One of the more important things that Wikileaks has done is highlight just how little control the Voters have over their pollies these days. Denials of behaviour are normally held in secret till long after the perpetrators have left office or even died and corrective action cannot be taken. The system is loaded in their favour, but worse than that, there is no incentive for those that come along later to obey the rules. It means that effectively, there is no control.
To make matters even worse in Oz the current trend is for the next party coming in to bat does not reveal the misdeeds of the previous party. I assume it comes from “people who live in glass houses not throwing stones” attitude.
It doesn’t look good for improving behaviour and forcing our pollies (and their advisors) to obey the rule of law if no one has to bear responsibility.
Recently we have seen that Mr Habib has received a (deserved) payout from the Aussie Government after it was confirmed he suffered extraordinary rendition to Egypt and was tortured in front of an Aussie official. Eight months in their hands to gather “Urgent” information then shipped off to Gitmo for a couple of years then released without charge.
This might be acceptable in the US but it’s a harder sell in Oz.
The behaviour of the previous conservative government needs to be examined and the path followed to see who knew, who lied, and the results need to be made public to ensure those who don’t follow the rules are held to account.
Howard and Downer were long and loud in their denials of Aussies being tortured when the claims were originally made. Even going as far as to claim being offended by such claims. But now we find it was indeed true so let’s follow the path and see who dropped the ball.
Howard. Sadly he thought Dubya was it and a bit and he liked to play plausible deniability. (Don’t tell me stuff I don’t want to know). Technically he may have a defence by giving Downer a hospital pass but morally (and he liked to claim the moral high ground) he is ultimately responsible. And just saying “I take responsibility” is nowhere near good enough. 8 months torture then Gitmo demands more punishment than an unfelt “Sorry”. Putting mateship before morals is simply not good enough especially when you break Australian laws.
Downer. Even closer to the action but has a history of not paying attention to detail. Who can forget his 7 plus signatures on the Wheat for Weapons fiasco? His ultimate defence will be “I didn’t know.” Jeeze, Alexander. Can you just sign this blank cheque for me?
The path here is for the Foreign Affairs Minister to ask his Head of Department to investigate these claims. Either Downer knew, or the Department Head did, or someone further down the chain. Time to find out if the Minister behaved illegally or someone further down did, and corrective action should be taken. If it wasn’t Downer then it is highly likely the culprit/s are still in positions of trust and should be moved out. There is not much point to Parliament setting rules if the pollies or their staff can simply ignore them.
Of course the final responsibility lies with the Voters themselves with a further responsibility falling on the Media. If Voters feel the “what’s done is done” is the way to go, then we may as well stop pretending we have any say in Democracy and surrender our right to demand better behaviour. Thankfully the Media has drawn some attention to the problem but in a very low key way and with no appreciation for exactly how it is undermining control of politics.
Folk have given their lives for a better world. We shouldn’t let it slip away from us when we can get it back on track and score a much more responsive Government and better outcomes for ALL our citizens.