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Heads must roll!

Yesterday the Australian reported that:

“Australian Electoral Commissioner Ed Killesteyn and WA Electoral Commissioner Peter Kramer handed their resignations to Governor-General Quentin Bryce today.

The resignations come just a day after the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, declared the WA Senate result “absolutely void”.

Mr Killesteyn had been under immense pressure from the government over the loss of 1370 ballots.

Special Minister of State Michael Ronaldson said the Australian Electoral Commission “must regain the confidence of the community”.

“The government will in due course announce a new Electoral Commissioner who will be charged with the restoration of that confidence,’ he said.

Senator Ronaldson had previously warned “the electoral commissioner and the commission must accept full responsibility for what occurred’’.”

I agree that the loss of 1370 votes was a bad mistake but how far does this “heads must roll” response extend?

Should, for example, the head of the Defence Force and the head of the Navy resign because naval vessels breached Indonesian sovereign waters six times?

Should the Minister for Immigration and the head of the Immigration Department resign because the personal details of thousands of asylum seekers were made public on the internet?

Ed Killesteyn has had a “long and distinguished career in the public service,” according to Senator Ronaldson. Gary Gray, the Member for Brand in Western Australia, said Mr Killesteyn’s service was of the “highest calibre”. But we are apparently prepared to sacrifice this wealth of experience and knowledge from a man of integrity because someone, not him, made a mistake.

Perhaps the writing was on the wall for Mr Killesteyn long before the election.

In April last year, the Australian printed this story under the headline Lib fury as Labor ties up top AEC posting

“THE Coalition will initiate a review of the Australian Electoral Commission should it win government after Labor re-appointed the commissioner for another five-year term.

The reappointment of Commissioner Ed Killesteyn until 2019 was made despite the fact that his term does not expire until next January — well after the September election.

It means a Liberal government will not have the ability to appoint its own preferred candidate if it wins the national poll.

Coalition electoral affairs spokeswoman Bronwyn Bishop said the re-appointment was a “drastic action on behalf of an erratic government”.

She said the AEC and the government had an overly comfortable relationship.

Ms Bishop said the Coalition would initiate a review of the commission, focusing on its structure.

“I think this is so outrageous that should we be re-elected we will take a hard review of the electoral commission, refer its status to the joint standing committee on electoral matters and pay serious attention to the recommendations it might make.”

Hell hath no fury like a Bishop scorned.

The haemorrhaging of talent began as soon as the Coalition formed government with the sacking of Andrew Metcalfe from the Agriculture Department, Don Russell at the Industry Department and Blair Comley at Resources, Energy and Tourism.

This was followed by the resignation of the head of Ausaid Peter Baxter and the head of Treasury Martin Parkinson, all within the space of a few hours 11 days after the election.

There followed a cascade of sackings of experts and scientists, disbanding of climate change bodies, preventative health and crime prevention advisory bodies, defunding of charities and support groups, and the exclusion of social welfare advisers and employee representatives from all panels.

Positions are being filled by big business advocates and lobbyists, Liberal Party office holders and members of the IPA, both past and present. All advice and assessment and review is coming from one sector and with one united goal – to maximise profit to large private enterprise and the wealth of a few individuals.

Paying people to tell you what you want to hear, and silencing any other view, can be fraught with danger. Those who are willing to speak out become sacrificial lambs on the altar of ideology.

This is also true within the Coalition. The Star Chamber makes all appointments and dictates the script for all MPs. Other views will not be tolerated. A conscience vote on anything seems impossible. They can even make Malcolm Turnbull pretend Direct Action is a viable solution and FttN makes good financial sense, while Ian Macfarlane defends the loss of industries and jobs.

This government feels so secure that they are convinced they can do whatever they like with impunity. Their numbers allow them this control in the lower House which places a huge burden of responsibility on the Senate. We could be in for a very ugly period after July depending, to a degree, on the result of the WA revote. With this government in power we cannot afford to have a rubber stamp House of Review.

Tony Abbott may think he has unassailable power but he only has one vote. The rest is up to the people of Australia in about two-and-a-half years’ time, or sooner for the people of WA. Use your power wisely.

