Asher to Ashes

Over the last one hundred years Australia has had stable government and we have all prospered as a result. One of the key elements in that stability has been the doctrine of separation of powers . This guiding principle seeks the separation of the legislature (ie parliament), the executive (ie head of government, Ministers and Cabinet) and the judiciary (courts of law).

What is not so well known is that at the beginning of our federal government, other stakeholders were taken into account. These included the Australian Public Service, Military forces and Commonwealth Bank (Reserve Bank).

The separation of powers in our system is designed to distribute authority away from the executive branch – an attempt to preserve individual liberty in response to tyrannical leadership throughout history. It seems even the founders of our democracy did not trust politicians.

Most were established with a degree of independence and this was thought to be a safeguard against any particular group grasping too much power.

The system is not set in concrete and much tinkering has taken place (deregulation of the Public Service being one), but the guiding principle has always been respected and thought worthwhile. Alarm bells sound when politicians start to have a go at other groups, for example Senator Brandis trying to influence the judicial process.

In March 1977 the first Commonwealth Ombudsman was established. The Ombudsman is an official, usually (but not always) appointed by the government or parliament, who is charged with representing the interests of the public by investigating and addressing complaints reported by individual citizens. This individual is part of the checks and balances which are thought to preserve our democracy and should operate free of political bias or influence.

So when Allan Asher the current Ombudsman began private political briefings and scripting questions for one political party, he “crossed the line” and bought the Office of Ombudsman into disrepute. The Ombudsman is not a political “player” and should never engage in this type of conduct.

Appearing before a recent Senate hearing Asher apologised :

“This was an error of judgment and it was a mistake and I wish to firstly apologise to the committee for that.

“I really am deeply, deeply sorry in so many ways… It was clearly a mistake.”

Labor Senator John Faulkner did not accept the explanation and questioned whether the Ombudsman’s actions were at odds with his position.

“Are others – citizenry, members of parliament, the government or government agencies actually [to] think that you might not bring the same sort of tactics to the consideration of complaints that are formally made to you,” he said.

“Isn’t that a pretty fundamental problem for you now?

“[It is] absolutely at odds to the fundamental responsibilities to your office.”

But Mr Asher insisted his office had not been compromised.

“I am and my office is politically colour blind,” he said.

“I don’t believe it affects the independence in any way.”

Time to go Mr Asher, pack up your ego and resign.

28 comments on “Asher to Ashes

  1. lunalava
    on early AM I heard the exchange between Asher and Faulkner. In conclusion Asher said he would give any Senators a private briefing if they so desired. Faulkner stated to Asher that he obviously had not learned any thing as yet and that all his questions and the answers would be put on questions without notice so that they could be publically seen.
    Funnily though I have not seen this part reported, will check out the AM site later.
    I think that when Asher meets with the PS later this week he may be asked to step aside and he should

  2. I still do not comprehend why he acted in the way he did.

    Was he awestruck with the seantor and wanted to impress her.

    He had many options to get his point across if he felt the government was not listening.

  3. Mr. Asher has crossed the line. The Ombudsman should be seen to independent of government at all times.
    His complaint is that his department needs more funding but he chose the wrong avenue to achieve his wish.

  4. Asher is an arrogant bastard. If he wanted greater funding someone should have told him that while the squeaky wheel gets oil, it’s also true that nowadays the squeaky wheel gets replaced.

  5. I’m sure there are official paths he can take to apply for more funding.I would have thought a submission to the appropriate department head or Minister would be the way to go

  6. Well he could have use the time he has at the Senate Hearings to list his concerns in his introductory statement. I am sure that would have got results.

    There are many ways he could have acted.

    No, this is an undermining action of this government.

    I wonder how Testra shareholders will vote today.

  7. CU
    OMG not another mid life crisis. Maybe he has been riding his bike a bit too much and not driving, thus not getting the benefit of those audio recordings.
    I ask you CU should middle age men give up on push bikes?

  8. If the PM minister refuses to act against what is a clear breach of responsibility then it will be open slather on public service leaks, briefings and general mischief.
    I never did understand why they did not throw the book at Godwin Grech, remember Howard took criminal action against the slightest breach of the Public Service guidelines. The government just wrings it’s hands and looks weak.

