Sitting here listening to QT, and the targeted questioning of the Minister for Defence, Joel Fitzgibbon, I cannot help but wonder whether there is any real talent on Labor’s front bench outside of Julia Gillard and Lindsay Tanner. Are the seats simply filled by people too long out of government to understand what Ministerial Responsibility is?
Rightfully so, Turnbull is making a very good fist of vivisecting Fitzgibbon for not having attended to the overpayment and recovery action instigated against some serving SAS personnel. The issue first came to light in October 2008, at which time Fitzgibbon stated that he would correct the situation where some soldiers pay-packets registered $0.00 because their over-payments were being recovered ASAP. He has cleared failed to ensure his department acted in terms of instructions, if indeed he issued ‘cease and desist’ instructions at all.
Fitzgibbon spoke in QT in response to further queries like a schoolboy caught red-handed. He has clearly screwed up, the censure motion is on. If Rudd decides to act, and dismiss Fitzgibbon, he will be seen to have buckled to the Opposition will. If he fails to act, he’ll be seen to have ignored an issue he claimed just yesterday that he was taking a personal interest in. He can justifiably be seen to be just like John Howard in blithely ignoring the issue of Ministerial Responsibility, and rewarding incompetence through inaction.
The censure motion will not be carried, because the government has the numbers to defeat it. That aside, this issue will weigh heavily on the government, and gives the opposition it’s first real score since occupying the alternative government benches in November 2007.