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A government trying to fix everything while they’re not even working

There was a time in this country when government took advice from public servants.

You know, those who work for the government in their specialised fields and offer independent advice.

One would think that advice from these people who diligently and independently gather all there is to know on a given subject, and then without fear or favour place it in the lap of government, would be the people to consult.

But no, that old thinking went out the window a long time ago.

Now we need panels, lobbyists and advisers to whom we pay millions of dollars.

And as if the government – backed by advice from as many public servants from as many departments as is required and as many advisers as they can lay their hands on – together with the state premiers and officials from federal and state departments the Prime Minister has decided to suspend the parliament for five months and appoint a panel of business people to manage the government’s economic response to the coronavirus pandemic.

These people are apparently more gifted than the heads of the public service – including the head of Treasury.

Presenting facts to people who have reasoned by virtue of their feelings that they are right is totally futile.

This new panel of gifted business people are as deputy chairman former Telstra chief David Thodey. The Board members include former Labor government minister Greg Combet, former health department Jane Halton, former Toll Holdings boss Paul Little, and EnergyAustralia managing director Catherine Tanna.

They will be joined by Philip Gaetjens, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary, and his counterpart at Home Affairs, Mike Pezzullo and will be known as the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC).

Julie-Anne Spargue from the AFR tells us it will be chaired by former Fortescue Metals chief Nev Power whose job it will be to “coordinate advice to the government on actions to anticipate and mitigate the economic and social effects of the global coronavirus pandemic.”

I know very little about Mr Power and just what experience he has had managing pandemics, but I’m sure it would be no more than that of the head of the public service or the head of treasury, for example.

All I know is that he is a mining executive, as are others on the panel, a friend of the PM, and according to the Prime Minister won’t be constrained by the codes and traditions of the public service, and that:

“When I rang him the other day, I simply said, ‘Nev, I need you to serve your country.’ And he quickly responded … and he stepped up.”

(Morrison is becoming more like Trump every day: “The codes of the Public Service”?)

The peoples of all the nations of the world increasingly seem to be having less to say about their own destiny.

So, the parliament will suspend parliamentary sittings until August 11 and wont bring down a budget until October.

The government has always been paranoid of criticism. ‘Accountability’ isn’t a word they particularly like. That is why they are so secretive.

After all, the LNP has governed appallingly and achieved nothing yet they are now asking the people to take them in good faith and guide them through a pandemic and a recession when they still haven’t recovered from their ill-fated 2014 world’s unfairest budget. (Maybe that’s a bit unfair, but you get my point.)

Now we know that the possibility of a recession was very real before the virus hit and there wasn’t much business on the government’s books, but closing parliament down for so long is a big call.

In fact, it must be a bit of a joke. How are they going to pass the necessary legislation to deal with the crisis?

It is as Tony Burke, Manager of Opposition Manager Business said:

“I will be more than surprised if we can go from now until August and find that the legislation we put through the parliament today is all the nation needs for Australia to handle this pandemic, all the nation needs to deal with the crisis of unemployment and recession that we’ll be facing.”

To think that during a crisis of this magnitude you can simply close the doors of the people’s parliament so as to escape scrutiny.

The government may argue that it wants to totally concentrate its efforts on the economy and the virus, and there is certain legitimacy in this argument but it certainly flies in the face of known democratic principles.

I notice that Margo Kingston, author of “Not Happy John” fame tweeted last Monday night:

 

The Australian’s sometime-left-wing stirrer Peter van Onselen wrote (paywall) that the parliament:

“… kept operating through both World Wars. It operated during the Great Depression and even the Spanish Influenza of 1919. In those days we didn’t have the technology nor know-how we do today to make it even easier to keep parliament open.”

Crikey’s Guy Rundle argued that (paywall) MPs should continue to do their jobs – “no excuses.”

Former Treasurer Wayne Swan joined the chorus, tweeting:

 

If ever there was a justification for recalling the parliament one only has to look at the performance of the government thus far. Here are three examples:

  1. The Prime Minister should be outlawed from delivering any public notifications regarding government decisions.
  2. Government Services Minister Stuart Robert’s performance regarding the MyGov debacle illustrates why we need the federal parliament to hold this government to account. He should be immediately sacked from his portfolio.
  3. Then of course there was the debacle with the Ruby Princess.

The better performing states premiers are currently overshadowing the government’s performance.

They need to reopen the people’s parliament, restore our democratic processes and lift their game.

My thought for the day

Never confuse what you want with what you need.

An addendum

In a strange twist, having written all this, on Monday 30 March the government in perhaps the greatest ever back flip in Australian political history came out with a wage’s package that just a week ago they absolutely and empathetically opposed.

What a truly staggering conversion from the pursuit of a surplus a month ago to compassionate socialism today.

