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The biggest business in the country is run by amateurs whose self-interest comes before that of its shareholders

Annual government expenditure is over $450 billion per year making it, by far, the biggest business in the country.

They decide what percentage of our income they will take and how they will spend it. They have total control over our common wealth and the ability to sell our assets as they please.

They make our laws. They can send us to war. They can choose to ignore existential threats like climate change.

They can make arbitrary decisions which can ruin people’s lives – or directly lead to their death as in the case of Hamid Khazaei who died from a cut on his leg because Dutton’s bastards didn’t get around to reading their emails and then decided to overrule clinical advice to have him transferred to the mainland, something they routinely do.

This huge responsibility is carried by total amateurs who have a vested interest in spinning a story to make themselves look good and the other side look bad, re-election being a goal which is pursued by whatever means it takes.

The pay and “entitlements”, now known as expenses (kinda like when they changed from Holy Ghost to Holy Spirit – it sounds better), are way beyond what many MPs could hope for in the private sector and are routinely abused.

Mitch Fifield said, on Q&A, that no government department should be exempt from efficiency dividends and that they must be transparent in showing they give value for money.

Should that not also apply to the Home Affairs department and the Defence department? And even his own NBN? Who could forget the AFP raiding Stephen Conroy’s office and the home of a staffer for daring to tell us the truth about the rollout And what value are we getting for the $30 million we gifted to Rupert?

Where is the rationale behind giving a few businessmen almost half a billion dollars to save the reef? Surely we can see the business plan they tendered to get this grant? Or the connection to scientific experts who are advising them? Or was it just a sling to mates who won’t upset the status quo to make it sound like you are doing something about the environment?

Governments love to talk about productivity increases (aka higher profits for business). Workers must increase labour productivity to plead for wage rises though they are often still ignored.

What does a productivity increase look like to justify the pay rises that politicians keep being awarded?

In times gone by, the public service was a stable organisation with great experience who could advise governments regardless of their political persuasion. That is no longer the case. Those who give advice a political party doesn’t want to hear are replaced by a partisan appointment who will pursue the party line.

This huge business of government, which has so much impact on all our lives, is replete with pomp, ceremony and tradition. That is no way to run a business. Imagine if you began a board meeting with a prayer?

The Prime Minister summed it up well when he was wooing the electorate with a bit of truth telling in between leadership gigs.

How often do we hear Australian politicians discuss these challenges in a genuinely open, honest, spin-free and non-adversarial way? Where the intention is to clearly explain the problem, accept responsibility for past misteps if appropriate (rather than apportion as much blame as possible to the other side), allow a non-ideological discussion of possible remedies, and see if there is any common ground for bipartisan work?

Seldom, and even more rarely if a camera is rolling.

Most Australians believe we need an honest, informed policy debate. Yet I don’t see many people who believe we have that. Instead, we all hear again and again that Australians are ashamed of the parliament, that they see it as nothing more than a forum for abuse, catcalling and spin.

There are reasons for this view. Question Time, Parliament’s most visible ritual, is one. If you love your country, have an interest in politics or policy, and care deeply about our nation’s future, there is nothing more certain to arouse your fury and invite your contempt than listening to an entire House of Representatives Question Time.

Normally this is doubly the case if the party you favour is in opposition; Governments tend to wield the advantages they have in Question Time with the subtlety that Trotsky’s assassin wielded his ice pick. There is a reason it is called Question Time and not Answer Time.

How hollow those words seem now.

Australians need to be putting their collective wisdom together to think about what our next system of government will look like.

In the meantime, politicians should be forced to adopt 21st century workplace practices. Stop the bullying and bad behaviour. Show respect to your colleagues. Preselect candidates on merit rather than rewarding party aparatchiks. Aim for a diversity that represents our population. Stop adding on photo shoots or meet-and-greets so you can claim for attending social functions and family holidays – you really have to pay for some things yourselves.

But most of all, government must be transparent and accountable. This is required of all other organisations. We have all had to up the ante on our record-keeping and our policies and procedures and are accountable for such. How much more important is that for a government who, after all, are employed by us to invest our money to run the business for all our benefit?

They, and we, are the custodians of our children’s future. We have a right to know and a duty to ensure that they are protecting that and investing in providing the best possible society we can for all Australians.


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  1. Frank Smith

    My thoughts exactly, Kaye Lee. Thank you for an excellent contribution.

  2. Cynthia

    Thank you for another excellent “read”.

  3. Pierre Wilkinson

    As usual, a great article Kaye Lee. Will a federal ICAC help resolve some of the issues raised?

