One reform that should be brought about immediately is to take the appointment of statuatory positions and public service jobs out of the hands of politicians.
Take the Tim Wilson debacle.
Tim Wilson, George Brandis and Andrew Robb all go to the IPA birthday party in April 2013. George Brandis, as one of his first acts as Attorney-General, appoints Wilson, without interview, to a job that hasn’t been advertised. He does not provide extra funding for Wilson so a very successful Disability Commissioner gets sacked. Wilson, with no experience or qualifications, is handed a positon with no job description for which he collects $332,000 salary, $40,000 accommodation allowance and $77,763 in expenses in his first year. That’s almost $450,000 a year.
Then lo and behold, Andrew Robb quits and Wilson wants his job now so he quits what was only ever a stepping stone for him to give him some form of credibility and a public presence as something other than an IPA media whore.
So rife is partisanship and cronyism in public life that the system’s capacity to produce independent, objective thought on inquiries into corruption or malpractice is terminally compromised. How can the community have confidence in the findings of bodies such as royal commissions when those heading such inquiries are political appointees?
Every time a new government is elected, the public service is cleansed of those considered political adversaries, and heads of statutory bodies who were appointed by the previous government are hounded into submission. What kind of democracy is it that calls for the resignation of the Human Rights Commissioner because she expresses dismay at the treatment of asylum seekers?
Ted Mack is adamant we must liberate political appointments – from the public service to the heads of bodies designated with the task of protecting democratic rights – from the political parties. He advocates a panel that appoints royal commissioners, human rights commissioners, heads of the public service and ombudsmen. I would extend that list much further to diplomats, government boards, reviews, commissions, audits and inquiries.
Why should a man who consummately failed as Treasurer, who said he had to leave because otherwise he would seek revenge, who was renowned for putting his foot in his mouth, be gifted the job of Ambassador to the US?
Why should a woman whose poisonous interjections saw her dubbed the nastiest person in parliament, whose constituents threw her out with a huge swing against her, whose entry into parliament involved a very sordid story, be gifted with a position on the board of a defence materiel provider?
Why should we create Special Envoy positions to give retired Generals and politicians something to do?
Imagine if, when looking for people to carry out a review, this independent panel took applications and chose experts based on their qualifications and experience rather than calling on Tony Shepherd and Amanda Vanstone again.
Who would appoint Janet Albrechtsen to the board of the ABC?
Who, in their right mind, would pay Maurice Newman for anything at all?
Why should the treasurer who oversaw the most wasteful spending in our history be gifted the job in charge of our Future Funds which currently contain over $130 billion?
It is time to take this power away from the political class so jobs go to the best qualified applicant rather than being bestowed in exchange for promised support or totally unrelated services rendered. If an ex politician or an IPA stooge wants to apply, they can throw their hat in the ring like everyone else.
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