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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Some advances on the transparency front

Credit where due to the Federal Government and Special Minister of State Faulkner for these initiatives for improved transparency, even though the first two still fall short of a robust disclosure regime:
  • Publication of information on the web about aggregate cost of travel by office-holders
  • On line publication of the Register of Lobbyists
  • New guidelines on use of public money for government advertising include the requirement for publication on the web of Auditor General's assessment of compliance.In the light of the Howard Government's record in this department, a brownie point for trying to the Opposition spokesman who criticised the guidelines for failing to include the word"vet" .
But the recently released Code of Conduct for Ministerial Staff is silent on responsiveness to parliamentary committees, one of the issues Labor raised when in opposition. This was my assessment after Senate Estimates in February: "It sounds like there is some significant wriggle room regarding a pre election commitment that ministerial staff will be available to answer questions posed by parliamentary committees: this now seems only to be applied where a staffer has been improperly involved in executive decisions." The Code says staff are not to involve themselves in such matters. "This Government believes that within Minister's offices, it is Ministers who must make executive decisions, and it is Ministers who are and who should be accountable for those decisions,'' Senator Faulkner said.

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