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It usually takes years for members of a bad government to “fess up” to the failings and dysfunction within their administration and under the cover of the smokescreen of Labor’s new and wacky way of selecting their leader a few admissions have slipped under the radar things like Stephen Conroy admitting that their NBN roll out was an utter farce, with no ability to meet anywhere near the targets that were so loudly trumpeted. Its an admission that has largely gone unnoticed. However I very much doubt that the bucketing delivered by Nicola Roxon in the John Button lecture will be as invisible and as that is the topic for to day I will now provide some highlights for discussion:
1) Labor must always focus on the fact that good policy improves people’s lives and that is why the party exists.
If this is always at the front of our minds and the top priority in decision-making, we will be less easily diverted by polls, personalities and punch-ups.
This must be a constant focus. In government, a Labor party needs to choose a few big areas and focus on them, taking people with them.
A government needs to take time to explain the problem, work on a range of solutions, build coalitions to campaign for them, understand the opposing arguments so as to improve its own and measure their validity. It must allow enough time and sufficiently foreshadow the change so local MPs, branch members and citizens can be part of the campaign for change. And take time to get all the technical detail right.
2) Governments as a whole, and the prime minister in particular, need to keep their focus high level – spending time and energy on the things that really matter.
If you can’t describe what you are doing in general terms, and its purpose, then either the policy isn’t right, or you’ve descended into detail most people don’t need and probably don’t want to know.
The art as a minister should be to be across the detail and be sufficiently trusted by colleagues to manage and explain the policy detail when needed, but to allow the PM to focus only on the big picture. The Cabinet should be used to sign off only on purpose, direction and broad structure, but not excessive detail.
In our first term of Government we struggled with this. There were some contentious issues and policy problems that ran for months, in some cases years, without there seeming to be a way to bring contentious issues to a head. There was no avenue for ministers to bring genuinely difficult issues, where there were legitimately tricky calls to be made, to Cabinet for a real discussion. Health and climate change were the two longest running “non-discussions” for the first term of Government, with some other contentious policies getting only cursory cabinet approval at the last minute. There was a reticence by the Prime Minister for big strategic calls to be made by Cabinet, or sufficiently in advance to prepare properly.
3) Good leaders are good delegators.
If they don’t delegate, they and their governments ultimately drown in less important matters.
Having seen it up close, I have a huge amount of sympathy for just how much work a PM has to do. The sheer weight of government and the crushing level of personal demands are far more intense and all encompassing than most people can imagine. Kevin and Julia fully devoted themselves day and night to this task. For all their issues, no one could fault either of them for heroic work ethics and sheer determination to do everything humanly possible in the job.
But the prime minister is still only one person.
We can’t let the system slide, if it hasn’t already, to expect this person to have superhuman powers. Our increasingly presidential-style campaigning doesn’t help this. I hope any new Labor leader will not continue this pretence – it will ultimately be a great benefit to the Party and protection for them.
4) Labor needs to welcome debate, not fear it.
A progressive party needs to be able to argue over issues and not see it through the prism of internal politics.
Both internally and externally Labor, in the time I’ve been involved, has become more afraid of real debate. For a progressive party that prides itself on constantly renewing its social purpose, this is not good news.
Of course, a shallow and manipulative media can make debate or dissent difficult, sometimes nigh on impossible, but we need to push past that and learn to welcome a contest of ideas.
5) Be polite and be persuasive. Or I could call this “Keep yourself nice”.
(I know I’ll be accused of being “nanny Nicola” here, but it is an age-old rule that needs to be re-imposed.) If you don’t do this, you lose ground for no political purpose. You waste time apologizing and you lose arguments for no good reason.
And this is not a tip just for the sake of nice manners. It fundamentally affects political outcomes too.
When Kevin was flashed across the TVs icily ignoring Kristina Keneally in health reform negotiations, it cost us an awful lot to recover from and actually gave NSW the upper hand for the first time. Disparagingly calling her “Bambi” behind closed doors was pretty silly when she was whip-smart and went on to run rings around us at the final COAG negotiating table. As a result, Kevin conceded more to NSW in hospital beds at the expense of money set aside for mental health. As was predictable, mental health became a thorn in our side later on, and in the 2010 campaign was the major health issue that weakened our otherwise great story.
