Accountability and transparency? Gunner government gets a Fail grade so far

The Gunner Labor government came to office last August promising to restore the trust of Territorians in government, after it had been shattered by four years of chaos, division and dubious or worse ethical behaviour by various members of the Giles CLP regime. Enacting and boosting safeguards ensuring accountability and transparency were to be at the forefront of the new Government’s program.

After 9 months in office, how are they going? In my assessment the record is none too impressive.

MLAs’ financial interests

A modest but worthwhile initiative to publish MLAs’ registrable interests (financial and property) online has been implemented. However it appears that it will only be published online annually, whereas the Legislative Assembly (Disclosure of Interests) Act requires any alteration of interests to be notified to the Clerk within 28 days. Accordingly the online register is of extremely limited value as a transparency/accountability measure. There is no obvious reason why the online Register should not be updated in real time so we are in a position to know whether a MLA has a conflict of interest in performing his or her duties to Territorians.

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Dan Murphy’s, proper purposes and political donations

Today’s Northern Territory News has a front page story revealing that “liquor giant Dan Murphy’s will take on the NT government in the federal court in a bid to open a store in Darwin”.

Like another current controversy featured here concerning CLP government interference in public service appointments, this story also raises important questions about government probity, transparency and accountability. However it relates to actions by the new Gunner Labor government rather than the CLP.

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Political operatives ordered public service boss

A significant aspect of transparent and accountable public governance involves a public sector that is not only efficient but fair and not subject to undue politicisation.  In that context there is an important story by Christopher Walsh in today’s Northern Territory News titled “Political operatives ordered public service boss“:

“COMMISSIONER for Public Employment Craig Allen took part in initiating a month-long hiring freeze at the request of political operatives in order to consider a restructure of government departments that never eventuated.”

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Gunner’s faceless men

Chris Walsh from the Northern Territory News had an interesting article in yesterday’s Sunday Territorian claiming that “faceless men in Chief Minister Michael Gunner’s office” were having undue influence over the process of developing the forthcoming NT Budget, telling departmental CEOs how many millions of dollars they are required to cut from their forward budgets instead of the relevant Cabinet ministers undertaking that task.

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Ministerial Code of Conduct

A clear Ministerial Code of Conduct is one part of the armoury of democratic checks and balances needed to ensure open and accountable government. The Northern Territory has not until recently had one. However, the adoption of a Ministerial Code of Conduct was one of the recommendations of the Lawler Inquiry called by the previous Country Liberal government in relation to the so-called Stella Maris Affair in an apparent (and surprisingly successful) attempt to torpedo the political career of then Opposition Leader Delia Lawrie.

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Regulating donations to political parties

Author: Dr Danial Kelly

Public concerns and suspicions about the potential of influence, undue or benign, of political donations seem to be on the rise. Disengagement with mainstream politics by the electorate is manifest, partly due to distrust of politicians and integrity of government. I don’t hear anyone claiming the current state of politics or electoral campaign behaviours to be healthy or conducive to good governance.

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Anti-corruption commissions (ICAC)

Author: Eric Withnall

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (‘ICAC’), as a conceptual part of the Australian legal system, poses an existential threat to corrupt politicians and public servants, and those that deal with them, by redefining the judicial rules of engagement when it comes to sophisticated public graft. Described as a ‘permanent Royal Commission’, a model ICAC can result in unprecedented revelations of corruption at the highest levels of government – albeit at the expense of the legal protections afforded to every Australian by the justice system.

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