13 July 2006


According to a story in Thursday's Telegram, the introduction of a new claims form is not linked to the Auditor General's report on alleged financial misappropriation at the legislature.

Bond Papers noted on Wednesday that:

1. The new rules were exactly the same as the old rules, meaning there were no changes at all.

2. The "changes" reported by the Telegram made it plain that previous comments by the premier and others that significant changes were made to the House procedures in 2004 were, to put it mildly, not entirely in conformance with the facts.

Every time Harvey opens his mouth, there are more and more concerns about the handling of the spending scandal.

This past weekend Speaker Hodder told the Telly that in fact the Auditor General has not submitted any reports to him on the scandal.

So what were all those things posted to the Auditor General's website labeled reports and apparently with transmittal letters addressed to Hodder?

Simple answer:

Either the Speaker is senile or doesn't open his mail; or,

There is, in fact, a secret report from the AG to the Premier and/or Hodder that contains considerably more detail than the skimpy slips of paper the Auditor General released to news media.

My money is on the second one. There is too much about government's handling of this matter that seems stage-managed and designed to minimize the amount of information released to the public.

The ultimate hint that the government is not being transparent and accountable here is the anger evident in the Premier's comments to reporters on Wednesday about the issue. The Premier said he was "all about accountability and transparency and when I say that, I really mean it."

That's like being world class. If you have to tell us, then you ain't. The actions count in this instance, not the pious claims.

As for the Premier's concerns that some people will put a slant on information, he can only look to the reality. If all relevent information is in public, then the public can make their own sensible conclusions based on facts.

However, if tons of information are being deliberately withheld, irrespective of the reason, then people are going to form conclusions to fill in the gaps. Those conclusions could be right or they could be wildly wrong. We can't tell without accurate information.

And that's what we don't have right now thanks to Harvey Hodder's smoke machine, among other things.

The Premier should know a simple rule of the law and public relations:

Disclosure busts the clouds of suspicion.