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Monday, October 18, 2010

Christmas is coming

So too, apparently around the same time, the report on Federal parliamentary entitlements. By then the Government will have had it for eight months.

Katharine Murphy writing in The Age gives Minister Gray's ministry for the public service and integrity the title "Ministry of mess", and that's without even mentioning half the things for which he is responsible.

Murphy's version of entries in the minister's diary include:
Rescue what was for five whole minutes a bipartisan ''sort-of'' commitment to impose more integrity in areas such as political donations and electoral funding. (Good luck.)
Recover from the intense backlash the government faced when it watered down policing of government advertising; replace a highly respected official who left quietly at the height of the maelstrom; cut $60 million out of the aforementioned advertising budget; release a report due now that will give a flavour of the advertising spend in the countdown to the election. (What a hoot.)
Release a review of parliamentary perks - such as ''study'' tours to the south of France and Gold Passes, stuff that the previous minister kept locked in a maximum security vault for six months. The material is perceived to be so red-hot that it is currently the subject of two freedom-of-information requests. (Can't wait for that one.)
Murphy continues:
In a conversation I had with Gray about the job, several things became clear. He is a pragmatist, disinclined to rate purity over progress, and he has a firm grip on the poisoned chalice. He's commendably optimistic. He thinks it is possible to emerge with reform in this rainbow Parliament. There are grounds, he believes, for a ''civilised conversation''. The smart money should be on electoral reform heading off to be considered by a multiparty committee. All the things on his to-do list will be dealt with in sequence, he suggests. The report on perks and the government's response is likely to be out before Christmas. ''As soon as practicable,'' he says.
Clearly not a subject on which the minister thinks public input on the report before a government response might be helpful. But just on the off chance, I repeat:
Let's hope out of this that simplification and transparency including something along the lines of a single site monthly online publication of details of all payments and expenditure are the hallmarks of reform.  Putting it up and making it searchable by member along the lines of this Scottish Parliament system would be a step in the right direction.

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