Why the AFR case is serious
Saturday 9th March 2013, 2:00PM GMT.
NOW that the terms of reference have been published by Scrutiny into the non-disclosure of information (would that be the cover-up the chief minister said never happened?) about the AFR Advocates settlement, it is clear to see what a can of worms this is.
For a start, asking the Home Department why it did not release the details of the settlement begs another question: how on earth could it?
It is not a party to the settlement. Those who were, agreed a confidentiality arrangement and unless AFR have said it can be waived, only those identified should know the details.
In short, whoever told Home is in breach and Home will have compounded that by passing it on to States members.
This point was put to the department on Tuesday – since when the silence has been deafening – and the significance will not be lost on Scrutiny, which intends grilling key witnesses in public.
Home is in a difficult place. An earlier court hearing established that the police chief is independent of the States, reinforcing the view that only AFR, Judge Russell Finch, the police chief and the officers involved in the action are entitled to know the settlement.
Why, on what advice, for what purpose and at whose request a gag was negotiated is equally central – and questionable.
Yet without any of that being in the open Home has supported a total gag, only to see most of the figures dribble out because its starting point was untenable. And unfortunately that black-out
position was enthusiastically endorsed by the chief minister.
Responsibility for the handling of this matter, however, rests with the Home minister and he does seem rather to have backed the wrong side of the story.
Even yesterday he was suggesting that there might be exceptional reasons to support the gag. If so, Scrutiny will be pleased to hear them.
In the meantime, those who were attempting to dismiss this as media froth had a change of heart with the Frossard House PR machine intoning: ‘We must work hard corporately to… help rebuild public trust in our leaders’.
Yes, it is that serious.
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