Shadow Treasurer Rob Lucas today condemned Mr Rann’s handling of the Atkinson/Ashbourne scandal which had now cost taxpayers about $400,000.
The Auditor-General, Ken MacPherson, in evidence to the Legislative Council Select Committee in August warned that the actions of Mr Rann had exposed the taxpayers of South Australia to a significant liability for unfair dismissal.
HON R.I. LUCAS: Was the Premier wrong to dismiss Mr Ashbourne, then?
MR MacPHERSON: I believe that the Premier ought to have suspended him.
HON R.I. LUCAS: In your view, then … does this leave the Government open to a significant unfair dismissal claim?
MR MacPHERSON: Of course it does.
Hon R.I. LUCAS: And considerable sums of money, too, I assume?
MR MacPHERSON: The Government is exposed to a liability, there is no question about that.
Hansard, 26 August 2005
Sadly for the taxpayers of South Australia the Auditor-General’s warning was accurate as the total cost to taxpayers of the Ashbourne legal settlement has been about $400,000.
The details of this extraordinarily large settlement and the reasons for the settlement should now be revealed publicly by Mr Rann. Mr Rann must also reveal whether the beleaguered Attorney-General Mr Atkinson excluded himself from all discussions about any possible settlement with Mr Ashbourne. It needs to be remembered that only recently Mr Ashbourne had indicated publicly that he might be a surprise witness at the Legislative Council Select Committee hearings looking at this issue. Mr Rann should also reveal whether confidentiality clauses were insisted on in the settlement.
The cynicism of the Rann Government is revealed for all to see with this announcement coming just days before Christmas and of course at a time when Mr Rann is on holidays and cannot be questioned.
Mr Rann’s handling of the Atkinson/Ashbourne scandal had been disgraceful right from the start when he tried to keep the whole scandal secret. Also, Mr Rann’s secret inquiry by Mr McCann was conducted in such an appalling way that critical evidence could not then be used in Mr Ashbourne’s criminal trial.
Mr Rann must now come out of hiding and answer the many unanswered questions on this scandal.
At a time when there is a need for more funding in mental health and for children with disabilities, taxpayers will be outraged at this needless waste of $400,000.
Given the hapless Mr Atkinson’s role in this whole affair, this is an another reason why he should do the right thing and resign.