  4. Kaye Lee

    How telling is it that our government wouldn’t send observers to the Cambodian election because it would legitimise a corrupt dictatorial regime yet we have already paid that corrupt regime $50 million dollars to take three refugees whose families have been unable to join them despite that promise being made by Australian officials as a condition of them accepting resettlement there.

    “Hun Sen said he told Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that Cambodia is ready to “accept more” refugees from Australia’s offshore detention centres.”

    I bet he is. $50 million buys some prime Australian real estate.


  5. townsvilleblog

    I would have thought that the biggest business in the country would have been a race between the Catholic Church and the Australian Branch of the USA cult – the assembly of God FANATICS, who go under several names such as Hillsong, Calvary etc. They sell hope and fear and have no overheads, surely they must be the biggest and the best?

  6. Ill fares the land

    The role of management in any business is invariably to enrich themselves and at the same time adopt strategies that appease enough of the shareholder group that they have ongoing support – in other words, the appeased shareholder group will largely turn a blind eye to whatever management is doing as long as they believe they share in the spoils. The supportive shareholders will permit all manner of corruption as long as the management pander to their wants and more importantly, their fears (for fear is the bedrock characteristic of the conservative)

    I am not sure this isn’t a factor in the rise, and inexorable rise of despotic, corrupt dictators around the world – Cambodia being the latest example to come into the world view (although what has been happening is that we have come to a tipping point in what has been a long and steady decline into dictatorship). Country after country has slipped into the grip of dictators – Duterte, Erdogan, Hun Sen, Xi Jinping – the A-Z list of dictatorships around the world is frightening and it is growing. It is the worse because China is developing links with many of those countries and ensuring that existing dictatorships are preserved – it is in China’s economic and geo-political interests and China can afford to buy as much influence as it needs.

    When “management” silences the free press; appoints cronies and family to positions of power; controls the judiciary, the police and the armed forces, it is then possible to basically ignore what shareholders want. This is what Trump is trying to achieve, although he still has to con his supporter base into believing that he is acting in their best interests (thereby facilitating them to delude themselves they were right to support Trump rather than admit they are idiots and were conned by a bellicose, self-deluded, misogynistic, narcissistic, sociopathic liar and “white shoe” salesman) and it is what the LNP is trying to achieve. They generally are more successful at it than Labor because the mainstream media blithely finds a way to take the conservative spin on everything, whereas Labor is generally undermined and attacked. It is more difficult in a country where democracy has a more powerful hold, but the process is still underway and much of it happens without the attention of the media, because it just happens that the media is owned by the rich and powerful who invariably share in the spoils of the decline of democracy. When democracy does break down, the rich and powerful can enlist their friends in government to call out the police and military to help protect them from the rampaging proletariat who may be majority shareholders in raw numbers, but are the minority shareholders in terms of influence.

    Turning to a personal “rant”, examples of the compliant media are the perennial “hang-dog” Nikki Savva and the vile Gerard Henderson who insufferably manage to twist their rabid right wing views into support for the LNP and condemnation of Labor on pretty much any issue. In one sense, it is impressive and adroit intellectual massaging, but it highlights how much easier it is for conservatives to undermine democracy when there are those who are reasonably if not highly intelligent and articulate enough to make their arguments sound elegant and hence plausible..

  7. MikeW

    Spot on once again Kaye Lee. As for question time in Parliament it should be re-named Waste of time, an absolute debacle with Dixers and no questions answered just insults hurled across the chamber at the opposition.
    The only good thing about QT is it helps me with my afternoon naps, turn the volume on low and away I go for an hour or so.

  8. Keith

    There is also the matter of almost half a billion dollars being allocated to an indeterminate group to solve problems with the Great Barrier Reef; or something like that … who really knows.

  9. corvus boreus

    Pierre Wilkinson,
    A national ICAC, or Federal Integrity Commission (ALP variant) would probably be limited to investigating specific allegations of credibly evidenced breaches of adherence to stated operative legislations, rules and guidelines.
    Such an ethical watchdog/bloodhound would likely, at most, refer for prosecutions and make summary recommendations.
    I think there some grimy areas in the conducts of ministers and members, and the courtiers that surround them, that, under current rules, such a body wouldn’t be able to touch, and that’s cause for discussion of a whole different kind of dunny brush.

  10. Kaye Lee

    That is my concern too cb. Most of what they do is within the vague parameters of what they laughably call “the rules”. But remember, these are the people who needed it written down that it wasn’t a good idea for the boss to root junior staff members.

    Tax avoidance is also usually all “within the rules”.

    And there is no rule against jobs for the boys and girls.

    Perhaps a national Integrity Commission with a wider remit beyond corruption?

    And an independent body that makes merit-based appointments?

