Friday, September 21, 2012

Clover Moore, proud record on accountability and transparency

Clover Moore, my local independent member of state parliament and Lord Mayor of Sydney (disclosure I've made donations over the years), has been forced to relinquish her parliamentary position after another resounding win in local government elections earlier in the month. O'Farrell government legislation bans state parliamentarians from holding local government office, but not from holding a second job as quite a few do. Moore leaves state parliament having made outstanding contributions on many fronts as outlined in her Valedictory Speech in Parliament (12.38pm) yesterday. The Index lists 775 Moore speeches, questions and responses in Parliament since 1991.(There were more-she was first elected in 1988.) Improved accountability and transparency, including significant freedom of information reform were always part of the agenda:

I came to local and State government with a number of issues and concerns that included: equal rights and opportunities for all constituents; resident amenity, including the reduction of through traffic in residential areas and a better deal for public housing tenants; defending the public estate, especially the ongoing alienation of the public; development excellence and saving and renewing the best of our heritage; increasing facilities for a growing city population; and addressing the urban problems of homelessness and drug law reform. I remember when I went to see John Hatton—who is also in the gallery today—when I first considered contesting the seat of Bligh as an Independent. He told me, "I have a good feeling about you". He became my mentor and pushed the importance of accountability and transparency in government and always maintaining grassroots support.

I also acknowledge my Independent colleague Peter McDonald. Together with John Hatton, we held the balance of power between 1991 and 1995. Our groundbreaking charter of reform included the introduction of four-year fixed parliamentary terms and greater independence of the judiciary. We achieved the royal commission into police corruption, introduced whistleblower legislation, increased the independence of the Ombudsman and Auditor-General and established a legal services commissioner. These reforms were described as the most progressive in any Westminster system in the twentieth century. They are reforms that no major party will initiate without being forced to do so.
Those groundbreaking reforms in 1991 included freedom of information reform as set out in the charter that guaranteed support for the minority Greiner (then Fahey) government.  (1991 NSW documents). FOI changes included reduced time for processing applications from 45 days (21 years later this is still on the books in Victoria) to 21 days, stronger powers for the ombudsman, extension of FOI to fully cover local councils, and limited agency authority to refuse access on diversion of resources grounds.

Moore also listed her Freedom of Information (Open Government—Disclosure of Contracts) 2006  No 115 Act as one of her major accomplishments. In 2003 Moore unsuccessfully introduced into the NSW Parliament a Bill requiring public disclosure of government contracts. Just prior to the end of the 2005 Parliamentary sittings she re-introduced a new version of the bill. In 2006 with the then government in the hot seat over secrecy associated with the Cross City Tunnel contracts in Sydney, Moore's bill  was picked up and supported by the government and gave legal force to a requirement that information about contracts exceeding $150,000 to be posted on the web within 90 days. The act came into effect in January 2007, and continues as part of the NSW GIPA act.

Clover Moore, deprived of one position of power by legislation not the voters, is certain to continue to exercise influence way beyond Sydney and her position as lord mayor.


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