You Know It’s Easter When…

The news is that Easter church attendance is up on previous years. To my recollection Easter church attendances have reportedly been “up” every year for about the last 30 years, yet annual attendance rates seem to steadily fall. It’s a Mystery of Faith as Mel might observe.

Less of a mystery was the announcement that a highly regarded public servant (well OK, it was the public servant in question claiming she was “highly regarded” but still) had departed Defence rather than lie about Iraqi WMD – or so the initial reports had it. Easter is an ideal time for a political newsgrabber. You’ve usually only got to compete with the annual rise in church attendances report – and maybe the odd easter egg-inspired mass killing story – for headlines. The fact that Jane Errey had actually departed from Defence a year ago mattered not at all. Timing is everything.

It took the ABC 24 hours from the initial ‘break’ to establish the perhaps not insignificant fact that Ms Errey had “Democrat connections.” At about the same time Andrew Bartlett popped up to call for an inquiry into Erreygate. Unfortunately, no one in the media grasped the moment to put “Democrat connections” and an Andrew Bartlett appearance into an ideal question opportunity frame. Pity. Senator Chris Evans had a half-hearted Eastertime sort of go at dropping a Wilkie comparison number on Robert Hill but then vanished. Robert Hill duly popped up to say that Ms Errey’s departure was precipitated by ‘management issues’ and had nothing to do with Iraq policy. Meanwhile, no-one seemed to be asking Ms Errey why it had taken her 12 months to unburden herself. Especially when the catalyst for her departure appeared to be the rejection of her request for leave without pay from a department that she found so morally compromised. Wouldn’t you just resign?

It took me about 10 minutes to google up a significant Errey track record with the Democrats (just type “Jane Errey) including a stint as a Meg Lees staffer, leader of the ACT Democrats, candidate for the ACT legislature etc. I noted her stance on the ACT Bicycling Strategy and also noted that she was the joint owner of a VH-FXR 1975 “Cheetah Nosed” Traveler, light aircraft – which seems a tad at odds with her philosophical stance on pedal power but if it feels good, do it. Even Crikey offered some background insight.

Today the Hun ran a piece which quotes Ms Errey thus: “I won’t lie!” It then went on to reveal that – oddly enough – no-one appeared to have required her to do so.

Here she is on her role:

“I felt like I was part of the propaganda machine. As a public servant I shouldn’t be expected to write propaganda,” she told the Sunday Herald Sun.

A superior had instructed her to compile media advice on WMDs for Senator Hill, advice Ms Errey said would have misled the public.

“Anything that I was doing with respect to the war was making me uncomfortable,” Ms Errey said. “Then to have to brief the minister and fundamentally give him — even though I didn’t write it — lines of propaganda that I didn’t believe with respect to the war was beyond what I was prepared to do. I wouldn’t lie or mislead the public.”

So, she wasn’t asked to invent anything it seems. Rather she was tasked with “compiling media advice” on WMD’s for the Minister via the Chief Defence Scientist, to whom she reported. “Even though I didn’t write it” would seem to me to mean that she “didn’t write” anything she fundamentally disagreed with, nor it seems was anyone forcing her to lie.

You don’t have to be a government supporter to be an effective federal public servant. It’s pretty clear that the ALP enjoys a handsome vote primacy in Canberra but it doesn’t stop ALP voters – or Democrats – working for the government of the day. Clearly, if your philosophical difference with government policy is such that you feel personally compromised then it’s probably sensible to opt out – surprisingly few do, but there you go.

What you probably shouldn’t do is to spin that departure into a politically expedient post-facto rationale that looks a bit too cute to be true. Specially at Easter, in the Google Century.

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David Tiley
2024 years ago

Tell me it ain’t so. The armadillo, joyous trumpet-eared desert trundler, endlessly hopeful in the heat haze, has found some evidence that public servants are not only expedient, but even more expedient when they claim not to be expedient.

You will be telling us that ice cream has gone off since we were children next.

Seriously though, how on earth can you get a job in the Department of Defence, as an active Democrat supporter, when the Liberals are in power, and not expect that you are going to be faced with something that contradicts your ideals? The department is about killing people in support of the american alliance. She is a travelling definition of a nitwit, even if she does own a bicycle,

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2024 years ago

Green Left Weekly claimed – disapprovingly as you might have guessed – that she announced that she’d support the Libs if they were the biggest party in the ACT legislature back in 2001, when she was a candidate, so she may not be a stranger to compromising her ideals. I’m not sure if she owns a bike, though she’s definitely on the record as being bike-supportive, albeit publicly opposed to the “Gungahlin fast cycleway” – maybe she’s a slow-pedalling traditionalist? On the other hand, she does own a light aircraft. It’s all a bit murky really. In fact, the whole thing is. I can’t remember where I read it but some report claimed that she was “an engineer and an electrician.” I’m assuming that it was a misunderstanding of “electrical engineer” and not a reference to Dimocrats and lightbulbs.

What proof do you have to support this wildly off-the-wall conjoint of “public servant” and “ideals” David? No ice cream till you reveal your source.

David Tiley
2024 years ago

I’ve been an idealistic public servant. Note the tense. Note my current freelance career.

Seriously, I’ve worked (and I hope to continue doing so), closely with the film bureaucracy and with CSIRO. The moral twists and turns, the corruption of obedience to something larger, and occasional outbursts of the integrity which comes from patience, compromising and keeping a vision are just fascinating and sometimes inspiring. We are a funny old species, but I don’t think Jane Errey is a huge advert for its possibilities. The plane would be lovely though..

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2024 years ago

I’ve been thinking the Andrew Wilkie case and now we have this Errey thing.

Honestly there IS something wrong with the way the government is being serviced by our security sevices.

How are we selecting intelligence officers? Anybody who would consider themselves a supporter or even potential supporter of the Australian Democrats is a person unfit to work in areas of national security. Ditto Greens. Bike-paths and and national park access is their scene.