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Sir Laurence Street to decide on the release of the functional review

johnboy 8 April 2009 38

[First filed: March 28, 2009 @ 10:18]

There’s no way that the functional review, should it ever be released, will live up to the expectation generated by the saga of its secrecy.

But it’s become the rope in a much needed tug-of-war between executive and parliament here in the ACT. It’s fascinating watching a quintessential round-head like Jon Stanhope playing the role of King Charles while the cavaliers of the Liberal party form up a New Model Army with the Greens.

The Canberra Times reports that in the next step in the battle the Former NSW Supreme Court chief justice (turned professional investigator/reviewer) Sir Laurence Street* has been appointed under the new transparency regime to be an independent arbiter and decide the matter.

Street’s got to be costing a pretty penny but even our Chiefly Leader will struggle to get on his high horse and dismiss the findings should they go against him.

UPDATED: The CT now reports that the fast moving Sir Laurence has found in favour of the executive. The reasons won’t be published until they can be tabled at the next sitting on 5 May.

ANOTHER UPDATE: His Chiefliness is being rather gracious in victory.

* In full that’s Sir Laurence Whistler Street AC, KCMG, QC, HFAIB, KStJ. If you’re unfamiliar with those old initials we’ve got a Companion of the Order of Australia, Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George, Queen’s Counsel, Honorary Fellow of the Australian Institute of Building, and Knight of the Order of St. John.


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38 Responses to Sir Laurence Street to decide on the release of the functional review
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imhotep imhotep 11:54 am 28 Mar 09

One brownie point to the Greens for this initiative.

(From the CT article) “Mr Stanhope has repeatedly refused to disclose it” (the review which resulted in school closures), “and said this week its disclosure would be disastrous, as it would lead to governments not requesting detailed reports to make budget decisions out of fear they would be released.

The ACT is not Burma, the ACT Assembly is not the Pentagon. Why shouldn’t we see the reports which the Assembly uses to make decisions?

If the reports are based on accurate data, and the conclusions are well argued, what is there to worry about?

taninaus taninaus 5:58 pm 28 Mar 09

Will be interesting to watch and see what he comes up with – I swear this report has got more myth about it than the average urban myth. I think it will be dissapointing if it is released and what else will the libs/greens get to b#@%$h about then! Government’s make decisions – sometimes we don’t like it – but that’s there job. if we don’t like it then take it up at the next ballot box if there is anyone better on offer.

housebound housebound 8:23 am 29 Mar 09

I wouldn’t get too excited. The report, or bits thereof, will be relased only if it is in the public interest. So how is ‘public interest’ defined in the ACT? I’m not sure it is.

This review should not have been commissioned until the Assembly created a definition of public interest that didn’t include reasons along the lines of ‘it might cause debate in the community’ (or similar).

As for giving brownie points to the Greens for this – it has to go this way because they wouldn’t support the Libs motion in the Assembly at the end of last year that would have forced ALP to table the report in its entirety. It could have been public as of December last year.

Granny Granny 1:27 pm 29 Mar 09

Sir Laurence had a battleaxe with great big knobs on;
He went among the government and bopped them on the head.
On Wednesday and Saturday, but mostly on the latter day,
He called at all the offices, and this is what he said:

“I am Sir Laurence!” (ting-ling)
“I am Sir Laurence!” (rat-tat)
“I am Sir Laurence, as bold as lion –
Take that! – and that! – and that!”

*swoon*

Thumper Thumper 3:16 pm 08 Apr 09

If the reports are based on accurate data, and the conclusions are well argued, what is there to worry about?

And there in, it would seem, lies Stanhope’s refusal to allow its release.

Woody Mann-Caruso Woody Mann-Caruso 5:38 pm 08 Apr 09

Boo hoo. Do you all cry this much every time a Cabinet document is kept secret? When you were told from the get-go that it would be a Cabinet document? When an eminent independent arbiter has concluded that it shouldn’t (or doesn’t need to) be released? Life must be a never-ending series of disappointments.

ant ant 12:34 am 09 Apr 09

Sir Laurence is a decent old stick. smart, eccentric and very bright. I have an anecdote, but shan’t share it. But I do trust him to do what’s expected, with a sharp eye on what’s right.

Granny Granny 12:47 am 09 Apr 09

Good stuff, ant!

: )

Clown Killer Clown Killer 6:52 am 09 Apr 09

This was a no-brainer. I can describe exactly how the investigation went:

Sir Lawrence Street: What sort of document is it that I’m being asked to decide whether or not it should be made public?

Government official: It’s a Cabinet Document Sir.

SLS: A Cabinet document you say.

GO: Yes Sir.

SLS: Well that was a quick investigation then wasn’t it.

