The Rudd government has made a good start, but only a start, on improving standards of governance. One move that is particularly sensible is the complete ban on ministers having personal shareholdings. Any other rule is bound to create grey areas, and politicians being as human as they are, attempts to push the boundaries. That said, I’m sure someone will be found who is silly enough to breach even a clear-cut rule like this. When this comes to light, it’s crucial that Rudd should bite the bullet and sack the person concerned, regardless of their other merits. I’m struck by the extent to which the Beattie government has come unscathed through a string of scandals, largely because, once a breach of the rules became apparent, those responsible were sacked.
The big problem of ministerial accountability remains to be addressed, but at least we have some hope of an improvement in standards of financial probity, which is long overdue. More on this from Tim Dunlop.
Meanwhile, even allowing for a difficult position, I’ve been disappointed by Brendan Nelson so far. Surely, for example, it would be better to leave a frontbench position vacant than to appoint Bronwyn Bishop. On a more serious note, having supported the ratification of Kyoto, Nelson appears to have shifted to opportunistic opposition to anything that would build on this first step.