Tis the season to bury bad Government decisions
Christmas is an odd time of year at Parliament. It’s a ghost town populated by a few grumpy staffers who inexplicably have to work and a few merrier journos who spend a rather long time at lunch.
But with such merriment one also has to keep an eye out for the Government dumping the trash when nobody is looking.
On Tuesday night at 6:30 the Government put out a press release quietly announcing that the controversial Men’s Health Ambassadors program, of which Julia Gillard’s partner was the marquee signing, had met for the final time and was being scrapped.
This decision concludes what was a very forgettable episode for the Health Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister.
Last November (when this Punch writer was still a political reporter for The Age in Canberra) we were called to a press conference with health minister Nicola Roxon and the star signings of the Mens’ Health Ambassador program were unveiled.
Health being my round I wrote a relatively innocuous story legitimately questioning why the hair product salesman Mathieson should be in such a position with no experience in health.
The appointment immediately became a bit of a headache for Roxon and Gillard, but the real clanger was giving a guernsey to Warwick Marsh and Barry Williams as ambassadors.
Both Marsh and Williams had put their names to a document entitled 21 Reasons Why Gender Matters made which in the midst of spruiking quite sound reasons for the importance of family and marriage, made claims that included homosexuality was a mental disorder and that gay people were more likely to take drugs and molest children.
Roxon’s office immediately went into damage control and after Marsh refused to back away from the paper he was sacked. Williams was kept on but it was clear that the whole thing was very ill-thought out in the first place (to her credit Roxon bascially accepted as much).
What was supposed to be a debutant ball for Mathieson turned into a PR disaster that was promptly killed off on Tuesday night through a press release from Warren Snowden, minister for rural and regional health, not Roxon’s office the minister who proudly announced the program last November.
Another pretty ironic example of shamelessly sneaking out announcements at this time of year was the release of the Freedom of Information Annual Report.
This report was released by Senator Joe Ludwig’s office at 4:30 pm on December 22 with this straight faced statement:
“This is an important publication which allows scrutiny and transparency in the operation of the FOI Act, while also enabling the Government to monitor and identify key areas for reform,” Senator Ludwig said.
“The Rudd Government is pressing forward with its commitment for more openness in government.”
For the record the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet granted full access to just 12 freedom of information requests in 2008-09 from 55 requests received.
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