I suspect our current crop of leaders have quite enjoyed the pandemic because it has given them an excuse to put aside the issues that will make or break us as a nation, as well as a justification for neglecting the reform that Australia needs. …
The revolving-door prime ministership [since 2007] certainly hasn’t helped. New PMs mean big reshuffles. All new ministers need time to get on top of their portfolios. Compared to the Howard government — which had the same PM, the same treasurer and the same foreign minister for almost 12 years — the current government has had only one minister in the same job for seven years, Mathias Cormann, and he has now gone.
Ministerial turnover inevitably means comparatively greater authority for a public service that’s become better at analysing problems than solving them. Look at the way all levels of government and both sides of politics now defer to unelected and unaccountable officials in what strikes me as an abrogation of their duty to the voter.
Higher immigration is Treasury’s solution to growth (when have Australians ever voted for high immigration?):
One of the real problems over the past couple of decades has been the decline of Treasury, which used to be the intellectual powerhouse of the Australian public service but which is now fixated on high immigration as the one fail-safe route to economic growth. …
It explains the political reality of why people have felt poorer even while the country apparently grew richer. The past decade’s record high immigration has coincided with record low productivity growth …
An ever dumber political class:
Then there’s the apparatchik culture that’s becoming stronger, with leadership teams on both sides of politics largely comprising former party officials, political staffers and union reps — essentially lifelong political bubble dwellers, more driven by polling and focus groups than conviction. …
Elections are contests, not coronations. To win a fourth term, there will have to be at least a few big points of difference between Liberal and Labor. Backing nuclear power, for instance, would enable the Prime Minister to reassure some voters that he’s serious about cutting emissions and others that he’s serious about base-load electricity. It could be his best way of uniting the right and dividing the left. Yet he says that a consensus is needed before he would even try to lift the legislative ban, even though Labor would only ever give this consideration after it has lost an election on the issue.
It took two election defeats for Labor to support the GST. It took an election defeat and the palpable success of the government’s policy for Labor to support border protection. Leadership is not finding a consensus, it’s building one. And the best way to do that is to fight an election on the things you believe in. Perhaps the main difference with the Hawke/Howard era is that we then had more substantial people in our public life.
Self-selecting groups whose members compete for a fixed number of positions tend to become dumber over time, because they avoid selecting people who will be effective competitors. Hence the distinct declines recently in public service capability (there are only so many senior positions to go around), and in our political class (there are only twenty odd ministers).
That’s on top of wider societal genetic changes, and the lower educational standards ushered in by an era of more students and paying students.