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Friday, 23 March 2007
Page: 29

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Human Services) (10:35 AM) —The Ombudsman is a cabinet appointment and there are many appointments by governments of different persuasions in Australia that have been made that way and they are subject to public scrutiny. I would put to the committee that merit, probity and openness and transparency of appointment are in the process already. It is something that governments in Australia have been doing for over 100 years through cabinet. You elect a government with ministers and a cabinet to make decisions. The government believes that you do not need a code of practice for everything you do because otherwise you would be more concerned with drafting a code of practice than with the issue at hand, which is to govern, get on with the business of the day, appoint people who can assist you in doing that and carry out good public policy and decisions which will benefit the community.

It is a fundamental difference of the Democrats. They always want a review of a piece of legislation, they always want a code of practice for everything and they always want everything to be written down and regulated. If we did that across the board in Australia, we would be hide-bound with process and nothing would get done. Australia has functioned as one of the world’s best democracies and best governed countries without exception. It has done that on the basis of principles and conventions which have stood the test of time. The appointments process through cabinet is one of those. I can say that all governments, and I am referring to the opposition when it was in government, have done it that way. You did not see the previous government going through codes of practice for appointments. It is rather interesting to see that there is a bit of a change now. I think the overprescriptive nature of the way the Democrats approach these things, although the intentions behind it are very good, is such that if you had a code for everything and if you had a review of everything you would spend your life drafting codes, reviewing everything and getting nowhere. I think this system has worked very well, and we have addressed this issue with previous legislation which has had statutory appointments contained within it. That is the government’s position.