Premier’s Estimates appearance illustrates my point at ASPG seminar at Parliament House in June

Exhibit A regarding the woefulness of Queensland’s Parliamentary Committee process and the lack of accountability of executive government in this state is the appalling budget estimates committee meeting today, during which the Premier would not disclose whether taxpayers would pay for her hotel quarantine when she returns from her Tokyo Olympics junket (see Channel 10 report Palaszczuk Interrogated Over Olympics In Parliament). That’s a gangster political move from a Premier who realises she’s so popular she doesn’t have to worry about the minimal level of accountability she should abide by.

The Premier has nicely illustrated the point I made in mid-June when I addressed the Australasian Study of Parliament Group in the Legislative Council chamber of Queensland Parliament House regarding the state’s woeful parliamentary committee process. Check out the transcript of my remarks and those of my fellow panellists, former Queensland Finance Minister Rachel Nolan and UQ Associate Professor Begona Dominguez:

The role of Parliament in Public Finance

I also commented on the weak Freedom of Information (FOI) process in Queensland (on pp. 10-11 of the transcript). Here is what I said about FOI or Right to Information (RTI) as it’s called in Queensland:

One thing I would say is that it can be very difficult to get the underlying rationale for decisions when the documentation, the contracts, are often labelled commercial-in-confidence. You see that with assistance to the film industry, for example. You just see how difficult it is to get information via right to information. There are so many exemptions that governments can rely on. There is obviously the cabinet-in-confidence exemption, which I think is abused.

There is just so much information that should be released that would help us assess whether particular measures are in the public interest. For example, there is this $8 million cost to hold the State of Origin for one night in Townsville, although the government will not tell us whether it was $8 million or it was less. The government says, ‘It will create more economic activity in our view than the cost.’ Is that actually how you should work out whether this is in the public interest or not? Where is the cost-benefit analysis from Treasury? What briefings were provided by Treasury? We have no chance of getting that. I could put in a right to information request for that, but I would waste several hundred dollars or whatever it would be. All I would get back would be documents which are heavily redacted—blacked out—or they would say, ‘There is actually nothing within your search criteria.’ It is an absolute travesty. I think we need to reform that right to information law as a matter of priority.

Most recently we’ve seen how the Government won’t disclose the Chief Health Officer’s written advice regarding interstate border closures (Qld CHO’s border advice kept secret – massive failure of governance, record keeping, and transparency).

Queensland Parliament House, corner of Alice St and George St, Brisbane. Photo by Jennifer Tunny.

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