  9. I’m reminded of an interview with Joh Bjielke Peterson when he was asked what he knew about the separation of powers. He knew nothing and his answer was laughable.

    I had a copy of the transcript of the full interview in one of my uni books. Do you think I can find it?

    I’ve searched Google and YouTube to no avail either.

    This is a great pity. Oh how you’d laugh.

  10. lunalava

    From the AM site, here is the bit I heard on the radio, but has not been reported

    ‘NAOMI WOODLEY: With time running short, the inquisition wrapped up. Mr Asher offered to continue the discussions with any interested senators. John Faulkner had a different suggestion.

    JOHN FAULKNER: I think if you did that Mr Asher people would think that you hadn’t learnt very many lessons.

    I will ask, I’ll ask some questions on notice, which is appropriate, so everyone can see them and your, the questions I ask, and your responses to them. I think that would be a better way for us.’

    I do wonder why the msm has failed to report this part of the Senate committee, as it shows that the Ombudsman Asher, does not think he has failed in his responsibilities. And if he can not see his own failings he should not hold the position of Ombudsman.

  11. The really scary bit is that the separation of powers is mostly a convention, an “agreed approach” of fundamental safeguards.
    Along comes a political extremist opportunist like Abbott who says, stuff that I will do whatever it takes for me to get into power.
    Senator Abetz’s dad knew all about that approach to politics.

  12. ” ask you CU should middle age men give up on push

    “I never did understand why they did not throw the book at Godwin Grech, remember Howard took criminal action against the slightest breach of the Public Service guidelines”

    I believe that the majority of Labor are naturally vindictive, unlike those on the other side.

    I am sure they can learn.

    “there are times when men look quite nice in lycra…but Tony Abbott isn’t ”

    We don’t see him on the bike these days. Not on the beach also.

    Maybe I am too hard on Mr. Asher. Maybe he sees her as he would his grand daughter. Maybe he is a Green supporter.

  13. Miglo, someone must have written a book of Joh Bjelke Peterson quotes.

    Maybe we should ask Mr. Howard, I believe he loved the man.

    Many do not realise today that Mr. Petersen was a main player in the Whitlam debacle. That was after Mr. Whitlam stupidly left the door open to allow him to enter.

    Mr. Abbott does not believe, observe or respect convention.

    Mr. Abbott is demanding that Labor observe convention if he gets elected.

    Many do not realise that Mr. Abbott is attempting to do what Mr. Fraser managed back in 1975.

    The problem is that Mr. Abbott does not have the wit or where-it -all to succeed.

    Mr. Abbott has ignored the unique circumstances that allowed Mr. Fraser to succeed.

    Mr. Fraser only won by the skin of his teeth. A few more days and Mr. Whitlam might have won.

    Mr. Abbott believe that he can achieve what he wants by bullying. I think he believes the public is stupid.

  14. I can imagine that Asher was encouraged by our young SHY (not!) friend. She shares some of the blame in this and deserves censure too. The Greens can sometimes be so self-righteous, they think they can do no wrong.

    Thanks Min, that Tool tip helped in all sorts of ways. I haven’t been back to the OO yet, but I will.

    Re lycra clad men – do you remember last year Miglo ran a thread on the MAMIL phenomenon? Middle Aged Men In Lycra! We all enjoyed having a go at Tony then. Somehow he isn’t so funny these days, though I guess you have to laugh, or you’d cry.

    There are very few words rhyming with mamil.
    An obvious one which comes up is the camel.
    There’s also a net or a trap called a trammel.
    But none have inspired to any degree.
    We should have respect for the dromedary.
    He’s much better looking than Abbott. Agree?

  15. Patricia, I put this on your old site, without realising it was 12 months old. Maybe this will interest some.


    “…Rise of the Mamils (middle-aged men in lycra…..

    …………Every weekend, across the nation’s rolling countryside, watch out for the Mamils: middle-aged men in lycra.

    Continue reading the main story
    In today’s MagazineSearching for the next Google
    How did Murakami conquer the world?
    Getting to know Gertrude
    Simmering Bahrain marks time

    And ladies, if you have a man at home taking an unusual interest in how you shave your legs, you may have a Mamil in the making too.

    Research conducted by the retail analyst Mintel suggests there has been a surge in the number of middle-aged men choosing to get on two wheels.

