This should be the real story today, and was highlighted by Graeme E in a comments thread. On Close Up last night the PM said this about the Auditor-General:
On the pledge card, let me say for the record, the Auditor-General, Mr Brady, gave an unqualified audit certificate, total sign-off, to the same spending under the same relevant rules last election; and I ask what is fair, what is consistent, about him changing his mind and smearing the reputation of my party and other political parties
Now this borders on unconstitutional. To have the PM attack an Independent Officer of Parliament in such a way and accuse him of “smearing” (Helen’s favourite word to describe anything that makes her look bad) is outrageous. Even worse is he can’t defend himself. The rare time he has explained his report, the PM has also attacked him for daring to talk publicly – yet she partisanly attacks this most independent of offices.
Helen also ignores that the Auditor-General tried to meet with her before the election and she refused. He publicly warned all parties to be very careful and she proceeded with a pledge card which four different agencies have declared to be election advertising. She had the choice of asking him to vet it, and she didn’t.
As for whether or not it was “approved” in 2002, she shows ignorance of a role of an auditor. Putting aside the fact the rules changed in 2003, an auditor does not individually see or vet every single transaction. Parliament spends $100 million or so, and there is no evidence that the AG was even aware that the 2002 pledge card was paid for out of taxpayer funds. Their role is not to check every single transaction – they do a random sample generally.
So lets leave behind all the dirt dumping which have been a desperate distraction from this issue. Who thinks it is acceptable for the Prime Minister to accuse the Auditor-General of “smearing” her party? Shouldn’t the Speaker or the State Services Commissioner be rushing in to defend the Auditor-General? The SSC calls for Opposition MPs not to attack Govt Dept CEOs so surely he should say the same when it is the PM.