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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Open government laws that work better protection from liars

According to today's papers, Julian Burnside QC, in speaking to the Future Summit in Melbourne brought the house down with his suggestion: "If we really want to make things better, I suggest we introduce a law that makes it an offence for politicians to lie".

Burnside apparently is serious. He says that the provision in the Trade Practices Act that makes it an offence for companies to engage in misleading or deceptive conduct provides the basis for his idea that politicians should be held to those same standards.

We all know this idea isn't going anywhere, but that in itself is a comment on the cynicism widely felt about what politicians say and do.

Transparency and open government laws that work offer better prospects of holding our political leaders to account.

A quick Google fails to reveal anyone who has written the book about lies and Australian politics, but plenty of examples will come to mind including "children overboard" and others. It's not clear whether porkies about political intentions would be caught by Burnside's proposal but Nicholson's "Dancing on lies" says it all.

In the US, lies from those in the Oval Office have been explored in many books, recently in Carl Cannon's "Untruth and Consequences". There is an imposing list that goes far beyond Nixon and Watergate, and Clinton ("I did not have sexual relations with that woman").

Of course history is still unfolding about Iraq.

So far only the Chief of Staff to the US Vice President has been convicted (of perjury).

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