One hopes that a bikie-related double murder and the sudden death of a prominent member of the community was not what prompted Jon Stanhope’s office to push out this media release at 7.30pm last night.
Because if that was the reason it’s a hell of a way to run a town.
The release is a quick two fingers to everyone wanting to find out the thinking behind the “Functional Review“, the document under which the Stanhope Government has justified all sorts of things, including the school closures.
In claiming executive privilege, opposing a call from the Legislative Assembly for the Chief Minister to table the document, the Government maintains that the Functional Review is a Cabinet document which should remain confidential.
“The Government published the decisions made based on the Functional Review in the Budget Papers, particularly in the 2006-07 Budget, and has answered questions about those decisions in the Assembly and in Committees on many occasions,” said Chief Minister Jon Stanhope.
“It has also fielded questions and criticism from the public and the press.
“Cabinet confidentiality is a central plank of democracy in Australia, and of the Westminster system of government, along with the separation of powers between the Executive, the Parliament, and the Judiciary.
“Releasing the Functional Review Report would undermine fundamentally important principles of our system of government, and compromise the capacity of this, and future ACT Governments, to discharge their responsibilities properly.”
That’s some report, capable of undermining fundamentally important principles!
UPDATE: It seems this is setting the scene for a major bust-up between the Government and the Legislative Assembly. Here’s an advance look at what Jorian Gardner is saying in this week’s CityNews:
Chief sits tight on shock report
By Jorian Gardner
CHIEF Minister Jon Stanhope is squaring up for a confrontation with the will of the Assembly by stalling on making public the controversial “Costello report”.
On February 12, the Assembly passed a resolution calling on the Chief Minister to table the powerful, but never publicly seen, 2006 report “Strategic and Functional Review of the ACT Public Sector and Services”. It was prepared by former head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Michael Costello, at the time managing director of Actew Corporation.
Following continuous correspondence from the Speaker’s office, on March 17 the Chief Minister wrote to Speaker Shane Rattenbury advising him that the Government was still formulating a response.
“You would appreciate, however, that the impact of the Assembly’s resolution goes to the heart of the relationship between the Executive and the Legislature in the ACT, and to core issues of responsible government and Cabinet confidentiality in this jurisdiction,” the Chief Minister wrote.
However, despite assuring Mr Rattenbury the “the Government is giving its response to the Assembly’s resolution due attention, and will provide a considered response shortly”, the Chief Minister has moved suddenly and without further consultation to have the report declared privileged and therefore beyond public gaze.
Clearly irritated at weeks of delay and sensing some pushback from the Chief Minister, Speaker Rattenbury had earlier written to all members of the Assembly alerting them that he has “taken preliminary steps to arrange for the appointment of an independent legal arbiter”. It is open to any member of the Assembly to contest privilege, which is ultimately decided by the arbiter. “CityNews” understands that both the Greens and the Liberals are considering appealing the Government’s decision.
The Costello report was the blueprint to major structural but shockwave changes by the majority Labor Government including school closures, public service redundancies, the de-corporatisation of the ACT Tourism and the sale of the Government’s leasing company Rhodium Asset Solutions.
“I think members are beginning to wonder where this particular document is,”
Mr Rattenbury told “CityNews”.
The Assembly’s new Standing Order requires that documents with no claim of privilege should be lodged with the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, but where the Chief Minister considers a document to be privileged, a return is to be prepared giving details of the document and reasons for the claim of privilege.
“No one realistically envisaged it would take the Government this long to claim privilege,” Mr Rattenbury said.
“Currently, if the Government wanted to be difficult they could drag this out for some time.”
It would be rather amusing if the most Cromwellian of politicians ever to grace this town were to lose his head after a fight with the legislature.