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The Peter Principle

Tony-Abbott The Peter Principle suggests that people will tend to be promoted until they reach their “position of incompetence”, and that is exactly what we are seeing with this Coalition government. They had six years in Opposition to develop their policies, and access to the Parliamentary Budgetary Office to cost them, but when it came to the crunch the cupboard was bare.

The assessment of the potential of an employee for a promotion is often based on their performance in the current job. Tony Abbott has been described as a very good Opposition leader. Personally I can’t see it, but that’s because I think all members of Parliament have been elected to help run the country. Achieving anything was never on Abbott’s radar. His entire being was devoted to “attack dog” and truth and decency were no impediment. He wanted to win at any cost as Tony Windsor revealed. But what now?

Over six months in and it is patently obvious that the Coalition have no plan at all other than to “slowly and methodically” pay hundreds of millions of dollars to private consulting firms and mates to see if they can come up with a way to make the Coalition’s election promises feasible. We have well over fifty reviews and audits and white papers and green papers in progress. Any discussion of policy or direction turns into “the mess left by the previous government”. They fail to realise that they were elected to fix this perceived mess rather than waste time bemoaning it. You don’t employ a new CEO to sit there saying “wasn’t me, was the other guy”.

The Royal Commission into the home insulation programme is a blatant attempt to discredit the previous government. The money would be far better spent implementing the recommendations from the eight inquiries we have already had. The Royal Commission into unions is another blatant attempt to discredit all unions, silence the collective voice of the workers, and taint the Labor Party for their traditional association with the unions. There do seem to be some problems in the construction industry but this would be far better investigated by a police task force who can actually prosecute people. If I was giving evidence about intimidation by bikies I would rather talk discreetly to the cops than to a televised circus who has no power to lock anyone up.

In the ultimate display of NIMBY, the Coalition is claiming success in its promise to “stop the boats”. If the boats have stopped why are we paying the US $3 billion for unmanned drones and spending $7.5 million on orange disposable life rafts and $5.7 million on an intelligence gathering technology that aims to locate ”security threats” on the water before they reach Australian shores. Not to mention the $16.8 million cost of extending naval vessel, the Triton, for six months and the $25 million cost of increasing the contract for the armed patrol vessel, the Ocean Protector. All they have done is build a very expensive dam against the rising tide of refugees, thus inundating transit countries who are far less able to help these people than we are.

They remain committed to spend $22 billion on paid parental leave even though the productivity commission said replacement wage PPL was inequitable, very costly, and of little benefit. All expert advice is that childcare is far more important in improving female workforce participation.

In the face of concerted worldwide action on climate change and investment in renewable energy, they insist they will “axe the tax” and get rid of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. This has nothing to do with making your electricity bill cheaper. If they truly wanted to do that they could easily make power GST free just like fresh food and encourage competition through the renewable energy sector. This is once again just a blatant attempt to discredit the previous government by blaming everything that happens on the “carbon tax” which is in fact a temporary fixed price emission trading scheme if we want to be correct.

For a government who wants to cut red tape, Direct Action and PPL are going to be administrative nightmares. We already see Operation Sovereign Borders requiring “the co-operation of 15 departments” – how many public servants will these three policies alone occupy?

Rather than being flexible enough to react to circumstances, or adaptable to changing conditions, or willing to take expert advice, the Coalition have a script which they are determined to deliver regardless of the cost or what is happening in the rest of the world.

The author of the Peter Principle suggests that “work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence.” Rather than seeking to promote a talented “super-competent” junior employee, Peter suggested that an incompetent manager may set them up to fail or dismiss them because they will likely “violate the first commandment of hierarchical life with incompetent leadership: [namely that] the hierarchy must be preserved”. We mustn’t have any of those pesky scientists or expert public servants or, God forbid, women, showing us up.

Peter goes on to say that “Staff who find themselves with what they consider to be incompetent superiors may try to “manage upward” and support or manipulate them to be more effective, or may simply devise ways to minimise the damage and influence they have on the organisation.” Peta Credlin is never more than a few feet from Tony. She sits at the table with world leaders carefully managing what her creation says and does.

A similar theory was proposed by Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert cartoon series. In his 1996 book, The Dilbert Principle, Adams suggested that “the least smart people are promoted, simply because they’re the ones you don’t want doing actual work.” We really need to find something to keep George Brandis occupied or he is just going to keep spending a fortune on trashy books to fill his gargantuan custom-made bookcases, and on “networking” at weddings. Other than approving raids and redefining human rights, George has spent a lot of time correcting grammar in preparation for ‘repeal day’ – the so-called bonfire of regulations.

