The Rann Government had refused to answer in excess of 2,500 questions on notice in the Parliament, some of which had been first asked seven years ago in December 2002.
“Whilst official records have not been kept, it is clear the Rann Government has set the record for having the most unanswered questions ever at the end of a Parliamentary year,” Shadow Minister for Finance Rob Lucas said today.
“This is an increasingly arrogant Rann Government snubbing its nose at any pretext of Parliamentary accountability by simply refusing to answer important questions.
“As at December 2009 there were 1,266 unanswered questions on notice to Rann Government Ministers on the Legislative Council Notice Paper.
“Add to this extraordinary figure a further 1,306 unanswered questions on notice from the House of Assembly and the tally quickly rises to an extraordinary 2,572 important unanswered questions.
“Given the Rann Government’s refusal to answer questions in the lead up to the March 2010 State Election, it is clear that Mr Rann has something to hide.
“It would appear that South Australia is fast becoming the nation’s ‘Secret State’ under Mr Rann and his unaccountable Labor Government.
“It is now clear that the only way that Parliamentary accountability can be ensured is if Standing Orders in both the House of Assembly and the Legislative Council are amended to force Ministers to reply within a fixed time period.”
Mr Lucas said that most other jurisdictions in Australia now have set time limits of about 30 calendar days within which Ministers have to respond, as outlined in the following table:
Parliament Time to answer
New South Wales 35 calendar days
Victoria 30 calendar days
Queensland 30 calendar days
Senate 30 calendar days
ACT 30 calendar days*
West Australia 9 sitting days
* If not answered within 30 days, Minister has to explain reasons to Parliament
Examples of some of the questions unanswered by the Rann Government include:
• Details of frequent flyer point usage by Ministers;
• Details of total payments made to Bruce Carter, David Cappo and Ian Kowalick;
• Details of long-service leave liability including the highest level of untaken leave for any employee;
• Details of public servants, who had received separation packages, then being re-employed as contractors;
• 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 of Thinkers in Residence programs, government advertising costs, short term contract and trainee positions.
“Increasingly, Members of Parliament have had to resort to using Freedom of Information laws to try to get answers to some of these many unanswered questions,” Mr Lucas said.
“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 thousands of questions for up to seven years.
“It is obvious that Mr Rann is desperate to cover up embarrassing information from becoming public.
“Mr Rann and the Labor Party should explain publicly why they have broken their commitment to be open and accountable.”
After all, it was Mr Rann who said in his 2002 Plan for Honesty in Government:
“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.”