Whew! I’d just published my opus on the seat of Wentworth when I saw Laurie Oakes break the sensational story that a former senior Queensland Liberal Party official had signed a statutory declaration that Senator George Brandis – Howard’s top public defender on children overboard – had privately called Howard a “lying rodent” on the matter. And the unpopular hard right Liberal member for the volatile Brisbane blue ribbon seat of Ryan (it fell to Labor briefly in 2001 before Howard did Tampa) had backed the good character of Brandis’s accuser!
Has Howard’s luck run out?
He’d stymied the “honesty” problem, at least in relation to the marginal seats he’s trying to hold or win, by associating the word “trust” with Labor’s old record on interest rates. Then one of his own throws the dead cat back in the ring, and Brandis has to, as usual, carry the can. (When you’re thinking about this story, remember to separate the motivation behind the allegation and the question of whether or not it is true. And watch this space.)
On the same day, Latham releases his blueprint for the return of “honest politics” to Australia. Poor George. He’s Howard’s attack dog on the committee which will hear from children overboard whistleblower Mike Scrafton at 9am tomorrow.
Here is Latham’s statement, which exposes to wider public attention another Howard lie – his promise in 1996 during a television debate with Paul Keating to appoint an independent Speaker (referee) to conduct meetings of the People’s House, the House of Representatives. Latham’s nicked that broken promise, but would he break it too if we voted him in? The best defence is to get a written undertaking from your Labor candidate that he or she would cross the floor if necessary to ensure this promise was kept.
See Machinery of Government: The Labor Approach for the 53 page text of Latham’s blueprint for cleaning up our democracy. What a strange name for a policy to bring back truth, duty and accountibility to Australian politics! Still, at least Latham, unlike Howard in 1996, put it in writing.
ALP PRESS RELEASE
Labor is today releasing a policy document called “Machinery of Government: The Labor Approach”. It is the most comprehensive statement ever released by an Australian Opposition party detailing how it will conduct itself in government. Labor is ready to govern, and we will do so with high standards of integrity and accountability as our guiding principles.
We will also provide more open government, involving the Australian people in the decision-making process.
The document covers areas including ministerial and parliamentary standards, the size and structure of the ministry, Cabinet functions, budget processes, and the role of ministerial staff.
We are determined to improve the poor ministerial standards of the Howard Government, particularly when it comes to truth and integrity.
The Howard Government has had major failings in ministerial accountability and responsibility. If you can’t provide honesty in government, you don’t deserve to lead the nation. Labor will restore truth and integrity to our national parliament and the system of government.
Our plan includes the following initiatives:
- A cap on the superannuation benefits of senior office holders, building on our reforms of the parliamentary superannuation scheme.
- Stricter standards of ministerial accountability.
- A ban on ministers from taking employment, for a period of 12 months after leaving office, with any company with which they had official dealings as a Minister in their last 12 months in office.
- The registration of lobbyists.
- An independent Speaker for the House of Representatives and improved Standing Orders.
- Holding regular Community Cabinet meetings and forums around Australia.
- Reform of the Freedom of Information Act to make it more open and democratic.
- An Independent Auditor of Parliamentary Allowances and Entitlements.
- Strict guidelines on government advertising to prevent it being used as political propaganda.
- Restoring the independence and effectiveness of the public service.