December 2003 Archives

Here's another interesting article on blogging with a perspective that I tend to concur with. A lot of bloggers I come across seem to think that they are changing the world and become quite enamored with themselves:

Washington Post: 'It's a Little Too Cozy in the Blogosphere', Nov. 16, 2003

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I came across this great quote by Bill Clinton in accepting the Democratic Nomination at the 1992 Democratic Convention (from an article in Slate). Our local polilticians would do well to take heed of these words as we head into 2004:

"For too long, politicians have told the most of us that are doing all right that what's really wrong with America is the rest of us: them. … We've nearly them'd ourselves to death. Them, and them, and them. But this is America. There is no them; there is only us."

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Here's more evidence of PLP hypocrisy over the "Mother Country and Colony" relationship that Alex Scott claims to despise:

The Queen's New Years Honours were announced last night with 8 Bermudian recipients including most notably Mr. Eugene Cox, Minister of Finance. How strange that Alex Scott would participate in this process, particularly when it is causing so much commotion in the UK itself as an elitist and antiquated system. Perhaps he's looking forward to collecting his own KBE down the road from the "Colonialist UK". I'm completely in support of honouring people like Mr. Cox who have provided years of service to Bermuda, but you can't have the relationship with the UK both ways.

We need only to use comments from Walter Roberts, a former PLP MP and Deputy Leader to illustrate the point (emphasis mine):

“it has been my view — and the view of the party — that as long as Bermuda is not independent, we would not accept awards from the Queen.

“And this is in the PLP constitution, which came about because we felt it would not be in Bermuda’s best interest, as a colony, to accept awards from the master.”

Dame Lois Browne-Evans is the most notable hypocrit when, after years of demanding PLP supporters turn down honours conferred under a UBP administration, she accepted a KBE. This understandably caused much disappointment and anger to many principled long time PLP members.

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A Letter to the Editor that I wrote to the Royal Gazette is in today:

Dear Sir,

While watching the Premier and his Cabinet publicly sulk after being unsuccessful in installing their preferred choice as Chief Justice I couldn’t help but smile. The Premier put forward two positions, both easily disputed, in attempting to justify his political interference in a constitutionally established non-political appointment.

Firstly, Mr. Scott has assured us that the Government is only looking out for the career expectations of Bermudians.

It’s a shame, as Dr. Grant Gibbons has pointed out, that they weren’t worried about those expectations and ramifications while installing non-Bermudians at the Bermuda Hospitals Board and Prisons. The Government also recently ignored Bermudian advice and paid the Kurron Group hundreds of thousands of dollars for redundant foreign consulting at the Hospital.

Secondly, Mr. Scott feigns concern that “the gains which Bermudians have won over the past three decades in administering our own internal affairs should neither be eroded nor reversed”. He’s only looking out for our ability to self-govern, something the Government apparently hold dear.

We can only then assume that the PLP’s abdication of responsibility - to that same “colonialist U.K.” - over the Baselands negotiations, and the recent request for assistance - again from the U.K. - for asbestos disposal, sent an unequivocal message to the U.K. to leave us alone to handle our own affairs?

Neither argument rings true if you look at the PLP Government’s actions, not their words.

So what could it be?

Perhaps it has something to do with the long-awaited and imminent completion of the fraud investigations into the missing $700,000 at the Berkeley project, and the rampant corruption at the Bermuda Housing Corporation?

Now that seems a little more convincing.

Christian Dunleavy

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Here's a good article on blogging in USAToday, with a focus on political blogs.

USAToday: 'Freewheeling 'bloggers' are rewriting rules of journalism', December 30, 2003

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Follow this link to the UBP press release in response to Sir John Swan's comments:

UBP Press Release Dec 29, 2003

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Sir John's got a credibility problem somewhere on this, or he's schizophrenic! Read these quotes below from Sir John in the Mid Ocean News from July 18th, 2003 and compare them to the quotes from today's RG (emphasis my own):

Mid Ocean News (July 18, 2003)

"Many of the people I have talked to in the past few years, both here and abroad, have become increasingly concerned at the direction Bermuda has been taking in the last four-and-a-half years," he said. "I have shared their disillusionment and frustration at what has happened - or not happened - under the PLP leadership.

