Feb 232010
 

The witchhunt of Peter Garrett is really becoming rather tiresome.


I completely understand the opposition’s pursuit of what they perceive to be a weak link in the government’s chainmail, and equally, I completely understand the government’s steadfast refusal to abandon Peter Garrett. Let’s be perfectly clear on this. The entire issue is politically driven. We have a somewhat revitalised opposition with a more politically savvy person at the helm of the good ship “Lost Cause”, and by savvy, I mean someone who understands the theatre, the play and knows his part by heart.
On the government side, we have a seemingly embattled regime being portrayed as having lavished largesse with gay abandon without due diligence or respect of the probable consequences, and frankly, whenever there’s money for jam projects on offer, the opportunists will always be in the front row taking advantage. However, I have to ask this question. Can the probability of shady players in for a quick buck, in an industry governed by workplace and consumer protection legislation at state level, be genuinely laid at the feet of a federal minister for the environment?? I’m afraid I just don’t see the direct linkage.
Let’s look at the process of approval of the home insulation stimulus package. Peter Garrett and his department would not have instigated the idea, or approved the idea. Where the idea originated is immaterial but I seriously doubt Garrett can claim ownership. I assume, being ignorant of the process of such things, that cabinet would have had the concept introduced, cabinet would have debated the pros and cons, cabinet would have sought suitable advices. As for the money, I’d be looking directly at Lindsay Tanner as Minister for Finance. Head of the razor gang, I’d expect Tanner to have been a prime mover in the allocations and probably the broader outlines of the scheme. Swan, as Treasurer, would also have had considerable input, as may Tanya Plibesek and doubtless numerous other party room contributors in the final debate. I don’t know for sure and certain, but Garrett cannot have been the evil genius, the creator, the Dr Frankenstein who brought to life this monster of a scheme we’re all being told it is. Garrett is the man the deal was handed to, “here ya go, Pete.”, and from that point, it’s clearly hands off as far the the party political machine is concerned. This is where the politics comes into play.
The idea is valid, an excellent stimulus concept and judging from the number of jobs created, now being decried as lost in the News Corporation press, the concept worked. What hasn’t been taken into account is the human element. The human greed which always accompanies any form of government handout. Watching Q and A last night, I was struck by the statement made by Mungo MacCallum in regard to individual responsibility. Should Peter Garrett or indeed, any federal minister, be held responsible for the activities of those who act against regulations of legislation beyond the auspices of their portfolio? Should Peter Garrett be held responsible for employers who knowingly continued to use banned materials, knowingly sent their employees into unsafe workplaces, and knowingly enforced unsafe work practices? This negation of personal responsibility on behalf of those directly responsible for deaths and/or house fires is akin to a negligent father blaming a paedatrician for helping to bring a child into the world that the father had knowingly helped to create. The father had the fun of the moment, but isn’t responsible for the consequences???? That’s simply bizarre. In my mind, I have to agree with MacCallum, in that shoddy employers, sending employees into dangerous workplaces to perform dangerous work-practices are far more liable than a distantly removed Minister for the Environment can be proven to be. As to those who’ve suffered as a result of the stimulus incentive being shut down, I say point the finger at those seeking to make political or even ideological mileage from the affair.
Then we come to this mythical creature called Ministerial Code of Conduct, within which resides Ministerial Responsibility. Para 1.3(iv) of that document describes Ministerial Responsibility, which to all intents and purposes, Garrett has complied with. Obviously this document can be interpreted as the reader sees fit, but the essence of the document is clearly in Garrett’s favour. Interestingly, if you go to the Parliamentary Library website, scroll to the para Ministerial Code and click on ‘A Guide on Key Elements of Ministerial Responsibility’, you’ll find a broken link. Read into that what you will, dear reader.
To further enhance the scenario, I note an article on the ABC’s Drum today which discusses this very issue of Ministerial Responsibility. As the author states:

Kim Beazley scored some scalps but it didn’t help him become prime minister.