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The problem with ministerial discretion

As scrutiny grows on the political nature of grants schemes, Coalition MPs are ramping up their attacks on “bureaucrats” in defence of “ministerial discretion”.

“We are the chosen ones” they cry – not those faceless backroom people who just put hurdles in the way of decent folk wanting to have a go. They don’t know what the people want.

Well that’s all very well, but that implies that decisions will be based on what people who have access to the minister want rather than on considered appraisal of different priorities, alternative approaches, and their wider impacts and consequences on other stakeholders.

Ministers have no particular expertise in their portfolios as shown by how often they swap them around and some of the ridiculous appointments, obviously doled out with anything but aptitude in mind.

Yet they want us to trust that they know better than the experts and the people with actual experience in the field and in administration.

This government has decimated and sought to undermine the public service and unions. They have ignored court rulings and been threatened with contempt charges for criticising the courts. They blame the media when they are exposed and hunt down leakers rather than punishing wrongdoers. They block freedom of information requests and refuse to release reports. They regularly and blatantly lie to the public through their preferred tame media outlets.

What qualifies these people to ignore advice and dictate what will happen in every aspect of running this country? Have a look at them. Most of them can’t run their own lives successfully.

Transparency and accountability? Their actions make a mockery of the words. They want to govern without scrutiny or criticism.

For some reason, the “climate change function”, whatever that means, has been taken away from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment and transferred to the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources. It remains to be seen what this will mean but the divorcing of climate change from agriculture, water and the environment seems very strange.

In what can only be described as a complete lack of anything remotely resembling understanding of science, the Nationals are surging forward with calls for more coal mines, more coal-fired power stations, more gas fields.

No amount of adaptation or resilience can prepare us for the holocaust these fools will inflict on us with their addiction to the donations from those who profit from exploiting our resources.

As our rivers dry up and our towns go thirsty, the Nats call for more dams, completely ignoring the damage caused by their handing out of hundreds of millions of dollars to people to build private dams which have destroyed the natural water flow and which are hugely inefficient because they are shallow and evaporate.

This water should have flowed to much deeper catchment dams to supply towns and to be stored and released when appropriate for farmers.

This shocking misuse of public money and mismanagement of water resources has been detailed in a report by the Australia Institute called Dam shame and in a Four Corners report Cash Splash

There has been justifiable criticism of the complexity in applying for disaster relief and the delay in receiving assistance but it has been unfairly targeted at bureaucrats who usually find out what the government is announcing in the Murdoch press and then realise that it is up to them to find a way to put into train a thought bubble with no detail.

Ministerial discretion is the antithesis of evidence-based decision making. As they have shown time and again, and actually admitted, they have no problem in using public money to prop up their political careers – the only excuse offered being that everyone does it.

If you want ministers to have more discretion, you should exercise some in who you entrust with the role. The current bunch are just pigs at the trough.

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  1. Ross Clasby

    If they blame bureaucrats enough it will make there excuses for privatizing everything into the hands off LNP cronies easier.

  2. Pingback: The problem with ministerial discretion #auspol - News Oz

  3. RomeoCharlie29

    And bearing in mind that many of the bureaucrats now being implicitly or explicitly criticised are their own appointments… perhaps it’stime for the public service to bite back.

    But Kaye everything you, the other authors and the many commenters say about this incompetent, ignorant,hapless and hopeless bunch of goons is correct, not enough negative adjectives to describe the depth of their failings.

    Incidentally I saw someone suggesting that under Hamish maybe Morrison might be shamed into ending his ban on Q and A. Well, personally I hope not, despite the shallowness, stupidity, unempathetic drivel he comes out with condemning him from his own mouth, frankly the less I see or hear of him the better.

    Even the grab I saw of him on ABC News paying tribute to the firefighters sounded glib and insincere, but maybe I’m biased.

  4. Phil Pryor

    This pokey little bush party was once big of ego and purpose as the country party. They steadily worked at stuffing the nation and its environment. They have done nearly everything stupidly and wilfully because that is what they are, brainless, aimless, thoughtless. lacking any foresight, decency, modesty, reserve, prudence, skill. To get a sack of shit like Joyce up yet again as a candidate is frightfully stupid; a rooting, rorting, drinking loudmouthed dill and failed bush accountant is not what a family needs (he abandoned his) let alone a nation. Pathetic lack of sense, experience, quality and honesty is clearly seen in the media and conservative political movements supporting naked greed, short term profiteering, rampant bumboy bendover bullshitting by careerist greedy nobodies, of which, Joyce, Mc Clodbrain, Fat George the filipino fist fornicator, Canavan the tiny mussolini, Littletobeproudof, and the now departed Ms. Friday-Pubroot. Minsters should remind their chiefs of departments of government policy and assist in progressive planning. No intrusiveness should be tolerated by unqualified idiots, which means the entire country party poopot should get out!

  5. Arthur Tarry

    Ministerial discretion – a recipe for corruption from a group of politicians who appear to have no compunction in using public resources in ways they perceive will benefit them. Where are notions of transparency, fairness and reason in this idea of ministerial discretion; aren’t they more likely to act with cronyism, bias, unfairness and with no responsibility, as we have recently seen. Don’t they understand they have zero respect in the community and that we are totally fed up with their self righteousness and the sanctimonious way they justify their pathetic behaviour. Why can’t we get an effective and ‘toothed’ independent corruption fighting agency based in Canberra ? They, the politicians, don’t want it – we do, indeed we demand it.

  6. DrakeN

    Not terribly discrete about their discretion, Eh?!

  7. Keitha Granville

    Hmm, and yet I want the relevant minister to exercise his discretion to allow the Biloela Tamil family to stay, despite the evidence that suggests they are not refugees.

    Perhaps in the case of grants and funding to businesses or groups the rules about who is eligible and qualifies must abide in those cases, but we need to be careful what we wish for cos they will use it against us whenever it suits them.

  8. Roland Flicket

    How. Am a minister fall short of the ministerial standards of a ministry that doesn’t have any standards?
    Was her crime more heinous than conspiring to steal water from others? Than using public funds to search for roots in Manila? Than commandeering an ADF plane to fly across the entire country for a shag?
    Than soliciting public donations to a political party pretending thats it’s for a national bush-fire emergency?
    We are prominent in the list of most corrupt nations on earth.

  9. Matters Not

    Keitha Granville, the Biloela Tamil Family to which you refer have not been returned to Sri Lanka because of the Rule of Law. They are now in detention on Christmas Island and not in Biloela because of Ministerial discretion.

    While there can be a case for Ministerial discretion in certain instances, there is no (moral) case that discretion should ever reside with Peter Dutton who has shown time and time again that he despises that Rule of Law and the Separation of Powers generally.

  10. pierre wilkinson

    “I used to be a Country Member”
    I remember
    seems like they are only into abbreviations
    since their name change

  11. Brad Black

    The Australian voting public, 50% at least, were sold a giant shit sandwich at the last election. And the stench will keep getting worse until the rot sets in, which I reckon has already begun!

  12. Arthur Tarry

    Some people would keep voting for the conservatives even if the country was in economic depression and ruin. How can they be like that ?

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