Addressing the National Press Club two months ago about proposed reforms to the reporting of politicians’ expenses (which have not happened yet), Malcolm Turnbull said “These reforms speak to the heart of Liberal values – transparency, accountability and integrity.”
You gotta be kidding me.
The following are just a few examples of their “transparency, accountability and integrity.”
*Defence has approved four military exports to Saudi Arabia in the past year and the Australian government has led the push for more. But the government is refusing to release details of the approved military sales, citing commercial-in-confidence rules.
*The UK-based Airwars organisation says Australia remains one of the least transparent members of the international military coalition, consistently refusing to disclose almost any information about air strikes by RAAF aircraft or acknowledge any incidents that may have produced civilian casualties.
*George Brandis was responsible for raids confiscating the evidence of Australia illegally bugging the cabinet offices in East Timor when Australia and Timor were negotiating a deal to share revenue from oil and gas deposits under the Timor Sea. He also confiscated the passport of the whistleblower so he could not testify in the International Court of Justice.
*When shadow Communications Minister Stephen Conroy revealed the truth about the rollout of the Coalition’s Fraudband, his office and the home of one of his staffers were raided by the AFP who just happened to take an NBN employee with them who was allowed to photograph the evidence, despite it later being ruled subject to parliamentary privilege. Two NBN employees were subsequently sacked for revealing the truth.
*In March 2015, the former head of the Agriculture Department Paul Grimes sent a letter to Barnaby Joyce regarding the improper changing of Joyce’s incorrect statements in Hansard.
Grimes stated “I am writing to advise you that I no longer have confidence in my capacity to resolve matters relating to integrity with you.”
A day after receiving the letter, Mr Joyce’s office warned Mr Grimes that, on the request of Mr Joyce, the letter would be deleted from government records. Ten days later, Mr Grimes was sacked.
The independent Information Commissioner ruled the letter should be made available. Mr Joyce’s department fought that ruling, spent $80,000 on engaging Ernst & Young to review its public information processes, and then fought the matter through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal before giving up the fight just after Parliament rose in October last year.
*The Brandis diary saga took well over a thousand days and cost tens of thousands of dollars in court time and taxpayer-funded lawyers to fight the case in the AAT and two levels of court before finally handing it over six months after being instructed to do so by the courts.
This is not an isolated incident. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Mitch Fifield have taken The Australian and Crikey, respectively, to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal seeking to avoid handing over their diaries.
*Information about asylum seekers has been suppressed under the excuse of “operational matters.” Doctors and service providers who work in immigration detention centres have been gagged.
Dr Richard Kidd said the Australian Border Protection Act presents a threat to whistleblower doctors working in detention centres as they could face two years in prison if they publicly disclose failures in detention health care.
Psychiatrist Dr Peter Young revealed the immigration department had explicitly told International Health and Medical Services to ”withdraw” figures showing children in detention were suffering very high levels of mental illness.
*The Department of Education has again refused to release its modelling on how much university degrees will cost when it introduces partial fee deregulation in 2018. The department admitted it has the data, but won’t release it because it is advice to the government.
Last year the department knocked back a freedom of information request by the national teacher’s union, the NTEU, for any briefs, spreadsheets of potential fees or assessments of the impact of deregulation because the secret modelling contained commercially sensitive information about universities.
*George Brandis revised the service agreements under which the federal government provides funding to community legal centres around Australia, specifically stating that organisations cannot use Commonwealth money for any activity directed towards law reform or advocacy, effectively reintroducing Howard era gag clauses.
*Joe Hockey said one month before the 2013 election – “I’m not afraid to accept responsibility and I’m not afraid to be accountable. We will own it from day one. We will be responsible for the Australian economy.”
Mathias Cormann said in 2014 “we are taking responsibility and we will stand by how we perform against our forecasts.”
But, despite being in power for three and a half years, have you ever heard any of them speak about economics without blaming Labor?
In December 2016, Mathias Cormann, announced the finalisation of Australia’s first National Action Plan as part of the commitment the Australian Government made when it became a member of the Open Government Partnership.
“The Plan contains 15 ambitious commitments focused on: transparency and accountability in business; open data and digital transformation; access to government information; integrity in the public sector; and public participation and engagement.”
Nice words from the government. Shame their actions show them to be yet another lie.
Secrecy, being an instrument of conspiracy, ought never to be the system of a regular government.
– Jeremy Bentham