Does the
Prime Minister rely on the online advice dispensed by those two experts at
“analysing broken business that are breaking news”, Bruce and Barry?
Here are their suggestions on how to respond to AWB questions:

  1. “I don’t recall”
  2. “My memory is unclear”
  3. “May I have a glass of water?”, and of course,
  4. “I believe all those records were destroyed in the flood
    of [insert date here]”. (Note well: aforesaid date must be
    BEFORE scheduled appearance.)

The PM
appears to have studied them well before he braved Red Kez on the 7:30 Report last night.

And Dr
Peter Shergold, Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the
head of the Australian Public Service, seemed to be offering something similar
at his address to the National Press Club,
amusingly entitled “Pride in Public Service”.

“The Westminster system ensures that the government of the day
is served by career administrators. But it is the governments who make
decisions,” Shergold said.

Yet at the same time, in the Q & A, when asked when a minister
should resign he replied by saying that if a minister was involved with a breach of
the law “or if a minister had their attention drawn to matters and then took no
action, then it seems to me that a minister would be clearly responsible for failures
within their department”.

So governments run the show – but only have to take responsibility if
they get told it has all gone wrong and do nothing?

Yesterday the Cole inquiry finally heard direct evidence of AWB’s
knowledge about trucking fees on wheat sales being paid as kickbacks to Iraq.
The commission was alerted to documents contradicting the evidence of several
senior AWB executives that could have changed the course of the inquiry if they
had been produced earlier.

“Within our system of democratic governance, born in Westminster, it is clearly intended to be the
government not its public officials who decide on the national interest,”
Shergold said. “It is the elected representative who is responsible to
citizens, through the mechanism of secret ballots cast in elections.”

In other words, the Prime Minister won’t sack anyone. We have to sack
the lot.

Peter Fray

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