March 03, 2014 | Graham

Integrity Commissioner an “abject” lesson in why purges happen

Queensland’s Integrity Commissioner David Solomon has been on the gravy train most of his life – a state he defines as “nepotism” – but now in his twilight years with a non-Labor government in charge, he’s decided the Queensland government has a nepotism crisis, and the ALP state leader agrees.

Solomon is a lawyer and journalist who was Gough Whitlam’s press secretary. He first came to Queensland to chair Wayne Goss’s Electoral and Administrative Reform Commission in 1992. And in 2007 was chair of a Anna Bligh’s panel to review freedom of information legislation. In 2009 he was appointed for 5 years as the Integrity Commissioner, again by Anna Bligh.

So it’s perhaps no surprise that with time running down on his clock, and the Queensland government suddenly looking vulnerable, he was happy to be the inaugural speaker to the Queensland Labor Party’s proprietary think-tank, the T J Ryan Foundation, and that he delivered a speech suggesting that current government has a nepotism problem.

Journalists were quick to amplify his message, with AAP weaving the Michael Caltabiano/Ben Gommers saga into it, (although ultimately that episode was about lying to parliament, not nepotism at all).

The incident abounds in irony. Not only was Solomon Gough Whitlam’s press secretary, but it was Whitlam who started the practice of replacing public service heads with loyalists with the appointment of Dr Peter Wilenski in as secretary of the Department of Labor and Immigration in 1975.

In analysing nepotism in Queensland Solomon was happy to reach back to Wayne Goss’s time, or criticise appointments of the Newman Government, but he entirely neglected to comment on the most famous case of nepotism (in the broadest sense of the word) in Queensland – that of Premier Anna Bligh’s husband Greg Withers as Director of the Climate Change Office.

And while Labor leader Anastacia Palaszscuk, who was presumably in the front row at the speech, promised to take up the cause, she seemed oblivious to the fact that she took over the seat she now represents from her father, Henry Palaszscuk.

Being part of a partisan campaign against the current government doesn’t appear to be one of the roles of the Integrity Commissioner, nor does giving advice to the general public. One wonders how long his speech can remain on the commission’s website before it is taken down as ultra vires.

Recently Ken Levy, the CMC Commissioner, wrote an op-ed in the Courier Mail welcoming changes in the law. Labor called for his head. It’s hard to distinguish the two cases.

One has to wonder why the ALP chose this speech as the inaugural one for their Ryan Foundation, and why they waited so long. The foundation was set-up in 2012, just after their election defeat funded by $25,000 contributed by the Labor Party, the Trades and Labor Council and a levy on the seven state Labor parliamentarians.

It’s almost the next election, and it would seem like a anti-“nepotism” campaign is their only idea.

If they were really worried about corruption in public life they might direct their think tank to look at reform of the Labor Party, where, by a gerrymander that would have made Joh Bjelke-Petersen blush, union heavies, including the nepotistic Bill Ludwig, marshall the working class vote to their personal advantage.

And if Solomon was really worried he’d resign now. If I were the government I wouldn’t try to push him – he has only a few months left to go – but I’d use him as an object lesson of why you need to have purges of the public service when you come into power these days.

You can be sure that the previous government has left a few boobies around as traps to go off long after they’ve moved off to lucrative consulting careers.



Posted by Graham at 7:34 am | Comments (1) |
Filed under: Uncategorized

1 Comment

  1. Here we can agree again Graham.
    A Government, any Government is only as good as the advice it receives and acts on!
    I don’t know who advised the extremely autocratic Bligh Government to privatize anything, particularly rail and gas, but they clearly deserved to go with a departing Government.
    It might have been a different matter, if a domineering Bligh had gone to an election, promising to privatize or build the Traveston dam.
    Wasting many millions in the process, particularly, given the people own land higher up the catchment, where a couple of small dams could have been constructed for far less, and a modest diversion tunnel built, to transfer some water to the Somerset Wivenhoe system, as and if required?
    If the integrity commissioner has any evidence of nepotism, he ought to put up or shut up.
    The fact that he once advised Witlim, suggests he simply ought to go, given just how incompetent the Witlim Government appeared to be?
    And to reiterate, a government, any Government is only as good as the advice it receives and follows?
    Alan B. Goulding.

    Comment by Alan B. Goulding — March 3, 2014 @ 10:22 am

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