Surpluses, Budgets, Parliament, and Accountability Down Under (Australia): some random thoughts

I am in Australia as “Accenture-Crawford School Distinguished Visiting Professor” at Australian National University in Canberra. Many thanks to both Accenture and the excellent Crawford School of Public Policy.

I’ve been doing a fascinating series of meetings, seminars and lectures with academics and senior public servants from across the Australian federal (commonwealth) government. I have had generous access to the ‘corridors of power’ including with a wide range of Prime Ministers and Cabinet (PM&C) officials, Department of Finance and Deregulation (DOFR) officials, and the Clerk to the Senate. And many academic colleagues have been helping me get my head around Australian Federal Government procedures.

Here’s a few, fairly random, thoughts about it: Continue reading

Business has forfeited the confidence of the Government and can win it back only by working harder

William Hague (a well known after dinner raconteur and sometime Foreign Secretary) and other Ministers have launched an assault on business people for not working hard enough. Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Hague said: “There’s only one growth strategy: work hard.”

This reminded me of a poem I vaguely remembered (and I’m grateful to Richard Kerley for reminding me which one it was). It was Bertold Brecht who wrote about the 1953 uprising in East Germany against the Socialist Unity (communist) government:

After the uprising of the 17th of June
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

Who Do You Think You Are?

Apology, this has nothing to do with Whitehall or Public Management, but here goes anyway…..

Owen (”Chavs”) Jones started a discussion on Twitter to glorify his and others ancestors who’d been involved in what, to him, we’re worthy pursuits like the General Strike. (I or you or may not agree whether this was a worthy pursuit, but that’s not the issue). Clearly, he’d been watching too many episodes of “Who Do You Think You Are?”

I had the temerity to question this, pointing out it was somewhat ”North Korean” to think that inheritance somehow conferred or reinforced your political credentials. Continue reading

‘Poor Performers’ in the Civil Service – blame the poor bloody infantry

Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister, says it should be just as easy to sack badly performing Civil Servant’s as it is to sack private sector workers. Which is to say, in today’s Britain, pretty easy. In truth, it is already just as easy to sack Civil Servants (at least in the lower echelons) – so if it doesn’t happen it’s not because of the rules. Continue reading

Is the Era of Single Party Rule Over?

The BBC’s Nick Robinson has it almost right when he says there are two ways of judging these elections – through the prism of the last three decades of British politics with its long-lived single party governments (Tories 1979-97; Labour 97-2010) or through the prism of 1970s one-term Governments. In the 1979-2010 period incumbent governments suffered mid-term slumps only to recover and win. In the 70s they suffered mid-term slumps and went on to lose at the next election. Continue reading

Can Mervyn King do the math? Apparently not……might explain a lot?

I heard yet again today someone using the Queen’s Jubilee Gambit to explain that next quarter (Q2 2012) may see even more sluggish growth in the economy or even that wonder “negative growth”. This is based on comments made by the Governor of the Bank of England a few weeks ago: Continue reading