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Friday, March 12, 2010

Tony Fitzgerald speaks in the search for a Button and a Missen

There aren't too many respected voices on the issue of integrity up there with former anti-corruption Royal Commissioner and judge Tony Fitzgerald QC, so these comments  about the state of the game in a speech reported by ABC News  deserve attention:
"Decisions favouring special interests are common. Secrecy and misinformation, euphemistically called 'spin' are routinely employed," he said."Media management as it's called, insults and confuses the electorate, which is denied the comprehensive accurate information which is essential to the proper functioning of democracy. "Most, if not all conventions concerning standards of political conduct, which the Westminster system once incorporated, such as ministerial responsibility are obsolescent.".. "The prevailing political culture is increasingly amoral with each party lowering its standards, exploiting gaps in the law and disregarding ethical standards in order to compete."... "I suppose my concerns are really more with Commonwealth and State governments than with local authorities, although obviously the integrity of local authorities is of paramount concern to local residents."
Fitzgerald was launching an initiative of the Accountability Round Table, designed to reward Federal politicians for honour and integrity, with nominations closing 11 April. Criteria for a Button, for ministers and frontbenchers, named for the late John Button (left) or a Missen (the late Liberal member from Victoria Allan Missen, a powerful  and persistent voice for FOI in the 70s-80s, amongst other causes) for backbenchers are below. Laurie Oakes scratched his head to come up with only two potential nominees, Defence Minister Faulkner for his reform initiatives as Special Minister of State, and Liberal backbencher Petro Georgio. Olga Galacho in the Herald Sun wonders if anyone can meet the standards, and definitely rules out Science Minister Kim Carr.  Readers' comments (within the bounds of the law, please) and suggestions welcome.
The award winner will, in the relevant period, have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to the public interest in the performance of his or her role with Honesty, Civility, Independence and/or Political Courage, in one or more of the following areas
•    Supporting the principles and practice of transparent and accountable government
•    Contributing effectively and constructively to parliamentary debate, committee deliberations and/or policy development in a way that promotes and/or supports good parliamentary practice and the institution of parliament.
•    Pursuing a change in government policy or practice whether generally or in response to a constituency issue or injustice.
•    Protecting peoples’ political and civil rights


  1. Bunsen7:56 am

    It is impossible to understand how Mr Fitzgerald's words could ever be misconstrued.
    His are careful and profoundly accurate.

    The only part of his statement that could be argued is his supposition that democracy here, so far, is only 'bent'.
    I submit that it is utterly destroyed - carefully torn asunder.

    A person could make the time to give some instances here about how agencies of government/governance have either been corporatised or dispersed - so that any responsibility or ability to act decently is completely neutered.
    But that is the beauty of the modern E- world.

    So easy to use that incredibly capable organisational network to deny the merits of any person's particular case and isolate that person from any future means of achieving any just outcome.

    Therefore, it is exactly as Fitzgerald says except that he, being of the law, was not prepared to make the final condemnation.
    Best regards - Bunsen

  2. Anonymous8:39 pm

    As for nominations for politicians with integrity - how about Greens Leader Bob Brown? He has stood up for many issues of social injustice, even when it made him tremendously unpopular- e.g. standing up for Mahmoud Habib and free speech during George W Bush's visit to the Australian Parliament, which got him kicked out (with fellow Greens Senator Kerry Nettle). Now that's political courage.

  3. Peter Timmins10:21 pm

    Brown would have to be a contender. And Xenophon on the cross benches.