The Rann Government has refused to release almost 100 documents relating to the payout of more than $400,000 to Mister Rann’s former senior political ‘spin doctor,’ Randall Ashbourne, Shadow Treasurer Rob Lucas said today.
Mr. Ashbourne was one of the central figures with Attorney General Michael Atkinson in the Atkinson/Ashbourne/Clarke scandal which is still being investigated by a Legislative Council Select Committee.
“Just prior to the State Election, the Rann Government entered into a financial settlement with Mr. Ashbourne which cost taxpayers about $444,000. This sum included $45,500 as compensation for ‘loss of reputation’ and $17,500 to pay Mr. Ashbourne’s legal costs,” Mr. Lucas said.
“The Liberal Party sought copies of all documents, under Freedom of Information (FOI), relating to ‘possible financial costs or political consequences’ of settling or not settling the legal action taken by Randall Ashbourne against the South Australian Government.
“Rann Government agencies identified almost 100 separate documents relating to the FOI application, but only agreed to release five!
Mr. Lucas said that analysis of the agencies’ reasons for refusing access shows there are about 10 separate documents which involve Mr. Nick Alexandrides, who is the Chief of Staff in Premier Rann’s Ministerial Office.
These documents, which were not released, cover the period October and November 2005, just prior to the settlement with Mr. Ashbourne in the first week of December. In fact, the last document refers to an email on the day before the final recommendation went to the Premier from the Commissioner for Public Employment.
“It is obvious that Mr. Rann’s own office was actively engaged in some way in the whole process leading up to the payout to Mr. Ashbourne,” Mr. Lucas said.
“It is hard to believe that Mr. Rann himself wasn’t being advised on an ongoing basis.”
“Mr. Rann must now urgently release copies of the documents involving his Chief of Staff, Mr. Alexandrides, and indicate the nature of Mr. Rann’s involvement or the involvement of his office in the negotiation of the payout to Mr. Ashbourne.
“If Mr. Rann refuses to ‘come clean’ by releasing these documents, there will be a continuing suggestion he is trying to cover up something he doesn’t want to become public.”