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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