The deregulation of financial advisers should give us all a clue about the mentality of this government. They have our money to invest but they refuse to be obligated to invest it in our best interest. To paraphrase Gough Whitlam…

Well may they say God save the Queen, because nothing will save the country (other than an election).


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  1. Fed up

    This time we have the Peter principle apply to a whole government.

  2. Terry2

    I don’t think an election would help all that much, Kaye.

    There is a large sector of the electorate who pay no attention but who enjoy hearing about how tough we are on asylum seekers and who actually believe that there is a pot of gold awaiting them when the carbon tax has been repealed.

    Peta Credlin knows this and has instructed her boy to just keep wearing the blue tie, vilify asylum seekers at every opportunity, repeat his carbon tax slogan and, whatever you do, do not engage in any in-depth media interviews.

    It was bizarre to hear him in Port Moresby saying that he wanted PNG to speed up the processing of asylum seekers on Manus and arranging resettlement in the region, but not Australia……..he must have promised PNG a bucket load of money not to allow their Supreme Court to determine that holding these people in Papua New Guinea is unconstitutional.

  3. xiaoecho

    Roll on the commission of Audit. Of course they don’t dare release it until after the WA election, but when they do it is going to mobilise MANY currently slumbering Aussies against this bunch of cons chancers and spivs. Even LimitedNews is starting to rumble against this blatantly self serving mob. Aussies are already fed up. Wait till they’re assaulted in their hip pocket nerve.

  4. Keith

    Not only is the Abbott gang showing no sign of competence but it is becoming quite apparent that poor character is also becoming more and more noticeable.
    Prayer is of no use according to so called Christian Morrison when he had some Christian persons arrested for coming into his office to pray for asylum seekers. That’s a fairly mild example but yet again displays hypocrisy that the Abbott gang is displaying a good deal of. Truth is another moral issue that been deregulated. Now its a case of trusting the Abbott gang at your own peril.

  5. Don Winther

    Don’t worry about Australia Tony has the answer ” Australia its all for sale, we are open for business ” If we can’t sell it we will close it down, import every thing its easier. OK Tony in 6 months you have shut down the last of our industries, insulted all our neibours and that’s about it. What Public ( our) assets are you selling? There is not much left because Little Johnny got there first. 200 years to build it 20 years to sell it. This is the stolen country.

  6. mars08

    “We had to destroy the village in order to save it”

    …but when it came to the crunch the cupboard was bare.

    Are you sure about that, Kaye? Maybe you’re looking in the wrong cupboard?

    I am convinced that what we are seeing is a wilful campaign of “creative destruction”. A corrupted version of this “process” is quite fashionable among the rabid right. It’s a form of economic Darwinism. The pro-business right want to restore “balance”… and for their reforms to be successful, the existing system must be weakened or destroyed. The new must obliterate the old.

    Central to “creative destruction” is the idea that the new must be allowed (or encouraged) replace the old, so that companies (and therefore the economy) can become more efficient.

    Of course the mind-blowing irony is that Abbott is actually just resurrecting the old order. In the Australia of 2014 there is no call for business to evolve in order to grow and capture innovation. All that is called for is that the casualties remain out there in the community (and that those casualties are left without a voice).

    During the Vietnam an American soldier apparently told reporters, “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” While Abbott might not be the brains behind this arson attack, it would be wrong to assume that it is entirely random.

  7. Kaye Lee

    A new study sponsored by Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.

    “the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity”; and “the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or “Commoners”) [poor]” have played “a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse,” in all such cases over “the last five thousand years.”

  8. john921fraser


    A silver lining in every cloud.

  9. Fed up

    I believe there are a couple of power houses on the Central Coast, that they are having trouble selling. One recent sale has fallen through,

    Could it be, that these power houses maybe past there use by date, and buyers know the technology is on it’s last legs. Burning coal is no longer the answer.

  10. mars08

    “…buyers know the technology is on it’s last legs. Burning coal is no longer the answer.”

    Shouldn’t be a problem. Just ditch carbon pricing and throw in a couple of subsidies. SOLD!

  11. OzFenric

    I have a theory regarding George Brandis’ grammar-Nazi approach to legislative change (I hope that doesn’t put me afoul of Godwin’s law). The government is desperate to show that it’s “doing something” and 900 pages of red tape is a huge pile of “something”. Perhaps they’re aiming to meet the Gillard government’s record of legislation passed in one fell sitting.

