By Kyran O’Dwyer
If you are to believe the pollsters, politicians are not trusted. Various ‘ratings’ put the level of trust in the ‘profession’ at somewhere between 12 and 20%. Having never met anyone who trusted a politician, comment escapes me. It is of interest the occupation of ‘pollster’ is also distrusted. Yet we seem obsessed with their frequent offerings, and quote them as if they can be trusted. Trust in the media is also subject to wide variation, more often dependent on the outlet, rather than the offerings of their scribes. That ‘the outrageous’ is circulated more widely than ‘the considered’ is, at the very least, cause for concern.
Over decades, professions such as doctors, scientists, teachers, firefighters, police, paramedics, have consistently been considered trustworthy, by more than 70% of us. Over the same decades, their opinions and knowledge have been ignored and/or derided. Their credibility is no match for the incessant howls of the politicians, whom we don’t trust, ever amplified by partisan scribes, in increasingly irrelevant forum. Go figure!
An even greater irony is that the politicians, whom we don’t trust, set the terms and conditions of the ‘rules’ we are meant to abide by, whilst ignoring the rules themselves. They live in a rarefied space. Beyond question, beyond reproach, beyond accountability.
We have now had over four years of non-government. Without fear or favour, our IPA ‘government’ has continued its backward trajectory to ‘the good ol’ days’ of the fifties.
My bad. ‘Without fear or favour’ should read ‘Using fear to disguise favour’. Otherwise, all good.
The list of transgressions perpetrated against the Australian people by this non-government is long. To add insult to this obvious injury, we have our political masters, and their business masters, telling us that these transgressions are not only necessary, but are in our best interests.
Like salt to a very open wound, the only reassurance offered is the platitude “Trust us”.
We do, after all, get to pick the best of the least worst every few years.
If you wish to ponder our current IPA ‘government’s’ achievements, it won’t take long.
Pick a minister, any minister at all, and tell me they are competent (in the ministerial sense).
One. Just one.
I ask only because I can’t think of one. The list of ministers who openly profess their ignorance of their own portfolios simply beggars belief.
Even worse, we have ministers who openly profess their disdain, their contempt, for their own portfolios. Whether it be education, health, the economy, Indigenous affairs, the NBN, NDIS, the environment, foreign affairs, defence, welfare, whatever. Never before has ‘ministerial responsibility’ been confined to nothing more than stating that they cannot do their job. Any expectation that they do their job is an unreasonable and/or unrealistic impost. Apparently.
As to policy, how can such a thing exist in this paralysing vacuum?
Ideology, devoid of reason or substance, will never amount to policy. Notwithstanding that caveat, pick a ‘policy’, any ‘policy’ at all, and tell me they have a plan. Even their co-masters, big business, are screaming for something. Anything.
No ministers. No policies. No judgement. No idea.
None of the foregoing would come as a surprise to anyone living in this vacuum. Whether you are ‘politically aware’ or not, there is no escaping the facts. Jobs are few, and the conditions of employment have gone backwards. Growth is all but non-existent, other than the bank accounts of the privileged. Debt is very real and very personal to most Australians, but of no concern to our ‘government’. Access to health and education is increasingly reliant on the content of your wallet, rather than the extent of your need.
The list of this ‘government’s’ wanton incompetence is well documented.
We have had bad governments before. Whether this is, or isn’t, the worst of all time is irrelevant. What this government underscores is the absence of accountability or any right of redress. How can we, the people, remedy a situation that is detrimental to us, when there are no safeguards, other than the next election?
What this ‘government’ has writ large is that it has no regard for ‘due process’. It has achieved next to nothing through parliament, yet has increased the ‘executive powers’ of, arguably, the most miserable bunch of miscreants yet to occupy the lavish, hallowed halls of parliament, with all of its attendant privilege.
The very existence of this ‘government’ is sufficient evidence that we need change. Not just changing the status quo, but ensuring that we, the people, are never again held hostage by our ‘masters’.
This Peter Dutton thing is an example of what is so horribly (horrifically?) wrong at the moment. A minister so ignorant of his own portfolio, that his frequent lies about those in his care do not warrant repeating, even if only to discredit them. Putting aside discussion of his intellect, character, integrity, compassion, is not an easy task. They are, after all, attributes you would normally like to see in a member of parliament. But, putting them aside for a minute, consider his history.
To recall that he was voted ‘the worst ever’ minister of health may seem unkind. To recall that his competition for such ignominy included Tony Abbott, may seem harsh. That the title wasn’t wrested from him by Sussan Ley, who was fired, is nothing more than an un-subtle underscore of the enormity of his incompetence.
That he has no understanding of, let alone respect for, ‘due process’ is well documented. The Melbourne Border Farce exercise in August, 2015, was an eerie forecast of what to expect. An exercise in overreach, cancelled before it started. The ABF commissioner, Roman Quaedvlieg, survived that debacle, only to fall when his ‘judgement’ was called into question. That Quaedvlieg was the arbiter of judgement on so many others is, at the very least, galling.
The ABF has gone on to score numerous own goals. Accounting anomalies, in the billions of dollars. Blatant disregard for international law and treaties. Corruption, resulting in incarceration of its dishonest employees, including Fabio Pezzullo. A four year dispute with its honest employees over pay and conditions. These are but a few of their transgressions.
All under Dutton’s lifeless gaze.
Now add Michael Pezzullo to this toxic mess/mix. The architect of the ‘super department’ has been peddling this for a while.
That this ‘super department’ has been contemplated, and discarded, by various governments since 2001 is a matter of fact.
That the stars aligned for Pezzullo under the lifeless gaze of Dutton is cause for concern. Great concern. That much of this ‘super department’ will be created without parliamentary oversight is terrifying. As for judicial oversight, or legal recourse, Dutton doesn’t do that. He prefers to settle claims out of court, to avoid scrutiny. There are over 20 cases so far settled in this manner, the most spectacular being a $70 mill ‘STFU’ settlement, with a $20 mill ‘Please’ for the lawyers.
Nearly 40% of his arbitrary decisions are overturned in the AAT.
His response? Remove appeal provisions from his decisions. A minister of questionable attribute has gone from ignoring due process, to enshrining his right to ignore due process.
Gillian Triggs, back in 2015, delivered a speech, warning of the dangers of removing oversight from the actions of Dutton and his ilk. It is a strong argument for a far greater application of the doctrine of the Separation of Powers.
The speech has been honed and refined, most recently redelivered in the Michael Kirby Oration.
Justin Gleeson has similar reservations and offers similar arguments for greater, not lesser, scrutiny of Dutton and his ilk.
In the period between those speeches, from 2015 to now, Peter Dutton has exemplified all that is wrong. Not just with this ‘government’, but with a system that is so fundamentally and fatally flawed, that its only celebration is Peter Dutton.
Why would you trust Dutton and Pezzullo to oversee a department with such incredible power, devoid of scrutiny or oversight?
Well, you see, it’s not so much about what we, the people, need. Let alone want. Our ‘leader’ is a great believer in insurance. Not so much like the FAI debacle, where it was more a case of ensuring his bank account got bigger. More like ensuring his political future. Clearly, donating a couple of million to his employers was never going to be enough.
This is the argument for increasing ministerial power and removing oversight?
It’s apparently not popular to argue for more regulation, more scrutiny, more oversight. It’s certainly not popular to argue for those with knowledge to formulate such regulation, such scrutiny, such oversight.
An argument that Ms Triggs and Mr Gleeson have prosecuted well. Certainly, beyond any reasonable doubt.
There are only two words necessary to reinforce their clarion call: Peter Dutton.
We need a new Rule Book.