Government is, in some ways, like running a business. They must decide what they are trying to achieve, examine different approaches, choose which one to adopt, assess and evaluate progress, and, if you are not achieving the desired outcome, change the plan.
It’s the last part that government seems to have trouble with. No-one seems willing to say that their plan isn’t working.
One obvious example of this is the privatisation of the Commonwealth Employment Service. In an excellent article at Independent Australia, Darren Rexter writes of the pitfalls of turning jobseekers into commodities and the questionable practice of private sector organisations making a profit from the ills of the needy
He quoted Peter Strong, CEO of the Council of Small Business Australia, who recently wrote a piece calling for the creation of a new CES, stating that the privatised system was textbook driven policy that has created a few millionaires off the back of the unemployed while delivering a scheme that is probably delivering, at the most, minimal service.
Another example is the government’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Labor government introduced a carbon price which was achieving the goal of reducing emissions. The Coalition chose Direct Action instead and, ever since, emissions have been rising.
We have always had the goal to provide affordable, reliable energy. The thing that has changed is the urgent need to minimise global warming. But somehow that imperative has been discarded.
Privatisation of the electricity sector has proven a disaster. The NSW government, against the advice of the ACCC but with the encouragement of the Federal government, sold off Bayswater and Liddell power stations and now the Coalition want to prosecute the company they sold them to if they don’t give it back. They want them to keep using coal rather than implement their plans to use gas and renewables.
Then there’s our asylum seeker and refugee policy. Supposedly, the draconian offshore detention was to save lives. Peter Dutton keeps telling us about the deaths at sea. But he refuses to talk about the deaths in custody or the sexual abuse or the mental health issues or the cruelty and illegality of indefinite detention of people whose only crime was to come by boat instead of plane to ask for our help.
Or we could talk about how we let the car industry die but are now going into the armaments industry. Apparently giving billions to foreign arms manufacturers is preferable to giving foreign aid which has been slashed to record lows.
We have tried the experiment of pouring billions of dollars into private schools and our standards have fallen. Perhaps we should stop funding them, put the money into public schools, free tertiary education, and teacher mentoring and support and see if results improve.
Private health insurance has also become an expensive experiment that drains money out of the public system with increasingly unaffordable premiums and rising out of pocket costs. Waiting lists for elective surgery continue to rise as public hospitals close beds due to cuts in funding.
The government should fund public schools and hospitals and let those who wish to choose another system fund it themselves. Private health insurance should not be government subsidised.
Slashing the numbers of public servants has also been a poor choice. It has not led to better, more streamlined service for users. It has not eliminated duplication. All it has done is transferred the work that agencies used to do into the hands of overseas call centres and, instead of frank and fearless advice from departments, private consulting firms, for huge fees, give the advice the government wants to hear.
We send in inspectors equipped with the power to shut down puppy farms, we willingly pay more for free range eggs, yet when it comes to the horrific conditions in live sheep transport or the cruelty in abattoirs overseas, profit overrides our laws and our morality.
This list could be much much longer.
Why do governments find it so hard to say we were wrrrr……….