Federal Politics

License article

Check the dirty washing on O'Farrell's line

Upholding a fine tradition, the O'Farrell government took full advantage of the nation's focus on the federal budget to unburden itself of some information.

It's called putting out the garbage, and every government does it. Digging through the wheelie bin can offer a good insight into issues and announcements to which our political leaders would prefer we didn't pay too much attention.

This year, the most notable example was the announcement that the O'Farrell government would not be pursuing a High Court challenge to the carbon tax.

The Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman, got in first by announcing just before noon on budget day that he had received legal advice that the challenge would fail.

It didn't take too long for the NSW Premier's office to follow suit. At 4.40pm his media unit emailed press gallery journalists to advise them that its own legal advice was that the challenge was ''unlikely to succeed''.

Around the same time, the Primary Industries Minister, Katrina Hodgkinson, and the Environment Minister, Robyn Parker, were taking the opportunity to announce that the government would move to corporatise NSW Forests.


The move was always going to be controversial, given that it has been marked for sale by successive governments.

Despite Hodgkinson's upbeat proclamation in a media release about the benefits the decision would deliver to the state, the minister's ''good news'' announcement was embargoed so it would be lobbed directly into the middle of the next day's budget news coverage.

Of course, the media is not the only avenue to get rid of budget day trash. The Parliament can come in pretty handy as well.

Among the papers tabled by the government was a regulation stipulating that 15,000 people who have applied to join the solar bonus scheme will lose their entitlement to a net feed-in tariff if they haven't connected to the grid by June 30.

While many of them are likely to be customers who have simply changed their minds about signing up, there will no doubt be at least some who have signed contracts with suppliers which now risk effectively being torn up by the government if they miss the deadline.

Also quietly made public was the latest update to the pecuniary interests of members of the Legislative Assembly.

The document makes for some interesting reading, showing various government backbenchers have been jetting off to the four corners of the globe - including in the case of one MP the arduous task of visiting the Bahamas, Jamaica and Canada to study other examples of parliamentary democracy in action.

There is still potentially plenty of garbage to be taken out by the O'Farrell government.

The Premier's office has confirmed it has received legal advice on a High Court challenge to the mining tax. The advice was sought with a view to potentially intervening in a challenge being launched by the mining mogul Andrew Forrest, of Fortescue Metals Group.

But to date the Premier has refused to disclose what the advice says and when the public might be told about it, giving the strong indication it is not what they were anticipating.

The same is true for last year's report on introducing recall elections in NSW. Two out of three academics commissioned by the government recommended the introduction of a recall provision to NSW, whereby an early election may be forced upon a government if enough voters agree.

O'Farrell said cabinet would consider the recommendations early this year, but there has been no sign of a response. The good news is we might not have too long to wait. After all, the NSW budget gets handed down on June 12.