In August last year, when Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced a new Wellcamp quarantine facility, many were flummoxed.
The deal had been inked with landowner Wagner Corporation which would build the 1000-bed, dedicated facility.
It was a huge deal – but no-one had heard discussion of it, including the Commonwealth which was working on its own quarantine plan up the road at Pinkenba.
Who came up with the idea? When? Who made the decision not to tell the Commonwealth? Or to announce it at such a strategic time that it embarrassed the federal government?
With her announcement today, the premier has committed to taking us inside the State Cabinet room to see the rigour behind decisions line Wellcamp.
They are the type of questions that should be answered with the release of Cabinet submissions and decisions.
How much money was handed over? Under what conditions? (Indeed, while we are asking questions, perhaps we could find out how much money it continues to cost Queenslanders).
Under Peter Coaldrake’s landmark integrity blueprint, and the Government’s commitment to implement it, they are questions the government would know it might be asked – and it would need to have an answer.
This single recommendation to make Cabinet submissions, agendas, and decisions released within 30 business days delivers on two fronts: firstly, it provides greater transparency for voters on how Cabinet makes a decision; and secondly, it actually encourages better decision-making because Cabinet ministers know their considerations will become public.
It has happened elsewhere, including in New Zealand since 2019, and so far the sky hasn’t yet fallen in. It’s a fair bet that won’t happen here either.
But just imagine what other information we might be privy to, if this recommendation had been standing practice with recent decisions.
Remember when Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk closed schools down, earlier this year, without even consulting principals of big Brisbane schools? Did that decision go to Cabinet? Did anyone speak up, and advise that schools should be alerted? Did any submission canvas the impact on parents? What about other COVID school closures – what kind of evidence was presented in the Cabinet submissions.
What about during COVID lockdowns? How many of those decisions were made around the Cabinet table? On whose advice? Whose voice was loudest? How much of a factor was the politics of Queensland going up against the Commonwealth?
Wellcamp. COVID. School closures. That’s just the beginning.
Was the death of five-year-old Hiyaan Kapil after visiting the Logan Hospital raised in Cabinet? In what context? Did Cabinet have a strong discussion about what might be needed to address a situation, where a young boy goes to hospital dreadfully ill, and dies hours after being sent home?
Or was the decision of a review made on the run?
How does Cabinet decide what to do about domestic violence? Are decisions actually made in Cabinet, or stitched up before the meeting takes place?
What about if you could understand how the Cabinet had made its decisions around Star’s new Brisbane Casino. Was the dreadful evidence popping up interstate canvassed? In what way? What was the submission used to ignore the interstate revelations? And what turned that decision upside down recently, prompting the announcement of a review?
Actually on that point, how will Cabinet make the decision on who will head the review into the casino’s compliance?
Or what about Cabinet’s decision on mining? Where does it stand? How does it balance environmental and employment considerations? Is there a contest of ideas around the table? Or have decisions already been made, before Cabinet takes place?
The ditching of Lady Cilento’s name atop the Queensland Children’s Hospital. The appointment of the chief justice. The rushed decision, earlier this week, to announce changes to lobbying laws hours ahead of the Coaldrake report. Was that a Cabinet decision, or a rush-of-blood to stymie the criticism the government saw coming its way?
The appointment of the Governor – or does that decision even go to Cabinet?
The recommendation to release Cabinet decisions will reveal the facts that inform the announcements that rule our lives daily in Queensland.
It’s only one recommendation, but it will go a long way to providing greater transparency for voters in understanding how governments make decisions.
But that runs a distant second to ensuring Cabinet makes good decisions – and this recommendation is the fuel to help ensure that happens.
If only it was retrospective…
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