On Sunday, the Guardian reported that Médecins Sans Frontières has been denied access to asylum seekers and refugees on Manus Island in order to assess their health and wellbeing, despite having been granted approval from PNG immigration earlier in the week.
Whilst it is unclear just who is giving the orders, this is typical of our government who, far from delivering the transparency and accountability they promised, increasingly hide from any scrutiny of what they are doing.
The same day, the SMH reported that the government has quietly changed the publicly available information about school funding to exclude specifics about how much individual religious schools are receiving whilst retaining the breakdown for public and most other independent schools.
More secrecy surrounds the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility which has refused to comment publicly on projects it is assessing, or applications it has received, citing commercial-in-confidence, despite the Productivity Commission warning of possible political interference in the fund’s investment decisions. Even the NAB submitted that the fund’s confidentiality practices must be “balanced with the public’s interest in NAIF’s developments”.
The same excuse is used to refuse calls to identify what exactly we are selling to Saudi Arabia in Christopher Pyne’s push to make us a major arms exporter despite such information being available from other countries who sell weapons into the region.
Amin Saikal, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (the Middle East and Central Asia) at the Australian National University, points out the folly of Pyne’s push.
Minister Pyne’s ambitions are totally misplaced in relation to the Middle East, and all concerned parties inside and outside of the government should resist such a miscalculated step. Canberra will do well to invest effort in helping the growth of conditions that could bring about cooperation rather than fuelling hostilities and adding firepower to the region.
Just as disturbing is the government’s use of our security forces to protect their secrets as shown by the ASIO raid on the office of the lawyer representing Timor l’Este in their prosecution of Australia for, ironically, illegally bugging their parliamentary offices to gain a commercial advantage.
Likewise, the AFP were called in to raid the office of Stephen Conroy and the home of a staffer when they had the temerity to tell us the truth about the NBN debacle.
And we never did actually find out if Australian intelligence agents paid people smugglers to return refugees to Indonesia because we don’t talk about “operational matters”.
One thing this government excels at is calling for endless inquiries and reviews but they feel under no obligation to release their findings saying they are “advice to government, not by government”. Perhaps if they were paying for it out of their own money that would be acceptable but when it is paid for by public money, we have a right to know the results.
The Department of Education has refused to provide access to modelling the department has done on the impact of fee deregulation on university students and the higher education sector.
Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison has declined to detail the economic modelling of his Government’s company tax cuts because he says it does not matter to people in the pub.
Even when they release the headline findings, further examination shows just how dishonest this can be.
For example, when questioned about unreleased Government modelling putting the cost of state based renewable targets at $41 billion, the Department of Environment and Energy confirmed that the modelling did not estimate the jobs to be created from $41 billion of new renewable energy investment, and that the Government did not model the cost of replacing aging coal fired power stations set to retire in coming years with non-renewable generation.
Whilst the smallest alleged transgressions by unions are broadcast from the rooftops, government corruption and corporate malfeasance are protected from scrutiny as evinced by the suppression order issued by the court (since removed after Wikileaks blew the whistle) forbidding the Australian media from making any mention of the ongoing corruption case involving RBA subsidiary Securency.
Even more incomprehensible is the government’s obdurate refusal to conduct an inquiry into the banks. The assertion that it would undermine confidence is ludicrous. The repeated wrongdoing by the banks is already in the public domain. If they have eliminated bad practice surely they could confidently show how. Investors should be encouraged knowing that financial institutions are being held to account.
These are just a few examples of how this government treats the people who elected them with contempt, how they spend our money with no accountability, and how they protect their own.
As Lord Acton said, “Everything secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show it can bear discussion and publicity.”