Allan Takes Aim Blog

Reorganisation provides the illusion of progress

Posted on: 2 March 2011

First published The Chronicle, Tuesday, 1 March 2011

One hopes the long break enjoyed by Federal Politicians has refreshed them and allowed them not only to recover from putting their shoulders to the wheel of the political grindstone but that they have returned anxious to put their shoulders to the grindstone again on behalf of constituents.

So what happened during their first week back in harness? Although there has been much ado about certain problems there is no certainty the ado will fix the problems of carbon tax, immigration/asylum seekers/refugees and health.

Remember too, when examining their solutions, that truth and political solutions rarely occupy the same body. Occasionally however, one can be surprised when some unexpected wisdom emerges from the fog of political rhetoric that encourages you to think not all is lost and that some of those who labour politically are worth paying. Perhaps more surprisingly, you might also think some of them actually know how to construct a policy that won’t crumble to dust under the first blow of strong opposition from inside or outside Parliament.

But no matter what you think, be careful about adopting the opinions of the commentariat on how to fix the problems because their opinions are as fixed as a movable feast.

You might even form an opinion yourself that, unlike party backroom apparatchiks, some of our elected but lowly political labourers know the difference between a good policy and a bad policy and, despite the risk to their political careers, courageously support the former. (Not only does Australia need more politicians like them so, too, does the rest of the world.)   

For them a good policy is one that provides benefits to most voters not a Robin Hood policy that asserts one should rob a few rich Peters to pay allegedly poor Pauls. Nor is it a policy based on defunct Liberal and Labor class theories or the current environmental dogma preached by the Greens.

What makes politics interesting however is their entertainment value as demonstrated by the answer to question “how is policy formed?” asked at a public political meeting attended by party executives. Before any party executive could reply, an even bigger cynic than me in the audience stood up and said: policy is formed by policy makers developing a hundred promises they put to party focus groups because the law of averages say a few of them will be favoured. The favoured few then become party policy.

One only needs look at the Federal Labor Government to see the focus group effect in action: no one knows where Labor stands on CO2 emissions, global warming, Murray Darling water, whaling; multiculturalism and myriad other problems. And that it looks like rabble at times is of little consolation to the Federal Liberal Opposition because it, too, acts like rabble much of the time. Indeed, Labor and the Liberals could do worse that take lessons in party discipline from the Greens.      

Turning to the ACT let me say the ACT Labor Government is similar to the Federal Labor Government in some respects. Both love reviews. Indeed recent Review of the ACT bureaucracy conducted by Dr Allan Hawke AC, former senior bureaucrat, Diplomat and Chief of Staff to PM Paul Keating, follows in the wake of the Moran review of the Federal Public Service. Both reviews focussed on bureaucracy’s relationship with Government.

Dr Hawke’s Review, ‘Governing the City State, One ACT Government – One ACT Public Service, excited Chief Minister Jon Stanhope. To have one super department with a number of directors reporting on various activities to a Chief Executive who in turn, would report to the Chief Minister, excited me too. In fact it excited me so much that it stimulated me to recall the words often attributed to Greek philosopher Petronius Arbiter (circa 210 BC) (I think he must also have been a cynic) as he mused about the reorganising of Government. 

 ‘We trained hard… but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be re-organised. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by re-organising; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation.’

The Chronicle for Canberra’s best community news. Published every Tuesday


2 Responses to "Reorganisation provides the illusion of progress"

it seems quite trivial to expect

I gave you a link back on one of my pr3 pages, I hope this is ok.

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