PM’s expensive problem-solving habit
It has been raining royal commissions as governments increasingly turn to the quasi-judicial inquiries to deal with major matters.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is about to announce the second in five months, this one to examined the tragedy of abuse of the disabled - if the states agree.
That would add one more issue to the royal commission range. From banks to child molesters, a variety of culprits have been shoved to the fore by the special investigations.
And royal commissions are not cheap. The banking report cost about $75 million.
Mr Morrison's support for a royal commission into abuse in the disability sector would make it the sixth inquiry of the past six years into a range of matters.
There have been 15 of the high-powered processes called over the past 25 years, eight in the past decade. There have been 137 royal commissions over the past 117 years, the first in 1902 being into the transport of troops from South Africa.
A clear majority of 10 of the 15 in the past 25 years have been sponsored by Coalition governments, a consequence of them being in power for most of that quarter of a century.
Many of them, of course, have been worthy and even necessary.
The royal commission into child sexual abuse created by Labor's Julia Gillard was attacked from some quarters initially but its findings shocked the nation.
The inquiry into the financial services sector for some time seemed unlikely to happen, but after eventually calling it as treasurer, Mr Morrison embraced it as Prime Minister.
And as Prime Minister, Mr Morrison last October called an inquiry into aged care quality and safety.
In political terms, there might be a public perception the inquiries have become "weaponised" to be pursued with a political intent attached, or as cover from further attacks.
The Coalition governments' 2004 royal commission into the lease of Centenary House, the Labor HQ in Canberra, and the 2013-2017 inquiry into Labor's home insulation policy had political motives, as did the 2014-2015 probe into "trade union governance and corruption".
And royal commissions have become so common governments risk the perception they have outsourced decision making, or been reluctant to act without the authority of a public inquiry.
Government senators last week voted against a royal commission into abuse in the disability sector, claiming there was already real, immediate and substantial action on the issues under way.
But with a minority presence in the House of Representatives, Mr Morrison was quick to underline support for a further step.
The Prime Minister said yesterday he would first consult the states and territories as they had the major roles in the matter.
"Violence, abuse and neglect of people with disability outside service settings such as at home or in the community is mostly covered under state and territory law," Mr Morrison told parliament.
"So working with the states and territories in this area, both looking at matters in the past as well as looking forward, will be absolutely essential."
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten congratulated Mr Morrison on backing the royal commission and noted people with disabilities had been waiting 10 years for it.
"The abuse and mistreatment of people with disability is Australia's hidden shame," Mr Shorten said.
"It's because, as a nation, despite progress we might have made on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and other things, we still as a nation devalue people with disability.
"We must recognise that one of the fault lines in this country is about the way we treat people with a disability."