GO: Yeas sir. Should Idraft a press release?

monomania monomania 9:23 am 09 Apr 09

Granny said :

Sir Laurence had a battleaxe with great big knobs on;
He went among the government and bopped them on the head.

Well he’s bopping for the government now.

Woody Mann-Caruso Woody Mann-Caruso 9:31 am 09 Apr 09

He couldn’t possibly be bopping with the right answer then, could he?

monomania monomania 10:23 am 09 Apr 09

Woody Mann-Caruso said :

He couldn’t possibly be bopping with the right answer then, could he?

Possibly in this case. The Government’s case in suppressing information in the ACT v Queanbeyan – Water War -The Death Match was that among other things

a) it would be against the public interest to disclose the contents of the material.

What were we not to find out. That it was a cynical attempt to further treat water consumers as cash cows by taxing their water.

imhotep imhotep 7:12 pm 09 Apr 09

(From the press release) “Cabinet confidentiality is a central plank of democracy in Australia and of the Westminster system of government…” Mr Stanhope said.

Since when is secrecy a ‘central plank of democracy’?

I can understand governments occasionally withholding information on security or privacy grounds, even the ‘commercial in confidence’ line might be valid sometimes, but what factors could be in this decision that would not be in the public interest to know?

I would say an open decision making process is a central plank of democracy, not cabinet confidentiality.

Woody Mann-Caruso Woody Mann-Caruso 8:03 pm 09 Apr 09

Since when is secrecy a ‘central plank of democracy’?

Privilege is not secrecy.

Open decision-making has three elements – the decision-maker is known, the decision is known and their reasons for the decision are known. You don’t need to see every bit of paper they considered when reaching the decision, or see a record of their conversations: only who made it, what it is, and why they made it. None of this is secret, and this meets the requirements of ‘public interest’.

If you don’t understand why executive privilege is an important principle for democratic powers to uphold, you’re not really sufficiently informed to comment one way or the other. But just as Rioters know more about climate than real climate scientists, I’m sure you all know more about the law than Sir Laurence.

imhotep imhotep 8:07 pm 09 Apr 09

Hmm, let me see, WMC. What are you an expert on. Trolling on message boards? Well, that’s a skill I suppose.

.

ricci ricci 11:11 am 12 Apr 09

I’m with imhotep’s view.

Woody Mann-Caruso Woody Mann-Caruso 4:34 pm 12 Apr 09

Come back when you’ve got postgrad qualifications in government and management, have spent a bit over five years doing probity reviews of administrative decision-making processes, have experience providing research support to a former Justice doing the same and have advised QCs in the Federal Court about administrative reviews and we’ll talk.

Tens of thousands of people infinitely wiser than us – people who’ve built entire nations from scratch – have supported the principle of executive privilege under various names for longer than you or I have even been alive. If you think you’ve got some amazing insight into the principle that warrants it being overturned – something that’s never, ever occurred to any of these very smart people, that Sir Laurence has happened to overlook, something we’ve all overlooked in administering parliamentary democracies around the world, by all means, speak up and have your arrogance justified.

I have enough experience to know that Sir Laurence knows what he’s talking about – go back to earlier threads on this issue and you’ll find we were in full agreement before his review was even announced. What have you got that makes you think you’re more qualified and experienced than he is? A chip on your shoulder about Stanhope and a sense of indignant outrage?

The world’s full of experts, mate. Find what you’re good at and stick to it, because with your current level of knowledge and experience, this isn’t it.

Thumper Thumper 5:31 pm 12 Apr 09

Although I think Stanhope may be hiding something here, I actually agree with WMC….

imhotep imhotep 6:32 pm 12 Apr 09

Woody Mann-Caruso said :

(WMC)”Tens of thousands of people infinitely wiser than us – people who’ve built entire nations from scratch – have supported the principle of executive privilege under various names for longer than you or I have even been alive.”

We’re not talking about wise men building nations here WMC, we are talking about what is essentially a local government infrastrucure decision. It’s a bit rich to invoke the ‘principles of democracy’ and ‘The Westminster System’ when all you’re really trying to do is use a legal dodge to avoid tabling an embarrassing document.

As to the rest of your rant WMC, you seem to spend most of your time on RiotAct feigning outrage at the ignorance of most of the posters here. Given your claimed CV, I wonder you stay here at all. Isn’t there a special board for angry faux-intellectuals?

Clown Killer Clown Killer 7:11 pm 12 Apr 09

There’s always a minority of fools who want to deliberately misunderstand the accepted principals of democracy in favor of the expedience of crass politics – and then there’s the rest who understand how the cabinet rules work. There’s nothing stopping those who want to see the contents of the ‘functional review’ waiting the 30 years until it is released – in the meantime they can concentrate on crying me a river.

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