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Opaque and irresponsible

Tony Abbott promised to “restore accountability and improve transparency measures to be more accountable to you”.

This is a reminder of just a few of the stories that put pay to that hollow pledge.

They began their era of accountability by denying Freedom of Information.

Freedom of Information

“An attempt by technology media outlet Delimiter to retrieve the ‘Blue Book’ incoming ministerial briefing of Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull under Freedom of Information laws has failed, with the Federal Government as a whole appearing to standardise around interpreting its rights as blocking such documents wholesale.”

“The first Abbott government budget will see the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) closed, and its functions assigned to other government agencies. This back-to-the-future move is likely to make it harder and probably more expensive for long suffering FOI users.

The budget shows that the FOI review function will be transferred back to the AAT from 2015 with the Attorney-General’s department responsible for overseeing the Freedom of Information Act and issuing FOI guidelines. In essence Attorney General George Brandis will be expected to drive the decades-long effort to change the culture of secrecy to one of openness and facilitation of access to information.”

The next step was to gag ministers and employees.

Keeping Ministers in check

Prime Minister Tony Abbott admits that he has ordered all ministers contact his office before speaking to the media, saying his government needs to speak with a ‘‘united voice’’.

On Wednesday, an email leaked to the Australian Financial Review, Mr Abbott’s senior press secretary, James Boyce, informed ministerial staff that all requests for interviews, right down to ABC local outlets, must be vetted by Kate Walshe who has taken over leadership of communications in Mr Abbott’s office.

In the leaked email, Mr Boyce wrote: ”All media co-ordination and requests should go through Kate first. This covers all national media interviews on television, radio and print. This includes any ABC local radio or ABC television interviews, the Sunday program, Sky News, and metropolitan print media longer-format interviews, etc.

“With any regular appearances on shows such as Sky AM Agenda, they should first have been coordinated through Kate at least the day before.”

Social Media Gag

On Sunday, Samantha Maiden reported that the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet had issued new social media guidelines that included a clause instructing employees that there “is an expectation” to dob in colleagues if they see them do anything on social media that might contravene the code of conduct. Such things included being “critical or highly critical of the Department, the Minister or the Prime Minister”.

The new guidelines made it a contravention of the code if anything you did on social media “could be perceived” as “compromising the APS employee’s capacity to fulfil their duties in an unbiased manner”. While this was particular to comments made about “policies and programmes of the employee’s agency”, it could be applied to other matters. “Such comment does not have to relate to the employee’s area of work.”

Raids to confiscate damning evidence in a case before the International Court were the next step

Timor l’Este

“A lawyer representing East Timor in its spying case against Australia says his office has been raided by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).

Bernard Collaery says a number of agents seized electronic and paper files on Tuesday afternoon from his law practice in Canberra.

He says the agents identified themselves as working for ASIO and the AFP, and would not show his employees the search warrant because it related to national security.

East Timor will launch a case in The Hague alleging the Australia Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) covertly recorded Timorese ministers and officials during oil and gas negotiations in Dili in 2004, allegedly giving Australia the upper hand.

Mr Collaery also says a key witness in the Timorese case – a former spy turned whistleblower – has been arrested in a separate raid in Canberra.”

Next on the list…muzzle the ABC and journalists (unless you are Andrew Bolt)


Prime Minister Tony Abbott has stepped up his criticism of the ABC, accusing the national broadcaster of being unpatriotic in its coverage of the Edward Snowden leaks and asylum seeker abuse claims.

Mr Abbott also questioned the ABC’s newly established Fact Check unit, saying he wanted the corporation to focus on straight news gathering and reporting.

“A lot of people feel at the moment that the ABC instinctively takes everyone’s side but Australia’s,” he said in an interview with Ray Hadley on Sydney radio station 2GB.

“I think it dismays Australians when the national broadcaster appears to take everyone’s side but its own and I think it is a problem.”

Brandis’ National Security plans.

The attorney general, George Brandis, would decide who would be prosecuted under a controversial new provision in national security legislation designed to head off a homegrown Chelsea Manning or Edward Snowden.