  12. Kaye Lee

    I own a small business and they haven’t mentioned one thing that is going to relieve the bookkeeping, administration, or regulation burden. They say they will get Centrelink to administer Tony’s PPL. And who will be filling in the forms for Centrelink? Me.

  13. Truth Seeker

    Kaye, Thanks for another good read 😎

    I think, at least for Abbott, it goes further back to the original little boys “Peter Principle”; that of too much, pulling out and playing with your “Peter” makes you blind and stupid?

    Probably true for most of the front bench 😯

    Cheers 😀

  14. lawrencewinder

    I don’t know what you’re all complaining about!
    They have progressed…from vile and vicious to Orwellian and are now in Kafka country.
    Lord, this is depressing.

  15. Kaye Lee

    Perhaps a little saltpetre may be in order truthie?

  16. Truth Seeker

    Kaye…Now there’s a thought 😉

    Yeah, only forget the people smugglers, and go straight for the Budgie Smugglers 😀

    Cheers 😀

  17. diannaart

    A new study sponsored by Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.

    Nothing against NASA – my fave point of call for anything ‘sciencey’. However, it doesn’t take a team of rocket scientists to simply comprehend that using up all resources combined with a concentration of money and power to a minority of self-interested borderline psychopaths, to know that continuing along this business-as-usual path has only one conclusion – apocalypse now.

    Besides quoting anything from NASA seems to enrage the business-as-usual crowd rather than encourage them to think.

    Unfortunately, we need to embark on “the apocalypse we have to have” (to paraphrase Keating) before the bleeding obvious will finally make itself known in the consciousness of the FRNJ’s.

  18. pvcann

    I agree with the article, and thank you, but the last sentiment may not be true, it is the unreflective voters collectively who got us into this in the first place so they may not get us across the line this time either, sadly

  19. Kaye Lee

    I refuse to believe that, after three years of this sort of craziness, people will back up again. The debt will be bigger, the cuts will be hurting, and the warning voice from the world about climate change and income inequality will be even louder.

  20. mars08

    …the cuts will be hurting, and the warning voice from the world about climate change and income inequality will be even louder.

    The bias in the media will be stronger. The opposition will be more timid. And the system will be more rigged. Kaye… the LNP is playing for keeps!!! They are taking no prisoners, they won’t consider retreat. Look at how they’ve gone on the attack these past six months! This time it’s all or nothing for them… if things don’t go their way, I fear they’ll resort to a “scorched earth” policy.

  21. Joe Banks

    What we are currently witnessing is the White-anting of Australia! The sabotaging or undermining of Australian values from within the country.

    The foundations of our home are being eroded but many are unaware because White-ants (Termites) often leave no outward evidence…. until the structure completely collapses!

    For those who don’t know, here are a few interesting facts about White Ants or Termites:

    The Australian termite is called a living fossil, a missing link between cockroaches and termites. They are pale-coloured, soft-bodied, chiefly tropical, social insects… some being highly destructive.

    Termites build huge, complex NESTS of their own from the destruction of timber and plant fibre. Often, these nests are elaborate structures with many offshoots. This habit can make them difficult to get rid of because, when one nest is eliminated, re-infestation can easily occur via the underground connections to other nests!

    They also cover their trails with faeces. Thus, termites can remain hidden and block out unfavourable environmental conditions. Mounds (empires) occur when an aboveground nest grows beyond its initially concealing surface. Any breach of the termites’ mounds or nests is a cause for alarm. There is a head-banging response to attract soldiers for defence and to recruit additional workers to repair any breach. Worker termites undertake all the labours and also feed the other members of the colony.

    Sound familiar!

  22. Fed up

    cannot see anyone in the government that could take over from this mob.

    Then, if I was in this government,I would be keeping a low profile, not wanting to be connected to any on the front bench.

    Do not underestimate Mr., Abbott, he know exactly what he is doing. Worse, up to now, he is getting away with it.

    Polls or what one thinks, is of no concern to him. He believes he is invincible. Must do, as nothing is diverting him from his agenda,

    For the first time, we have a government that has had no honeymoon. None at all. There have been at least 37 polls since the election last September.

    Only three have been slightly in his favour. Three out of thirty seven.

    The biggest criticism, which is not being heeded is coming from the experts, and business world itself.

