In April this year we reported on a declaration by the Clinton foundation(s) that Australia had given it between $5 and $10 million.
Our search of the Austender website showed up around $30M in declared contracts between Australia and the Clintons. The Clinton Foundation is big news in the US, so I've had a closer look at just how much you might have enriched it.
The lowest figure you can rely on is not $30M - rather as at September 2014 it was at least $88M. The source for my statement is the current Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop:
That release concludes with this line:
Since 2006, Australia has contributed $88 million to CHAI and its sister organisation, the Clinton Foundation.
That amount probably includes amounts covered in releases and articles like these
$25M here - May 2006
$27M - 2013-2014 plus a $12 million contract with the foundation's Clinton Climate Initiative to help the Kenyan government calculate its greenhouse gas emissions in the story here
11 June 2009 Australia To Partner With Clinton Foundation, Contribute $18.5M To Combat HIV/AIDS in China, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea
But there are other ways for a government to dole out our money to mates.
Kevin Rudd was the master of the grand gesture. In 2008 he gifted $400,000,000.00 of our money to a piece of chicanery unchallenged for primacy in the snake-oil stakes.
Here he is making his announcement, squished between a speech by Barack Obama and the class photo for some ignoble and unmemorable forum.
Note the decorous way attendees are ushered onstage to chat among themselves while the Rudd rudds. Various mobile phones beep to accompany the rapt attention given to this Australian Prime Minister as he announces his donation of $400 million of our money to do nothing.
Once we found out the details, even Lenore Taylor of the Sydney Morning Herald thought it was madness.
Coal hard light of day for dud scheme
They've conferenced in empire-style Parisian ballrooms and dined in Kyoto on food cooked by a genuine Iron Chef. But deeply disgruntled former staffers believe Australia's $300 million Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute has not achieved very much.
In 2008 the then prime minister Kevin Rudd decided a fledgling technology called carbon capture and storage was the key to two of his government's big aims: joining a successful international fight to reduce global warming and continuing to be the world's largest exporter of coal.
In his grandiloquent style, he promised $400 million to a new not-for-profit company, the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, which would get CCS up and running at home and also "lead the world".
The funding was pared back over time, but industry and government sources and former staff of the institute are frustrated that much of the $300 million spent on the institute has been "squandered".
Even the man appointed to haul it away from government hand-outs and into the world of commercial reality - Brad Page, the former head of the peak electricity industry body - concedes the original $100 million a year "seed funding" given to the institute was more that it knew how to spend.
"It's actually impossible to spend that amount of money responsibly," he tells The Sun-Herald.
But his predecessors tried, in lavish ways that raised the ire of senior bureaucrats and ministers. Since 2009, more than $235 million has been delivered to the institute, $122 million of it already spent and another $113 million in its bank account, beyond the reach of Treasury's razor, information provided at a Senate estimates hearing reveals.
The institute has 78 staff, including nine permanent employees overseas - two in Washington, three in Tokyo and four in Paris. Former senior employees say its first chief executive, the British businessman Nick Otter, was paid well over $500,000 a year - more than the Prime Minister.
Page insists he has "no idea" what his predecessor was paid and his own salary is "nothing like that". The institute's five board members are paid from a budget of $400,000 a year and are entitled to first-class air travel.
The first members' meeting was in Canberra, where the institute is based, in early 2009. But its second, in November 2009, attended by more than 15 Australia-based staff, was in the luxurious ballroom of the InterContinental Hotel in Paris, opposite the Paris Opera and decorated in similar ornate style.
Both industry sources and former staff concede the jaw-dropping opulence sent "all the wrong messages" to the 180 members who attended.
"The spending was very difficult to justify," said one former employee.
And it did not end in Paris. In 2010 when they met in Kyoto, they enjoyed a dinner cooked by a celebrity Iron Chef ( the institute says his services were thrown in for no extra charge by the hotel).
Documents released under freedom of information show a staggering $54,257,000 was spent on "operational expenses" in the first two years.
After the money was handed over to the Institute, its financials were accounted for separately from Australian Government accounts so any money it spent with the Clintons may not appear in the amounts listed above. But the "Institute" was having trouble spending everything it had been given.
And if you've got money and need help to get rid of it fast - who ya gunna call?
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Clinton Climate Initiative of the William J. Clinton Foundation.
Under the MOU Australia and the Clinton Climate Initiative will work together to help tackle climate change.
The MOU will see Australia and the William J. Clinton Foundation collaborate to;
- Deploy carbon capture and storage technology to large scale projects.
- Examine policies to encourage large scale solar power generation in Australia.
- Design collaborative policies in conjunction with large cities and other organisations on improving energy efficiency.
The William J Clinton Foundation will work with the Australian Government through Australia's Global Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Initiative announced by Prime Minister Rudd last week.
This collaboration will help accelerate the development of CCS technology and pave the way for its commercial deployment by the end of the next decade.
The Clinton Climate Initiative will draw on its experience in international collaboration and work with Australia and other nations to help achieve a balanced portfolio of demonstration projects.
The Clinton Climate Initiative is already working with a number of Australian states to develop solar power facilities. The MOU will enable the Australian Government to explore opportunities to draw on the Clinton Climate Initiative expertise in considering policies to encourage large scale solar power generation in Australia.
The Australian Government is developing a national energy efficiency strategy as one of the keys to successfully addressing climate change.
The Government will draw on the experience the Clinton Climate Initiative has in working with large cities and other organizations on improving energy efficiency in the drafting of this strategy.
Australia and the Clinton Climate Initiative will also explore opportunities for collaboration in the energy efficiency area across government, business and the community.
Original document from www.pm.gov.au.
I don't know how much went the Clintons way through this debacle - but it will be worth the Australian Government's while to find out. There's plenty of interest in the USA as Hilary Clinton considers a second tilt at the Presidency and lots of inquisitive minds who, like me, are digging tirelessly.