The Garden Island announcement during the 2013 campaign underscored that this lesson had not been learned and we lost a day or two of the campaign needlessly.
6)Always ask what you can do for the party (and the nation) not what it can do for you (with apologies to JFK).
If you don’t ask this question first, you’ve lost your focus and purpose and the public will mark you down fast.
There were plenty examples of people putting their individual interests ahead of the team’s, particularly in ministerial ballots and appointments. Reports of able MPs declining particular portfolios, perhaps because it didn’t suit their long term personal plans, is a sign of this going off the rails. The only correct answer if a PM calls and offers you a particular ministry is surely “Yes, Prime Minister”.
Of course it is natural to have ambitions, and to be disappointed if they are thwarted, but the focus must always be on the team.
7)Good governments run best with good diaries – so boring, but universally true.
This is not just about housekeeping, as it seems, but you actually can get better policy, get more done and protect against foreseeable problems if you plan a diary and run to plan. You can only get to an end game if you have planned where you want to go.
The machinery of Government is enormous. And it can be put to enormous good. But it is a slow moving beast – no matter how bold or impatient a government may be. If plans and projects are set, parameters identified and clear instructions given, with regular and consistent oversight, the work produced can be excellent. Thousands of people can work more effectively around you if direction is set early, timetables stuck to, and materials are read.
But if political direction chops and changes, if the questions being asked constantly move, if deadlines come and go without meaning, it is very inefficient, and ultimately dispiriting. It’s politically confused too.
Kevin had a terrible habit of attending meetings not having read detailed papers that he had commissioned at the last meeting – often very complex ones, at very short notice. For example, I remember a meeting only days before Christmas 2009 when a total rewrite of a health policy was demanded. Despite many, many hours of work into the night, I do not believe that paper was ever – even to do this day – read by the prime minister, let alone read over a Christmas holiday he had already ruined for others.
8) Choose good people – as leaders, as MPs and as staff.
In every walk of life, successful organisations need a pool of talented people, and politics is no different.
This seems pretty basic. And on this front, I have to say I am very optimistic about our future. We get this right more often than we get it wrong. Having a strong choice of two capable politicians in the recent leadership ballot is just one measure of this. And I reckon Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek are as close to “the dream team” as you can get.
9)Accept you are not always right, and cannot always fix everything. It’s easier with this as your starting point.
If the public is promised a messiah, they’re inevitably going to be disappointed.
Political messages do need to be clear. They don’t have cut-through if they are not. In the beginning, Kevin was brilliant at this. It’s why he was so successful at the 2007 election. He talked straight and people understood and liked him.
The curse, of course, is that the problems you are trying to solve and the policies needed to do so are often complex. So we came unstuck when the solutions were necessarily more subtle or convoluted than the cut-through message initially delivered.
“The buck stops with me”, “the biggest moral challenge of our time” are examples that made sense and garnered interest and support, but they come with big risks, as the realities of government can make this cut-through language a dead weight or burden. It’s always more convincing to say you’ll “fix” something, when “improve” is a more accurate statement.
In 2007, Kevin was great at cut-through, then struggled at follow through.
10) And lastly,never forget polling is only a snapshot, not a predictor.
Otherwise we resign ourselves to a static life – and a progressive party will never win without new ideas, and new ideas take time to be absorbed.
Over-analysed, published opinion polls are having a corrosive effect on Australian politics. Their meaning and value have been given enormous weight, way, way above their real value. This is perhaps exacerbated by the advent of online media as these polls, paid for by old print media, are often among the few exclusives they have – so they are inflated by the same media who commission them.
But apart from that, we have allowed the polls, and the way journalists interpret them, to have too much influence. Polls can tell us what the current state of play is, but not what might happen.
What a poll can never tell us is what the results may be after a six month concerted effort to turn an argument around. They are unable to show what might change with persistence.
So, perhaps there is one remaining question you may have about my perspective on this time in government. And it is a biggie.
After all these tips for good and bad behavior for the future, do I believe we behaved properly in removing Kevin as PM in 2010?
While I think the Labor caucus made the right decision, we handled it very poorly.