"I have been appalled to learn that in these last four years some 1,000 Bermudian jobs have been lost and almost as many foreign jobs created. I have seen a growing dependence on international business and the loss of prestige and focus in our tourism industry.

"I have seen our neighbours become concerned at our unfathomable decision to form links with Cuba and then insult the United States representative in Bermuda."

Sir John felt compelled to step forward after hearing the testimonies of concerned locals who shared his frustration with PLP leadership.

"Bermuda is not in better shape after the last four-and-a-half years and anyone who questions this is not in touch with Bermudians," he said. "I know many people who have lost hope. I have seen our senior citizens struggle to pay for needed prescription drugs and throughout Bermuda entire communities are becoming fearful for their safety.

"This is not the Bermuda they expected, it is not the Bermuda they want and it is certainly not the Bermuda they deserve.

"As a result of their disappointment and sheer disillusionment with the PLP Government, Bermudians from all walks of life have come to me and asked me to become involved in public life again."

--- End of Mid Ocean Clip ---

Royal Gazette (Dec. 29, 2003) 5 MONTHS LATER

The PLP is helping to reduce inequality and Sir John said he hoped the UBP would also take up this goal.

"I don't think Bermuda is under any threat because of the PLP."

He said blacks were doing well with renting property while whites were owing equity in businesses. Sir John also praised Government's handling of the six-year term limits on work permits. "The Government still has the right to exercise a level of discretion which it is doing. I think it is acting very responsibly quite frankly."

He denied he had gone PLP but refused to say if he had voted for the UBP although he said he was still a member. Asked if the UBP was wrong to have Grant Gibbons as leader Sir John said: "It is not a question of being wrong, it is a question of can the UBP move on. That's the issue."

--- End of RG Clip ---

I'm confused.

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John Swan lays it out in today's Royal Gazette with regard to the hurdles that the UBP face.

I'm not sure what provoked this but he's got it right about the need for change, although he's not quite correct when he states that "the UBP has to go through some very fundamental changes which I don't think it recognises". The Party recognises it and are implementing it, while some of the older membership are being dragged along. But both Pamela Gordon and now Grant Gibbons have been an impetus for change since the 98 election defeat. That's what attracted me to the party.

Sir John is also more than a little unkind to the black Bermudian candidates who put their necks out, at the risk of ridicule and viscious attacks by the PLP, when he refers to them as "a number of blacks who didn't have that intellectual background". That sounds pretty elitist itself.

My only question is, why did he choose to endorse the Party during the recent election campaign? What's changed since July?

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Santa has delivered a well deserved lump of coal to Minister Webb for Christmas. RG, Mid Ocean and Bermuda Sun are all running the Tourism Christimas Party snub story heavily, as are the electronic media.

It looks like the Dept. of Tourism staff are standing up to Ms. Webb, not for her as she demands!

I guess all that talk around election time of a Government of the people rings as hollow today as it did then (I say again, the more things change the more they stay the same). Never have we had such a revolt in the Civil Service and general public from the royal treatment our Ministers expect.

Unless Minister Webb is removed and her actions are publicly rebuked by the Premier, we can only assume that this behaviour is condoned and expected of all Ministers.

I guess the PLP's problem wasn't that elites extisted in Bermuda but that they weren't in them!

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....Alex Scott, the PLP and Bermuda (whose Premier embarrassed us all internationally). The Governor announced yesterday that Richard Ground, to no-one's surpise, is the new Chief Justice. We'll have to wait to see the PLP's reaction but you can be sure it will involve lots of comments about UK interference in Bermuda's affairs, our need to re-assess our colonial status etc..

The UK clearly expressed their displeasure with the political lobbying of Premier Scott's Government with a brief but pointed criticism of the Premier:

"(Overseas Territories Minister) Mr. (Bill) Rammell, in conveying this decision to the Governor, and to the Premier, has made it clear that it is not appropriate for the post of Chief Justice to become the subject of political pressure."