The reforms proposed by the Abbott government are intended to make it easier for the peak spy agency, Asio, to monitor computers and computer networks. They also contain provisions which create a new offence punishable by five years in jail for “any person” who discloses information relating to “special intelligence operations”.

The broad wording in the proposed anti-leaking provision has prompted some leading criminal lawyers, the journalists’ union and media companies to warn the change could criminalise not only the initial disclosure, but any subsequent reporting of Snowden-style intelligence leaks.

An explanatory submission by Brandis’s department to the new JPCIS inquiry makes it plain that it will be the attorney general who decides who will be prosecuted under the new provisions.

We don’t want no stinkin’ accountability….

Open Government Partnership

THE Abbott government is reconsidering Labor’s pledge to sign Australia up for a major international transparency and citizen engagement initiative.

Australia was expected to formally enter the Open Government Partnership this month, joining 63 other nations in rolling out action plans to make their governments more open and accountable to the public.

Boys Own meets the bastard child of Secret and Magnificent Seven.

Operation Sovereign Borders

The current management arrangements for Operation Sovereign Borders have little to commend them. They confuse accountability and provide scope for too much buck-passing. Their only obvious virtue, if it can be called that, is that they provide a veneer of military respectability for what, underneath, is an unedifying spectacle. And it has given employment to former major-general Jim Molan, who apparently had some hand in designing the operation’s ”concept”. Molan says he is, of all things, the operation’s ”troubleshooter”. It would be interesting to know how many targets he’s hit thus far, with what effect and at what cost.

In general, the provision of information on the operation’s workings and the public accountability about it fall well short of reasonable expectations. Some restrictions on operational grounds will be necessary but blanket bans on fessing up about all ”on-water matters” are absurd. It’s the equivalent of the ridiculous notion in sport that ”what happens on the field of play, stays on the field”. If current habits were to be extended to under the water, on the land and under it, and in the air, the accountability shop could just about be shut up.

UN denied access to offshore detention camps

Inspectors from a UN working group say they were denied access to Nauru after an initial invitation from the Nauruan government to investigate conditions in the detention centre.

The group’s leader Mads Andenas told a New Zealand radio station access had been cancelled, with the Nauruan government citing “practical reasons for it not being suitable, practical for us to come”.

Professor Gillian Triggs blamed the Abbott government for blocking the visit.

“Behind this is the Australian government pulling the strings in relation to who denies the UN access, but it’s just outrageous to deny the UN,” she told Fairfax Media.

“It’s an astonishing thing to do, to deny the very groups that are set up to monitor these matters globally with the consent of most of the international community, including Australia,” she said, following a National Press Club address on Wednesday.

Professor Triggs was similarly denied access to the Nauruan detention centre in February by Immigration Minister Scott Morrison on the grounds that the commission’s jurisdiction did not extend beyond Australia’s borders.

Human rights advocates say this is the second time in a month that UN delegates have been refused access to Australian detention centres offshore.

Last month a delegate from the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, was refused a meeting with asylum seekers and G4S in the Manus detention centre.

Children in detention

“The Refugee Council is demanding Immigration Department staff be sacked if they were involved in a cover-up about the scale of mental health issues among child asylum seekers in detention.

Yesterday a Human Rights Commission inquiry was told that Immigration Department officials reacted with alarm at figures showing the extent of mental health concerns among young detainees.

“[They] asked us to withdraw these figures from our reporting,” psychiatrist Dr Peter Young said.

Any hint of government corruption may not be discussed.

Suppression Order

Australia has secured a super-injunction order barring its media from reporting on a corruption case implicating top leaders from Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam in deals with the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).

The case stems from the long-running allegations of bribery involving RBA subsidiaries Securency and Note Printing Australia to obtain contracts to supply polymer notes to the governments of Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and other countries.

According to WikiLeaks, Canberra invoked grounds of “national security” in order to secure the so-called super-injunction, claiming that censoring reports on the matter would “prevent damage to Australia’s international relations”.

“With this order, the worst in living memory, the Australian government is not just gagging the Australian press, it is blindfolding the Australian public,” WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange said in the statement. “The concept of ‘national security’ is not meant to serve as a blanket phrase to cover up serious corruption allegations involving government officials, in Australia or elsewhere… Corruption investigations and secret gag orders for ‘national security’ reasons are strange bedfellows.”

