared prominently on the group’s website, naming her one of CPM’s two “Executive Reviewers”, sitting above a team of 3 “Principal Reviewers” and 20 “Senior Reviewers”.
CPM had also carried a full-page extended biography for Thom, which has also been removed (it can still be found via archive here).
One of the reasons put forward as to why Frydenberg took six weeks to release even his “abridged” version of Thom’s final report is that Thom and Frydenberg were in strong disagreement about Frydenberg’s doctoring of the document.
NOW YOU SEE IT: CPM Reviews’ website before Frydenberg’s sham “independent review” into ASIC. Source: CPM Reviews
NOW YOU DON’T: CPM Reviews’ website after Frydenberg’s sham “independent review” into ASIC. Source: CPM Reviews
The appointment of Thom and CPM Reviews to investigate the biggest scandal in ASIC’s 30-year history raised concerns of a whitewash when it was announced by Frydenberg in October.
The Treasurer only announced the “independent review” when the ASIC scandal was forced into the public arena by Auditor-General Grant Hehir, who was fearful of an ongoing government cover-up.
Vivienne Thom. Source: Supplied
Thom’s sudden departure from CPM Reviews will intensify the spotlight on the string of “reviews” Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced regarding the alleged rape of Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins.
Higgins alleges she was raped in March 2019 by a then colleague in a Parliament House office.
Morrison claims his office knew nothing of the matter, a claim the ALP says isn’t believable.
Since Higgins went public with the rape allegations last week, the Prime Minister has “launched” four different “investigations” into the matter.
However none are truly independent and are widely viewed as a ploy to cover-up or downplay the matter for political purposes.
Instead of instigating an independent investigation, Morrison has “appointed” his colleague, secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Phil Gaetjens, to establish who knew what and when inside the Prime Minister’s Office.
Gaetjens, a long-time senior Liberal figure who served as chief of staff to Morrison when he was Treasurer, is set to interview a string of his own colleagues, including Morrison’s chief of staff John Kunkel and adviser Julian Leembruggen.
Yesterday ALP senate leader Penny Wong attacked the Morrison Government’s handling of the matter.
“When rape was alleged in an office of one of his own ministers, he set up whitewash investigations that can be controlled,” Wong told parliament Monday morning.
Thom’s departure also puts yet further pressure on ASIC chairman James Shipton, who has almost certainly engaged in serious corporate wrongdoing but remains in charge of the nation’s corporate regulator.
On January 29 Frydenberg relied on his fudged version of Thom’s report to state – while providing zero evidence – that he was “satisfied” that Shipton had engaged in no wrongdoing whatsoever.
The Treasurer also made highly-misleading claims that “Dr Thom made no adverse findings against Mr Shipton and Mr Crennan”.
Crennan, formerly ASIC deputy chair at ASIC, resigned in October when the scandal broke.
ASIC had paid almost $70,000, against the law, towards the rent of his Sydney luxury property.
As previously revealed, our detailed review of the jumbled, 41-page document that Frydenberg released provides strong evidence that serious wrongdoing occurred.
Thom technically did not make any “findings” of wrongdoing because she was not asked to do so under the “terms of reference” set for her by Frydenberg.
Instead she was tasked with making “findings of fact” (what happened and when) which she was required to report to the government (which she has done) for further action.
Despite Thom’s “findings of fact” showing that serious wrongdoing occurred – including almost certainly by both Shipton and Crennan – Frydenberg has effectively cleared Shipton without providing any evidence supporting his reason for doing so.
On January 29 Frydenberg said Shipton would be replaced, however his fudge of Thom’s review – and his false statements regarding Shipton’s innocence – meant Shipton would stay-on as ASIC chair for “three months” – possibly longer – while a “replacement is found”.
Shipton remains the ASIC chair, earning an annual salary of over $800,000.
More to come…
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