An innocent, yet mentally ill Australian woman spends 10 months in a detention centre and still Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone refuse to say sorry, let alone stand down, over the atrocious treatment of the unfortunate woman.

What ever happened to Ministerial accountability?

Subscriber Barry Baxter writes:

Can anyone tell me will a Minister ever again resign over a departmental stuff up? Minister Mandy did everything consistent with current govt policies and standards – blame others, apportion blame to the Queensland Police, the Queensland hospital. And when asked questions too difficult to answer, she simply says that she will have to wait until she has the facts. She is the minister, shouldn’t she have the facts already? What has she been doing since this stuff up came to light.

The way I see it no minister will ever resign again, as it is now normal, even expected to simply blame other people. Children overboard comes to mind. How bad does it have to get? This government was in all sorts of strife before September 11. Ministers were under clouds all over the place – Parer and Reith to name a couple who were close to being sacked in disgrace.

But Sept 11 seemed to changed everyone’s mindset. No matter what happens, blame someone else – and if you cannot find anyone to blame, blame terrorism!

I would love Crikey to start two new lists:

  1. Past Standards/Memories – Most trivial events leading to a Ministers resignation – (Planning sports funding on a whiteboard comes to mind!!)
  2. Current Standards – Most serious events and subsequent avoidance of resignation (more likely to be a promotion these days instead)

Ministerial resignations: past and present

As usual Crikey has had a great response to our call for examples of past and current standards of Ministerial resignations.See the list so far here:

Past Standards/Memories

  • Alan Griffiths – resigned from the Keating ministry in 1994 over allegations of impropriety relating to the running of a sandwich shop, which proved to be unfounded.
  • Ros Kelly (Keating Labor) – resigned in 1994 over ministerial impropriety in relation to Sports Rorts affair.
  • John Kerin (Hawke Labor) – resigned in 1991 over inability to explain policy.
  • Michael McKellar (Liberal NSW) – resigned as Fraser’s Minister for Home Affairs and the Environment 19 March 1981 over revelations of attempt to avoid customs duty on colour television set in airline baggage.
  • John Moore (Liberal, Queensland) – resigned under pressure from PM Fraser as Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs 20 March 1981 (including Customs) over revelations of cover-up of actions of McKellar.
  • Andrew Peacock – offered to resign over his wife Susan appearing in a TV advertisement for sheets.
  • Geoff Prosser, WA MHR – an early Howard casualty who resigned as small business minister over something trivial in the first Howard administration. He must grit his teeth when he sees what some of his colleagues get away with while keeping their jobs.
  • Sen. Glenister Shiel (Country Party, Queensland) – sacked (not offered option of resignation) by Mal Fraser 21 December 1977, having been sworn in as minister without portfolio and member of the executive council the previous day. His offence was making remarks in favour of the South African apartheid government.
  • Ransley Victor Garland – got done for accepting a brown paper bag with $500 in it, but I could not swear to it.
  • Reg Withers – resigned over interference with the naming of a Federal electorate following a redistribution during the Fraser government. A good man lost.
  • Mick Young – resigned for not declaring a toy Paddington Bear to Customs in 1984.

Current Standards

  • Bill (Heffolump) Heffernan – slandered High Court judge, Michael Kirby. He lost his gig as “cabinet tea lady” or whatever it was but really! Should have been out of Parliament. The driver who allegedly supplied the so-called evidence shouts “April Fool” or something like that – so… the press “moves on”.
  • David Kemp – dumped simply for announcing that they were leaving Parliament. The Government didn’t want to be accused of carrying dead weight.
  • Mike Kisier – resigned over the voting rorts in Queensland, but has announced a come back just last weekend after just four years in the lobbying wilderness.
  • WA Justice Minister Michelle Roberts – In 2004, four dangerous prisoners escaped from WA’s Supreme Court, hijacked cars from passing motorists and then went on a crime spree. Justice Minister Michelle Roberts went ahead and kept a dentist’s appointment hours after the event with the men still on the run. She then went to a doorstop and blamed the courts. Turns out Courts had been asking her and her department repeatedly to increase security and these pleas had been ignored. She then blamed the security firm involved. Refused to take any responsibility herself.
  • Phillip Ruddock – worst example of a Minister that should have been sacked but wasn’t in the cash-for-visas scandal. Even if there was no proof that he was bought, he should have at least been aware of the donations and either a) declared a conflict of interests and refused the money (or encouraged the Party to refuse the money through appropriate channels) or b) declared a conflict of interests and delegated his decisions to an independent arbiter.
  • Daryl Williams – dumped simply for announcing that they were leaving Parliament. The Government didn’t want to be accused of carrying dead weight.
  • How about “someone” authorising ASIS and ASIO to spy on the MWA and the Tampa and Laurie Brereton and then giving the taps to Howard, Reith et.al for a political response? Isn’t that scandalous enough to bring down any government, let alone provide the catalyst for a subsequent election victory and a $200k plus handshake for Reith who still sits in fat cat splendour in London. What a f**king disgrace. What other political jobs have the security services handled for Howard’s henchmen – before or since the Tampa?

Check out this list of Ministerial Resignations and Dismissals Since 1901 for more names and dates.

Peter Fray

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