MP expenses

Under pressure to explain why taxpayers should spend thousands of dollars to help politicians compete in sports events and attend colleagues’ weddings, Mr Abbott said there would “always be arguments at the margins” and changing the rules would achieve nothing.

“I’m not proposing to change the system,” Mr Abbott said on Thursday. “You don’t want members of Parliament to be prisoners of their offices.”

Liberal Party slush funds

The sensational corruption inquiry into alleged Liberal Party slush funds is expected to be adjourned within days to give investigators time to examine new evidence.

Federal ICAC

It is time the Liberal Party accepted that corruption among politicians, public officials and businesspeople is not confined to the states or to its opponents.

The NSW Labor conference unanimously passed a motion that Labor’s national conference next July debate support for a federal ICAC. The federal ICAC would have royal commission-style powers to investigate MPs and public officials in relation to bribery, travel expenses and donations, while providing advice about ethical and legal duties.

The Labor motion even proposes a federal ICAC tackle white-collar crime, as the Serious Fraud Office does in Britain.

Former NSW ICAC chief David Ipp has told the ABC it is ”so screamingly obvious that there is a breakdown in trust” and that a federal ICAC is required.

Yet the Liberals have rejected every attempt to create one.

Abbott has questioned the need for it, notwithstanding his party’s appalling record on travel expenses.

We will not see the promised cost benefit analyses for anything costing over $100 million. The NBN has become a secret. Anything you want to know is commercial-in-confidence, or on-water, or a matter of national security, or before the courts. We will decide what we tell people in this country and how they will be told.

In contrast….

Peter Slipper

“In June, Mr Slipper’s lawyers argued the charges should be dismissed under the Mental Health Act because of the former MP’s state of mind.

The court was told that Mr Slipper’s life had spiralled into one of despair as a result of the criminal allegations, but the magistrate ruled the trial go ahead for the sake of the public interest.”

Royal Commission into Union Corruption

I will be recommending the establishment of a Royal Commission to inquire into alleged financial irregularities associated with the affairs of trade unions. It will inquire into the activities relating to ‘slush funds’ and other similar funds and entities established by, or related to, the affairs of these organisations.

It will address increasing concern arising from a wide range of revelations and allegations involving officials of unions establishing and benefiting from funds which have been set up for purposes which are often unknown and frequently unrelated to the needs of their members.


Democracy must be built through open societies that share information. When there is information, there is enlightenment. When there is debate, there are solutions. When there is no sharing of power, no rule of law, no accountability, there is abuse, corruption, subjugation and indignation.

Atifete Jahjaga


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  1. Ana Milosevic

    Since this government lied their way into power, Australian public been treated as if we are at WAR, it’s absolutely unacceptable the way they treat us. The only WAR we may be involved in, is a WAR against the BAD government with fascist ideology.

  2. mars08

    Quote from Lord F*ckwad, 25th August, 2013:

    “My vision for Australia is not that big brother government knows best; it’s that our country will best flourish when all of our citizens, individually and collectively, have the best chance to be their best selves.

    Government’s job is rarely to tell people what to do; mostly, it’s to make it easier for people to make their own choices.

    Over the next three years, should we win the election, an incoming Coalition government will do exactly what we’ve said we’ll do.

    We will be a no surprises, no excuses government, because you are sick of nasty surprises and lame excuses from people that you have trusted with your future…

    It’s performance, not promises, that will earn your respect; it’s actions, not words, that you are looking for…”

    Makes you want to cry, right??

  3. Kaye Lee

    Mr Abbott blasting Mr Rudd in 2007 after it was revealed that all media releases from government bodies must go through his department: ”It seems like an early exercise in hyper-control by the new Prime Minister’s office,” Mr Abbott said at the time. ”A lot of people said before the election that Kevin Rudd would turn out to be a bit of a control freak and this seems to be an interesting suggestion that those fears were quite well grounded.”

    September 2013: Mr Abbott also said that his government would be consultative and collegial.
    “We will be consultative and collegial internally as well as externally.”
    Mr Abbott has declared his personal intention to be measured in his media appearances and ”take politics off the front page”.

