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Feb 9, 2013

So, why have an Arts Ministry?

Image: Arts Minister, Ros Bates. Source, Courier Mail
There is growing speculation as to the tenure of the Queensland Arts Minister, Ros Bates as she stumbles from crisis to crisis.  So far there have been problems with the employment of her son in her department, giving rise to claims of nepotism, problems with the lobbyists register, extended sick leave followed by a holiday at a time when she was under question in the house, and a revolving door of hirings and firings.
The Newman government has an overwhelming majority in parliament and there is no need to hang onto troublesome ministers
IS IT time for Ros Bates to resign? Or should the Newman Government's trouble-prone Arts Minister finally be given the chance to knuckle down and concentrate on her portfolio?  These questions must have been rolling around in Campbell Newman's head this week as he led the Government's disaster response. 
Once again Bates proved accomplished at distracting the administration from the task in front of it after word of her chief of staff's sacking inevitably leaked out. … 
… The risk is that keeping Bates may prove an ongoing distraction and take away from any future achievements, much like it took away from Newman's solid efforts in the aftermath of the floods this week. 
However, none of the individual issues that have dogged Bates so far have deserved her resignation, although when taken collectively that backbench seat beckons.  The issues surrounding her son and the investigation into his appointment to a public service position don't reflect well on Bates. Yet they have nothing to do with the discharging of her ministerial duties. 
She has also been genuinely ill and needed a considerable amount of time off. But taking a Bali holiday after getting well showed an astounding level of ignorance and self-indulgence. 
Perhaps Bates' biggest crime was her failure to table in Parliament an accurate version of her office's Contact with Lobbyist Register.  This was either a paperwork blunder on behalf of an adviser (which is not a sacking offence) or a wilful misleading of Parliament (which is). 
Newman probably could have sacked Bates by now and most people would have believed it was done for the right reason.
The question that has not been asked though is, “Do we really need an arts department?”
Given the massive indebtedness inherited after years of reckless and profligate spending by the Bligh government, huge spending cuts have been needed in order to balance the budget.  Getting rid of unnecessary departments should be considered as a way to do this.
If Arts Queensland actually has any useful functions, these could be absorbed into any of the plethora of other departments and the rest dropped.

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