…from the quill of Antisthenes the Younger
Queensland State elections are due on 24th March and the governing Australian Labor Party might be slightly worried. How short are voters memories? Short enough? I am afraid so.
In the days to come Anna Bligh would be nursing her image as a tough, but caring leader. We are already flooded with her Flannery floods‘ images. Many minor matters would be swept under the carpet and forgotten. The matter of the defalcating Tahitian buccaneer Joel Morehu-Barlow of the Queensland Health Department is subjudice and the allegations that not all missing $16 millions ended in his pockets are just allegations. Sometimes it is reported as $13 million, mere $3 million discrepancy. Police officers, insurance companies, some lawyers and more astute members of the public know that very often, following, say a break and enter into a shop (undisputed and indisputable crime), the shopkeeper overstates her loss, knowing that the culprit, if and when caught, is not going to quibble whether it was thirteen or sixteen cartons of cigarettes. The Minister for Health at the relevant time was a certain Paul Lucas, who is not standing for re-election. His relationship with Anna Bligh goes all the way back to their student union training fields, so it is unlikely he is going to starve, or, Marx forbid, to work.
The minor matter of the Health Department staff payments snafu the Labor would want voters to forget. As some may recall, in March 2010 the Department switched to a new computer system. Thousands of workers were underpaid or not paid at all for a number of weeks. Some were overpaid. There were no problems with those in 9 to 5 positions, only those working shifts, irregular hours etc. which means, to stretch a metaphor, those at the bedpan face. Administrators by and large did not suffer.
The person responsible for the computer ‘glitch’ allegedly received from the grateful Health Minister over $600,000 as a redundancy payment and for his undoubted expertise was immediately hired as a consultant by, you guessed it, the Health Department.
Auditor-general Glenn Poole later found that, “the Queensland Health payroll system comprised complex award structures, with 13 awards and multiple industrial agreements providing for over 200 different allowances… and that there were 24,000 different combinations of calculation groups and rules for Queensland Health’s 78,000 employees.” According to a News Limited report deputy director-general Michael Kalimnios and corporate services executive director Adrian Shea received notices of contract termination. It is not known whether the Minister responsible, Anne’s comrade Paul Lucas received a slap on the wrist. Old fashioned, strict ministerial responsibility under the Westminster system is for Queensland Labor only a fleeting memory.
The Health Department employees, with apparent connivance of their trade union, were forbidden to contact the Pay office by telephone. The only permitted mode were e-mails which, needless to say, went unanswered. The Government by the unions, for the unions, is not interested in human hardship of non-apparatchiks. Under the old industrial laws unpaid or underpaid employees used to have very efficient recourse against defaulting employers and the unions then were falling over backwards recommending the lawyers, urging proceedings, assisting in instituting legal actions. That was in the bad old times of Bjelke-Peterson. Now, when the trade unions’ puppets rule the State, any such action would be a betrayal of working class and a breach of workers’ solidarity. Reputedly the trade union officials actively discouraged even talking to the media. Labor rules, so everything is fine; at least as far as the union officials are concerned. They rely on voters’ short memories.