If a politician uses their position and government resources to help a friend, or to attack an enemy, does the public have a right to know?
Yesterday, in ruling on a freedom of information application into the circumstances surrounding Peter Dutton’s granting of special work visas to two au pairs who arrived in 2015, former Liberal Senator Chris Puplick ruled that it would be inappropriate to grant the request as it would reveal highly sensitive material about how Australian Border Force operates.
Because, from a couple of recent cases, it seems that Border Force operates on the whim of the Minister.
Recently, we had the case of a grateful father ringing Ray Hadley to express his thanks to Peter Dutton for interceding in the case of a man who was an accomplice to an assault that killed the man’s son.
Unhappy with the judge’s ruling, the father rang Peter Dutton’s office. Dutton, who the father assures us “didn’t know me from a bar of soap”, quickly rang back and, within two hours, the man had been picked up by Border Force for deportation.
How on earth could they possibly have reviewed the case and the reasons behind the judge’s ruling in two hours? On the basis of a phone call from a total stranger, Dutton mobilised Border Force to do his bidding.
In the cases of the au pairs, once again, a simple phone call to Dutton saw him immediately overrule immigration officials to grant a “public interest” visa even though one of the girls was a repeat offender.
Ironically, it was somehow in the public interest to give these “illegal immigrants” visas but not in the public interest to know why. The burning question, and the one Peter Dutton refuses to answer, is who were these girls going to work for. Obviously someone with a direct line to Dutton.
But Puplick feels releasing that information would be invading the girls’ privacy.
Think of the number of times that Dutton has publicly named people who, after investigation, have not been found to have done anything wrong. Think of the delay in processing visas for genuine refugees. Dutton, the overlord, determines who is worthy and who is not.
Interestingly, in 2003, Chris Puplick himself resigned from his position as president of the Anti-Discrimination Board amid allegations that he helped a friend win a payout for anti-gay victimisation at work.
And then we have Michaelia Cash who is claiming “public interest immunity” to avoid revealing her role in tipping off the media about raids on the offices of the AWU in regard to a donation from over a decade ago that was properly declared at the time. Much worse, to my mind, is the blatant misuse of the AFP and the ROC for political purposes, and now tying up the courts trying to cover up her misdeeds.
In both instances, the government is spending a fortune fighting against the public’s right to question if Ministers are misusing their power.
As the Dalai Lama said, “A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.”
With this lot in power, we have every reason to feel insecure.