Without at this time going into the whys and wherefores of their decision I agree with the thoughts of Barrie Cassidy who tweeted.

 

And of course they will have to reconvene the parliament to pass the necessary legislation.

A further thought

Economics is not a capitalist gift to the right of politics to further the wealth of the rich or a plaything for politicians to cement their power. Economics should be a process used to mold a humane and rounded society committed to kindness and compassion. One where the pursuit of success is encouraged while at the same time acknowledging that fairness and equality of opportunity is real in economic terms.

Imagine, if you will, an Australia where economics has a human face to it: Where the common good controls capitalism.

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18 comments

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  1. Kronomex

    John,

    “These people are apparently more gifted than the heads of the public service – including the head of Treasury.”

    Public servants don’t give huge donations to the LNP. Public servants don’t set up LNP politicians with cushy lobbying…oops, jobs that don’t involve lobbying in any way, when they leave (or get kicked out at elections).

    Is it possible we are seeing the beginning of possible martial law (all to protect ‘strayans of course) and the installing of a dictatorship? Only time will tell, but I used to joke about it a year or so back…it isn’t so funny anymore.

  2. Kathryn

    The ONLY thing the corrupt, self-serving and non-achieving Scott Morrison is good at is his ability to elevate the criminal act of NEPOTISM into a virtue! “Cushy, high-paying jobs for the boys” is a new, devastating and incomprehensible LNP policy that has ALWAYS been around since the elitist LNP fell into parliament, however, Howard, Abbott and Morrison have given unabashed NEPOTISM a status never before seen in our political history! Rewarding their corrupt, rapacious “mates” and big-time donors with obscenely high-paying jobs in fields that none of them have any expertise or prior knowledge in seems to be “par for the course” with the LNP – an abhorrent, criminally corrupt and appalling act that is now putting ordinary Australians at risk, especially when our Missing in Action PM is delegating vital health care responsibility to multi-millionaire corporate buddies such as a so-called Corononavirus Commission headed by a former politician, a former public servant Jane Holton, former head of Toll, Paul Little, head of Energy Australia, Catherine Tanner, the secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Phil Gaetjens, and secretary of Home Affairs, Mike Pezzullo – not a doctor, medical expert of specialist in pandemics among them!

    The smug, arrogant and pontificating PM who ran for the hills at the first sign of trouble, abandoning his post whilst STILL sucking up his undeserved, obscene salary (the fifth highest paid politician in the world) on more than $650,059 per annum (which equates to over $2,500 per DAY for every DAY he is in hiding) STILL has the nerve to go on and on using Codiv-19 as the perfect opportunity to grandstand, lecturing Australians from afar, piously telling us that he is “praying” for us all despite the fact that thousands of people are now being stood down or sacked without pay and wondering where their next meal is coming from! This is now regarded as Morrison’s MO – cowardly running for the hills at the first sign of national catastrophe! Doing nothing but providing pompous, sanctimonious lectures to ordinary Australians whom the LNP will always regard as “the poor old plebs” aka the ones who are actually PAYING for their undeserved salaries, perks and non-stop rorting!

    The only thing that is CERTAIN in these unique, frightening times of a global pandemic, is that Morrison, the neoliberal capitalists in the LNP and their multi-millionaire mates and donors will NEVER SHARE THE PAIN with the rest of us! No matter HOW bad things get, no matter how traumatised many Australians become, when the rise in joblessness, domestic violence, crime and desperation continues, the LNP and their mates will be OK, they will STILL be sucking up HUGE salaries, giving NOTHING back but empty platitudes and meaningless slogans. The LNP’s underlying motto of “Blow you Jack, we’re alright!” should NEVER be forgotten – especially when the next federal/State elections roll around!

  3. Terence Mills

    To determine whether our national parliament was an essential service I am told that they brought in outside consultants who interviewed a representative cross section of our governing parliamentarians consisting of Stuart Robert, Michaelia Cash, Barnaby Joyce, Craig Kelly, Peter Dutton and Bridget McKenzie.

    After interviewing this representative group the consultants formed the view that not only was this parliament not an essential service but that it was at best, ‘a f**king waste of time and space and should be abandoned indefinitely’.

    That’s what I hear !

  4. Graham

    If Parliament has been suspended until who knows when and the politicians effectively stood down, should we continue to pay their salaries?

  5. whatever

    Littleproud was just on TV announcing $100 million to charter jet flights to export our lobsters.

  6. Peter F

    Graham, They should receive $1500/fortnight

  7. Jon Chesterson

    POWER OF THE UNELECTED EXECUTIVE – HAVE FAITH!

    The current Junta of Australia is headed up by Board Director Scott Morrison (unelected PM) and personally appointed CEO Nev Power (unelected PERIOD, and former Fortescue Metals chief, a mining executive, Morrison’s buddy) – Parliament is suspended till 11 August 2020. No Constitutional Parliament and no Constitutional Public Service to speak of – Just corporate nepotism.