    Given the number of men aged 35-44 who are buying fancy-pants road racing machines, is this a 21st Century mid-life crisis? Has the silence of skinny tyres and carbon fibre framesets replaced the thunderous noise of motorbikes?

    Back in the day, when some men with a bit of disposable income reached a certain age, they did some strange things. The grind of the office and home life convinced some that the answer to an expanding midriff lay in a pair of designer jeans and a flashy but cheap Japanese sports car. Teenage daughters ran away screaming. Sons were deprived of the role models seen in adverts for shaving products.

    Gents, our womenfolk were right all along. It wasn’t a good look. And did ……..

    ……..But no Mamil’s life is complete without the spiritual journey to the mountains. ……..

    ………When you run the slide rule over all of this, flash road bikes definitely look like a midlife crisis.

    There’s a look to strive for, expensive kit and excuses for weekends away….”

    Does our Tony need an excuse for a weekend away. Does he ever go home.

  16. CU
    If you had to watch that lycra or worse the speedos coming through the door, you would think perpetual campaigning is just the thing.

  17. Sue, we are shocking but he does ask for it.

    I cannot take the man seriously. I cannot understand how others do.

    Most did not in the past. I cannot work out what changed.

    If he is the best the Liberals have, god help us. I do not even agree that there is a god.

  18. Miglo, this might help.

    And you will note that his response was actually in the Fitzgerald Inquiry.

    Here’s a sample:

    The cross examination of the then Premier of the State of Queensland in 1988 during a Royal Commission into police and political corruption[2] revealed the following of the knowledge of the leader of the State about the doctrine of the separation of powers:

    Michael Forde: What do you understand by the doctrine of the separation of powers under the Westminster system?

    Sir Joh Bjelke Petersen: The Westminster system? The stock?

    Forde: The doctrine of the separation of powers under the Westminster system?

    Bjelke Petersen: No, I don’t quite know what you’re driving at. The document?

    Forde: No, I’ll say it again. What do you understand by the doctrine of the separation of powers under the Westminster system?

    Bjelke Petersen: I don’t know which doctrine you refer to.

    Forde: There is only one doctrine of the separation of powers.

    Bjelke Petersen: I believe in it very strongly, and despite what you may say, I believe that we do have a great responsibility to the people who elect us to government. And that’s to maintain their freedom and their rights, and I did that � sought to do it � always.

    Forde: I’m sure you’re trying to be responsive to the question, but the question related to the doctrine of the separation of powers or the principles.

    Bjelke Petersen: Between the Government and the � Is it?

    Forde: No, you tell me what you understand.

    Bjelke Petersen: Well, the separation of the doctrine that you refer to, in relation to where the Government stands, and the rest of the community stands, or where the rest of the instruments of Government stand. Is that what-?

    Forde: No

    Bjelke Petersen: Well, you tell me. And I’ll tell you whether you’re right or not. Don’t you know?

  19. God preserve us from Bjelke-Petersens and their clones! that brings back terrible memories and I didn’t live in Queensland.

    I can remember a car dealer from Adelaide making a huge song and dance about how Joh was so much better for business than the SA Labour government (Don Dunstan, I think), so he was decamping to Joh’s Mecca! Blah! Blah! Blah! along the lines of an anal rant!

    Within 12 months he was back with his tail between his legs. Slipped back into Adelaide under cover of darkness. No fanfare or trumpeting about how crap Joh Rule was, so you still had taxi drivers spruiking Johland until you mentioned this bloke’s name, which escapes me atm.

    It was a perfect way to shut a taxi driver up. And an end to the Joh is great propaganda campaign.

    And of course later revelations proved how corrupt he and his government were. That was when the ABC was worth its salt, with programs like The Moonlight State. Sadly, it shows how bad the ABC is now.

    It also changed my opinion about Upper Houses and executive government.

  20. Jane are we being treat any better by Mr. Abbott and his cronies.

    The former just had a better turn of phrase. Of course Jo had another advantage, he was from NZ.

    The difference I believe is, Jo knew what he was doing.

    I do not believe that Mr. Abbott does.

    It does not harm Mr.Abbott has the support of the media.

  21. (Hmmm, if whoever pays the bagpiper calls the tune, who is paid to play Ombudsman for an arguably underdefended, underfunded Ombudsman in that round account?)

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