Friday, November 30, 2007

Training Labor's New Ministers

Having been elected to government on 24 Nov 2007, Kevin Rudd has announced his new ministers. It includes two members who have previously been Ministers: John Faulkner and Simon Crean. Warren Snowden and Nick Sherry have had experience as Parliamentary Secretaries. The full list will shortly appear at the Australian Parliament House website . Three members of Cabinet have less than six years Parliamentary experience: Penny Wong (5); Peter Garrett (3); and Tony Burke (3).

While Kevin Rudd will have appointed minders to help his new team, it is important that neither they, nor Kevin Rudd, rule his ministers in the same way that John Howard did. Such close control would increase the risk that Kevin Rudd's Ministers will be as stifled, robotic, and mere 'appendages of power', as were many of John Howard's ministers.

It is likely that some will make mistakes. Unless the mistakes are serious, new Ministers need to be able to learn and be guided, without the heavy handed "I'll tell you what to say, when, where, how and to whom you will say it" approach that John Howard used.

That is, Ministers need a "structured workplace learning" program, similar to those used in trade and vocational training. This will help ensure that Ministers grow into their job and develop Ministerial skills that are both specific to their portfolios, and which could be applied elsewhere.

Such a program will not only help to create more effective ministers, but also ministers that more open and responsive. That could only benefit everyone, and strengthen our democracy, and develop trust from the media and voters.