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Allan Asher hanging up the boots

johnboy 20 October 2011 27

The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that the Commonwealth Ombudsman is in the process of resigning over his ill advised estimates collusion with Greens’ Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

Emails released last week showed he had written questions for the Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young about the conditions inside immigration detention centres and the lack of funding that prevented his office from performing its immigration overwatch role.

Senator Hanson-Young then asked Mr Asher those scripted questions when he appeared before a Senate estimates committee in May.

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said this morning that Mr Asher was yet to explain his actions adequately.

It’s a great shame he appears to have over-reached himself this way having had some useful things to say about public administration.

UPDATE: And the resignation is official.

‘It is with sadness that I made the decision to tender my resignation,’ Mr Asher said, ‘but I have done so because I recognise that the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s enduring strength lies in community confidence in its integrity.

‘I have always acted in the interest of those I have served and to bring about meaningful, broad ranging and long-term reforms to public administration. However, I accept that my actions prior to the May 2011 Budget Estimates hearing caused many in the community and the Parliament to call into question the impartiality of my office.

‘I regret deeply that my office’s reputation may have been damaged by my actions and apologise sincerely to my staff and to our clients. However, I do hope that some good will come of this incident by way of public discussion and debate about future funding and an appropriate accountability mechanism for the Commonwealth Ombudsman,’ he said.


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27 Responses to Allan Asher hanging up the boots
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Diggety Diggety 12:44 am 22 Oct 11

Thoroughly Smashed said :

poetix said :

I think Thoroughly Smashed was correcting your expression. It’s free rein, not reign. Free rein as in a horse, not as in a royal gone mad.

Actually, I wasn’t! Interestingly the “incorrect” form outnumbers the original form on google by 2:1. Ahh, the evolution of language…

No, I was amused by the notion that the prerequisite for forseeing Australia’s imminent destruction at the hands of the Greens is a severe brain injury.

Imminent destruction? No. Significant loss of life? Yes.

If you don’t believe me or understand, I’ll gladly answer!

http://greens.org.au/policies/climate-change-and-energy/climate-change-and-energy
http://greens.org.au/policies/climate-change-and-energy/nuclear

poetix poetix 4:30 pm 21 Oct 11

Thoroughly Smashed said :

poetix said :

I think Thoroughly Smashed was correcting your expression. It’s free rein, not reign. Free rein as in a horse, not as in a royal gone mad.

Actually, I wasn’t! Interestingly the “incorrect” form outnumbers the original form on google by 2:1. Ahh, the evolution of language…

No, I was amused by the notion that the prerequisite for forseeing Australia’s imminent destruction at the hands of the Greens is a severe brain injury.

Apologies for projecting my pedantry onto you. But the day I modify my English based on Google stats will be the day it rains champagne!

Diggety Diggety 3:52 pm 21 Oct 11

poetix said :

Diggety said :

Thoroughly Smashed said :

Diggety said :

I can’t believe the free reign the Greens are given.

Anyone with half a brain could tell you their policies would bring this nation to its knees- a bit more scrutiny is needed please.

Free reign?

Yeah, those ten MPs are running roughshod right over federal parliament.

Perhaps I should explain my comment a little better.

I meant “free reign” of the media (particularly Tony Jones, etc.). Greens policies aren’t as heavily scrutinized as the Liberal or Labor, this makes sense of course because the media never expected their policies to be implemented.

Now, we have a situation where they are indeed being adopted by the minority Government (or at least partially), and those policies had never undergone the type of heavy scrutiny typical in a run up to a federal election.

Dumb ideas have flown under the radar.

I think Thoroughly Smashed was correcting your expression. It’s free rein, not reign. Free rein as in a horse, not as in a royal gone mad.

What a waste of time.

Thoroughly Smashed Thoroughly Smashed 3:47 pm 21 Oct 11

poetix said :

I think Thoroughly Smashed was correcting your expression. It’s free rein, not reign. Free rein as in a horse, not as in a royal gone mad.

Actually, I wasn’t! Interestingly the “incorrect” form outnumbers the original form on google by 2:1. Ahh, the evolution of language…

No, I was amused by the notion that the prerequisite for forseeing Australia’s imminent destruction at the hands of the Greens is a severe brain injury.

poetix poetix 3:33 pm 21 Oct 11

Diggety said :

Thoroughly Smashed said :

Diggety said :

I can’t believe the free reign the Greens are given.

