Why our pollies still don’t get it

THE puns about Employment Minister Shannon Fentiman's belatedly declared free stay in the Canadian ski mecca of Whistler are many.

Slippery slope.

On thin ice.

It's all downhill from here.

However, Fentiman's failure to declare her stay once again shows that our politicians struggle with the concept of perception and don't recognise that erring on the side of disclosure is always prudent.

Fentiman's stayed with her partner in a home owned by PriceWaterhouseCoopers consultant Nicole Scurrah, who was former premier Anna Bligh's chief of staff, and her husband Paul, who was recently appointed as the boss of airline Virgin.

 

Shannon Fentiman with her partner while skiing at Whistler, Canada. Picture: Instagram
Shannon Fentiman with her partner while skiing at Whistler, Canada. Picture: Instagram

 

The Scurrahs are long-term friends and were there at the time.

This was, in many respects, nothing more than two families holidaying together.

However, PwC is also a prominent firm whose services are constantly required by governments.

And that means the perception of a conflict of interest exists and the holiday should have been declared, just like Deputy Premier Jackie Trad did when she also visited the Scurrah's Whistler home.

It is not like the rules of State Parliament's Register of Member's Interest allow wriggle room.

Trad declared her stay as "sponsored accommodation".

 

Shannon Fentiman belatedly added the ski stay to her register of interests. Picture: AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy
Shannon Fentiman belatedly added the ski stay to her register of interests. Picture: AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy

 

Fentiman has now written it down as a "gift valued at more than $950".

And if the guidelines for these two areas weren't clear enough, the Register also has a catch-all requirement for MPs to declare any and all other interests where a perception of a conflict might exist.

It is not like the circumstances Fentiman faced were particularly unique.

Former premier Anna Bligh had to begrudgingly declare house sitting the harbour side home of Thiess director Ros Kelly when the company was bidding to build the Airport Link tunnel in 2008.

Kelly was also a family friend but that did not dilute the perception.

Unlike Bligh, Fentiman has at least raised her hand to admit the error.

But her failure is a lesson to politicians of all persuasions that belief in their own integrity is not enough to negate perceptions.

Failing to declare just guarantees these issues will snowball.