Allan Asher set perilous example, says Bishop

THE Coalition has slammed Commonwealth Ombudsman Allan Asher for falling short of the standards expected of his office, joining the growing list of critics of his collusion with the Greens over his testimony to a Senate committee.

Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop said yesterday she found it “deeply concerning” the Greens had worked with a witness due to give evidence to a parliamentary committee without the committee’s knowledge.

She said the episode set a “very dangerous precedent”.

“I don’t believe that it meets the standards that the public would expect of the Ombudsman,” Ms Bishop told Melbourne commercial radio yesterday.

It was revealed in the Senate this week that Mr Asher had briefed Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young about his concerns over the Christmas Island detention centre and his office’s lack of funding to monitor the situation.

He gave Senator Hanson-Young a list of questions to ask at the May budget estimates. Mr Asher acknowledged this week that he had adopted an “unorthodox” and ultimately unwise approach to bringing his concerns to the attention of the parliament and public.

But the Greens have stood by their actions, despite castigating the Coalition for meeting with former public servant Godwin Grech before a Senate committee hearing two years ago.

Ms Bishop drew parallels yesterday between the two situations. “If Bob Brown is prepared to set one standard for the Coalition, why doesn’t he adhere to that standard?” she said.

Julia Gillard has also raised question marks over Mr Asher’s conduct, given the need for his office to remain independent, impartial and politically non-aligned.

Ms Bishop’s comments came as it emerged that Mr Asher, a prolific user of social media, spent much of last week’s tax summit sending Twitter messages describing proceedings.

Sources told The Weekend Australian yesterday that other participants were surprised that Mr Asher’s attention at the summit appeared to be focused mainly on sending tweets.

A check yesterday of Mr Asher’s Twitter stream confirmed he sent more than a dozen messages during the two-day summit.

However, all of his messages simply reported on proceedings and none reflected on speakers or on government policy.

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