Commercial-in-confidence and other mechanisms to hide details are wheeled out all to often and they forget, its our money!
But so does another: the idea of government as regular, principled, ethical and fair to all comers. On paper, modern public administration – and bulwarks of it such as the Financial Management Act – are based on notions of open and transparent dealings with all comers, probity, honesty and integrity.
It is not always the fault of bureaucrats, but increasingly, actual administration seems to involve a plethora of “one-off” deals with single businesses, and a significant decline in accountability. There is rhetoric about open government and about the transparency of decision-making.
Against this comes evidence of paranoia about government secrecy and the use of commercial-in-confidence and other mechanisms to hide details of an ever-larger interface between government and business.
Dealing with this is not merely a matter of having crime and integrity commissions, or codes of conduct, necessary as these are. To get better, more efficient and more credible government we need a serious attack on political cronyism and on the power of insiders and special interests in government.
We also need fresh controls on deals and arrangements that for one reason or another are outside the general conventions. Vast sums of public money are being doled out, without effective tender, transparency, contest, or debate, to mates, party donors, chancers and big business and developers.
It is doubtful whether the public is getting the better of most of these transactions.
We need a serious attack on political cronyism and on the power of insiders and special interests in government.