Ouch. It's unusual for Governments to publicly smack down other Governments. After the display of amateurism that the UK was subjected to by Alex Scott I'm not surprised.

May the independence debate begin. You now know the tone it will take.

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Watching the TV news last night with the Premier's Chief Justice press conference, I couldn't help but sense that the Premier and Attorney General were up to mischief.

The Attorney General stooped to the lowest level, recounting how Mr. Straw had inadvertenty referred to the "Occupied Territories" rather than the "Overseas Territories", while both the Premier and AG were using language intended to dredge up images of oppressive colonial regimes ("Mother Country and Colony", "Master and Colony").

Perhaps Mr. Straw's slip-up revealed that his mind was elsewhere. Surely he really isn't too interested in Bermuda's petty political squabbles. Mr. Straw spends alot of time thinking about Palestine, that's where that came from. Any suggestion that the UK occupy Bermuda is irresponsible and inflamatory, and that's what the AG intended.

The use of language by the PLP around this issue is deliberately incendiary. It is intended to conjure up feelings of a people who were forcibly colonised, something that absolutely does not relate to Bermuda. Rewriting Bermuda's history has been going on for years and is really starting to take hold.

We were not forcibly colonised, although many black Bermudians are decendants of slaves who were forcibly brought here. The fact that Bermuda's racial demographic has changed over time due to immigration and birth rates is not a problem, but we shouldn't pretend that black Bermudians were displaced by Britich colonialists. The language that is employed is designed to convey that impression. There are no indigenous Bermudians, although you will hear that sentiment tossed around (Rolfe Commissiong has actually used that term). The last referendum on Independence in 1995 resulted in an overwhelming NO vote (more than 2-1 against), regardless of the PLP's abstention campaign, it would almost certainly have failed anyway.

Most of the PLP are the children of recent imports, much like myself. Sanders Frith Brown, as irrational as he can be, has many times challenged the PLP about their heritage. He's never been proven wrong because he's never been responded to. That's why he calls them the St. Kitts club. Yet somehow the PLP feel some increased claim to Bermuda as 'their island', attaching themselves to a fictional colonialisation.

Inferring that Bermudians are being oppressed by an evil colonial power who conquered the native people, while a popular sentiment, is completely false. I've just said something that will prove unpopular to many as it undermines their Nationalist/race based agenda, but that's the sham that is being perpetrated on many Bermudians. You can want independence for other reasons, but not that one.

We are starting to go down the General Election rhetoric road on this issue. The independence debate isn't far around the corner.

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Don't you think we could have done a little better than this on the Cabinet office Lawn:

2003 Cabinet Christmas Tree

Every night when I drive home along Front Street I'm embarassed. It looks like the lights were blown there by Hurricane Fabian!

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If you weren't convinced that Alex Scott is ready to use the Chief Justice issue as his segway into independence then read today's article in the Royal Gazette. It's as clear as day.

Notable quotes from Premier Scott:

"To appoint a non-Bermudian Chief Justice against the will of Government would be a “regressive step”
“When a Bermudian Premier gives advice, we found it does not carry the weight one would have thought."
"When pressed about how he would react if Mr. Straw ignored his advice, Mr. Scott said: “We will wait until the moment. I don't want the pre-empt the decision because we don't know how it will go."

“I would like to share the experience with my Cabinet and parliamentary colleagues and the party in general to see what we feel is the appropriate demeanour of the Government if it should happen that our advice is not taken."

The UK's position can be found here. I get the impression they are saying either go independent (something Bermudians overwhelmingly rejected less than 10 years ago) or accept our role.

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Alex Scott was interviewed from London on ZBM radio news today at lunch. He explained that he met with Overseas Territories Minister Bill Rammell for 30 minutes to discuss the issue of the Chief Justice.

