Governments around Australia have moved away from the grand British Westminster system of Permanent Heads of Departments and permanent officers to one of contract employees instead, writes Mr Beadman.
Abandoning professional apolitical public servants dedicated to serving the government of the day, in preference to contract employees (card carriers in some cases) who always now live with the implied threat of contract renewal when developing their advice to Ministers!
Guess whether the advice provided under such threats will continue to be as frank and fearless?
Parallel to the politicisation of the public services around the country I am at a complete loss as to why Ministers would prefer to obtain advice from the same sources as the exponential growth of the numbers employed in Ministerial offices? This is beyond scrutiny. Where are the checks and balances?
Much of the work that used to be done by public servants is now outsourced to a few favoured consultancy firms. Billions are changing hands, again mainly beyond scrutiny and often under the veil of “commercial-in-confidence”.
Regular, scathing Auditor General Reports, often about billions being rorted on an industrial scale (e. g. Sports Grants), are simply ignored.
Some of this money could be put to much better use in the Northern Territory on the massive infrastructure deficit dump passed onto the new Northern Territory Government in 1978).
The Opposition appears terrified of being wedged, and the tabloid media, worried about being excluded from the next media conference or trip, don’t dig too deep.
Renowned, national journalists, with half a century of political reporting behind them, are lamenting the slippage in standards and integrity in our governments.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic Australia had in the order of 800,000 people in receipt of Unemployment Benefits (or whatever the current fancy title is), and around the same number of overseas workers (permit holders and backpackers).
As international travel closed down, and people went home, we were in trouble. The unemployed refused to take on the work. Were their benefits stopped?
During Covid lockdown, unemployment benefits were doubled for the newly unemployed. Many refused to return to work when restrictions were lifted. Were the benefits too generous?
There is a gross undercount of the numbers unemployed? You need to be “looking” for work to be counted. Or if you have worked one hour in a week you are considered employed.
A decade ago when closely examining employment numbers in Territory Growth Towns I expected the numbers in receipt on unemployment benefits to be roughly equal to the numbers considered unemployed. Wrong!
The numbers are manipulated so drastically that in community after community only about 10% of people receiving unemployment benefits were appearing in other counts as unemployed. This is a huge deception.
While ever the true magnitude of unemployment is hidden in this way, the pressures will not mount for correction.
The country can’t afford this.
We were told that the economy was in ruins when a change of government inherited a $9 billion deficit in 1996. Now it is about $160 billion (it varies from one report to the next), and everyone acts as if that is normal. How the world is changed!
Depends on one’s spectacles obviously.
UPDATE Dec 14, 2.15pm: Minor change to heading & intro.