An increasingly arrogant Rann Government continues to snub its nose at Parliamentary accountability by refusing to answer almost 700 questions on notice in the Parliament.
Liberal Member of the Legislative Council Rob Lucas said today that some of the questions had been unanswered for periods of up to five years and, to mark the occasion, Premier Rann would be receiving a ‘Fifth Anniversary Card’ to mark the fifth anniversary of the first question lodged in December 2002.
“As at December 2007 there were 680 unanswered questions on notice to Rann Government Ministers on the Legislative Council notice paper. In fact, this year the Government only answered two of 180 new questions I placed on notice,” Mr Lucas said.
This refusal to answer questions together with widespread refusal to provide documents under Freedom of Information legislation and refusal by Mr Rann and other Members to speak to sections of the media make it clear Mr Rann is now leading the most secretive Government in this state’s history.
“Some of the areas covered by these questions include:
• Details of long-service leave liability including the highest level of untaken leave for any employee;
• Capital spending splurges by departments at the end of the financial year;
• Details of public servants, who had received separation packages, then being re-employed as contractors;
• Details of Ministerial office budgets, including costs of office renovations after the 2002 election and staff costs, being hidden by getting the department to pay for them;
• Details of Ministers’ overseas travel including costs being met by departments and not the Ministerial office budget as well as whether staff or Ministers extended travel for private purposes;
• Details on Thinkers in Residence programs, government advertising costs, frequent flyer point usage, short term contract and trainee positions.
“For decades, governments in South Australia, both Labor and Liberal, have generally responded to most questions on notice within a reasonable time frame.
“However, the increasingly arrogant Rann Government is the first government ever to just decide to refuse to answer hundreds of questions for up to five years.
“It is obvious that Mr Rann is desperate to cover up embarrassing information from becoming public.
“There are many examples of what he is hiding, including:
• In 2003 and 2004, answers showed departments were spending up to 67 per cent of their capital works budget in a last minute spending spree in June. As a result, Mr. Rann has refused to answer similar questions for 2005 and 2006.
• Ministers are deliberately and significantly understating the true cost of their Ministerial office budgets by directing their departments to pay for significant costs, e.g. Minister Wright in 2004 had his department pay for the salaries of 10 of his office staff whilst reporting his total Ministerial office budget was only $1.1 million. As a result, virtually all Ministers have refused to provide answers in recent years.
“If Mr Rann refuses to come clean by releasing overdue answers to these questions, it will be clear he is trying to cover up issues he doesn’t want becoming public.”
“As a result of Mr Rann’s arrogance, the Legislative Council’s Budget and Finance Committee has had to try and get answers to some of these questions by bypassing Mr Rann and quizzing public servants.”
For reference: Labor’s Plan for Honesty in Government (2002)
“We will lift standards of honesty, accountability and transparency in Government.”
“Secrecy can provide the cover behind which waste, wrong priorities, dishonesty and serious abuse of public office may occur.”
“A good Government does not fear scrutiny or openness.”