  11. diannaart

    … Most Australians believe we need an honest, informed policy debate. Yet I don‟t see many people who believe we have that. Instead, we all hear again and again that Australians are ashamed of the parliament, that they see it as nothing more than a forum for abuse, catcalling and spin. …>

    Malcolm proves there is no god or other higher power.

    He was not struck down for his (hollow) speech by a shaft of lightening so vast the entire ACT (or wherever he was at the time) was incinerated.

    Also proving Malcolm knows better but doesn’t give a rat’s.

  12. Jon Chesterson


    What do you get when you run the country, public service or business on political ideology instead of people and constitution?
    Instability followed swiftly by injustice, exploitation and anarchy and that is what the Liberals have given us. But wait that’s not all, they have also gifted us the MONSTER to control and consume it all!

    And so we create another monster to replace it, and another and another, because there is no one left to tame it. The ultimate game of adversarial politic, ideology and self interest fuelled by the gaslight folly of cat and mouse democracy.

    Welcome to the bastardry of Australian Government, what brilliant minds and souls we created 100 years on!

  13. Anthony Andrews

    Well said, Kaye Lee.

  14. guest

    Ill fares the land @12:18pm

    Your last paragraph is far too kind, IFTL. You say something about

    “condemnation of Labor on pretty much any issue… impressive and adroit intellectual massaging… reasonably if not highly intelligent and articulate enough to make their arguments sound elegant and hence plausible.”

    “impressive and adroit”? “reasonably if not highly intelligent and articulate enough”? “elegant and hence plausible”?

    I cannot see it, IFTL. Your pen name tells it better: Ill Fares The Land!

    The right-wing propaganda is none of the things you claim about it. When I look at their scribbling, I feel as if I have suddenly found myself in a foreign land. Especially if I actually know something about the subject matter.

    I admit it must be hard to come up with something interesting and informative in the 24/7 news cycle. But too often the topic is handed on from one scribbler to the next over several days, even weeks in some cases.

    Then there are scribblers who derive their subject matter from overseas, such as the USA, and bend it as if it is relevant here in Oz.

    For so many scribbler news is just a fantasy they make up in the echo chamber of their newsroom, way out of touch. But the problem is we are too often getting on with our own lives to stop and consider the issue. Sometimes we just read the headlines and think we know all about it.

    Pyne is asked about Turnbull’s suggestion the by-elections were to be a test of leadership for both Shorten and himself. Pyne says he did not say that.

    Sound bites of perhaps a second or two are shown on TV – and that is supposed to explain everything.

    Trump treats all criticism as “fake news”.

    We all collapse in the miasma of misinformation.

  15. corvus boreus

    In politics, as with other team sports upon which fortunes are gambled, the claims made by supporters of any the different teams should be skeptically examined with a minimal addition of sodium chloride.
    Supporters grouping together under coloured banners and chanted cries often mutate into fan-clubs, which can become truncheons wielded in the hands of mobbing fanatics without breaking strict definition.

    On the aforementioned heavy vote [2] Dunno intention expressed amongst the Green primary vote demographic, this definitely is a problematic trend, as is demonstrable in citation of some on the ground results.
    A Labor flag-bearer who sometimes posts here passingly referenced his personal experience with trends of voter apathy and auto-disenfranchisement (ie neighbors who don’t bother) in his home electorate of Gilmore (south NSW), a seat which is occupied by a very itchy arse according to the last democratic ballot, which was decided by a fraction of a percent in the last electoral vote.
    Closer statistical examination of the 2016 Gilmore result shows that the number of [1] Carmel McCallum (GRNs) votes that were passed on to Dunno (?) were ultimately a decisive factor in Ann Sudmalis (LIBs) defeating Fiona Phillips (ALP), thus securing another seat for the coalition..

    This destructive divergence of greater purpose obviously needs broader address through the means of honestly reflective,omphaloskepsis on the part of both parties (and their representative fans).

  16. diannaart

    corvus boreus

    Will reread your reply, at a future time, when my head doesn’t hurt.


  17. corvus boreus

    Sympathies, may pain abate swift.

  18. Kyran

    He took his first baby steps in discretionary spending of other people’s money devoid of evidence (plundering the public purse in English) with the unsolicited taxpayer gift of $10mil to a neighbour to make it rain.
    “KERRY O’BRIEN: Few MPs would have worked harder to defend their seats at this election than Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull, whose blue ribbon Sydney seat of Wentworth is under siege not just from Labor but a range of environmental activists mostly coalescing around the Greens. But in the second week of the campaign, Mr Turnbull found the time to announce that the Government, already in caretaker mode, would bankroll to the tune of $10 million the investigation of an untried Russian technology that aims to trigger rainfall from the atmosphere, even when there are no clouds. It’s a decision that raised the eyebrows of water experts around the country. Mr Turnbull’s office says there’s no breach of caretaker protocol because the project was actually approved before the election was announced. It’s described as “rainfall enhancement technology” and is said to electro-charge the atmosphere to milk unseen moisture from the skies.”