I think we had all the right reasons to act, but I think we were clumsy and short sighted in the way we did it. We didn’t explain the dysfunctional decision-making and lack of strategy I’ve focused on a lot tonight. We didn’t talk about his rudeness, or contempt for staff and disrespect for public servants (a measure of this was public servants saving up briefs to send to the PM’s office as soon as Kevin went overseas because they got quicker and more thoughtful responses from Julia as acting PM).
Removing Kevin was an act of political bastardry, for sure. But this act of political bastardy was made possible only because Kevin had been such a bastard himself to so many people.
So I hope my take on events might be worth something to the next generation. I hope they will have learned from this period, and will not repeat its mistakes.
The new Labor team will need to lift itself above the personality politics, stop seeing things as “Kevin legacies” or “Julia legacies”, and just see them proudly as “Labor legacies”. This will better honour our forbears like John Button.
I really hope that readers have taken the time to read the whole speech , but even if you have not done so I hope that my highlights give you the gist of Roxon’s argument here,namely that the labor Government was very much a dysfunctional one that was in the thrall of Kevin Rudd, in its first term because of his inability to properly delegate and trust his ministers and his utter inability properly run the government and its instruments and after he had been removed for those sins he was then allowed to foment dissent and disloyalty that undermined his successor, who herself had many flaws. Its a far from pretty picture if you ask this humble scribe. and rather like the curates egg the last Labor government was “good in parts” according to Roxon . The judgement of the people was however that those good parts were considerably smaller than the unpalatable aspects of Labor’s six years in office. On balance when we look at Labor’s CV I find it very hard to see any reason to believe that they were ever “fit to Govern” on the whole they provided a perfect example of the promise far exceeding the delivery and had their lack of fitness to govern been less concealed by Rudd’s admittedly slick campaign in 2007 they would have never won office.
The Coalition have for some time been espousing the very reasonable adage that in government one should under promise and over deliver which is a very good starting point in any democracy and until Labor and its minions likewise realise that is the way to political nirvana they will not be in any way fit to govern again. You see in the real world good government is about 90% good governance and sound administration and 10% good ideas, by my reckoning Labor scored well below 50% over all….
- Roxon calls on “bastard” Rudd to quit (abc.net.au)
- Here’s The Dirtiest Of The Laundry That Nicola Roxon Aired In Her Speech On The Rudd-Gillard Years (businessinsider.com)
- Roxon slams ‘rude and dysfunctional’ Rudd (theage.com.au)
- Reign of Rudd: Rude and dysfunctional (smh.com.au)
- Ouch! Nicola Roxon calls Kevin Rudd a bastard (australiantimes.co.uk)
- Rudd deserved to be dumped: Roxon (heraldsun.com.au)
- Nicola Roxon calls on ‘bastard’ Kevin Rudd to quit Parliament in Joh (beaudreux.com)
BARRY O’Farrell has become the 42nd premier of NSW in the biggest landslide seen in modern Australian political history.
Nationals beat sitting independents in three seats – Dubbo, Port Macquarie and Tamworth – and were likely to take Monaro from Labor’s Steve Whan and, in an extraordinary result, Bathurst, with a swing of 37 per cent.
Kristina Keneally stepped down as leader after conceding defeat to the Coalition in an electoral rout which ends 16 years of Labor government and may leave the ALP with just 20 seats, down from 50.
With a 17 per cent swing and a surge in its primary vote even beyond its expectations, the Coalition is set to win about 70 lower house seats, Labor 20 and independents the remaining three.
That sort of majority will carry the Coalition, which has governed in NSW for only seven of the past 35 years, through to the 2019 election at least.
The Nationals had a highly successful night, and are expected to pick up five seats for a total of 18.
This morning is a the beginning of a truly great day for Australia in general and NSW in particular, but what delights me even more is the way that this is going to make Joolia’s row even harder to hoe because this now means that she has no hospital agreement and even less support for her ill conceived and climatically pointless carbon tax.
Mucho Cheers indeed Comrades !
It is not going to be a good day for the Labor party today and I must confess to a certain amount of Schadenfreude at the expected result which will see the government change in our premier state.
The first question for today is just how low will they go ?
The second is will Kristina loose her own seat and be saved from the embarrassment of a resignation and incurring the cost of a by-election?
Finally I wonder what sort of “after the count” party the ALP is planning and will it be stocked with hard liquor to drown their very great sorrows at the expected magnitude of their long awaited political rout?
