September 2013

Unfortunately, our sensible and non-contentious quest for a second airfield for our city has turned for the time being into a whistle-blowing exercise.

I reported in March that we had submitted a complaint to the ACT Ombudsman with a wealth of supporting evidence detailing the problems with the assessment process undertaken by the ACT Government.

The case was assigned to a conscientious and careful investigator, who worked part-time and had a very large case load, so it took her the better part of a year to work through the mountain of documents and develop a brief.

Chris Price and I had a number of meetings with her, where she accepted additional information, and discussed the issue with us.  We were in no doubt that she took the case very seriously and contacted various people within the ACT Public Service for additional information.

Around the end of August she had a meeting with a decision maker within the ACT Ombudsman’s office and presented a case, which we understand recommended obtaining further evidence from officers of the ACT Public Service.

The background to the referral to the ACT Ombudsman and the outcomes of the various steps is described in detail on this page.

In summary, there are repeated statements to us in letters that the appropriate course of action for us was to lay our complaints with the Ombudsman.  There are also internal documents obtained under FOI that suggest that this was considered the appropriate course of action.

We were somewhat surprised to receive a letter from Mr Andrew Kefford, ACT Government Commissioner for Public Administration, whose actions formed part of our complaint, saying that he had discussed the matter with the Ombudsman’s office and he would be continuing the investigation.

We received a call from the Ombudsman’s investigating officer indicating that the investigation was now in Mr Kefford’s hands, but at the time of writing we have not had a written confirmation of this.  I find the idea that the Ombudsman would hand the investigation over to one of the agencies who are being investigated so extraordinary, that I feel I need that written confirmation.

The investigator beleieves that Mr Kefford should report within a relatively short periond of time, but given that he has been handed the brief this seems an optimistic expectation, and certainly does not accord with what Mr Kefford has said to us in his letter.

Some nine weeks after we asked Mr Kefford to review a decision, he has told us that we can expect him shortly to inform us about the process he might adopt to review a decision.

So, we are preparing two cases to go to the Auditor General.  One relates to the original complaint regarding the assessment process, the second to the investigation of that process.

The only upside is that it appears that the ACT Government realises that there may be a problem.

From time to time we see analogous cases on television of whistle-blowing exercises, and sit shaking our heads at how a bank, government or whatever can be so stupid and arrogant, and how much easier it would have been if they had simply addressed the problem when it was raised.  I believe that we are now in that situation.

I am more appalled than I can say at the quality of governance surrounding this situation, and angry enough to commit to chasing it down however long it takes.  This page is just a summary, there is a lot more.

In August I gave a talk to the Australian Aviation Club about Williamsdale and in preparing this talk found that the paper to Minister Andrew Barr, that changed the action Officer’s recommendation to proceed with the airfield, was in fact co-authored by Mr Barr.  How about that?  The relevant papers can be found in this chapter.

I still strongly believe that we cannot get the airfield on the agenda until the ACT Government acknowledges the problems in the process so far.

Lastly, I can find no shred of evidence that either the ACT Government ministers or officers in the public service have any idea of what a secondary airfield might be, but they are against it anyway.