Apparently the issue has now been escalated to Foreign Secretary Jack Straw who will make the ultimate decision. I can only think that this means the outlook is bleak for the Government's position. OT Minister Rammell appears to have been unconvinced by the Premier's arguments, or he would have made the decision then and there. It looks to me like the UK representatives, while politicians, are immune from the whims of Bermuda's electorate and may actually be looking at this without regard for the politics of Bermudianisation, just the best candidate. Fancy that!

I don't know the details of whether Ms. Wade-Miller or Mr. Ground are the more suitable candidates, but I imagine that the UK representatives couldn't care less about the political posturing of our politicians. Governor Vereker has taken a firm stand, Mr. Rammell obviously agrees with his position and as a result Mr. Scott has asked for the final (barring Tony Blair's intervention) arbiter to review this.

Surely we should save pestering the Foreign Secretary for major issues. I don't want to understate the importance of the Chief Justice appointment, particularly in light of the rising lawlessness here, but surely Jack Straw has better things to do than get involved in our never-ending 'Bermudian vs. non-Bermudian' sideshow.

In the radio interview Mr. Scott stated something along the lines of 'Bermuda's people will be pleased to know that their Government has taken this to the highest level possible'. That sounds like a concession speech , and an attempt to save face after the Premier's chest-beating in the press. But losing this fight will serve the Premier's means if he is building his case for independence. Perhaps Mr. Scott privately prefers this outcome.

The odds do not look good for the Government to prevail on this. I doubt Jack Straw will spend more than 5 minutes on this issue once he sees what it is about.

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Cabinet's reversal on the TCD relocation is a welcome move. A little bit of pressure (or tractors) can be a wonderful thing. See the RG editorial today.

It's a shame that after 5 years the PLP haven't learned that a little bit of consultation saves a lot of embarrassment and confrontation. However, you wouldn't have seen a reversal under Jennifer Smith's leadership, I can assure you.

Baby steps.

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Several people have asked me about the sudden resurrection of Julian Hall The Politician - or what I prefer to call the "Rebirth of Slick" (extra points if you can name the group and album with the track "Rebirth of Slick". No googling please.)

Julian Hall is clearly one of Bermuda's most gifted political orators. However he is also probably the most self-destructive.

I'm not sure why he is increasing his public profile lately (Mid Ocean column, Tourism Forum, TV interviews etc.) although I'd speculate that it could be related to his upcoming trial for allegedly stealing $500,000 from an elderly widow's trust.

Perhaps he's spending more time in Bermuda lately because of this and is keeping himself busy with politics. Maybe he's trying to build a stateman like image before a trial and impress potential jurors. Alternatively, contrary to his public statements at the Tourism Forum recently that he isn't interested in elected office, he is laying the foundation for another potential run.

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Phillip Wells wonders why the Minister would want to build another golf course at Morgan's Point? This is one of the few things that I think Ms. Webb is on the right track with, although her Cabinet colleagues don't seem to agree.

Morgan's Point is the last large land mass available for a major new tourism development. Bermuda has not had a new resort in over 20 years. Our current properties are aging and showing it.

In fact, prior to the 98 election, the UBP (under Pam Gordon), had this ready for development but Terry Lister killed the deal with the developer, mostly because the UBP initiated it.

The thinking behind developing Morgan's Point is along these lines:

Tourism in the Bahamas was single-handedly resurrected with the Atlantis resort. A similar high-profile development here could do the same, and this is the last location where it can be done. Missing this opportunity will probably indicate that we've given up on tourism.

Unless we accept that we are out of the tourism business, we should move on this as a development immediately. The golf component was intended, under the UBP, to have a PGA tour quality course that major PGA events could be hosted at, bringing in high-earning visitors. It would also be attractive to our international businesses for entertaining their clients (who have large expense accounts). This makes sense to me as it is compatible with our target demographic. Remember this is much more than just a golf course development.

Now, with regards to the concern that this should be used for housing:

Bermuda has, as Phil points out, an 'affordable' housing problem. There is ample land - and derelict homes, around the island to develop units in a more distributed manner, preventing clusters. We could also relax some of the planning laws to allow higher rise developments in some lower, sheltered areas that wouldn't create a blight on the landscape.

