The concept of the government minister taking responsibility for the (in)actions of his/her department has completely disappeared under the Howard government. This is apparent whether you consider*;
- the incompetence of our intelligence units in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq,
- the same problems in the children overboard affair
- the farce known as the Department of Immigration
- and now the inability of a large number of cabinet members to read an email that suggested that one of our biggest exporters was corrupt and breaking government sanctions (possibly while they were still under control)*.
It is therefore a logical response to go and have a look for the government’s much lauded “Key Elements of Ministerial Responsibility” policy. I thought it would be useful to have a look at it, and see, you know, how I thought current behaviour, particularly the twisting and turning of Howard and Downer on the AWB, stacks up.
This search was not as easy as I thought it would be, and below are some two things I saw along the way. I shit you not.
Eventually I found an extract of the document in an attachment to a Current Issues Brief, from 1996-97. It did contain the following quotes that the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and the Trade Minister may all like to consider this exerpt:
Ministers must be honest in their public dealings and should not intentionally mislead the Parliament or the public. Any misconception caused inadvertently should be corrected at the earliest opportunity.
Please note that there is no reference to outright lying in this principle of behaviour. There is only an instruction not to intentionally mislead the public.
I am going to keep looking for a copy of the whole document. (Maybe it is me who is incompetent)
* This is just a list off the top of my head. I am sure that there are a number of things that I have left out.