Anyone with half a brain could tell you their policies would bring this nation to its knees- a bit more scrutiny is needed please.

Free reign?

Yeah, those ten MPs are running roughshod right over federal parliament.

Perhaps I should explain my comment a little better.

I meant “free reign” of the media (particularly Tony Jones, etc.). Greens policies aren’t as heavily scrutinized as the Liberal or Labor, this makes sense of course because the media never expected their policies to be implemented.

Now, we have a situation where they are indeed being adopted by the minority Government (or at least partially), and those policies had never undergone the type of heavy scrutiny typical in a run up to a federal election.

Dumb ideas have flown under the radar.

I think Thoroughly Smashed was correcting your expression. It’s free rein, not reign. Free rein as in a horse, not as in a royal gone mad.

Holden Caulfield Holden Caulfield 3:19 pm 21 Oct 11

Grail said :

Annual reports, messages to ministers, what does the office need to do in order to get the funding required to perform the role it is intended to perform?

Well, he failed at being an independent Ombudsman, but if he was an independent MP, well, he’d probably get his funding!

Grail Grail 2:10 pm 21 Oct 11

breda said :

2. It was not a ‘minor indiscretion’ for the Ombudsman to secretly cook up questions with a senator to run his own agendas before an Estimates Committee. Otherwise, why did he resign?

OF COURSE HE’S GUILTY? WHY ELSE WOULD HE BE ON TRIAL?

Political pressure due to someone embarrassing you is not equivalent to something you did being a “fall on your sword” situation.

breda said :

3. The Ombudsman is not a public servant, but a statutory officer. Since his first priority is to be seen to be independent and impartial and to have the highest integrity, his sin was particularly heinous.

What recourse does he have when his consistent cries of not having enough funding to do the job go unheeded? http://www.ombudsman.gov.au/pages/publications-and-media/reports/annual/ar2009-10/chapter4.html#financialmanagement

Annual reports, messages to ministers, what does the office need to do in order to get the funding required to perform the role it is intended to perform?

Diggety Diggety 1:53 pm 21 Oct 11

Thoroughly Smashed said :

Diggety said :

I can’t believe the free reign the Greens are given.

Anyone with half a brain could tell you their policies would bring this nation to its knees- a bit more scrutiny is needed please.

Free reign?

Yeah, those ten MPs are running roughshod right over federal parliament.

Perhaps I should explain my comment a little better.

I meant “free reign” of the media (particularly Tony Jones, etc.). Greens policies aren’t as heavily scrutinized as the Liberal or Labor, this makes sense of course because the media never expected their policies to be implemented.

Now, we have a situation where they are indeed being adopted by the minority Government (or at least partially), and those policies had never undergone the type of heavy scrutiny typical in a run up to a federal election.

Dumb ideas have flown under the radar.

Thoroughly Smashed Thoroughly Smashed 1:29 pm 21 Oct 11

Diggety said :

I can’t believe the free reign the Greens are given.

Anyone with half a brain could tell you their policies would bring this nation to its knees- a bit more scrutiny is needed please.

Free reign?

Yeah, those ten MPs are running roughshod right over federal parliament.

Diggety Diggety 1:20 pm 21 Oct 11

I can’t believe the free reign the Greens are given.

Anyone with half a brain could tell you their policies would bring this nation to its knees- a bit more scrutiny is needed please.

dungfungus dungfungus 12:34 pm 21 Oct 11

After watching the charming Sarah H-Y on Lateline it was obvious that she used Allan Asher more than he thought he was using her. H-Y was able to put over some fantasy that Asher was aligned with her thinking on the alleged mental problems of aspiring “long term” refugees in detention. This matter is not in the public interest as H-Y claims; rather it is one of her radical personal opinions. Jones rightly corrected her when she attempted to liken Asher’s notes to a typical “Dorothy Dixer” in the lower house pointing out that Asher is not an elected MP but an independant public servant.
As for Mr. Asher, well as the saying goes, “there is no fool like an old fool”

Thumper Thumper 12:23 pm 21 Oct 11

Jones couldn’t even manage to dampen the lettuce leaf he was wielding and Hanson-Young pretty much had free reign to say what she wanted. As I said, it did neither any favours

I’m starting to wonder how the ABC can keep the likes of Jones.

