31/10/2006 - 21:00

Inertia could cost Labor power

31/10/2006 - 21:00


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The Labor government led by former ABC journalist Alan Carpenter is doing its level best to put the Paul Omodei-led Liberal opposition into power.

Inertia could cost Labor power

The Labor government led by former ABC journalist Alan Carpenter is doing its level best to put the Paul Omodei-led Liberal opposition into power.

Neither of the state’s major parties is really up to administering Western Australia justly and efficiently.

But, unfortunately, they’re the only two likely options before WA’s million or so voters; so it’s a case of Tweedle-dumb Labor or the Tweedle-dee Liberals, with the former tortuously and unsuccessfully struggling to make a fist of it.

Let’s not forget that the latter were ignominiously tumbled out of office in the 2001 landslide, primarily because their leadership was shown to be incapable or unwilling to effectively police a tiny band of ‘wild west’ cowboy money men – mortgage brokers – who were taking down, that is, swindling, retirees.

Although Tweedle-dumb Labor benefited from this by unexpectedly winning that election, it’s now obvious Labor learned nothing from its ousting of Tweedle-dee.

Instead, Labor has become as administratively ramshackle as its predecessors, with increasing numbers of voters realising that it’s probably even more so than the pre-2001 Liberals.

Worse still, we are encountering Tweedle-dumb Labor ministers who either don’t know, don’t want to know, or are incapable of knowing, what should be done whenever quite simple and clear-cut administrative decisions need to be made.

First came Tweedle-dumb Labor’s one-time president who doubled as police minister, Michelle Roberts.

She was soon found to be wanting because of inadequate ministerial attention being given to detention of criminals within the Supreme Court precinct’s ageing detention facility.

In what has now become standard practice, she promptly deflected ministerial responsibility, meaning she believes ‘the buck didn’t stop here’; that is, at her ministerial desk. Yet she continued drawing a ministerial salary.

Soon after came two ministerial resignations – Bob Kucera’s, quickly followed by the man who pushed him off the ministerial perch, premier Geoff Gallop.

While Mr Kucera indicated he sought a comeback, Dr Gallop went all the way, out of parliament as well as departing cabinet because of what he said was an affliction of severe depression.

Interestingly, severe depression has resurfaced in Queensland’s Labor ministerial ranks, with attorney-general Linda Lavarch quitting Peter Beattie’s ministry and citing depression as the reason for doing so.

This came following her rejection of a deal to bring the infamous Dr Jayant Patel from Portland, Oregon, to face charges.

In Perth, soon after Mr Carpenter had taken the reins of power, a series of embarrassing disclosures about police and justice minister and former Bayswater mayor, John D’Orazio, surfaced.

He was eventually removed from not only both portfolios, but also from cabinet and finally even expelled from his beloved Labor Party.

We’ve also had Community Services Minister, Sheila McHale, who was shown to have been snoozing at the wheel over administration of child protective procedures.

Tragically, it took the death of a child to bring that scandalous state of affairs to public attention.

Just before that, Education Minister Ljiljana Ravlich was found wanting over implementation of aspects of outcome-based education, which, let’s not forget, was initiated and adopted during the tenure of her Liberal predecessors.

So, another case of ‘tweedling’ in practice.

And Ms Ravlich has reappeared with an uninspiring performance over her failure to monitor and administer investigations into sexual misconduct complaints against teachers.

This litany of incompetence, demotion, resignation, expulsion and denial of responsibility by those occupying the highest executive ranks can hardly be described as inspiring governance.

All this leads State Scene to wonder why ministers ever bother taking their ministerial oath, which, among other things, says: “I swear that I will well and truly serve…and I will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this Realm, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will. So help me God.”

What’s more, no amount of spin-doctoring and the bending of the meaning of simple words will convince the public otherwise.

Most Western Australians, and increasingly radio, television and newspaper commentators, have concluded that the wheels have begun falling off the Carpenter government’s bandwagon.

It’s becoming clear to all that the famous Scottish writer, Robert Louis Stevenson, was on the money when he said: “Politics is perhaps the only profession for which no preparation is thought necessary.”

The unfortunate, indeed tragic,  aspect of this is that the Liberal opposition has done nothing, or next to nothing, to deserve becoming the government after the February 2007 election, which is still a very long 28 months away.

In other words, it seems we’re set to acquire another government, Tweedle-dee Liberals, because Tweedle-dumb Labor will simply be ejected rather than the opposition deserving to gain the treasury benches.

Now, this raft of failures and blatant incompetence is well known across the community.

What’s less evident is one of the underlying reasons for this state of affairs.

State Scene has for some time been concerned that the quality of WA ministerial staffers – minders if you like – is not up to scratch, and what’s more it’s probably declining.

Labor more than the Liberals appear to specialise in employing family and friends, factional pals and/or ideological blood brothers and/or sisters.

Ministerial staffing appears to be the honey pot that too many relatives, pals and ideological buddies see as their rightful spoils of office.

Instead, such staffs should be made up of highly competent and trained people who ensure that ministers’ requirements and duties are met each day, week and month.

If one looks back at some of the Carpenter ministerial problems it quickly becomes evident that, if the ministers in question had better-trained staffers, those problems would, in all likelihood, not have become crises.

If ministerial staffers were of a higher calibre, the entire standard of WA’s governance would rise.

And after that we could move on to other much-needed improvements.

Recently, State Scene had the pleasure of reading a speech delivered to the Caribbean Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions by David M Walker, the Comptroller General of the United States.

In the body of his speech he said: “Too many individuals tend to focus on their next pay packet.

“Too many company executives focus on the next quarterly earnings report.

“Too many politicians focus on the next election cycle rather than the next generation.”

Further on in his address Mr Walker said, when referring to his office’s goal for governance: “Our goal is for the Congress to expand its horizon, improve its peripheral vision, and enhance its ability to act in a timely and evidence-based manner.

“We want policymakers to better understand where we are, how we look 30 or even 40 years out, and how various policies and programs can have ripple effects collaterally, across borders, and over time.”

Such sentiments, unfortunately, are aeons away from the minds of so many employed in WA ministerial offices, irrespective of whether they hail from the Tweedle-dumb or Tweedle-dee sides of politics.

It’s time many pairs of socks, as well as the stockings, were pulled right up.

If that happened, recurring ministerial scandals and incompetence would become a thing of the past.


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