First, I read the headline: “Dutton rules out two frontrunners for RBA governor.”
Then I read that Mr Dutton had said:
“We’ve made it clear to the government we don’t believe it should be somebody who is familiar, if you like, to the government, somebody who has been working very closely with the Treasurer, or the finance minister, or the prime minister.”
Next, I read that Jane Hume said that it shouldn’t be someone from the Public Service who’d been “doing the bidding of the government.”
All of which leads me to the belief that the whole Robodebt fiasco seems to have washed over their head without them picking up some of the fundamental lessons that should have been learned.
Starting with Senator Hume, she seems to have missed the fact that the Public Service are not there to simply do “the bidding of the government”. But then she was the one who was expressing the idea that Phillip Lowe should have his term extended because he was really only the poor man who’d had to raise interest rates because of the poor performance of Labor. We could have a long conversation about the truth or otherwise of that statement. Suffice to say, I don’t think that she’s going to win a lot of hearts with sympathy for the man who told us that rates wouldn’t rise until 2024 and, ok, that was wrong but if you just take in boarders or get a second job or spend less, then you’ll be ok.
As far as the idea that the Public Service are simply there to implement the government’s policy, it seems appealing enough at first glance. However, BJH (Before John Howard), there was a concept that they were there to give frank and fearless advice. I’m sure that you’ve heard that phrase before but basically it means that there were times when a public servant needs to explain to the minister the difficulty or, in some cases, the impossibility of what he or she intends to do.
“Yes, minister, giving everyone a million dollars will make everyone a millionaire, but the resultant inflation will make the Weimar Republic look like a minor economic hiccup… the Weimar Republic… you know, Germany before Hitler… inflation was… no, minister, I’m not sayin’ that you’re a Nazi, but…”
While the “Yes, Minister” aspect may drum up images of the recalcitrant public service of Sir Humphrey Appleby and the reluctance to embrace change, the fact remains that a newly elected MP will have a lot to learn and simply believing that one has a mandate to exclude anyone who votes for the opposition parties should have their vote disallowed on the grounds of mental incapacity doesn’t mean that it can happen overnight, even if it’s a firmly held belief of the incoming Prime Minister, Craig Kelly.
One of the major problems with Robodebt was the way that people acted to please the minister. At the moment, the Coalition are attempting a lot of rewriting of the Royal Commission’s findings. As well as the “Well, income averaging was started by Labor,” we also have the idea being floated that it was the public servants who failed to make the poor minister aware of the problems in the scheme. Morrison’s press release contained no mea culpa but was a typical response from He Who Does Not Hold A Hose.
All the evidence suggested that not only were ministers unwilling to listen to any problems raised by those responsible for implementing the scheme, but some were complicit in covering up legal advice and any commonsense suggestion that averaging someone’s income out over a period of time would not tell you how much they earned in a shorter period of time. Otherwise, we could possibly disqualify most aged pensioners on the grounds that they worked too many hours over the previous fifty years, and it puts them over the allowed hours for the pension.
Thankfully the media have learned a valuable lesson from this which is if they ignore something there’s a pretty good chance they won’t be held responsible when it all goes wrong. After all, in spite of the praise the Royal Commissioner gave to social media and independent journalists in uncovering this whole mess, there’s very little reporting of that in the media that was criticized for their lack of interest in doing any more than acting as ChatGPT and rewriting press releases from the government. Strangely criticism of the mainstream media from Catherine Holmes is also missing from most of the mainstream media.
And to move on to the terrible problems of the gas producers, I read in The Australian Financial Review a description of how bad recent changes were and how this terrible Albanese government had made all these decisions which were holding up projects which was leading to a supply shortage… Strangely there was no comment from the government, or even an energy expert critiquing the views of those with a vested interest in making as large a profit as possible.
Now I’m not knocking those wishing to exploit our national resources at the expense of everyday householders to make as big a profit as possible… Mm, when I put it that way…
Anyway, my point was simply that the media are once again acting as stenographers for a vested interest feeding them a story rather than questioning, investigating and presenting an alternative view.
Ok, in a few hours we’ll have the results of the Fadden by-election. In spite of the fact that Aston was the only federal by-election where the government has won a seat from the Opposition in a hundred years, some of the media were speculating about Labor winning. By-election typically swing against the government, there’s the cost-of-living problems and Dutton is trying to make it a protest vote about the government and the Voice in what is a conservative seat, so how anyone could even contemplate Labor winning is strange.
I guess it just means that if the Liberal candidate only limps across the line the media will be able to talk about the turnaround in Dutton’s fortunes and what a great result it was.
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