Cheers indeed Comrades
The idea of using energy form the sun for our houses is not actually a total anathema to this little brown duck, in fact I have been seriously considering installing a solar hot water system here at Chez Hall put simply it makes sense to me because the energy collected is used precisely where it is collected rather than being sold to the grid and then bought back by the consumer. However when it comes to Photovoltaic solar systems feeding into the grid what we have is a concept that has always been more about propaganda rather than any sort of actual energy solution for this country.
No where is this more clear than in NSW where the Keneally government is so far down the crapper in the opinion of the voters that it faces total decimation at the up coming election.
In addition, an investigation by The Australian has established that the government’s Climate Change Fund, which Ms Keneally says will be used to compensate electricity consumers for the cost of the rebate, will need to be almost doubled. This suggests the pain will be felt in future power bills, despite Ms Keneally’s election promise to hold down the cost of living for families.
The revelations came as former Labor senator Graham Richardson forecast next month’s state election would be “electoral slaughter” for the government.
“And it’ll be the likes of which we’ve never seen,” Mr Richardson told ABC’s Q&A last night.
The NSW Labor government’s solar bonus scheme, introduced in 2009, offered households a tariff of 60c per kilowatt hour for electricity produced by their solar panels. After an unexpected surge in applications, Ms Keneally reduced the tariff to 20c last October and capped the overall capacity of the scheme at 300 megawatts. She said this would reduce the scheme’s cost, set to be recouped via electricity bills – from about $4bn between now and 2016 to $1.5bn.
But The Australian has learned that Ms Keneally’s decision to give consumers 24 hours to sign up to the old scheme – and those who had already ordered panels 21 days to register – led to a surge in applications that sent capacity beyond 320 megawatts and the cost of the scheme back up past $2bn.
Last week, as part of her pitch for the March 26 election, Ms Keneally said that the cost of the scheme would no longer be borne by consumers but would be met by the government out of its climate change fund, which is financed by an annual levy on electricity and water companies. She said this would save families more than $100 each year.
Even before the latest blowout, it has emerged that the fund would have to be almost doubled to pay for the scheme, increasing by $100m the annual charge on electricity companies, which they would then try to recoup from consumers.
A spokesman for Ms Keneally last night admitted for the first time that the climate change fund would need to be increased by $100m each year.
I tend to think that Ms Keneally is probably hoping that she actually loses her own seat because the pain of having to sit in the next parliament when her party will be holding its caucus meetings in telephone box ….
As for solar subsidies Hmm I told you so…..
Second only to Brother Number One in terms of the having the darkest prospects for a political future has to be Kristina Keneally especially with the news that two more of her ministers are resigning under a cloud of apparent misbehaviour.
THE atmosphere of crisis surrounding the NSW Labor government has deepened, with two more ministers jumping ship yesterday.
Regional Development and Major Events Minister Ian Macdonald resigned last night, admitting a $2800 airfare to Dubai and Italy he had claimed to have paid for himself was “inadvertently” billed to taxpayers.
His resignation came a few hours after the departure of Juvenile Justice Minister Graham West, who credited personal reasons and lack of faith in “partisan politics” for his decision.
It is barely a fortnight since transport minister David Campbell quit over a gay sex-club scandal, and a month since Penrith MP Karyn Paluzzano was forced to resign from politics after admitting she lied to the state’s corruption watchdog over her casual staffing
At this rate there will soon be no ministers left in the Labor government at all and then the lady in red may find the wheelhouse of the SS Labor NSW is a rather wet and lonely place because it is already rather damp…
As politician’s go Kristina Keneally seems to be trying very hard to do the right thing for her state but she is rather hampered by a very dodgy crew in the NSW Labor Party. It is however rather sad to see the normally upfront and honest woman begin to take up Brother Number one’s habit of applying spin to every news story to try to wring the very last morsel of political mileage out of any announcement.
When Kristina Keneally stood in Parliament during question time on Wednesday clutching a letter from the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, she put it to good use.
Mr Johnson, the Premier declared, had ”saluted” her for the decision to purchase an ”Oyster-style” transport smartcard for Sydney. Technology from it will be used in Sydney’s version.
”There you have robust endorsement by a leading light of conservative politics,” Ms Keneally crowed at the opposition benches. ”London may be 10 hours behind Sydney but their mayor is 10 years ahead of the NSW opposition”.
