This shows how far we have fallen. The federal government directed a civil servant to report on ‘sports rorts’. He did. The Minister resigned. Now the government refuses to release the report. They say it was given to them.
It is pathetic that Ministers of the Crown ask a civil servant to advise them on whether a Minister has breached standards of conduct. That would be like my asking my secretary or my clerk if my conduct was unprofessional or misconduct. It is worse when the Ministers act as if the opinion of the civil servant determines the issue. That is a matter for them. They cannot delegate their responsibility. They cannot outsource government – as they appear to be doing by having a soldier front the most important exercise in administration by any peace time government in our history. Then they purport to say that the fault of the Minister was of a technical nature, and not of the gross impropriety that we have come to accept when governments hand out money for their own party political purposes. (If you want a legal term, try breach of trust – or dishonesty.) Then the Ministers refuse to make public the advice on which they acted. They say that the report was prepared for them. But they, like the civil servant, are there for us. They have to account to us for how they have discharged their duty to us. (If you want a legal comparison, if the Ministers said they had acted on legal advice, they would be liable to be held to have waived any privilege in that advice.) It is appalling that a government can refuse to be candid with its electors while claiming to rely on an exception to a law meant to expand the rights of electors to find out what really drives government decisions.
There is no difference here between the parties or federal and state governments. We have people in power who have a problem with what responsible government means. To the extent that they understand it, they devote themselves to seeking to avoid it.