  4. Matters Not

    Was Rudd a ‘control freak’? Yes! Both when he was a public servant and then the Prime Minister. And there’s something to be said for that approach. Not all Ministers and their advisors, pressers and the like come from the ‘top shelf’. Some are political dim wits. Take Brandis as an example. He’s fukt up the repeal of 18c and the damage he’s done in the Middle East will be a well recalled political ‘fact’. By the way, one country who heavily criticised his dabblings with language was Egypt. The very country we were trying to negotiate with over the imprisonment of a journalist. Peter Gresta and his family will always remember George Brandis.

    If Brandis had been a shorter leash, things may’ve been very different. He’s a political dim wit I referred to above but he’s not alone.

    I well remember discussions within the Goss government re homosexuality that scared the daylights out of one Minister who shall remain nameless. Goss gave him a verbal back hander by reassuring him that such activity would not be compulsory. Remember another Minister who described Cabinet Meetings on Mondays as an opportunity for Ministers to get together to see if they had anything in common. And on rare occasions they did. Something about exceptions proving the rule.

    The problem with being a ‘control freak’ is that you get little done. You’re always too busy and besides you are only one, albeit with staff, while those who have reached high office with all their staff are the many. All with their own agendas. All who ‘leak’ currently or will in the future. It’s a delicate balance, and having an unelected female calling the shots is a bridge too far. A tension that will erupt in the future.

  5. bobrafto

    I have 2 words to describe the Abbott govt. PURE EVIL!

  6. helenmarg

    Thank you again Kaye Lee.They are a disgusting Pathetic lot.No humanity or thought for anyone but themselves.

  7. Anne Byam

    Your writing, as always Kaye, is exceptional and well researched.

    Re : Social Media Gag. At least, if they start on THAT … gagging anyone saying anything that reflects badly on the Government and it’s Ministers, it will keep several hundreds bods employed daily for years, to go through absolutely ALL anti-this and that ( mainly anti-Government ) comments, some of which I even admit, are waaay over the top. Abbott’s minions have been known to remove anti-him comments on Abbott’s own Facebook page, but after being challenged about freedom of speech etc, seems to have stopped that – for the moment.

    Re : The ABC. The only one being ‘unpatriotic’ – is Abbott hiimself – 100%. He accuses and abuses, because ( he thinks) he can. I watch a lot on ABC and have found them to be very careful indeed in giving equal amounts of time to fors and againsts … for both Parties, over the years.

    Re : Suppression Order … A form of precedent has been set. ……. “national security” as an excuse for covering up anything and everything this dictatorship wants to suppress. Their ‘transparency’ claim is hogwash, BS …. and yet another lie.

    Re : Liberal Party Slush Funds / Corruption enquiry. Could well be their ultimate disgrace and complete undoing. Let’s hope so. Of course it might also be continually ‘adjourned’ – what’s the betting on THAT ?

    Re : Atifete Jahjaga – her words are wisdom and inspiration. Thanks Kaye for posting them.

  8. Nick

    What we have been witnessing, since the election of the Abbott led coalition into office, has been the move towards a totalitarian government. This will have a devastating impact on both society and on our fragile environment. It is my belief that we have an implicit obligation to remove a government such as this by what ever means at our disposal. Getting rid of this government at the point of a sword will not sit well with may of our citizens but passive protest will. I think it is time for Australians to ramp up the protests and take them directly to the members of the government by protesting in front of their homes. This may well have a negative impact on their families but quite frankly its about time that the partners and children of coalition members get a taste of just how destructive their policies are and how truly hated they have become. If we allow Abbott and his sycophants to continue along the track there are pursuing unchecked, we will see the almost total destruction of the Australian way of life we so enjoy. I urge anyone who knows the home address of any coalition politician to post them online so more focussed protests can be organised.

  9. Kaye Makovec

    Somebody once said “the best weapon of a dictatorship is secrecy” and from his teens Abbott has shown off his hubris tendencies which are increasing at an alarming rate, especially his contempt for the average Australian. The rest of his spokesmen are not far behind and champing at the bit to take over.
    Whether or not the decent LNP MPs (if there are any left) will ever have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to Abbott and Co before it’s too late only time will tell. And time is running out.