Chances are that any development on this site would be too concerntrated with low-income housing, potentially creating a ghetto. Although the original plans, pre-1998, did have a housing component to it. If I remember correctly there was a range of price levels.

I don't support building a big residential development at Morgan's Point. Having a 'marquee' resort would do much more good for the island and stimulate other areas of the tourist sector.

This is a broad, complex topic but I think this is a decent summary of the main issues. There is much more that could be discussed like traffic, environmental liablity/issues etc..

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More confirmation that Terry Lister is winging it with housing came today from Renee Webb on VSB:

Ms. Webb, in response to a question about last night's Tourism Forum, commented that the annual Cabinet retreat will take place in January with the topic being Tourism and Housing. Everything that came up last night was on the table. She went on to say that at this event the attendees will put together the party's vision for tourism and housing. I guess the press conferences around housing over the past few weeks are just a stop-gap measure.

It's a shame that they are only now getting around to addressing two of the biggest issues facing the island in their 5th year at the helm.

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Perhaps the PLP model their financial controls after the European Parliament.

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Parliament this morning saw some more back and forth on the long delayed pensions legislation and has now moved on to debating amendments to the Legal Aid Act.

Could it be that the PLP members are so gung-ho on improving the Legal Aid system because they'll need to use it themselves when the Auditor and Police are done with them?

Perhaps they should declare their personal interest in it?

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Now that the PLP seems to have decided to firmly enter the real estate business I'd like to pose a simple question to the Minister:

What are we getting for our tax dollar when the Government is selling 2 bedroom properties for between $600,000 and $700,000?

$700,000 for a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom in St. George's is the market price. Granted this is an estimate, but my guess - based on the BHC track record - is that the price will go up not down.

If our tax dollars aren't helping cut the cost of home ownership and rental with public sector developments we should just let the private sector do it. They'll do a better job.

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VSB news today reported, and the Government has apparently confirmed, that a large section of arable land on Frog Lane has been identified for a new TCD. These surprises continue to be dropped on us without any consultation or forewarning - a hallmark of the first PLP administration.

I don't quite get this? What's the need? The physical structure, location and space at TCD don't appear to be the problem - the service and bureaucracy does, and a new building isn't going to fix that.

The Frog Lane residents are not impressed and urely environmental groups will be quick to follow. That area is busy enough already with the Stadium, Cedarbridge, Prospect Primary, Devonshire Rec etc..

On a related topic the PLP is again ignoring existing environmental restrictions. The PLP has a penchant for putting concrete and asphalt on land zoned as arable or woodland with little need. The loss of the woodland reserve where the new Berkeley school is slowly being built, is a major eyesore from North Shore.

How can we expect Bermuda's residents and contractors to respect our zoning laws when Government regularly flaunts them?

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I've been listening to tonight's Tourism Forum on the radio. I must admit it couldn't have been promoted too well because I stumbled across it by accident. The panel was strong and from the sounds of it there was good attendance.

Gambling came up as a hot topic - as always, along with entertainment, airlines etc.. To a large extent most of the issues have been discussed before but it was refreshing to see it done in the open among the community.

Charles Gosling hit the nail on the head when he said that all this dialogue shouldn't stand in the way of action.

The ideas and energy of the forum reinforced the need to remove the politics from Tourism. The dialogue was much more productive than anything that goes on in Parliament, or the back and forth in the press. Minister Renee Webb sounded like she was committed to removing the politics from tourism, but was coy about endorsing an autonomous Tourism Authority - as has been repeatedly called for. David Dodwell who was on the panel is probably the most vocal proponent of this. Perhaps it is coming nearer to becoming a reality.

Probably the the most newsworthy item of the evening was Minister Webb admitting that the Morgan's Point development is "off the table" as a development site for a resort development. Apparently Cabinet has other plans, but the Minister did seem determined to continue to raise it with her colleagues.