Then again, it’s balanced somewhat by Sales and Uhlmann who both seem pretty sharp.

housebound housebound 12:07 pm 21 Oct 11

VicePope said :

Housebound #12 – if they are Labor supporters, they are supporters who show their affection by shooting the ALP in the foot at a time when it’s already limping. So I’d disagree.
My dealings suggest the office is solidly apolitical, although those working there are probably people who are more likely to give a damn about the way government agencies treat people. Good administration has no politics; nor does bad administration.

I have to admit, the conspiracy theorist suggestion was mischievous more than anything. Not sure how this incident shoots the ALP in the foot though, as it removes one source of criticism for a while.

Holden Caulfield Holden Caulfield 10:57 am 21 Oct 11

2604 said :

Holden Caulfield said :

Haven’t been following this too closely but it seems to me that SH-Yis getting out of jail free here. Where’s the heat on her?

She’d probably deal with the scrutiny the way the Greens always deal with scrutiny – by blaming the “hate media” and the rest of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, calling her opponents “bigots”, and acting like left-wing ideals are a substitute for probity and/or competence.

Almost. Not sure if you saw Lateline last night, but her interview with Tony Jones did neither of them any favours.

Jones couldn’t even manage to dampen the lettuce leaf he was wielding and Hanson-Young pretty much had free reign to say what she wanted. As I said, it did neither any favours.

VicePope VicePope 10:08 am 21 Oct 11

Housebound #12 – if they are Labor supporters, they are supporters who show their affection by shooting the ALP in the foot at a time when it’s already limping. So I’d disagree.
My dealings suggest the office is solidly apolitical, although those working there are probably people who are more likely to give a damn about the way government agencies treat people. Good administration has no politics; nor does bad administration.

housebound housebound 9:36 am 21 Oct 11

It seems that the whole thing has brought into question the political independence of the whole office, not just Asher himself. He presumably acted on advice of at least his senior staff (or in consultation with them), and one of them may have colluded with the ALP. Even though he gets the push, as the leader, we’re now talking about independence of the office and the position.

A conspiracy theorist might start to suspect a set-up. Is the Ombudsman’s office a hotbed of labor sympathisers?

Chop71 Chop71 9:31 am 21 Oct 11

breda said :

Bit of an own goal for Hanson Young, but no surprises there. She is as dumb as a box of rocks.

Now, that’s not fair to the rocks!!!

VicePope VicePope 8:57 am 21 Oct 11

A point well made AG, about senators not getting it during Estimates. The focus on the peripheral and the trivial is a waste of time, even if it is amusing to watch.
But, on your first point, could Mr Asher simply have included in his annual report a factual statement about the effect of demands on his office, in the context of limited resources and an efficiency dividend that is commonly considered to operate unfairly on smaller agencies spending most of their funds on salary? A media release could have drawn attention to it and that would have provoked thoughtful questions at estimates, without any suggestion of underhand behaviour.

AG Canberra AG Canberra 7:21 am 21 Oct 11

The shameful part of this episode is that Mr Asher felt the only way he could get enough money for the proper operation of the Ombudsman’s office was to provide a couple of ‘Dorothy-Dixers’ to SHY. .

Many public servants have sat and watched Estimates and been frustrated to the point of tears when the Senators just don’t seem to get it….They always seem to ask the run of the mill questions and not the ones that actually get to the nub of the issue.

breda breda 12:35 am 21 Oct 11

Deref said:

This is a bloody disgrace. A politician who made such a minor indiscretion wouldn’t even get a slap on the wrist, but a dedicated and respected public servant is forced to resign. A particularly virulent pox on both their houses.

—————————————————————————————————
Wrong, wrong and wrong.

1. A politician and a statutory officer do not have the same constraints on their behaviour. What Hanson-Young did was stupid and unethical, but that is not a sacking offence for a politician.

2. It was not a ‘minor indiscretion’ for the Ombudsman to secretly cook up questions with a senator to run his own agendas before an Estimates Committee. Otherwise, why did he resign?

3. The Ombudsman is not a public servant, but a statutory officer. Since his first priority is to be seen to be independent and impartial and to have the highest integrity, his sin was particularly heinous.

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