Author’s Note: This story was prompted by an email from one of our readers who said:

“A significant event occured today. The removal of Ed Killestyen signals the beginning of a new era of manipulation of electoral results in this country. Another step closer to fascist rule. Ed Killesteyn had the confidence of the Aust community. What he did not have was a penchant to bend to the whims of the Abbott Gov. This is a very significant event and the agenda behind it needs to be illuminated, ie Abbot intends to install a Coalition lackey in this key position. After this the transparency and impartiality of election results will be in question. The Abbott has made it very clear that it is hellbent on grabbing power at any cost, and this is another move in the master plan.”


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  1. Roswell

    The public service is being turned into a political machine for the government.

  2. clusterpod

    And these poor fellows have their names and reputations unnecessarily tarnished after years of public service.

    What a disgusting action.

  3. Francesca Agosti

    Brilliant, Kay Lee. You have done a brilliant job of pulling all the facts together.This article clearly proves that Ed Killesteyn was a thorn in the side of the LNP, and they had their sights set on him, and many others, way before the election. As you astutely point out, this Gov has systematically removed people from key positions and installed lobbyists and advocates for big business, in effect their personal lackeys. This begs the question where did the missing 1,300 votes really go, and who indeed was responsible? Was this an LNP inside job and has this whole mess been orchestrated by the LNP to get Killesteyn out? We have seen duplicity on a grand scale from this corrupt Gov, so while this question seems incomprehensible in a democracy, we must now regard it as a distinct possibility in Australia’s current corrupt political landscape.

  4. JohnB

    Casts a fresh light on what possibly motivated someone to “lose” the WA senate ballot papers.

  5. randalstella

    Can anyone point to where the Opposition have raised this issue? A quick check of ABC News showed nothing. They are not silent, are they?

  6. john921fraser


    1,300 votes go "missing".

    A new election is called.

    Cost to the taxpayer $10 million all inclusive.

    And someone thinks heads shouldn't roll ?

    It should also be noted that Killestyen has been on leave since this debacle and his "resignation" doesn't take effect until July.

    A $10 million loss to taxpayers and loss of confidence in the voting system and this bloke is there until July.

    The boss (you) must be a mug !

  7. KateS

    Yes, Kaye, I smelled a rat when the ballots went missing. I certainly wouldn’t put it past the LNP to have had a hand in their ‘disappearance’! I don’t believe they have any respect for the independence of the Electoral Commission or for the Australian electorate as a whole. Everything they do is symptomatic of their belief that they are a better class of person, more worthy than the rest of us. They treat us like fools because they believe we are fools.
    I lived in Joanna Gash’s electorate (Jo was one of Howard’s most strident supporters and apologists). The last local council elections were ‘out-sourced’ by a Liberal Party dominated council to a private electoral company operating out of north Queensland. Ms Gash became Lord Mayor then resigned her Federal seat, and ‘Team Gash’ won the majority of positions on Council. The Council allegedly saved money as the private firm’s tender came in under that of the Electoral Commission.
    A large number of electors, however, were disenfranchised by the out-sourcing process because the private company provided NO absentee voting opportunities outside the electorate. Previously, when the Electoral Commission was in charge, students studying at Sydney universities were able to cast their vote at Sydney Town Hall. Being a regional area with no local university, there are quite a number of these students. People holidaying elsewhere in NSW, including ‘grey nomads’ on the road, could cast their vote at local council polling stations. These disenfranchised could have submitted a pre-poll but the potential change in the circumstances was not well advertised prior to the election, so they were left in ignorance until they lined up to vote elsewhere.
    On the day of the ballot, there were long queues at local polling stations, and it took more than a week before ANY election results were known, and almost a month before the final result was tallied. The private co. obviously failed to employ enough staff in both the administration of the election and the counting, hence the lower fee. Another case of you pay for what you get? Still, Ms Gash got the result she wanted!

  8. Olivia Manor

    How soon before all electoral scrutineers must be members of the Liberal Party if they want the job?

  9. little devil

    The head of the AEC should be appointed or dismiss by the Governor-General.

    It should be arms length away from politics and the AFP and defence should be the same. Don’t let the government of the day have any say in how should or should not be appointed

    What I would like to see but I know it won’t happen is to have all department heads, all Commonwealth Boards etc be appointed by the G-G. that way you would keep politics out of them.