  10. lawrencewinder

    Copies of the “Horst Wessel” sheet music, still available… get in soon …beat the rush!
    Before you get beaten.

  11. Kaye Lee

    The control of information is something the elite always does, particularly in a despotic form of government. Information, knowledge, is power. If you can control information, you can control people.

    Tom Clancy

    Knowledge is power. Information is power. The secreting or hoarding of knowledge or information may be an act of tyranny camouflaged as humility.

    Robin Morgan

  12. bobrafto

    Lawrie, I’d be more interested in the Worst Weasel lyrics about the Abbott

  13. diongiles

    I wouldn’t say involvement of brasshats in matters that should the prerogative of elected governments lends any sort of respectability. Integration of brasshats with government is the mark of a debased regime like Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. Already the Libs are going gangbangers to use Anzac Day as a focus for steering Australia into a warrior cult, and even describing Jap war criminals bent on reducing the world to slavery as an honourable foe.

    It’s high time to reflect on 1975 and build up a head of steam to force this ideologically schooled mafia to an early election by blocking supply. Sauce for the goose and all that!.

  14. Jeanette

    This is a really bad government, hopefully the electorate will kick them out. Report more than disturbing, how low can they go

  15. donwreford

    The ABC, threatened with tax cuts, or is to be cut on funding, if the ABC, defended itself seen as self promotion by Abbott, would be seen as promoting its own, the main problem with ABC, is its journalists who produce or present the programs and tell you what the situation is or how to interpret, I am more interested in hearing the problems from whom are the people concerned.

  16. darrel nay

    Evening everyone,

    Awesome article by AIMN as usual.

    Will we ever return to an Australia that respects its citizens? Irvine, the head of ASIO, said that ‘privacy is dead’ in a senate inquiry this week. The NSA is out here lecturing our pollies on the importance of abusing the citizens privacy while maintaining the shroud of secrecy over everything governmental. When will these control-freaks realise that they produce nothing and live off the charity of the citizens? Government was instituted by the people to serve the people – they are paid to work for us. They strut around like royalty and expect us to bow-down.

    Thanks to the authors for pointing out the corruption involving the Reserve Bank of Australia. People have to do their own research, but for me the Reserve Bank is the epicentre of corruption in Australia. Whether it be the military-industrial complex, big pharma., the oil industry, big agra., human trafficking, etc. etc. etc. they all funnel into the big banks who funnel into the Reserve Bank.


  17. Kaye Lee

    Father Rod at Gosford Anglican Church

    “Truth never damages a cause that is just”

  18. Kaye Lee

    “The Weekend Australian newspaper has published a front page story this morning accusing New Matilda of being part of a plot to damage the Prime Minister, via his daughter, Frances Abbott.

    The story reports that police are “close to completing a criminal investigation into computer hacking that led to confidential student records about a $60,000 scholarship granted to Tony Abbott’s daughter being leaked to the left-leaning, online magazine New Matilda”.”

    I assume the police will then be moving to find who hacked the private emails of the IPCC scientists. And then Karen Doane for stealing Peter Slipper’s diary. Oh the irony of the Murdoch press complaining about hacking.

  19. corvus boreus

    Kaye Lee,
    This kooky crow admires, respects and is grateful for so much that the lady in the PJs does for the greater good.
    You amass facts, express ideas and analyses in exemplary fashion, and volunteer so much time and energy with honest intent. Above all this, though, I salute the sacrifice in the most distasteful of the acts you undertake.
    On your weekend, you expose your eyes to the concoction of noxious toxins and vitriol that ‘News’corp splatters around.
    Do you wash out your eyeballs with dettol after?

  20. Kaye Lee

    I am prepared to take one for the team, and my family is eternally grateful that I now have you lot to express my disgust to rather than greeting them as they wander out of bed on a Sunday morning with “YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT THEY’VE DONE NOW!”

    Speaking of which….this is Samantha Maiden’s latest offering

    “Statistics don’t lie: de facto couples living in sin more likely to separate, says Families Minister Kevin Andrews.”

