The price of pollies’ pot plants. Speeding
on the roads around Parliament House. Did Air Force One crack the tarmac at Canberra Airport? These
are the stories that have come out of Senate Estimates this week. Blink and
you’d miss them. It’s not like the old days.

When the Government gained control of the
Senate, Estimates lost their bite. The Committees are now dominated by
Government MPs. That means it’s fine for Ministers to gag their public
servants, as has happened over the AWB.

Opposition and minor party Senators
complain that the Committee chairs are protecting ministers and their public
servants. Not that they now take the process all that seriously.

If Estimates Committees can’t or won’t do
their job, there’s not much point in making an effort – hence the Telstra and
the ABC B-teams in attendance this week. B-teams – by their very nature –
aren’t across all the details. And so both commitment to accountability and
accountability itself are diminished.

Not that you’ll find anyone saying this,
other than opposition and minor party Senators. And who listens to them? They
don’t have the numbers to do anything – and that seems to be all that counts in