The head of the charities watchdog could find himself sidelined, and his taxpayer funded business-class travel between Melbourne and Brisbane curtailed, if Labor wins the next election.
Andrew Leigh, who is likely to have ministerial responsibility for the charity sector under a Shorten government, won’t have the power to sack Johns as commissioner because it is a statutory five-year term. But Leigh is unimpressed by Johns’s performance in the role.
“Putting Gary Johns in charge of the charities commission is like putting Ned Kelly in front of bank security or Bronwyn Bishop in charge of transport for politicians,” Leigh told Guardian Australia.
Johns, a former Labor minister in the Keating government, is based in Brisbane and the regulator’s head office is in Melbourne.
Leigh potentially could tweak the conditions of Johns’s contract to stipulate he needs to be Melbourne based and must wear his own travel costs if he still wants to live in Brisbane.
Between November 2017 and the end of July 2018, Johns’s travel bill tallied more than $64,000 and included weekly business-class flights between Melbourne and Brisbane, according to figures from Senate estimates.
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