    Who was to know “Mr Handbury is the wealthy nephew of Rupert Murdoch and chairman and proprietor of Murdoch Books, which is the headquarters for Australian Rain Corporation.” He progressed to more extravagant gifts to scientific research with ‘clean coal’ grants and we are yet to see the outcome of that ‘make the water go uphill’ stuff in the Snowy. The sequence of events is curious though.
    “Snowy Hydro released a Feasibility Study for Snowy 2.0 in December 2017, which declared the project to be ‘both technically and financially feasible’.”
    Then in March, Captain Turnbull made another pick when he purchased the whole Snowy River shebang for a paltry $6bill.


    It comes as no surprise that the feasibility study is being done by a Singapore Government owned business. You would be right in wondering how ironclad this condition is in the purchase of the scheme agreement;
    “The Australian Government will provide an assurance that Snowy Hydro will continue to be in public ownership, and employment levels and existing head office locations will not change.”
    Yeah, we all trust politicians when they say “we will never ever everer privatize this iconic institution. Vale Telstra, Qantas, Commonwealth Bank, etcetera.
    “Where is the rationale behind giving a few businessmen almost half a billion dollars to save the reef?”
    Today’s Guardian reported that the $443mill ‘fund’ was not only unsolicited and untendered, it was a Captain’s Call.


    What could possibly go wrong? The government might be the largest business in Australia, but it still hasn’t kept up with the tendency of corporate Australia to get rid of really bad CEO’s and such by admonishing them with ‘golden parachutes’ worth millions. Just look how badly the executives from the AMP have been treated, or that bloke who retired from Fairfax the same day he sold it. Poor bastards will have to make do with millions. It’s not like our politicians get such cushy payouts when they lose an election. I’m sure Messrs Reith, Robb, Costello et al rue the day they got thrown out of politics.
    Isn’t it great? Turnbull is all growed up now. Instead of dispensing $10mil without evidence, he gratuitously throws around billions without a care in the world. Can’t wait to see where his parachute lands him!
    Thank you Ms Lee and commenters. Take care

  19. Kaye Lee

    re the rainmaking grant to Murdoch’s nephew who just so happened to live in Wentworth and be a donor….

    “A report was given to the Federal Government about the Australian Rain Corporation’s unproven Russian technology: the former head of the CSIRO Office of Space Science, Ken McCracken, and the Emeritus Professor of Physics from the University of New England, Neville Fletcher, said they were highly sceptical about the technology and recommended that a trial only go ahead after more scientific work on the proposal, and if it could be done “at no great expense”. They recommended no more than two million dollars be spent exploring the science before any commitment to a grant for a trial. The report was ignored by Malcolm Turnbull.”

    He personally, and against all advice, upped the ante to $10 million (plus GST for some reason making it $11 million).

    Though perhaps even more blatant was Howard’s grant of millions to bail out his brother’s national textiles company.

  20. totaram

    “He personally, and against all advice, upped the ante to $10 million (plus GST for some reason making it $11 million).

    Though perhaps even more blatant was Howard’s grant of millions to bail out his brother’s national textiles company.”

    After these events we had a Labor govt. for 6 years, but nothing was done, no questions asked, no inquiry. So next time around they give 445 million without any kind of justification and they hope they will get away with it as before. Why not? Who should we blame?

    I think you have to admit that Labor has been too complicit in this game in the past. Things must change, if we are to get better.

  21. Stephegb

    Thank you Kaye Lee, I am in awe of your knowledge and ability to articulate significant data.

    S G B

  22. Miriam English

    Thanks Kaye. Excellent article, as usual.

    I just watched a very interesting TED talk on replacing the government with randomly chosen citizens. I think it would likely work much better than the career criminals politicians we currently have to put up with.

    Hmmm… let’s see if I can embed that…

  23. Kaye Lee

    I can’t listen to it now (household asleep) but I will find time soon. I have my reservations about that for a number of reasons. But I should listen before I comment. (Perhaps I know too many randoms)

    My thoughts are more along the lines of a multi-party (smaller) executive who take turns to represent the country internationally or to meet with visiting leaders, depending on their relevant knowledge and experience on what needs to be discussed. No winner-takes-all government, no presidential glory-seeker, all voices at the table with an interest in finding consensus on the best plan rather than attacking each other.

