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Porter’s department can’t see through transparency measures

Confronted by a novel thing called transparency, the Attorney-General's department fumbles and bungles.

Attorney General Christian Porter.

From the Crikey grapevine, it’s the latest tips and rumours…

Seeing through a transparency fail. As Crikey has reported over the years, the Attorney-General’s department has a long track record both of attacking basic liberties and bungling the basics of administration. Now it’s doing its best (or should that be its worst?) to undermine what little transparency there is for whoever is trying to influence government policy. The federal lobbyist register was run by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet for nearly a decade after being established by the Rudd government, but in May this year responsibility was moved to the AG’s department. At PM&C, the register was easy to search and, after its establishment, easy for lobbyists to register and update their details. Now, it’s nothing of the sort.

For external users, loading and searching the register itself takes forever. But for lobbyists required to register and update information, it’s much worse — so much so that last week the department apologised to them for how bad it was. Last week, Andrew Walter, head of the integrity and security division (the division that sent the threatening letter to Nine) emailed lobbyists, explaining that he is “aware that users are experiencing a range of technical issues when using the new registration portal”.

I wish to assure you that the department is working to resolve these issues as quickly as possible, and applying manual fixes where needed. Despite this, there continues to be a delay in changes to registrations appearing on the public register. We appreciate that this is frustrating and we are grateful for your patience as we work to resolve these issues.

Walter went on to suggest lobbyists who can’t make the back end work call or email the team responsible to get them to do manual fixes.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank those who have provided feedback to the department about the operation of the registration portal,” he continued. “Thank you for your understanding and patience as we work to resolve these issues.”

While all this is consistent with department’s long history of stuffing up, you can’t help but think this is the perfect demonstration of Australian government in 2019: take one of the few effective, user-friendly tools of transparency in public governance and ruin it for a pointless machinery of government change. Then again at least lobbyists didn’t get a threatening letter.

A match made in heaven? Mark Latham, the one-time federal Labor leader turned reactionary NSW One Nation MP has found a new home for his musings. After leaving media outlets like The Australian Financial Review, The Spectator and Sky News, Latham now appears to be writing for The Daily Mail Australia. He’s announced his debut with a typically reasoned piece denouncing the abortion bill that recently passed the NSW lower house as “PC madness”.

Latham is a perfect fit for The Daily Mail, a publication which shares many of his staunch conservative viewpoints. It has published many pieces demonstrating a hostility towards Muslim immigrants, and like Latham, is driven by a deep rage at what is perceived to be the “liberal establishment“. It’s also, unsurprisingly, the favoured news source for Australia’s far right.

Still, given Latham’s track record with media outlets, it’s unclear why he needs another column, especially since he’s now an MP who can insult to his heart’s content under the protection of parliamentary privilege.

Poleaxed. Those of us who listen to the ABC’s AM were moved this morning to hear presenter Sabra Lane breaking down after a particularly troubling story. The Foreign Correspondent promo report detailed how an adoptive American couple allegedly abandoned a child with disabilities in Ukraine. Lane was audibly crying and later described herself as being “poleaxed” by the report. Lane has been presenter of AM for three years now prior to which she was a federal politics reporter. Here’s to reporters who care about their work.

Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to [email protected]use ourguaranteed anonymous form or other ways to leak to us securely.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey


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1 year ago

Hanson and Latham – a match made below heaven.
It’s nice to see Mark finally coming to settle on what was so obviously foreordained.

mark e smith
mark e smith
1 year ago

The common feature of pretty much all public sector IT systems is how badly they work. I used to think this was a bad thing and the taxpayer was being ripped off. I still think so but am now happy that there’s at least this limitation on the ever encroaching police – surveillance state.

But it still begs the question. The world is full of tech companies running complex networks in many countries simultaneously. The average council, state or fed govt have systems that are either clunky, slow, don’t do what they’re supposed to or just crash when more than 7 users are online.

There’s a great Utopia episode about it – of course.

1 year ago

Does anybody else wonder if Latham as LotO was always this mad or has irrelevance fed his manias?