Saturday, March 31, 2007

NSW Government Ministry 2007

NSW Premier Morris Iemma has announced his new Ministry. It includes 10 new faces, some of them newly-elected MPs. He said it is "The biggest injection of new talent, new energy and new blood into a government, with 10 new ministers."

But 10 new ministers does not rectify the problems. Certainly some previous ministers have been demoted: they previously caused embarrassment to the government.

But unless the NSW Government can find more more money to allocate to services, change might be illusionary. New Ministers will want to stamp their authority, and have different ideas. Department's will probably suffer some restructuring. As Gaius Petronius Arbiter is supposed to have said (about Caesar's restructuring)
"We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams, we would be reorganized."
Continual restructuring can affect front-line workers' perception of worth and perceptions of burueaucratic attitudes. Again, restructuring does not necessarily deliver better services to people, but it can help to re-focus a department's priorities and it can improve organisations.

The biggest challenges to service delivery will remain Education (Primary, Secondary and TAFE); Public Transport; and Health, especially hospital services.

The proof of effectiveness should start to be seen in 12-18 months.

The Analyst

Sunday, March 25, 2007

NEW NSW Government

The NSW State Election (Sat 23-March) has returned a Labor Government with Morris Iemma as Premier of NSW. The seat majority will be similar, but the % swing needed by the opposition to win next time will be reduced.

It's now time to get over the most negative political campaign that I can remember; some say ever. Both sides targeted and attacked individuals.

There were many promises made to the people of NSW during the election campaign. This is now the time to deliver on some of those, and to change or adopt others for the sake of good governance. Much as I don't like politicians NOT saying what they will do, you must now do the following:

  • re-new your ministry: replace the incompetent, the megalomaniacs, those with marginal ethics, with competent, ethical people.
  • restore the independence of the Public Service, especially the heads of departments, their deputies and Ministerial advisers.
  • restore public confidence in the Parliament of NSW by ensuring that Question time is used properly; that Ministers answer questions; that Parliamentary time is not wasted on personal abuse; and that members are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol during sitting times.
  • develop a set of proper, ethical standards for politicians, especially those leaving Parliament who want to work for organisations with which they had involvement at Ministerial or higher levels, and which involved the distribution of public money to those organisations.
  • restore the proper functioning of FOI laws. For the last 20 years governments have been obfuscatory in the extreme when information that might show Government Ministers in a "bad light" has been requested. FOI, especially through the media, is one mechanism where the voting public can gain the accountability it deserves.
  • develop a sustainable water policy, by re-examining all options. Relying on a single answer is probably not in the best interests of the people of NSW.
  • develop a proper public transport policy that includes project management to develop infrastructure and appropriate timetables to carry people quickly and effectively.
  • use the State's AAA credit rating so beloved of previous governments, both Labor and coalition. Such a credit rating is only worthwhile to voters if it is used to negotiate good rates for short, medium and long-term borrowings. Those borrowings should be used to develop the infrastructure in transport, health, education and policing that are needed to deliver the services for which you are responsible.
  • Ensure that the principles of the Separation of Powers are reinforced - that no politician interferes with the proper functioning of Police work or Educational curricula, for example.
A government that governs well has little need for the myriad of "spin-doctors" that currently plague us; and individual and collective social well-being is increased.

The Analyst

Sunday, March 11, 2007

References and Politicians

This week, Labor's Kelvin Thompson resigned as Shadow Attorney General because he had written a reference for Tony Mokbel, a convicted Victorian criminal.

The reference was to help him gain a liquor licence from the Victorian Liquor Licensing Commission. There are too many grey ethical areas when public officials and politicians write references. Who is it for? Does the politician know them well (not just casually, or know who they are)? ; Could the reference be used to influence another public official? Is that appropriate?

There are really two issues in this matter:

  1. Why would anybody, let alone a public official (politician) write a reference for a person they do not know?? An error of judgement, indeed! Certainly unacceptable.
  2. The whole purpose of the reference was to influence t he Victorian Liquor Licensing Commissioner. Should politicians, as public officials, be writing references for anybody to take to another public official?
Teachers in public institutions, for example, do not write personal references for students. Such references are limited to institutional references about the student's attendance at school, TAFE, university; awards; activities and representative honours. They are not personal references.

Internal party references are one thing, but I believe politicians should not be writing public references on letterheads that identify them as politicians or Parliamentarians, or include any statements that identify them as such, including honorifics.

It's best to be seen to be ethical, than to be caught in ethical shadows.

The Analyst

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Rudd, Campbell & Brian Burke

What a week! Revelations that Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd had thrice met with disgraced former Labor WA Premier Burke, occupied much news, Parliamentary and political "10-second" media bite.

Mr Rudd met Mr Burke and others three times in 2005. At the time he was Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, and "future Labor leader". Despite his protestations to the contrary, many political observers see the meetings , including dinner, as political flesh-pressing, designed to enhance Mr Rudd's future leadership plans.

Mr Howard's current Minister for Human Services, Ian Campbell is a WA Senator. Since Treasurer Costello said in Parliament that "Anyone who deals with Mr Brian Burke is morally and politically compromised." Mr Campbell was then Minister for the Environment, and met Mr Burke about a proposed Aboriginal Cultural Centre, to be built as part of a racecourse redevelopment.

It seems to me that, in both cases, politicians and their minders ought to have have avoided any meeting with Brian Burke, or his "management", just because he had been convicted of corruption. That was an "error of judgement" from both of them.

Having made their respective political points, if either side had any evidence of corrupt behaviour, they would have referred it to the Federal and WA police. Wouldn't they?? Well, no, because in the end, politicians look after themselves. Any bagging they do is "part of the game".

Perhaps it is time for a Federal body to oversee and investigate possible cases of corrupt or illegal behaviour by politicians.

In the meantime, I'd be happy if they returned to the job of governing Australia. We need details of plans for a national school curriculum, the Health system needs overhauling, we need a fairer IR system than WorkChoices (and workers employed by Tristar to do nothing productive, need a just outcome), plans for the new Murray Darling Catchment Authority need to be detailed, the budget prepared, and there are nearly 500 Bills before Parliament that have not yet been finalized! (See Below)

41st PARLIAMENT – 1ST SESSION – 2004-05-06-07
(but not yet passed)
Bills introduced in 2004 — 93 (Including 11 received from the Senate)
Bills introduced in 2005 — 182 (Including 24 received from the Senate)
Bills introduced in 2006 — 188 (Including 32 received from the Senate)
Bills introduced in 2007 — 34 (Including 3 received from the Senate)

And there's a Federal election due before November! Get on with the real job of governing.

The Analyst