The Outsider: You said what?

Jul 25, 2014

Today, mumbles, stumbles and shining a light on an empty stage.

A word in your ear m’lord

State Parliament’s Budget Estimates committee hearings, a traditional annual “Festival of the Bureaucrat”, wound up this week.

The five days of question-and-answer sessions allow MPs to trawl through the budgeted expenditure of departments and agencies, with the Minister being supported by an entourage of public servants who get to sit in the parliamentary chamber.

There’s many a bureaucrat who cherishes this moment of importance; others have nightmares about the experience (such as the Education official a few years ago who was hauled out and dressed down after being a little too truthful).

This year, one bureaucrat managed to garner national media attention.

Health Department chief financial officer Danny DeCesare helped Minister Jack Snelling answer a question on just how many people worked in the department with this pithy wrap:

“Just to amplify the Minister’s comments a little further, the predominant cause for the increase was essentially a realignment of the cap, our FTE numbers, by virtue of a period of time previously. Perhaps I will provide an example. First of all, the FTE numbers have increased. Say, for example, FTEs are provided on the basis of an average salary of $100,000 but indeed the salaries are actually $80,000 each, you will have to increase the FTE numbers to correlate with the dollars, and that is the sole purpose of the increase to the FTEs.”

For that effort, he wins a dinner for two in the parliamentary dining room.

Echoes of Yes Minister …

Ministry of Silly Talks

Still on the Budget Estimates, and The Outsider, already fatigued by the language of obfuscation, ventured back for more on the final two days.

Fortunately, there wasn’t a school group in sight, lest their teachers be appalled at the reading skills of three Government Ministers.

Ministers Hunter, Bettison and Brock managed to maul the English language with mispronunciations and poor delivery, all the while giving the impression they had no idea what they were reading when making opening statements.

All three, it seems, are adept at clipping the first syllable of any word that runs to several syllables.

And so it was that we discovered that Ian Hunter was responsible for “Vironment and Stainability”, something that Clovelly Park residents probably agree with.

 Is that clear?

And a final word on Budget Estimates … if Liberal MP Steven Griffiths thought he was going to get anything of substance from Local Government Minister Geoff Brock, then this answer to his request for the latest unemployment figures would have set him straight:

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“To answer your question, I do get regular information on all that and we just have to get the correct information. I did not bring that with me at this particular point. I just reinforce to the member that we will get that information and that I have the information, but before I make a comment here I do not want to put the wrong information across to you. I understand exactly where you are coming from, and I have seen it, but I just want to double-check my figures before I make it public.”

By the end of Estimates, The Outsider had come to the conclusion that Tom Koutsantonis is a breviloquent orator.

 A light on the hill

South Australia looks set to have another royal commission, adding to the list of 238 commissions and inquiries dating back to 1859.

From what The Outsider already knows about the latest reason to set up a body with “coercive information-gathering powers”, this commission will be running for a very long time.

What its terms of reference, powers and resourcing will be remains to be seen; one legal expert has told InDaily there’s the possibility of a Commonwealth Government royal commission if the case has interstate and international implications.

While no-one doubts the importance of this case, we thought it might be time to remember some of the more curious cases that became the subject of royal inquiry.

In 1890, there was an inquiry into “the best means of lighting by electricity the Houses of Parliament and other public buildings adjoining, and the estimated cost compared with the cost of the present system of lighting with gas”.

Perhaps they should have just asked for three quotes.

We envy the Commissioner and staff appointed in 1874 to “inquire into the alcoholic strength of South Australian wines”, which may have been an interesting precursor to the 1906 royal commission “upon the question of the treatment of inebriates”.

Some of the royal commissions have been extensive investigations into major social issues, while others still leave us scratching our heads.

We’re still not sure why it was that SA needed the 1979 Royal Commission into the Floodlighting of Football Park at West Lakes – but we do hope it shone a light on something.

Scoop of the Year

And a special prize this week to Channel Nine’s TV reporter Ben Avery.

Avery was covering the Bill Clinton speech in Adelaide yesterday when he happened upon this ground-breaking piece of vision which he thought was well worth a Tweet.



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