Written By: - Date published: 10:38 am, April 5th, 2013 - 84 comments
Categories: accountability, australian politics, corruption, john key, Spying - Tags: campbell live, GCSB, iain rennie, ian fletcher, spin
Yesterday, Iain Rennie as reported by Brent Edwards on RNZ responded to criticisms of Ian Fletcher’s appointment as head of the GCSB. RNZ report. Later on Campbell Live Rennie did a very good job in damping down criticism of Key’s intervention in the appointment. Rennie shifted the focus from Key to himself, in keeping with his brief to be non-political.
Campbell started by quoting from the SSC website about Rennie’s role.
The current office of State Services Commissioner descends directly from that of the Public Service Commission. The Public Service Commission was established in 1912 to employ all public servants, so protecting the Public Service from political interference and enabling the preservation of the political neutrality of the Public Service.
Campbell then said that Rennie thought Key’s role in the appointment process didn’t amount to political interference.
Rennie showed himself to be very adept at avoiding political statements. For instance, Campbell asked about whether Fletcher’s background in intellectual property made him a good person to be dealing with intellectual property issues re-Dotcom and TPP. Rennie replied that was not in his (Rennie’s) mind when he was considering Fletcher for the GCSB job. Rennie claimed Fletcher was the ideal person to manage the required changes to GCSB. But, that doesn’t mean the intellectual property issue wasn’t forefront in Key’s mind.
I previously made similar connections in relation to Fletcher’s jobs in intellectual property in the UK, in my post: The CV of a Spy Boss.
Last night, on TV3 News, with Key now shown to have been economical with the truth about his intervention in Ian Fletcher’s appointment, resorting to his usual defense – attack Labour. And further to this, an unnamed government minister extended the defensive attack to Ferguson, claiming an upcoming report will show the GCSB was in a poor state under his watch.
So, this provides the rationale for employing Fletcher to “professionalise” and improve the functioning of the GCSB. Key and Rennie have referred to Fletcher’s stint as head of Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation.
Yet, Fletcher’s term in this job was not without criticism, which cause a certain amount of controversy in the Queensland MSM. Fletcher’s management of his department was called into question over the health and safety of horses. In an article in the Courier Mail of 4 November 2011, referred to a report by Ombudsman Phil Clarke, which had been released the previous day. This report was quite damning of Fletcher’s department:
The report savaged the Government for systemic failures, including dated laws, poor training and inadequate communication with vets and horse owners….
The report focused on the handling of six Hendra incidents between 2006 and 2009, in which 18 horses died or were destroyed. Two vets died and one vet nurse contracted the virus but lived. The report did not consider later outbreaks.
Fletcher, using the MO of the best defense is attack, was highly critical of the Ombudsman’s report:
THE bureaucrat charged with tackling Hendra virus complained Queensland’s Ombudsman botched a report into the Government’s response to a series of outbreaks.
Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation boss Ian Fletcher said the report by Ombudsman Phil Clarke, released yesterday, had inaccuracies and outdated information, quoted officers out of context and misconstrued evidence.
Mr Fletcher admitted there were “lessons to be learnt” but said his department could not be too rigid because it had to adapt to fast-moving and highly variable outbreaks.
Fletcher came under criticism on an another issue, which also was reported in the MSM. It involved leases to trade headquarters in Los Angeles and Latin America, resulting in unnecessary costs to taxpayers. It shows that Fletcher was criticised for giving inaccurate information to a Queensland government estimates hearing. According to the Courier Mail of 19 July 2011:
THE Bligh Government was already considering shifting Queensland’s trade headquarters to Latin America when it signed a 10-year lease on a plush Los Angeles office.
Internal emails obtained by The Courier-Mail contradict the Government’s claims that the LA lease was signed before the move was contemplated.
Senior bureaucrat Ian Fletcher told an estimates hearing last week that the move to Latin America was considered only after the lease was finalised in December 2009.
But the email trail shows then LA-based trade commissioner Peter Beattie warned in August 2009 against signing the lease as the move to Latin America was being contemplated.
But bureaucrats pushed for the lease to be signed, arguing the savings generated from the new deal could be used to help pay for Premier Anna Bligh’s “completely unfunded” Latin America trade trip.Taxpayers now remain lumbered with the lease costs on the vacated LA office – 9000km from the new trade headquarters in Santiago, Chile.…However, the Government yesterday maintained Mr Fletcher’s comments to the hearing were accurate.
Now the Campbell Newman government is accusing the [corruption fighting] watchdog of wrongly injecting itself into the political arena and has announced an independent review of the [Crime and Misconduct Commission] CMC. A nasty case involving the former Bligh government may just prove that Newman is right and justify changes to the law. In 2010 and 2011 The Courier-Mail’s political reporter, Steven Wardill, published a series of stories from leaks within the Queensland government’s export arm, Trade and Investment Queensland. The leaked stories were an embarrassment to Anna Bligh and her state Labor government and in particular to Ian Fletcher, then director-general of the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, and his deputy, Mark Birmingham. Both men were responsible for the supervision of Trade and Investment Queensland.
Apologies to Instauration who yesterday evening posted some links related to this issue, including one I used to the same article above, under my post on The CV of a Spy Boss. Sorry I didn’t see it earlier.
Instauration wrote (on the issue of the Queensland government buying cheap imported t-shirts to promote a “buy local” campaign, resulting in Fletcher being hauled over the coals by state Development Minister Andrew Fraser):
Mr Fletchers judgment has been questioned in April 2011;
“I considered this to be misleading, and would serve only to compound the gross error of judgment.”