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Enquiring minds want to know (maybe):

Harper's Index for November 2003 (

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Royal Gazette: Bermuda-British showdown looms over appointment of Chief Justice, Dec 03, 2003

The most notable - and well-documented - change at the Cabinet Office, post-Jennifer Smith, has been the style. In every case except one, the style has been inclusive, non-confrontational and embracing, however hollow it my be. There is one exception however: the Governor and relations with the UK.

Jennifer Smith's relationship with the UK, and alternatively with the public, were the exact opposite of her successor. Her term was characterised by arrogance, secrecy and a confrontational style, however the relationship with the UK remained coordial and respectful, much to the disdain of many party members. Some PLP supporters, most notably Rolfe Commissiong, were offended by this approach. They felt that Ms. Smith wasn't moving the independence agenda along at a rapid enough pace and was becoming too cozy with the UK.

Premier Scott has taken a different approach. Some might say circumstances have dictated this - but I would disagree with this assessment. This Premier is a shrewd operator, particularly when it comes to PR. I believe he has embarked on a deliberate path of confrontation with Government House to drive independence to the fore.

Why would he do this rather than simply making his case on other grounds? The PLP has always wanted independence and Alex Scott is as much a nationalist as anyone in his party. He is using every opportunity to shift the debate from independence as a convenience to one of urgency and inevitability.

The Premier is building his case, logging incidents he will point to as necessitating the move towards independence. This case will no doubt involve many fabricated examples of the UK 'interfering' in our affairs and the need to separate, in order to control our destiny.

I was surprised that Jennifer Smith didn't make independence an issue at the last election. That was a critical mistake for her which surely would have guaranteed a larger margin of victory, and perhaps her survival. Surely the many disenchanted PLP supporters who stayed home would have turned out in force for such a platform, and it would have been more problematic for the dissidents to oppose her. Independence is an energising issue for the hard core PLP supporter. Combine that with those who felt the PLP needed a second chance and you'd have had a definitive win. Perhaps the UK had already indicated their unwillingness to honour that approach to independence and Jennifer Smith decided to wait.

Alex Scott is making a smart move. The question is, will he be called on it and will the UK take a strong stance. The current Governor and Deputy Governor have exhibited a hiretofore unseen candidness regarding the UK's oversight of Bermuda - whether Alex Scott likes it or not.

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We all knew politicians can say absolutely nothing with a lot of words but this quote from Donald Rumsfeld is truly amazing: - 'Foot in mouth' prize for Rumsfeld - Dec. 1, 2003

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Isn't it ironic that we're holding parents responsible for their children's actions but our elected representatives won't take responsibility for their own?

[Royal Gazette: 'Failing parents face more than a trip to the principal's office', Dec. 1, 2003]

Bermuda has experienced scandal after scandal over the past 5 years, most eminating from Cabinet, yet everyone else is to blame. We've heard everything from:

• "It's the UBP's fault"
• "The Royal Gazette is anti-PLP"
• "The Auditor needs to be replaced"
• "I won't dignify that with a response"
• "It was all Jennifer Smith's fault"
• etc, etc.,

How can we expect anyone in this community to respect our laws, codes of conduct and take responsibility for their actions when our legislators display a total disregard for it themselves?

Money is stolen at the Berkeley project and the person who blows the whistle - the Auditor - is called a racist, and the now-Premier suggests he be replaced.

An MP has no health insurance so he quietly gets given it at the last minute.

[Royal Gazette: 'Auditor urges law change to prevent MPs getting 11th-hour health cover', Nov. 21, 2003]

A Government backbencher's construction company blatantly flaunts health and safety regulations regarding Asbestos disposal, yet no action is taken and a report on the topic is kept under wraps.

[Royal Gazette: 'Asbestos row deepens', April 25, 2003]

Why should children, or their parents, observe a code of conduct when our elected leaders won't respect an audit process. Why should "Town & Country" gangs respect the law when our own Premier has presided over a theft?

Until our elected officials start acting responsibly, and are held accountable for their own actions, how can we expect others to do the same?

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