    That black dot of SIN rears its ugly head again.

  21. Garth

    I can’t believe I just clicked on that link to the daily trashrag and also read something written by Samantha Maiden (oh, I despise her writing). For the trifecta, I got to read what tripe Kevin Andrews is spewing (it’s a tough contest, but if he isn’t one of the most incompetent, ignorant people in this current govt, I’ll eat my head). Kaye, I love your writing, and the piece above is excellent, but PLEASE don’t scare me like that. I can’t believe I followed the link!!

  22. MichaelFeeney

    Michael F
    Kay Lee,I love every post,however,even though I have been progressively getting more worried every day since the election,This post has me
    absolutely terrified,Why? To see what I have known for a while,tabulated in one post,and then realise that this is only a concise overview,
    and is really only the tip of a very large iceberg of evil,Thanks Kay Lee.

  23. Kaye Lee

    Sorry bout the Terrorgraph link, I just couldn’t believe I was reading “living in sin”. I am expecting Bob Santamaria’s videos to make a comeback.


    I agree that the secrecy is frightening. It’s insidious. It leaves us at the mercy of the machinations of madmen.

  24. MichaelFeeney

    Just gritted my teeth and checked Terrorgraph link.Not strong enough to deep read it,I just cannot suffer b…sh.. in any form.How can an elected politician get away with this sort of Crap.Also did a quick scroll down of comments,,did not spot any queries about if any of said
    “RelationshipVouchers” were used in his and wife’s Counselling BUSINESS?? Michael F

  25. corvus boreus

    Kaye Lee,
    The “living in sin” was just a phrase from the coy Maiden, not minister Kev quoted?
    Also, I second Michael F’s query on Mr and Mrs Andrews gaining personally from counseling vouchers?
    It would be interesting to know.

  26. Kaye Lee

    Andrews and his wife co-founded a Catholic counselling service in Melbourne in 1980 called the Marriage Education Programme. (Both have since resigned from it and Margaret is no longer doing any counselling, Andrews’ office says).

    The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission website lists Mr and Mrs Andrews as two of 10 “responsible persons” involved with Marriage Education Programme Inc group.

  27. Kaye Lee

    From Andrews book “Maybe ‘I do’ – Modern Marriage and the Pursuit of Happiness” ….

    “Marriage seems to protect from contracting cancer and offers a better chance of survival after diagnosis.”

    The ideal of “marital permanence” needs to be entrenched in a national family and marriage policy, affirming marriage as the best environment for raising children, the Catholic MP and married father-of-five writes.

    It says studies have found couples who cohabit before marriage appear to have higher risks of divorce.”

  28. bobrafto

    Andrews and his wife co-founded a Catholic counselling service in Melbourne in 1980 called the Marriage Education Programme. (Both have since resigned from it and Margaret is no longer doing any counselling, Andrews’ office says).

    OK but do they still own the business? or do they have a stooge running it?

  29. bobrafto

    Mr Morrison said he was “very troubled” by the claims but added: “Equally I’m already acting along the lines I’ve already mentioned in terms of the support and facilities we’re putting in and also by ensuring we’re not getting children going into these facilities and we’re stopping them getting on boats in the first place and I’m getting them out.”Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young says there is widespread public support to move all children out of detention immediately.

    “Australians across the country are increasingly uneasy and nervous about the welfare of these children, young people harming themselves, children who don’t even introduce themselves by their own names any more, only by the ID numbers they’ve been given,” she said.

    Nauru, Australia’s version of Guantanamo Bay, that’s what we descended to, it amounts to another form of torture.

  30. O'Bleak

    Tony Abbott — Rupert Murdoch’s man in the Lodge. Does anything else need to be said about the Judas goat and his master. I am filled with loathing and disgust that such as this prevail in my country.

  31. PopsieJ

    O,Bleak, I totaly agree, but watch Julie Bishop, Abbott is simple , Bishop is devious and more of a Murdock mouthpiece than ever Abbottt could be. I despair, I look at Parliament sessions on TV and shake my head to think that they could take decisions that took us to war again. Tony Abbott just about declared war on Russia over the latest MH 17 aircrash, ( anyone remember MH 370 )

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