  24. Miriam English

    This morning, thinking more about it, I realised one of the good things a randomly selected government of citizens would do is to dissolve our increasingly strident tribalism. We have political parties and media attempting to work people up into a frenzy of hatred for the “other side”. We’ve all seen LNP-inspired hatred of progressives. We’ve seen hysterical hatred by Labor enthusiasts of Greens. We’ve seen many here indulge in poisonous hatred of all Conservatives. (I’ve sometimes been guilty of this too.)

    Wouldn’t it be nice to see all that dissolve away? We could be a common people again, with divergent views, but tolerant of each other — not objectifying each other as the deepest evil.

    Of course we’d have to break the death-grip Murdoch has on our mainstream media. We will achieve little while his divisively nasty opinions rule by pushing delusional nonsense. Not much good can progress while he controls so much. I think he is the single greatest threat to our country.

  25. corvus boreus

    I hear you regarding the rise of the petty tribes and the perceived need for dichotomous division on every single phuqqen issue.

    Sometimes, when the party barrackers are in full swing slinging the latest memes back and forth, one hesitates to throw any valid information into the ‘discussion’, knowing that any relevant facts will merely be viewed by the bickering party zealots as just another disposable chew-toy to play tug-o-war over, and try to hit each other over the head with.

    To pompously quote myself; ‘Team supporters grouping together under coloured banners and chanted cries often mutate into fan-clubs, which can become truncheons wielded in the hands of mobbing fanatics without breaking strict definition’.

  26. Rhonda

    Thanks Kaye, geez it sure is getting harder to keep up with the dirty deals. I’m all for a meta- corruption watchdog; personally, I call for replacing the current crop of neo-cons with (Hanson style) life sized cardboard cutouts; and also, if we can’t properly secularise our parliament, and we must continue with BS like the recitation of the Lord’s prayer in opening their dross, then maybs they should go the whole hog and start genuinely confessing at the close eg “bless us, people, for we have sinned. It’s been nary a second since our last lie and spin etc etc”…oh, and totaram, IMO, you should be mindful when signalling ALP missives, you could well get the gang in big trouble 😉

  27. Kaye Lee


    Interesting to note that One Nation did far better with the cardboard cutouts than they did in the WA and Qld state elections when Pauline appeared in person.

  28. Rossleigh

    Perhaps they should have had a lot of “Paulines” dressed in burqas. Or would that have scars of the PHON voters entirely?

  29. Kaye Lee

    When I was little I used to love those books where you would press out the paper doll and lots of clothes and you dressed it by folding tabs over. Perhaps I should give James Ashby’s printing company a call. As well as the burqa, we could have Pauline in a red swimsuit like she wore to wash cars on Celebrity Apprentice, or Pauline in sparkly dress like she wore on Dancing with the Stars.

  30. Josephus

    My pennyworth on the issue of spin, corporate or/and government: The CSIRO takes funding from the Minerals Council. Of late its sociologists have endorsed and elaborated upon a pseudo scientific theory called Reflexivity. This they have developed into a profit making package offered to mining companies. (To my knowledge only one, unnamed mining company has actually purchased this so far). I cannot discover what theCSIRO’s specially elaborated program for miners entails; my requests for information have been fobbed off or ignored. ‘Reflexivity’ promises howeve to achieve social licence without actually addressing the environmental and other concerns of affected communities. I do not say that no mines try to address such issues as water toxicity, since a few do for example apply waste water treatments such as the CSIRO’s Virtual Curtain. Rather the idea is to apply rhetorical devices such as surveys and PR articles in a bid to reassure concerned locals. In other words community concerns are reduced to neuroses and ignorance. Such methods remind not only of political spin but also of the ways dissidents in non democratic states are silenced by being treated as unwell or deluded. It is a disgrace that the CSIRO endorses and profits from what amounts to brain washing to convince communities to accept the assurances given them by mining companies and other industrial projects. In the same way politicians treat us like stupid children. It is a constant battle to resist the barrage of propaganda our leaders and their mates the corporations/mines serve us. Thank you AIMN. I wish you would read the CSIRO texts as I have, but actually be able to challenge these compromised experts- alas poor CSIRO.

  31. Rhonda

    Awww, Kaye, I loved those dress-up paper dollies too, but don’t be spoiling those memories with PH, please! Ps My 21yo son had the fridge magnet version as a toddler – you could be onto a $ spinner with a Pollie version

  32. Miriam English

    🙂 Yeah, I liked those paper dollies too. Maybe Pauline would be best suited by a KKK hood and cloak.

    corvus boreus, well said.

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