…from the quill of Antisthenes the Younger
Whilst I am far from alleging any conspiracy, especially on the part of a socialist government, I suspect that our Labor Annie* surely remembered and applied the Sir Humphrey Appleby’s maxim on commissions when appointing Justice Katherine Ena Holmes as the head of the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry. According to the Labor propaganda machine, formerly known as the Queensland Public Service, “the terms of Reference for the inquiry provide for an independent and thorough examination of the chain of events leading to the floods, all aspects of the response and the subsequent aftermath of the 2010-11 flood events.” Beside Ms Justice Holmes, the other (remaining) commissioner is Mr Jim O’Sullivan AC, the Queensland Police Commissioner during Labor Premiers Wayne Goss and Peter Beattie’s times in the Queensland government. Another commissioner, a dams safety engineer Phillip Cummins was stood aside because some disobedient journalist discovered his connection with a company that has been hired by Seqwater to help revise the Wivenhoe Dam’s operations manual.
It may be of interest to the future historians of the decline of democracy in Australia that Justice Holmes saw absolutely nothing wrong in that, saying: “There has been no conflict.” Later, when Cummins was by her reluctantly sidelined, she said “All of that has the appearance of a calculated attempt to undermine the Commission and its work but I will not draw any conclusion about intent until I have given the editor and the journalist involved the opportunity to explain themselves.” Another famous jurist, comrade Vyshinski may have said it a bit more fiercely*, but still sinister enough.
When was Her Honour Ms Justice Holmes appointed to chair the Inquiry, the Bar Association of Queensland expressed its reservations:
Since 1987 the Queensland judiciary has adhered to a convention that a serving judge ought not accept appointment to head a commission of inquiry… It is clear that the present inquiry involves real potential for political controversy as to administrative conduct of successive state and local government administrations since (the last major flood in) 1974…It must be recognised that commissions of inquiry, by their nature, will find themselves examining issues of a character not contemplated upon commencement. The issues for inquiry may become far more politically charged than first imagined.
The Chief Justice of Queensland, Paul de Jersey disagreed, saying, “it was appropriate because of the apparent absence of any suggestion of political or institutional corruption”. He ought to know or at least imagine that just about anything a Labor Government does is tainted. The suggestions came anyway from various sources, and belatedly even from LNP Leader Campbell Newman: “All I can say is it is a murky issue, that is this whole commission it seems, that is now lapping at the door of the Premier’s office.” I guess it would not be appropriate for de Jersey to admit to his naivete at this stage of the proceedings. The final report is due on the 16th March, 2012 and the Queensland State elections are to be held a week thereafter.
Many non-Australian readers may not be familiar with the controversy surrounding the release or non-release of water from the Wivenhoe Dam prior and during the devastating floods. However, they may recall the 1974 Roman Polanski movie “Chinatown” staring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway. Of course, any resemblance to the Queensland water release scandal is purely coincidental and should be ignored.
Only once in my memory has a commission in Queensland produced the governmentally undesirable result, and that happened when the National Party Government, unintentionally in my opinion, appointed an honest man. The Fitzgerald inquiry (1987–1989) into Queensland Police corruption brought down the government. Then teenage Anna Bligh may have forgotten, but the Trade Hall puppeteers surely have not.
The inquiry has got slightly out of the hand recently. There are rumours round the non-alcoholic billabongs, where journalists rarely venture, that the Wivenhoe dam could have accommodated more water, had not the money originally earmarked for the repairs and maintenance were not diverted to the much more important Office of the Climate Change, headed by Greg Withers http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/elections/big-payout-forqueensland-premiers-partner-in-11th-hour-deal/story-fnbsqt8f-1226267174232, who happens to be Anna Bligh’s husband, and who just a few days ago happened to get a pay increase for his climate achievements, presumably in the northern hemisphere. Admittedly, it is just a baseless rumour, (not the pay-rise, that is unfortunately true) but if I had given more credibility to the rumours about the shenanigans in the Health Department, and if, almost impossible if, I was taken seriously, the Queensland taxpayers could be $16 million better off. (I am referring to the allegations of a fraud by a certain Health Department employee Mr Barlow, also known as Hohepa Morehu-Barlow. Labor Annie was most incensed when this came out, so close to the elections)
I do not know whether the independent Commission has dealt with that rumour, or ever will. Anthropogenic Global Warming Carpetbagging is still a sacred bull. Nevertheless I imagine that Trofim Lysenko somewhere down there is happily chuckling into his vodka and his acolyte Timothy Flannery almost down there, at his multi-million waterside real estate is smiling into his mao-tai. You can fool a lot of people for a long enough time to get a well paid sinecure, if you are a “scientist” … or you can fool just enough voters in crucial electorates if you are a politician. Voters have short memories and unfortunately, so far prefer charlatans to scientists.
The Commission proceedings are surrounded in a drama worthy of any self-respecting queen. Mr Ken Smith, the Director-General of Premier Anna Bligh’s department at the time of the disaster and now conveniently posted to London, was only allowed to give evidence, by telephone, after The Courier-Mail raised its concern. Mr Smith’s repeated earlier offers to give evidence were ignored by the independent Commission. It seems that Mr Smith received an email (forwarded to the Premier’s email address) from the SEQ WaterGrid Manager on the 9th January saying the dam was releasing water under a transitional strategy, rather than more rapid releases designed to protect urban areas. That contradicts Seqwater‘s report which said a higher release strategy was employed on the 8th January.
