This time last week I received a bewildering email from the Chancellor of the University of Queensland (who I had a few days met for the first time at the launch of Queensland Speaks one of Peter Spearitt’s online history projects) telling me that the Vice-Chancellor was going to resign because of something someone else did.
The university must have sent the email out to all of its alumni, perhaps to pre-empt the media coverage.
What apparently happened was that entry standards were changed to allow a relative of the Vice Chancellor, Paul Greenfield, to enter the medical faculty as an undergraduate student, but the Vice Chancellor apparently had nothing to do with it. He was in fact on leave at the time and Professor Michael Keniger was acting in his position. Keniger apparently had nothing to do with it either.
Yet, despite the fact that apparently neither of these could have known until after the fact that the wrong-doing had happened they accepted responsibility for it and resigned.
This is the way that ministers of the crown are supposed to behave when wrong-doing occurs while they are in charge – that’s the Westminster way – but when was the last time this happened?
For example, in Queensland we’ve had an ongoing debacle over health where health workers have not received their proper pay for months because of the botched implementation of a new payroll system. This debacle and the aftermath has been overseen by a number of ministers, none of whom has resigned, even though by Westminster standards they should have.
Likewise, the revelations from the Australian Wheat Board scandal should have seen a ministerial resignation, but didn’t as should the Pink Batts affair.
In fact, the last minister that I can recall being called to the Westminster standard of account was David Jull, who resigned after a problem was revealed in the travel accounts of some parliamentarians even though he had done nothing to facilitate the irregularities.
Until last week I thought that the remnants of the Westminster theory of responsibility had probably been interred with David Jull who died in September this year. Apparently not – the University of Queensland still honours them.