The return of Rik Morris

I want to talk about process. Process involves the rule of law. It means that the law rules and no-one is above or beyond the law, not even kings and emperors and certainly not premiers or ministers. The Oxford Dictionary definition of the rule of law is the principle whereby all members of society, including those in government, are considered equally subject to publicly disclosed legal codes and processes. In 2011, I raised concerns about the appointment of the government's propaganda chief to one of the state's top public service jobs. Rik Morris, a former media secretary to the trio of sacked or dumped ministers was anointed as the general manager of the Tourism Commission. It was an instance, I thought, of rampant nepotism, which kept Morris dancing. Tourism is a multibillion dollar industry. It should not and must not be the lifeboat for a survivor of the Rann government's shipwreck. Who gave him the reference when the commission was already embroiled in a conflict of interest controversy about the chairman's son-in-law being awarded a contract to run the SA Travel Centre? Was it the brutal troika of Michael Atkinson, Kevin Foley or Mike Rann—ex-Labor ministers all? All of them were eventually sacked, demoted or dumped, and all of them ex-bosses of Rik Morris. If you employ Mr Morris, your days are probably numbered. I want the premier to explain Mr Morris's qualifications. As an apologist for the dark side of Labor, Mr Morris failed to impress me as having the skills to work in the Tourism Commission. When tens of thousands petitioned for a Port Adelaide bridge to be named after the local war hero and Victoria Cross winner, 'Diver' Derrick, Mr Morris was on radio saying, 'The Port community doesn't have strong feelings about this.' Mr Morris then insulted Port Adelaide by labelling the petitioners as a bunch of renegades. These are not the actions of a person worthy of an important job in tourism. Mr Morris was getting almost $160,000 a year from his job in the Premier's office. His job at the Tourism Commission probably pays more than that—I say 'probably' because freedom of information requests blocked out his pay. We do know that this contract states that Mr Morris is not allowed to do any paid work outside of the SATC. At the commission, he is responsible for initiating, managing and evaluating tourism projects and initiatives. Who can forget Word Adelaide, or Dumb's the Word? The Advertiser called it 'flaccid'. Crowds, if they could be called that, were so dismally small that venues had to be cancelled and free tickets given away. The event was a mitigated disaster—mitigated because international guests thought it was a doozey: they were paid to attend, they were dined and entertained and, I suspect, flown out first class. The festival cost more than $400,000—an act of genius! As general manager of corporate and strategic communications, Mr Morris oversees apps that do not work, like the Fleurieu Peninsula guide which reckons you are on Eyre Peninsula, hundreds of kilometres away, instead of the one on the Fleurieu. The boss of corporate and government relations might think that it is good corporate relations to have a website that works; not under Mr Morris' tutelage—try finding the commission's latest annual report on its own website. It is not there. Who is trying to hide what? As the boss of the Tourism Commission's familiarisation program, Mr Morris oversaw visits by foreign journalists to South Australia. What oversight is there of this program? What is the process? Does it follow the rule of law? What prior or continuing relationship or relationships does he have with one or more of those reporters? Is it always a strictly professional relationship? Mr Morris, now living in Australia, once lived in Blackheath. The commission spent $6,100 on a trip to London for the London Wild Bird Watch Consumer Show, a trip the commission tried to keep secret, making no announcement or public statement. The opposition's research next discovered that Mr Morris's nest egg at the commission paid airfares, accommodation and other expenses for six foreign journalists to come to South Australia and supposedly write stories about birdwatching in South Australia. The government was unable to name these journalists, their magazines or newspapers, and could not identify a single word, let alone a news story, article or radio or television broadcast written by these journalists. Mr Morris spent more than $3 million on such familiarisations and now comes today's news that Mr Morris has taken secondment from his onerous task: today he has moved back to the Premier's office to run Labor's media unit. His job there is to try to save Labor from electoral doom. He says he will return to the Tourism Commission and I quote him directly, 'when we have won the election'. The previous premier Mr Morris tried to save was sent packing by his own party, the object of ridicule and derision. While Mr Morris was in the employ of the attorney-general, Michael Atkinson maintained we did not need an independent commission against corruption in South Australia. Mr Morris and Mr Atkinson were wrong then and they are wrong now. We need an independent commission against corruption. We need, here in South Australia, proper process and the rule of law. Speech delivered in Legislative Council, 30 October 2013 Source: Hansard

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