Thursday, December 11, 2014

Australia's absurd secrecy

In New Zealand, Ministerial expenses are proactively released and a matter of public record. Anyone can see where our Ministers have been, where they stayed, and (in many cases) what they had for dinner. Its considered a basic matter of accountability for their use of public money.

in Australia, its a different story. Over there, they think such basic information is a matter of national security:

The Abbott government is refusing to release documents detailing the cost and purpose of overseas travel by Coalition ministers, claiming they could "cause damage to Australia's international relations" if made public.

The government-wide clampdown comes after embarrassing details of Education Minister Christopher Pyne's lavish trip to London and Rome with his wife were revealed by Fairfax Media in September.

In a letter, the government leader in the Senate, Eric Abetz, refused a request to table correspondence between Prime Minister Tony Abbott's office and ministers concerning approval of international travel by members of the executive.

The blanket refusal has been made despite freedom of information officers in the Education Department seeing no impediment to the release of expense details of Mr Pyne's $30,000 trip to London and Rome in April.

This is a new low even for Australia: the Gillard government routinely released such information. But the Coalition favours secrecy so as to prevent stories about Ministers dining in expensive restraunts on the public credit card. And so miraculously, their political problem becomes a "national security" issue (stopping Ministers from abusing public money in this way appears not to have occurred to them).

In New Zealand, our government couldn't get away with that. They'd be laughed out of town, and the Ombudsman would tell them to obey the law and release. Australia lacks such checks and balances, which means that all they have are leaks.