Christian Kerr writes:

There was a surprise at the back of Tuesday’s Senate Hansard.
There, at the bottom of Page 167, at the end of the answer to a Question on
Notice about the Port Arthur massacre from Human Services Minister Joe Hockey, was this line: “To
prepare this response it has taken approximately 9 hours and 40 minutes at an
estimated cost of $445.”

Say what? Joe Hockey obviously has a very cheap attitude to
accountability. And democracy, for that matter.

A quick whiz back through the Hansards shows that this is the fifth
time Hockey has included the line in answers to Questions on Notice this year. It’s offensive from almost every point of view.

It’s a cheap trick to try to claim that it took nine hours – in the
case of the Port Arthur question – to discover that the Department didn’t actually run a
program. In that time they could have asked every single employee of the
Department twice, checked the administrative arrangement orders, looked at
their legislation and the Appropriation Acts and still had time to take in a
double feature down at the flicks. A first assistant secretary probably could
have answered the question in nine seconds.

And it’s a cheap shot to try and claim the moral high ground and
quash questioning by implying that accountability wastes taxpayers’
money. The practice begs a question of its own – who decided to start
adding the line to questions? It undermines a central value of

If it was Hockey, then he clearly is one of
those people who knows the cost of everything – and the value of nothing.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey