Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Let's change the paradigm

Gerard Henderson in today's SMH would have us believe that the failure of the Government to release information about what happened on the boat that caught fire and sank off Ashmore Reef is in conflict with the statements from John Faulkner about the importance of informing the public and the interests of democracy.

However, the reality is that the events are not clear as Henderson asserts. There are multiple witnesses and specific physical evidence. To provide information to the public rather than mere data will require what Bob Debus described to Lateline as a “forensic reconstruction.” The police are the people with the skils and resources to conduct such an investigation, not the defence force. The Government has taken the appropriate action in ensuring that occurs.

To start making definitive statements about “what happened” before that investigation would be to follow the unfortunate experience of the previous Government. The cases of children overboard and of Private Kovco should not be repeated.

It is time we changed the paradigm and expected Ministers to be fully informed not simply relay the first convenient version they find. This is not only consistent with the principles of full public disclosure, but also with the pursuit of evidence based policy.

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