For some reason, the two Wivenhoe dam engineers were given security guards, presumably paid for by the Labor Government. A cynic may guess that it was done not so much for their protection against irate flood victims, but to ensure that they do not have any unauthorised contacts. Luckily nobody had his nose cut as yet. The Courier-Mail reports:
One of two Wivenhoe dam engineers who have stepped aside is the lead author of a report branded a fiction at Queensland’s flood inquiry.
John Tibaldi fronted the inquiry last week to defend the final report he penned for SEQWater about the operation of the dam before Brisbane and Ipswich flooded last year.
Natural Resources Minister Rachel Nolan has confirmed Mr Tibaldi on Friday stepped aside from his role as a flood engineer for Wivenhoe and other dams.
He took the action on Friday, immediately after finishing his testimony to the floods inquiry, which is examining claims engineers colluded to cover up mistakes they made before the cities flooded. Mr Tibaldi denied those claims when he took the stand.
The other engineer to step aside is Terry Malone, who finished giving his evidence to the inquiry on Sunday. Malone stepped aside from his role on Monday, Ms Nolan said.
She said it was not correct to say the men had quit. “Making themselves unavailable is a fairer description,” she said.
Similarly, Whitney Houston made herself unavailable for any further singing engagements.
The forensic and journalistic histrionic notwithstanding, somebody, somewhere ought to recall the basic principles of Westminster system of government, in particular the ministerial responsibility. When, after the Fitzgerald’s Inquiry, the former Premier of Queensland Joh Bjelke Petersen found himself as an accused in the court, the Labor and the socialist media made much out of his inability to explain, on a witness stand, the principles of the Westminster System. It is true; he could not and I am not going to justify that by pointing out that he used to be a farmer, not a lawyer or trade union official; and that during his time in power he became accustomed to silly questions from brainless journalists, and that slightly less silly questions from slightly less brainless lawyers may have confused him.
Had he had an Apple tablet and access to Wikipedia, he may have said something like this:
“Ministerial responsibility or individual ministerial responsibility is a constitutional convention in governments using the Westminster System that a cabinet minister bears the ultimate responsibility for the actions of their ministry or department. Individual ministerial responsibility is not the same as cabinet collective responsibility, which states members of the cabinet must approve publicly of its collective decisions or resign. This means that a motion for a vote of “no confidence” is not in order should the actions of an organ of Government fail in the proper discharge of their responsibilities. Where there is ministerial responsibility, the accountable Minister is expected to take the blame and ultimately resign, but the majority or coalition within Parliament of which the Minister is part, is not held to be answerable for that Minister’s failure.
This means that if waste, corruption, or any other misbehaviour is found to have occurred within a ministry, the minister is responsible even if the minister had no knowledge of the actions. A minister is ultimately responsible for all actions by a ministry because even without knowledge of an infraction by subordinates, the minister approved the hiring and continued employment of those civil servants. If misdeeds are found to have occurred in a ministry, the minister is expected to resign. It is also possible for a minister to face criminal charges for malfeasance under their watch.
The principle is considered essential, as it is seen to guarantee that an elected official is answerable for every single government decision. It is also important to motivate ministers to closely scrutinize the activities within their departments. “
Sounds archaic, doesn’t it? Whilst the Labor ministers may be able to recite it, for they are mostly lawyers after all, any suggestion that the above has any practical application to the Labor Government would be met with an incredulous stare.
In order to pre-empt allegations of bias, there is the Premier Anna Bligh’s full statement to the Commission. Please read it (tissues not included) and think. Would you buy a used car from her? The well-past-use-by-date Government? In order to make up your mind, you can listen to the audio of the flood crisis meeting.
Nobody is accusing the Anna Bligh’s government of causing the disastrous deluge – the
blame lies squarely, according to her fellow Leftist, the Greens’ Leader Dr Brown, on the Queensland coal mining companies. But there are strong indications that her almost Nixonian*** incompetence, coupled with her apocalyptic global warming faith and (My) Family First philosophy, significantly magnified the material damage. The independent Commission will tell; and the truth will out, one day.
A cynical person, or an experienced Labor observer, may predict that just-in-time before the election date, with all the fanfares ALP propaganda machine would be able to muster, the independent Commission report would come, exonerating all Labor ministers and our Little Big Annie in particular, perhaps feeding a few insignificant, no-longer-useful public officials to the media sharks.
*/ folksy familiar mode of address she pretends to like; so, femi-nazis, do not accuse me of patronising her
**/ fierce kiss of death from Mr Andrew Fraser, an infamous Queensland ALP minister- “This government continues to have confidence in Justice Holmes who is fiercely independent and fiercely capable … there is no conflict here. This is a commission which is holding extra hearings because it wants to get to the truth. Any suggestion that this is anything other than a truth-hunting exercise and one which is being carried out with fierce independence I think it false and is not reflected in the facts.” (Could somebody turn a page in his dictionary past ‘F’? Or maybe that’s where he should remain)
***/ Christine Nixon, Victorian ex-Police Commissioner, of the 2009 Black Saturday Inferno Infamy