Sunday, March 11, 2007

References and Politicians

This week, Labor's Kelvin Thompson resigned as Shadow Attorney General because he had written a reference for Tony Mokbel, a convicted Victorian criminal.

The reference was to help him gain a liquor licence from the Victorian Liquor Licensing Commission. There are too many grey ethical areas when public officials and politicians write references. Who is it for? Does the politician know them well (not just casually, or know who they are)? ; Could the reference be used to influence another public official? Is that appropriate?

There are really two issues in this matter:

  1. Why would anybody, let alone a public official (politician) write a reference for a person they do not know?? An error of judgement, indeed! Certainly unacceptable.
  2. The whole purpose of the reference was to influence t he Victorian Liquor Licensing Commissioner. Should politicians, as public officials, be writing references for anybody to take to another public official?
Teachers in public institutions, for example, do not write personal references for students. Such references are limited to institutional references about the student's attendance at school, TAFE, university; awards; activities and representative honours. They are not personal references.

Internal party references are one thing, but I believe politicians should not be writing public references on letterheads that identify them as politicians or Parliamentarians, or include any statements that identify them as such, including honorifics.

It's best to be seen to be ethical, than to be caught in ethical shadows.

The Analyst