The Not So Independent Ombudsman and the Hypocritical Greens

Today the Commonwealth Ombudsman, Allan Asher resigned his post over events in which Mr Asher provided Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young with a series of questions in relation to immigration, specifically asylum seekers. The news of the affair surfaced last week and has until today cast a could over the  independence  of Mr Asher and confidence in his future performance.

In an ideal world, with ideal adherence to governance and independence standards, Allan Asher should have resigned from his role immediately. The Ombudsman, at the moment the situation came to light, to save face for the Office of the Ombudsman in the eyes of the wider Australian community, should have resigned last week, before appearing at committees and making other statements of apology as has happened since.

Furthermore, as the Ombudsman is independent, the argument that the Government were shirking accountability on the issue of asylum seekers, while a grave allegation, could have been circumvented in part by a press release or series thereof, being put to the media.

However, the Ombudsman was not the only party involved, nor the only party or individual to take blame for the situation. The Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, the Senator who met with and accepted and then used the list of questions provided must also share blame for her part in the situation.

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young should not have accepted, in any case, the list of questions provided by the Ombudsman. This whole event smacks of Australian Greens hypocrisy given their stance over the Godwin Grech affair, which resulted in the Greens putting up a list of standards to meet and which have been flouted in this case.

Ideally, an MP or Senator involved in such a situation under Westminster accountability standards should at least stand aside from their portfolios responsibilities, shadow or not and at best, resign from parliament. However, with precedents set against such an occasion, in this day and age that level of accountability is unlikely to be reached and at times could be unworkable.

The Australian Greens, in the wake of this imbroglio, will put forward an idea of an oversight function for the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman. In any case, coming from a party not involved in the recent events, this would be a welcome development. However, in this case it smacks of a diversion from the involvement of  Senator Sarah Hanson-Young in what has led to this quite sensible announcement.

In the end today, we have reached basically the right outcome, with the Ombudsman eventually, under considerable pressure, being somewhat nudged into resignation from his post. Furthermore, we have learnt that as far as accountability goes, no party is fully immune from errors of judgement and when confronted by the facts, will attempt to put forward a solution to distract from their original involvement in not so smart encounters.

About Tom Bridge

A perennial student of politics, providing commentary for money and for free. Email me at or contact me on 0435 035 095 for engagements.

Posted on October 20, 2011, in Federal Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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