    The Opposition parties including Labor and Australian Greens are nowhere to be seen unless the ABC or SBS allow them to be seen and speak on air to the Australian people. I do not consider any of the other corporate owned, sponsored or installed TV channels to be newsworthy or responsible viable media, all part of the Junta propaganda.

    Beware now of the power of the UNELECTED executive – Will this Liberal corporate takeover of our Australian democracy ever end or is this the irony of Covid-19, the excuse, the parallel process to kill off our democracy?

    ‘We will get through this… On the other side!’

  8. guest

    And remember this crowd shut down Parliament for 5 months before the last election.

  9. New Bruce

    These people must be REALLY GOOD at whatever it is that they do, because scottyfrommarketing, our current Lodger and much publicised happy clapper hasen’t seen fit to invite his beloved deity to the table.
    Jeeez.
    JC will be running around somewhere with an eggshell on his head wailing “It’s an injustice, it is…”

    Heaven help Australia, because the “grownups” who got themselves elected way back in 2013 haven’t got an operating braincell between them.
    And it’s now illegal to riot in the steets. (Not to mention unsafe)
    And they have locked up the guns to remove the possibility of Rule 303 being enacted. BASTARDS !!!

    Stay safe and healthy.

  10. TuffGuy

    Given this government’s recent fiscal behaviour, what with sports rorts and notional bushfire funds etc, I cannot help but wonder just how much of the many billions being tossed about at the moment will find its way into the coffers of the Party faithful??? With the country being run by scummo and his merry band of thieves along with his mates on the NCCC, along with a total lack of accountability, you just have to ask the question.

  11. wam

    Day 7 quarantine:
    Unnecessary work places have to shut and, as the last 7 years have shown, the pollies workplace is not essential. Plus they cannot travel or quarantine must be ignored. Not that ignoring hid own instructions worries smirko.

    Fortunate that they didn’t get the rabbott/trumball copper to the node so video conferencing is easy. but smirko and twiggies boy will do the thinking.

    Sadly cassidy’s box ticking is true to form not showing the unticked nor highlighting any collateral damage or pertinent previous cash curs or splashes

    Smirko knows the ropes has the access required to capitalise on publicity and neither wants or needs any parliamentary debate.
    If he could call an election today he would bolt(did you read him tuesday???ring fence us lord, and let the fit get back to work.) in.

    Cuckoo waltz how spot on as usual! These sick
    and guest when it winds down by years end there will be a dd and smirko will do a 2004 howard for goodness sake albo look like you are doing something and find space to keep the turds like angus and roberts popping up.

    ps
    Thanks boobby

  12. Andrew Smith

    Australian Libs are merely following, like lemmings, what has occurred to their GOP counterparts, taken over by the 1% of deep pocketed corporate interests via think tanks, ideology, direct lobbying for influence, trashing the public sector and dog whistling of parliamentary democracy; well done Australia.

  13. leefe

    The government listening to the Public Service was fine back before said Public Service was so thoroughly politicised. These days there’s no point consulting them because they will just parrot back the standard Lib/Nat/IPA line.

  14. New England Cocky

    THE TRIALS OF BEING INTELLIGENT – John Cleese

    Truly stupid people lack the capacity to realise just how stupid they are.

    “I think the problem with people like this is that they are so stupid that they have no idea how stupid they are.

    You see, if you are very, very stupid how can you possibly realise that you are very, very stupid? You would have to be relatively intelligent to realise how stupid you are.

    There is a wonderful bit of research by a guy called David Dunning at Cornell, who is a friend of mine I am proud to say, who has pointed out that in order to know how good you are at something requires exactly the same skill at it as it does to be good at that thing in the first place, which means, this is very funny, that if you are absolutely no good at something at all, then you lack exactly the skill that you need to know that you are absolutely not good at it. And this explains not just Hollywood but almost the entirety of Fox News.”

    Based on research by David Dunning, a retired Professor of Psychology at Cornell University and Justin Kruger a social psychologist and Professor at New York University, once both of Cornell University.

  15. Dave G.

    The Ruby Princess,will the real story ever be made public.There are all sorts of rumours about sick Pentacostals being let loose due to pressure from one of our elected representatives.Outlandish as it may seem these rumours shall only get worse until we get an explanation we can trust.The Captain surely would have the full story.

  16. Jack Cade

    New England Cocky

    That’s an interesting variation on CATCH-22!!

  17. Ali Mentree

    Dave G.

    ‘On water’ perhaps?
    There are sone conspiracy theories you’d love to be true.

  18. Terry

    Who is Nev Power , what are his qualifications and how much is he being paid !!!

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