Saturday, November 29, 2014

Saturday morning musings - Heather Ewart and the Country Party, Mr Abbott and problems with what to do and how to do

The first part of Heather Ewart's A Country Road: the Nationals (ABC TV) really took me back as it did for others.. In a Facebook comment Paul Barratt, one of Doug's Deputy Secretaries during the Fraser year's,  recollected: 
Heather's Episode 1 really brought back some memories, memories like ringing the general store at New Brighton via Billinudgel (aka the Summer Capital) and leaving a message for Doug to ring me back. Some time later a call from a public phone in the store, with that familiar voice yelling "Paul? You wanted to talk to me?" etc. Another: Curly Nixon's steadfast refusal to have a phone installed at his beach house. Those were the days!
I had the same reaction to the same incidents. It may seem odd to focus on the refusal of senior ministers to interrupt their holidays, to reject 24/7 unless it was really necessary, but there was a certain balance to it. Doug ran the country from his caravan, and the country was no worse for that. I will write a proper interpretative memoir once the series has finished.

As an aside, I wandered across to Don Aitkin's place to see what his reactions might be to the program. He wrote a number of perceptive books on the Country Party and knew the players. Sadly, or at least I think it so, climate change has come to dominate Don's world. When he first started writing on climate change I was interested and found it a useful corrective to some of the almost theological writing that was and still is around on climate change. Theology goes two ways. I find now that I tune out unless there is something new.

 The negative reporting of the Abbott Government drags on after a somewhat chaotic week. Mark Kenny's  
Tony Abbott steers ship into storm of uncertainty is an example.Apparently "conservative" commentators are upset. I had to put conservative in inverted commas. It is far from clear to me that either Andrew Bolt or Janet Albrechtsen, for example, are conservative in the normal sense that word is used.

I seem to have been dragged into commenting into Australian political events as they proceed. Here I want to come back to the last sentence in my last post, How to make a mess: Mr Abbott’s confusion with objectives, strategy and tactics. There I ended: Meantime, things that are really important get lost in the confusion.

I write about both the what to do and the how to do. On the first, in the lead-up to the last Federal election I suggested that the campaign had become a policy free zone. We almost seem to be in that position now, despite the volume of reporting. And yet, a lot is happening.

Staying with politics, the Victorian elections are this weekend. The latest opinion polls show a small swing back to the Napthine Coalition government, with the most likely result a narrow Labor win. Blowed if I know, however. It all depends on individual seat results.

In Melbourne as in Canberra, we have the prospect of a one term government. In Melbourne as in Canberra, there is no sign that the opposition has regrouped, developed new ideas. The Victorian election has been marked by what one might variously call retail or supermarket politics. There is little new, just long lists of promised activities.

Regardless of whether I agree with Mr Abbott or not, there is a strong case for governments to have at least two terms. I am not talking mandated terms, just that governments need enough time to evolve, oppositions enough time to develop alternative positions in response. Because both sides get locked into stylized positions set within existing frames, we also need circuit breakers,. movements that will capture and force recognition and response to new needs. The Labor and Country Parties played this role,  as indeed (dare I say it?) did One Nation!

One Nation lanced a boil by giving recognition to feelings that existed but had become suppressed within the Australian electorate. By venting those feelings, One Nation allowed the country to move on.

I said that I was concerned with the how as well as the why. Just at the moment, I am probably more concerned with the how.

Interesting interview on ABC Radio National this morning. The link is not yet up. I will add it if I can.

I suppose the fist key point was that engineering studies taught engineering science. The question of engineering practice had been placed aside, something you learned on the job. That was fine when you had Government public works departments that provided a conservative but deep exposure to engineering practice. But now with outsourcing, nobody is providing access to engineering practice, The private sector in Australian and many other countries is effectively free-loading off previous practice knowledge. One outcome is a rise in cost over-runs.

Now there are all sorts of issues here. I am just recording it now for later analysis.  


2 Tanners said...

I have a few comments to make in principal.
1. You are completely correct about the commentators you named. Their actions, but more particularly their rhetoric, brands them as radicals.
2. The point behind three year election periods is so that a Government has three years to enact or somehow accomplish the things it has in its policy platform. It is not a game where you automatically get a pass. (I am speaking in principal - I won't and don't comment on political performance.) In public and private industry a learner has only 3-6 months probation. They can be let go if not up to scratch.
3. I'm not sure that One Nation did lance the boil. PUP and the announcement that Pauline Hansen would once again revive One Nation seem to me indicators that Australia has been radicalised to the right, and that this is a 'clear and present danger' for the Coalition.

Jim Belshaw said...

I missed this comment, 2T. Sorry. On 3, the second part in Heather's series would provide some support for your point.