Conveniently not disclosed by the Premier, though, is the real reason for Mr Johnson’s glee: royalty payments of $3.5 million to Transport for London, the super-department of which he is chairman.
The fees must be paid because the smartcard developer, Cubic, and Transport for London jointly own some of the intellectual property to be used.
I really like Boris Johnson because he is not only an amusing fellow (see his appearance on Top Gear) but also he is very much a “what you see is what you get” sort Pollie. He walks the walk and that is damn refreshing to see. Ah but the lady in red on the other hand has been hanging out with some rather more dodgey inspirations.
Every day I am thankful that I don’t have to rely on public transport but for those who do the attempts to create integrated ticketing systems seems to be something of a disappointment in many places that have tried it, the experience up here in Queensland has, like Sydney been rather fraught with difficulty.
Ah well, if the Poms can do it right and sell the that success to willing buyers well good on them but there is a big difference between being delighted at doing a good deal for his London constituents and saluting the government of NSW.
PS Is it just me or does KK look rather silly in that cycling outfit?
What is it with NSW government ministers and not being able to keep it in their pants? And how stupid do you have to be to be caught going to a gay bar in your ministerial car?
Here is a song for David Campbell:
THE NSW Labor government has been rocked by yet another scandal, with Transport Minister David Campbell quitting last night following revelations he attended a gay sex club.
Mr Campbell, who is married with two adult sons, was caught on camera by the Seven Network on Tuesday evening, leaving Ken’s of Kensington, in eastern Sydney.
He was shown driving away from the bath-house in his official car.
Last night Mr Campbell, whose wife has been battling cancer, said in a statement: “I apologise to my wife, family, colleagues, staff and the community for letting them down.
“This will be a very difficult time for my family and friends and I ask for their privacy to be respected.”
While Mr Campbell, 52, said he would remain in his Wollongong-based seat of Keira, it appears highly unlikely he will contest the seat at the election due next March. Premier Kristina Keneally last night said she had accepted Mr Campbell’s resignation and announced a reshuffle of her ministry. Industrial Relations Minister John Robertson will replace Mr Campbell in transport.
Anyone is entitled to seek the entertainment of their choice but a government minister out for a bit of rough trade but given the size of the Gay vote in Sydney its hardly surprising that the opposition wants to run dead on the issue, the Gay community is rather prone to histrionics about anything that they think is vaguely “homophobic”. The sin here though is not batting for the other team it is betraying the marriage vows (while the Missus is dying of cancer 🙄 ) and misusing a government car in the process. Ah well yet another reason ( do you need any more?) to kick out the very tired and corrupt government in NSW.
Readers Of this blog will realise that I am not the sort of chap who thinks that we should be all touchy feelly about the “rights” of felons once they have done their time.
Prisoners such as Motekiai Taufahema, who murdered Senior Constable Glenn McEnally in 2002 and is due for release in two years, could be locked up for longer if he is deemed not to have reformed.
It is thought more than 50 inmates could expect to be locked up beyond the end of their sentences after the review is completed. Ms Keneally said: ”This is about sending a message to the worst prisoners: ‘If you don’t do the rehabilitation, you know what? You won’t get out.’
”Those prisoners who do the right thing will not be impacted by this review … but those refusing to take responsibility for their actions will be identified.”
Civil libertarians said the plan undermined the justice system and would deter prisoners from rehabilitation if their sentences were effectively meaningless.
Well call me cynical but this looks very much like Kristina Keneally is trying to open a bidding war on Law and order for the next state election. I will give her credit for making a very canny opening bid because it will be very hard to argue that what she proposes would be unacceptable to the public as this opinion poll shows
The first question that I ask my self when considering these men (and they are mostly men)is will they do it again and will the public be safe with them at large? I can’t help but think that the solution offered is something of a band-aid measure, quite simply the solution to unrepentant murders and rapists is that they should be banged up for the term of their natural lives (in the absence of a capital sanction) What ever happened to a judge sentencing a scumbag to be held “At her Majesty’s pleasure” in the first place?
The ALP are still very much on the nose in NSW and I have my doubts that their lady in red will win by trying to be tough on these scumbags (even though they deserve it) Maybe she is onto something here but I can’t help thinking that it won’t win her the election.