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Friday, February 01, 2008

Payments of public money should be in the public domain

Verona Burgess in today's Australian Financial Review reports that the Federal Auditor General has again drawn attention to the fact that the remuneration of ministers and executive officers are not included in the Government's Consolidated Financial Statements. Burgess continues:
"You'd certainly hope the Rudd Government would take (the Auditor General's suggestions for change) on board. There is no secret about ministerial salaries or allowances, so disclosure shouldn't be a problem, while the cult of secrecy around the salary packages of senior public servants and other commonwealth executives needs to be dismantled.

If it is good enough for the corporate sector to reveal the details, it is surely good enough for the commonwealth.

And since Rudd is planning to abolish performance pay for senior public servants as well as the secret Australian workplace agreements that now apply to the entire Australian Public Service senior executive service, there is an opportunity for improved transparency before he loses his first-term appetite for accountability"
Hear hear.

But don't stop there. In addition we need the details of public money paid to and spent by members of parliament, not just the hard to get six monthly travel report prepared by the Department of Finance. One of the weaknesses in the system is that the Federal (and all the state and territory) parliaments are excluded from freedom of information legislation. The Australian Law Reform Commission recommended that this be rectified 12 years ago.

The UK Information Commissioner has recently ordered disclosure of more detailed information about allowances paid to MPs and the Parliamentary Standards overseer has put MPs on notice that they must introduce more transparent rules and a system of checks on how MPs spend allowances and expenses.

Hear hear again!

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