Wednesday, April 11, 2007

New NSW Director-General of Education

Michael Coutts-Trotter was appointed as Director-General of Education in NSW by new Minister Michael Costa. It is no secret that Mr Coutts-Trotter was appointed because the new Minister wanted him. It is also no secret that MrCoutts-Trotter had a conviction for drug supply when 19, and that he spent 3 years in prison.

Today's media has been full of such stories, and it is reasonable to ask whether Mr Coutts-Trotter is a fit and proper person to head the Education department (DET). There are a number of underlying political considerations as well:

  1. Because of his prior record only, the NSW Liberal Party Education spokesman, Brad Hazzard, says he is not fit to serve (in Education)
  2. MrCoutts-Trotter's educational leadership qualities have also been questioned.
  1. Mr Coutts-Trotter would NOT be employed by NSW as a teacher. His criminal record would preclude that. He probably would not be able to work with Scouts or similar groups of children.
  2. Since leaving prison some 23 years ago, and being through a rehabilitation program with The Salvation Army, he has, apparently, led an exemplary life. He began working for former NSW Treasurer Michael Egan as a political adviser, and was appointed as D-G of the NSW Department of Commerce in 2004. By any stretch, this was apolitical appointment, but we need to judge the effectiveness of his time there, as well as the manner of his appointment.
  3. It seems that the Liberal Party might not believe in redemption. Former leader John Brogden was rather brutally treated and cut loose by his own Party, after they released inappropriate suggestions made by him about former Premier Bob Carr's wife. He has not been allowed to be rehabilitated within the Liberal Party. 'Redemption' is, perhaps, a concept ironically alien to the faction known as "the Religious Right".
  4. At the level of Director-General, it is probably more important to be able to show leadership, than to have a particular inside knowledge of the Department. Such knowledge can be gained quickly by experienced and competent managers

The Analyst