  10. little devil

    Should be in who is appointed

  11. Callie Ge

    And the Tony & Joe wreaking Ball rolls on grinding all commonsense and decency into the dust ( oh sorry it rained in an out back town last Saturday while Tony was there, so he declared that the drought was over) so make that the mud, either way, those two are destroying our economy and international reputation at a rate of knots never before witnessed.

  12. Jim of Dunsborough

    The LNP is likely disadvantaged by a re-election. Your conspiracy theory is wat flawed!

  13. Jim of Dunsborough

    That would be “way flawed”…

  14. Don Winther

    I did a Google search of Joanna Gash and got a lot of very rude photos? I’m still searching and now have a much better insight into politics.

  15. diannaart

    Two thoughts occurred to me while reading Kaye Lee’s latest essay.

    1. Be easier to make a list of what the LNP is NOT reviewing (no wonder they are cutting budget – have to pay for all these ‘reviews’).

    2. I really hope the repeat election backfires – on the LNP, of course!

  16. Maree Elizabeth


  17. Keith

    I think the majority of people would have more confidence in the AEC than in the gang in government at present.Decisions are made on the basis of ideology rather than knowledge. Integrity in government is not a feature we are going to see for some time. Also, any decision made will be stilted in favour of Abbott’s masters.

  18. Fed up

    Roswell, the PS is being made irrelevant by this government. Advice of any kind, they cannot abide. It is father knows best, and tough love for most.

    Yesterday’s release of the previous government cabinet papers to their inquiry, says it all. Nothing is sacred. 177 years of Westminister convention down the drain.

    One wonders what other papers have them perused?

    This government appears to have taken powers to themselves, that one has not seen, even in wartime.

    They are a law unto themselves. Nothing is sacred.

  19. Fed up

    We will now see moved by this government, in making it harder for ordinary Australians to vote. You will see the roles stripped of as many voters as they can.

    There have over the decades, many allegations of voter rorting. The allegations have always been found to have no basis.

    The truth is today, is not voters enrolling more than one time, but young voters not enrolling at all. More than a million I believe, in spite of the election offices attempt of updating the rolls.

  20. Fed up

    Who benefits the most from the missing votes. It is not even sure, they are missing, but votes that were counted twice.

  21. diannaart

    If memory serves… Scott Ludlam of the Greens was one who retained his seat – after the second count.

    Can’t help but suspect the Abbottoir have their thumbs on the scales of this re-election.

  22. Fed up

    Sorry that is 117 years of the Westminster system down the drain.

  23. Stephen Tardrew

    I don’t know how to keep up with you Kaye. Awesome job and great commitment. Lot of people got a lot to thank you for.

  24. brianconcannon

    The AEC is rigged in favour of the LNP. Sophie Mirabella lost her seat because of the 2000 vote pile put into a 1000 vote pile got discovered. I wonder how often 1000 Labor vote bundles get mixed up and get added to the LNP vote ?
    I was a vote scrutineer years ago and was amazed at all the mistakes and how easy it was to rig the vote
    If we changed to electronic voting , I believe the corruption would get a lot worse
    We need independent vote counters to keep the AEC in check and ensure honest results

  25. Trevor Vivian

    That the worst imaginable process to bring a desired out come is the new political paradym with Abbott and the wrecking crew

    Labor inthe past has declared that it would not lower itself to match the actions of the Liberal underhanded political ploys.

    In politics Power is the thing sought above all else, above theory, policy, focus groups, elections, government or opposition. Power is the grail.

    As Kaye Lee shows in this article and others previous, that a new(old) paradym is in force and it’s relationship to Power is untarnished by all that stood for civil society.

    ABBOTT has begun an undeclared war not dissimilar to the undeclared war Australia’s First People have endured which resulted in the complete marginalisation of the Other traditions, process and outcomes.

    Welcome one and all to this undeclared war.


  26. Jake Hodgman

    If he has to quit for this error, why doesn’t Abbot have to quit after repeatedly lying to the entire country?

  27. brianconcannon

    I will second that, Abbotts gotta go – unfortunately he is protected by Murdoch, Gina, our RBA Central Bank, The US, Israel. foreign corporations ………….

  28. Judith

    Tony Abbott’s government needs to get rid of anyone and everyone who are expert enough to expose their inadequacies. That’s why SO MANY have to go.

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