A funny thing happened on the way to the Queensland Parliament this week. That long-believed-dead beast known of Ministerial Responsibility roared just loud enough to signal there might be a bit of life in the old boy or girl yet.

The resurgence of the once revered principle requiring a minister of the Crown to accept ultimate responsibility for debacles on their watch came in the guise of (now former) Queensland Transport Minister Sterling Hinchliffe. img_3924

After several months overseeing and, for all intents and purposes, trying to right Brisbane’s failing Train network, on Monday he fell on his proverbial sword, accepted the blame and returned to the wasteland of the parliamentary backbench.

Some applauded his sudden move (even the Premier didn’t know until it had been done) as the right thing to do, and in the interests of the government and the Labor Party.

The only dissenting, of sorts, voice came from Opposition Leader Tim Nichols, who loudly whined Hinchliffe didn’t go soon enough, and he should have fallen on his sword when extraordinary service delays crippled the network before Christmas. He also brought out, that tried and true chestnut that the Premier sack herself for not sacking Hinchliffe sooner.

Of course that has just a bit more than a slight odour of hypocrisy from the LNP. During their most recent time at the helm between 2012 and 2015, when Nichols was Treasurer, there were more than a few stuff ups of varying degrees of seriousness.

I don’t recall any LNP government members at the time racing to the symbolic sword cabinet, pulling out a blade and dramatically falling on it. They, too, stood their ground, held on to their jobs with grim determination and blamed everyone but themselves for the mess. But self righteousness is easier to extol from the opposition benches than it is from the government side of the house, I guess.

And that is why Hinchliffe’s move is all the more surprising. In recent times, certainly the past 25 years or so, Ministerial Responsibility has been a thing to be avoided at all costs.

Successive ministers from all major parties and in both state and federal governments have refused to resign following mistakes in their portfolios. They knew nothing about anything; it was the department’s fault; it happened because of the mess left behind by the former government. (This last excuse is used whether the previous party has been out of office for just a few months or for many years. It is always the other guy’s fault.)

And it’s not just mistakes made in their portfolios. Even when they have knowingly rorted the system for their personal benefit, they will ignore, argue, justify and say “everyone else does it” before finally and reluctantly giving up their ministerial position, staff, office and leather chair. Former health minister Susan Ley and former federal speaker Bronwyn Bishop are just two who come to mind.

Certainly, some believe Hinchliffe left his run for self-sacrifice too late but, to be fair, he on many occasions said he wanted to see it through until a final report on fixing problems was produced by an independent arbiter.

Indicating some truth to that statement, he resigned the same day the final report was handed down. In the interest of openness, I have known Hinchliffe personally, and others in his family, for many years. He is an honourable man and I have no doubt his aim in sticking around until now was peppered with good intentions.

The only real question remaining is whether Hinchliffe should be congratulated for his actions, or placed in a museum as an archaic thing of the past.

One would like to think he could be leading the resurgence of this Westminster principle in Australian politics, but I suspect he has done himself no favours.

I don’t doubt many of his peers in Queensland’s corridors of power are secretly seething that Hinchliffe has made it just that little bit harder for them when they next try to save their job after getting themselves into the poo.

After several months overseeing and, for all intents and purposes, trying to right Brisbane’s failing Train network, on Monday he fell on his proverbial sword, accepted the blame and returned to the wasteland of the parliamentary backbench.

Some applauded his sudden move (even the Premier didn’t know until it had been done) as the right thing to do, and in the interests of the government and the Labor Party.

The only dissenting, of sorts, voice came from Opposition Leader Tim Nichols, who loudly whined Hinchliffe didn’t go soon enough, and he should have fallen on his sword when extraordinary service delays crippled the network before Christmas. He also brought out, that tried and true chestnut that the Premier sack herself for not sacking Hinchliffe sooner.

Of course that has just a bit more than a slight odour of hypocrisy from the LNP. During their most recent time at the helm between 2012 and 2015, when Nichols was Treasurer, there were more than a few stuff ups of varying degrees of seriousness.

I don’t recall any LNP government members at the time racing to the symbolic sword cabinet, pulling out a blade and dramatically falling on it. They, too, stood their ground, held on to their jobs with grim determination and blamed everyone but themselves for the mess. But self righteousness is easier to extol from the opposition benches than it is from the government side of the house, I guess.

And that is why Hinchliffe’s move is all the more surprising. In recent times, certainly the past 25 years or so, Ministerial Responsibility has been a thing to be avoided at all costs.img_3925

Successive ministers from all major parties and in both state and federal governments have refused to resign following mistakes in their portfolios. They knew nothing about anything; it was the department’s fault; it happened because of the mess left behind by the former government. (This last excuse is used whether the previous party has been out of office for just a few months or for many years. It is always the other guy’s fault.)

And it’s not just mistakes made in their portfolios. Even when they have knowingly rorted the system for their personal benefit, they will ignore, argue, justify and say “everyone else does it” before finally and reluctantly giving up their ministerial position, staff, office and leather chair. Former health minister Susan Ley and former federal speaker Bronwyn Bishop are just two who come to mind.

Certainly, some believe Hinchliffe left his run for self-sacrifice too late but, to be fair, he on many occasions said he wanted to see it through until a final report on fixing problems was produced by an independent arbiter.

Indicating some truth to that statement, he resigned the same day the final report was handed down. In the interest of openness, I have known Hinchliffe personally, and others in his family, for many years. He is an honourable man and I have no doubt his aim in sticking around until now was peppered with good intentions.

The only real question remaining is whether Hinchliffe should be congratulated for his actions, or placed in a museum as an archaic thing of the past.

One would like to think he could be leading the resurgence of this Westminster principle in Australian politics, but I suspect he has done himself no favours.

I don’t doubt many of his peers in Queensland’s corridors of power are secretly seething that Hinchliffe has made it just that little bit harder for them when they next try to save their job after getting themselves into the poo.