Time for PM to take responsibility, and act decisively

Instead of dealing with the alleged misbehaviour of one of his Ministers, Bridget McKenzie, over the sports rorts affair, Prime Minister Scott Morrison handed the task of examining her behaviour to his department head, Philip Gaetjens.

Gaetjens is a former 10-year chief of staff to then-Liberal Treasurer Peter Costello, and for three years to as recently as the middle of 2018 to then-Liberal Treasurer Scott Morrison himself. From Morrison’s viewpoint, Gaetjens represents putting the decision “in safe hands”, whatever that means.

But from a leadership position – and from the position of Minister McKenzie – Gaetjens is entirely the wrong person to decide.

Firstly, it is a ‘ministerial’ code that applies to ministers under the leadership, and control, of the prime minister. So the prime minister alone should consider the issues and make the decision: he is responsible, personally for setting the standards his ministers must continue to meet.

Secondly, most people believe public trials should be before a jury of one’s peers. Gaetjens is not a peer of McKenzie, because she is a minister of the crown and he is a public servant. McKenzie would have a legitimate complaint if Gaetjens decides she has broke the PM’s code, and she is sacked.,

“The Prime Minister should decide quickly, personally, as sufficient detail of what McKenzie did and did not do is known,” CLA CEO Bill Rowlings said. “And he should act decisively to dismiss her immediately if she has failed to meet the ministerial code of conduct, as most members of the public believe is the case.

“This is more than just possible rorting of $100m of public money for sports facilities. This process is setting the standard by which the Morrison government will be judged for the rest of its term in office,” he said.

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