  23. Fed up

    Kaye. is that “saltpetre” to “cure” him, or to be used as “shot”?

  24. Paul Raymond Scahill

    I think we were all aware of the Phony Tony (Peter Principle) as early as September 7 , 2013. It would be nigh impossible for Phony Tony and his bunch of misfits (morons) not to have also acknowledged this exact same belief. I believe that you have summed up the entire Cabinet as complete imbeciles Kaye Lee and I do not see anyway that it can be improved upon.

  25. Stephen Tardrew

    Maybe if he keeps pulling himself he’ll become blind, deaf and dumb. One can only live in hope. Third of the way their anyway after all he is dumb.

  26. mars08

    Kaye Lee and Truth Seeker: That suggestion of “a little saltpetre” is ridiculous and poorly thought out. In Abbott’s case you would need a whole lot of saltpetre…. because, clearly, there’s no end to the pr/(k!!!!

  27. pvcann

    Let’s hope you’re right

  28. charybds

    The first thing to attack, if you want to stop the slide into Orwellian idiocy, is the main weapon Dickhead Tony uses to prevent an objective look at his actions … Murdoch’s press.


    Boycott ALL the following Murdoch products and tell retailers you’re doing it.

    Print the list and keep it on you.


    Australian Golf Digest
    Australian Good Taste (with Woolworths)
    Australian Parents (with Woolworths)
    Best of the Gold Coast Magazine
    Big League
    Country Style
    delicious. (with the ABC)
    donna hay
    Gardening Australia (with the ABC)
    GQ Australia
    Inside Out
    Lifestyle Pools + outdoor design
    MasterChef Magazine
    SmartSource Magazine
    Super Food Ideas
    Vogue Australia


    Authonomy via HarperCollins





    – The Australian
    – The Weekend Australian
    – Australian Associated Press

    New South Wales

    – Backtown Advocate
    – Canterbury-Bankstown Express
    – Central
    – Central Coast Express Advocate
    – Fairfield Advance
    – Hills Shire Times
    – Hornsby and Upper North Shore Advocate
    – Inner West Courier
    – Liverpool Leader
    – Macarthur Chronicle
    – Mt Druitt-St Marys Standard
    – mX (Sydney)
    – North Shore Times
    – Northern District Times
    – Parramatta Advertiser
    – Penrith Press
    – Rouse Hill Times
    – Southern Courier
    -The Daily Telegraph
    – The Mosman Daily
    – The Manly Daily
    -The Sunday Telegraph
    – Village Voice Balmain
    – Wentworth Courier


    – Bayside Leader
    – Berwick/Pakenham Cardinia Leader
    – Brimbank Leader
    – Caulfield Glen Eira/Port Philip Leader
    – Cranbourne Leader
    – Dandenong/Springvale Dandenong Leader
    – Diamond Valley Leader
    – Echo
    – Frankston Standard/Hastings Leader
    – Free Press Leader
    – Geelong Advertiser
    – GeelongNEWS
    – Heidelberg Leader
    – Herald Sun
    – Hobsons Bay Leader
    – Hume Leader
    – Knox Leader
    – Lilydale & Yarra Valley Leader
    – Manningham Leader
    – Maribyrnong Leader
    – Maroondah Leader
    – Melbourne Leader
    – Melton/Moorabool Leader
    – Moonee Valley Leader
    – Moorabbin Kingston/Moorabbin Glen Eira Leader
    – Mordialloc Chelsea Leader
    – Moreland Leader
    – Mornington Peninsula Leader
    – mX (Melbourne)
    – Northcote Leader
    – Preston Leader
    – Progress Leader
    – Stonnington Leader
    – Sunbury/Macedon Ranges Leader
    – Sunday Herald Sun
    – The Weekly Times
    – Waverley/Oakleigh Monash Leader
    – Whitehorse Leader
    – Whittlesea Leader
    – Wyndham Leader


    – Albert & Logan News (Fri)
    – Albert & Logan News (Wed)
    – Ayr Advocate
    – Bowen Independent
    – Brisbane News
    – Caboolture Shire Herald
    – Cairns Sun
    – Caloundra Journal
    – City News
    – City North News
    – City South News
    – Gold Coast Bulletin
    – Gold Coast Sun
    – Herbert River Express
    – Home Hill Observer
    – Innisfail Advocate
    – Ipswich News
    – Logan West Leader
    – Maroochy Journal
    – North-West News
    – Northern Miner
    – Northern Times
    – Northside Chronicle
    – Pine Rivers Press/North Lakes Times
    – Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette
    – Redcliffe and Bayside Herald
    – South-East Advertiser
    – South-West News/Springfield News
    – Southern Star
    – Tablelander – Atherton
    – Tablelands Advertiser
    – The Cairns Post
    – The Noosa Journal
    – Townsville Bulletin
    – Townsville Sun
    – The Courier-Mail
    – The Noosa Journal
    – The Sunday Mail
    – weekender
    – Westside News
    – Wynnum Herald
    – Weekender Essential Sunshine Coast

