Saturday, June 15, 2024

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HomeIssue 30Top down Gap Closing: Would that work?

Top down Gap Closing: Would that work?

While the Aboriginal side stubbornly seems to refuse playing ball, on the white feller side we have things like Singapore Suncable, Gina Reinhardt and Beetaloo gas, writes BOB BEADMAN (pictured) in Part Two of his series about Closing the Gap.
Could tackling the stalled initiative top-down instead of bottom up be the answer as the Australian Public Service can no longer tackle flawed policy issues?
There are now so many of them needing fundamental reform.

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.


  1. Sorry Bob. The top down approach doesn’t work. But neither does the bottom up model. The whole system is broken. And few care. Too many people comfortable either in riches or poverty to drive real change. When China turns off the money tap then there will be real misery on a grand scale.

  2. What really annoys me Bob is that apart from ones moral fiber, there is no real incentive to work. > Jo average goes to work and funds all the “schemes” a lot of which are hair brained in my opinion.
    Unless you are a pollie and get special perks, you only very slowly manage to save you hard earned dollar, only to pay more tax.
    On the other side you have people who are encouraged and incentivised to educate themselves but sit on their arses and claim the dole. You have employers screaming out for workers and closing down because they can’t get them.
    This is all as a result of poor government many years ago and is just filtering through. I remember watching the news a few years ago during the mining boom and RIO were trying to get workers in the Pilbara, there was some idiot kid in Victoria complaining he couldn’t get a job, so the interviewer suggested he go to the Pilbara and earn $100K plus a year. The kids response was “no, I don’t want to leave my friends”.
    Therein lies the problem. There are people on the dole who genuinely cannot work and I accept that, but the others are just bludging off the taxpayers.

  3. The opening sentence is overtly racist and assumes all readers are White “us” and indigenous are “them”.
    Implied is that all white readers will agree with your position and that you assume that “we” and “them” are at loggerheads. It follows that the author can’t seem to imagine a world where Indigenous and non-Indigenous work together, a very scary dystopian view.
    As long as that racist attitude exists there will always be a gap. We are all in this together. We all need to listen and cooperate.
    Private contractors have repeatedly extorted and lied to Indigenous communities and the government, so it’s a terrible idea to involve them at high or low levels without government oversight, which will not work either without listening to what Aboriginal communities need and want.
    In the comments a respondent assumes most “dole bludgers” have a choice. He is ignoring the enormous amount of people on disability who really cannot do the work, or that the conditions under which they could work would not possibly be provided be the employer in that field.
    It also ignores that most employers in any field require experience and/or qualifications.

  4. Thank you @ K Harkness for actually demonstrating, in writing here the real problem lies. Bob is a man with incredible knowledge of the issues we face, and an intelligent person who can speak the language of logic and common sense. Then we have a person who I have never heard of, and with no demonstrated experience of the issue, simply writing off intelligent discussion and identification of the issues, as racism.
    Playing the racist card is becoming very common these days, and sometimes is enough to have people give up.


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