Modia Minotaur

Trawling the airwaves to spare you the agony!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Silly Season for Ministerial Accountability

Both John Howard and Kevin Rudd have clearly taken their cabinets aside, asked them to go through their files with a fine toothed comb, and to report back with any - ANY - indiscretions that may be used to batter their party. It's a standard of disaster management - assume everything will come out eventually.

What a lot of hysteria. The idea that what Kelvin Thomson or Ian Campbell did was more worthy of their sacking than the countless lapses of ministerial accountability that have occurred under the Howard Government. Amanda Vanstone or Philip Ruddock for the Cornelia Rau and Vivian Solon debacles? Alexander Downer for the AWB scandal? All still there.

Having worked in an electorate office, I know the process of writing personal recommendations. The letter of request will come across an MPs desk - usually accompanied by supporting paperwork (such as further recommendations from friends, colleagues or dignitaries). In some cases, the MP will meet with the person. In most cases, the often voluminous paperwork supporting the person as an upstanding citizen is relied upon. This is how Morris Iemma came to write a recommendation for a terrorism suspect - because criminals tend to get where they are by covering their tracks (let's not degrade Mr Thompson by reminding ourselves that Naomi Robson made the same misjudgement).

As I suggested upon Ian Campbell's departure, there is undoubtedly a political element to this situation. Thomson had only been away a few days when `party sources' began to mutter that the only fair and decent thing for him to do would be to leave Parliament altogether, and cede his seat to the ACTU's Greg Combet.

Just for the record, Combet categorically denied any plans to run for Parliament in today's Meet the Press and described the current game of Who's Holier Than Thou as `silly season'. Well said. The trend of substituting personal attacks on MPs for true parliamentary debate (and it's still going on) is not only childish, it places a drag on democracy. Every time discussion turns to a largely irrelevant personal pecadillo, it turns away from proper debate on the issues that matter.

Which is, undoubtedly, just the way the government wants it.

Update: Crikey! A feral Alexander Downer certainly didn't back away from the personal during today's Insiders! No relaxed and comfortable there!

(And thumbs up to the natty new Insiders website!


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