    South Australia

    – Adelaide Matters
    – City Messenger
    – City North Messenger
    – East Torrens Messenger
    – Eastern Courier Messenger
    – Guardian Messenger
    – Hills & Valley Messenger
    – Leader Messenger
    – News Review Messenger
    – Portside Messenger
    – Southern Times Messenger
    – Sunday Mail
    – The Advertiser
    – Weekly Times Messenger

    Northern Territory

    – Centralian Advocate
    – Darwin Sun
    – Litchfield Sun
    – Northern Territory News
    – Palmerston Sun
    – Sunday Territorian

    Western Australia

    – Advocate
    – Canning Times
    – Comment News
    – Eastern Reporter
    – Fremantle-Cockburn Gazette
    – Guardian Express
    – Hills-Avon Valley Gazette
    – Joondalup-Wanneroo Times
    – Mandurah Coastal / Pinjarra – – Murray Times
    – Melville Times
    – Midland-Kalamunda Reporter
    – North Coast Times
    – Southern Gazette
    – Stirling Times
    -The Sunday Times
    – Weekend-Kwinana Courier
    – Weekender
    – Western Suburbs Weekly


    – Derwent Valley Gazette
    – Tasmanian Country
    – The Mercury
    – The Sunday Tasmanian


    – HarperCollins
    – Zondervan Publishing

  29. Truth Seeker

    Mars08, The mental image is of the suicide bomber, on a plane, who had the explosives hidden in his underwear. But only the detonator went off setting fire to his undies and the crown jewels… so much for his 27 virgins… And likewise Abbott, to show him the reality of “Beyond The Black Stump!” 😯

    Cheers 😀

  30. Fed up

    Maybe there could be a simple explanation, Maybe the clue lies in the cargo that was on broad.

    Maybe some regulations, seen as a nuisance, were ignored.

    Maybe there were explosive cargo on the plane. Like containers of batteries.

    Just a thought.

  31. Mike Ballard

    The problem is that a lot of people who vote don’t see the LNP as incompetent. What they see is a party pursuing in the interests of business and for their way of thinking, what’s good for business people is good for the country.

    Unfortunately, the loyal opposition does not take have a very critical view of the principle that what’s good for business etc. And this plays into the hands of the LNP. The LNP is seen as being honest and simple and indeed they are full of honest simpleton supports of business. But what if what’s good for business is not necessarily good for the country?

    I tell you, without this question being raised, we’ll get more Martin Fergusons and fewer Gough Whitlams amongst the rank and file voting the way they see their interests best being served.

  32. Fed up

    Mike. I do not see this government as incompetent. Any that does, is going down a perilous path.

    This government is very efficiently putting in place, what they planned to do.

    Trouble is they have not let the voters or public into their agenda.

    Link, if one wants to follow Cardinal Pell giving evidence.

  33. Mike Ballard

    I agree. The LNP is competently pursuing what it considers the best interests of the business community e.g. removing ‘red’ and ‘green’ tape, which means removing regulatory laws which cut into the rate of profit. The rate of profit must be boosted, according to the LNP. And the way to accomplish that political task is to remove regulatory requirements from business. Also, to cut business taxes by 1.5%, ostensibly to fund the Paid Parental Leave Program. Cutting public health, education and welfare spending will also help business by cutting the amount of tax revenue going to services which “everyone knows” (tm free market propaganda) will make them more cost-efficient (meaning the erection of pay walls for users).

    Some would call this abuse. Others would say (because they believe that what’s good for business is good for themselves), it’s just being realistic, Fed up. In short, the LNP wants to turn Australia into a cost-efficient democracy like the one they have over in the USA.

  34. Fed up

    MIke, with the necessary poverty that goes with such beliefs. In fact, I suspect it cannot work without a unwilling poor.

    I do hope, those who follow such a belief, look at the demise of the middle class in that country. Something that was predicted at last a century ago,I believe.

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