Friday, May 30, 2008

Slow down Mr Rudd, for all our sakes, slow down

Preamble: I deliberately wrote this post in a school masterly lecturing mode because this fitted with my concept of Mr Rudd as the Head. I have now done a little editing to try to improve balance and clarity at one point.

Thinking about the post overnight, my first key point is that Mr Rudd needs to temper his style if he is to achieve the things he wants. My second, one that I have made before, is that his desire to achieve is outrunning the capacity of supporting systems to deliver.

The Post

When I wrote some earlier critiques of Mr Rudd's style I had not expected them to become an issue so quickly, nor did I expect the cracks in his Government to show so quickly. That's a pity.

Mr Rudd, at this stage in your Government's history I give you a fail. If I was writing the summary on your half-yearly report,I would say: Tries too hard, responds too quickly, unable to set priorities, displays insensitivity to other's needs.

Mr Rudd, you cannot micro-manage an entire country. As Prime Minister you must stand back to some degree from the detail to look at the broader picture. If you wish to be your own chief clerk with all others in supportive administrative roles, that's fine. Just don't expect to be the PM for an extended period.

Mr Rudd, any manager will tell you that you can increase output in the short term by imposing high pressure on staff. Sometimes this is necessary. But you can only do it for so long before the wheels start coming off.

Mr Rudd, Australia is like a huge ship. It takes time to change directions. During that time, you just have to be patient.

Mr Rudd, you have inherited a degraded system of public administration (I am talking about the whole system, not just the public service) that simply cannot provide you with the level of support that you need to do all the things that you want to do in the time you desire.

Finally, Mr Rudd, you are also to some degree a creature of the system that you are trying to fix.

Beyond your stated desire to restore the Westminster system, I have not really seen many new ideas as to how we might improve what we do. I am talking process here, not policy. You seem solidly stuck in the increasingly old-fashioned managerialist status-quo of the last twenty years.


Since I wrote this post, the whole issue of Mr Rudd's style has continued to move to front and centre.

Writing today (1 June) on Mr Rudd's style, Kerry-Anne Walsh, the Herald's political reporter, began her story:

Federal Government ministers, staff and unions are pleading with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to slow down or risk a serious political backlash.

After outlining various war stories from the Head's front-line, she finishes by quoting Joe Hockey who may be an opposition front bencher but is also a long time friend of Mr Rudd.

Mr Hockey suggested Mr Rudd could lose perspective if he didn't balance his work with quality family and friends time.

"When you lose perspective, you are a lesser politician. You lose perspective about what is important in life.

"He's not only the leader of the country, he's a role model. He's setting a very bad example".

This issue of Mr Rudd's style has real legs because it reflects genuine and widespread concerns. I find it interesting that most do not want Mr Rudd to fail, quite the opposite. There is an overwhelming desire to see him make a good fist of the job. How he handles all this will, I suspect, be seen as the defining moment in his Prime Ministership.


Lexcen said...

Good morning Jim, I agree.

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi Lexcen, just back from netball with eldest. Glad that we are in agreement!