Liberals promise to investigate Ashbourne files
Tuesday, 14 February 2006
The Government has refused to release 26 of 29 documents requested under Freedom of Information (FOI) laws relating to the taxpayer-funded settlement with the Premier’s former adviser Randall Ashbourne, Shadow Treasurer Rob Lucas said today.
But the three documents that were released reveal Mr Ashbourne was paid at least $443,500, including all of his legal bills totalling $17,500. Mr Lucas said that a future Liberal Government would review the Ashbourne files “very closely.”
The settlement late last year followed Mr Ashbourne’s claim for unfair dismissal from his position as Senior Adviser to the Premier. The Liberal Party last month lodged the FOI request for all documents relating to ‘possible financial costs or political consequences of settling or not settling the legal action taken by Randall Ashbourne against the SA Government’.
Mr Lucas said the Premier should explain what he and his Government are desperate to hide by not releasing all the documents.
“Last week the Government confirmed there were 29 such documents but refused access to 26 of them, and gave only partial access to one further document,” Mr Lucas said.
“Mr Rann must now explain what he and his Government are desperate to hide by refusing to release these documents.
“There is definitely something suspicious about a Government which boasts it is open and accountable and then refuses access to so many documents which refer to the ‘political consequences or financial costs’ of this controversial settlement with Mr Ashbourne.
“One document that was released confirms the total cost to taxpayers was at least $443,500. For the first time, the Government has been forced to reveal that taxpayers had to pay all the legal costs incurred by Mr Ashbourne ($17,500).
“This document also revealed that the Premier was involved – and was being briefed personally on the details of the proposed settlement – until just before agreement was reached. In fact it was not until 2 December 2005 that the Premier delegated responsibility to the Commissioner for Public Employment to finalise the agreement.”
Mr Lucas said a future Liberal Government would open up and take a very close look at all the files relating to the Government’s settlement with Mr Ashbourne.
“A Liberal Government will need to open up all relevant files to ensure proper processes have been followed and that political considerations for Mr Rann have not improperly or inappropriately been a factor in the settlement,” he said.