October 17

Secrecy and creeping republicanism in NSW

We were surprised in August ( our column of 24 August 2006) by the reaction when we asked the NSW Premier’s office if we might have a copy of a speech by  the NSW Premier, Morris Iemma, in which he had argued that the GST should be handed over entirely to the states. We had seen a report of this speech by Imre Salusinszky in The Australian  on 4 August,2006 under the headline: “Hand over GST entirely, Iemma demands.”  It related to a comment we had prepared on federalism.

 Our caller was asked whom she represented and told they would ring back. They did. We were refused a copy. We have never had a similar reaction from a politician’s office. We are somewhat relieved to know that ACM was being treated no differently than others who wish to read the Premier’s words, and not merely a report of what he said. . In “ Iemma’s state of the artless online”, The Sydney Morning Herald’s state political editor, Anne Davies revealed in her column  on 2 October,2006,  that a Greens candidate, Mr.  Ben Oquist,  was shocked by the response when he asked for copies of the Premier’s press statements for the past 12 months. Mr. Oquist, who has been a political advisor for more than a decade, wrote in May requesting photocopies of various media releases, and enclosing $20 for the  photocopying. The head of the Cabinet Office returned the $20 in July, adding: "The Premier’s media releases are provided to media outlets and as such, I am unfortunately unable to fulfil your request on this occasion." .

Ms. Davies contrasts this with the way the openness of the Prime Minister and the Queensland Premier, whose speeches are soon posted to the internet.  She says that the former NSW premier, the Hon. Bob Carr, was even more wary of the internet. Ms Davies says he refused to send email versions of anything to the media, including notifications of where he was going to be, for fear that the electronic copies might escape into cyberspace.

We find this curious, particularly from a politician who came from the media. Perhaps Mr Iemma’s staff did not think  of asking the Premier whether he wished to change Mr. Carr’s strange policy. Perhaps they did and he refused. The Premier does seem to be reluctant to correct Bob Carr’s mistakes, if his decision not  to change one of Mr. Carr’s most unpopular measures,  ejecting the Governor from Government House, is any indication.

This achieved none of the promised benefits. It is more expensive, and no greater access for the public has been achieved. No person from outside Sydney can be appointed governor, unless they are rich enough to have a second home. It seems  that the secret reason for the eviction  has not been achieved. Mr. Carr has admitted that this was to demonstrate to future governors that they are mere ceremonial rubber stamps, and no check or balance on the politicians. We see no indication that the Governor thinks of herself as a mere automaton.

In the meantime, a majority in both houses of the New South Wales Parliament recently found the time in their busy schedules to propose   resolutions  to authorize  the removal of the heritage Royal Coats of Arms from their chambers. Apparently the lawyers advised that section 4(1) of the State Arms, Symbols and Emblems Act,  2004 might not be sufficient authority. This provides:-

“Whenever after the commencement of this Act, in a Parliament building, a courthouse, an office or official residence of the Governor or a Government office, in any other building or place, or on any official seal or document, or in any other connection, arms representing the authority of the Crown or the State are to be used for any official purpose, the State arms are or a State symbol is to be used, and not the Royal arms of the United Kingdom.”

According to one view, the Act wrongly implies that the Royal Arms are exclusive to the United Kingdom.  In any event, a handsome version of the State Arms ( see picture), which now by law represents the authority of the Crown or the State, has replaced the Royal Arms in the Legislative Council. Eventually, the Royal Arms of the two houses will be mounted in the Jubilee Room. This was announced on 11 October, 2006, when the Presiding Officers were commemorating the centenary of the grant of the State Arms by Edward VII. During the ceremony, the President of the Legislative Council, Dr Meredith Burgman referred to the settlement in 1788 as an “invasion”.

 Although denied, this is yet another example, and an expensive one,of creeping republicanism by our politicians.







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