In the first half of 2019, Tasmanians will have a clear choice to make about the next decade in Australian politics.
The last 9 years in Australian politics has been reminiscent of a Die Hard film, too much action and not enough substance. Since 2010, the Prime Ministership has been a position coveted by too many with no respect for the office itself.
This has led to a politics dominated by leadership turmoil and policy paralysis.
Labor has learnt from the past and at its National Conference in December 2018 Kevin Rudd was acknowledged not only for his time in office and his legacy but also for his cleverly crafted rule changes which have ensured a sitting Opposition Leader or Prime Minister can only really be removed by the voters at a general election.
Leadership stability is central to not only a political parties ability to implement good public policy; it is also central to a countries overall economic and global security.
During the last 5 years of a Federal Liberal Government political instability has continued and has been front and centre at every turn. Understandably, the community is utterly disillusioned with Australian politics.
Creating good public policy which will serve the Australian people well takes the full concentration and effort of a government. If a government is confronted with leadership instability and ongoing ministerial re-shuffles there is no real prospect of delivering good government.
Public policy is intended to solve problems and improve people’s quality of life. It includes six key stages including agenda building, policy formulation, adoption, implementation, evaluation and or termination. If the policy process is interrupted with a ministerial change or continued obstacles it creates chaos within the portfolio with ministerial staff and departmental staff often adversely affected.
Government is like any other workplace. Relationships need to be cultivated, there must be professionalism and trust between ministerial and departmental staff and both must have confidence in one another to meet key performance indicators. The policy process must be followed for effective delivery and the stages in the process can’t be bypassed or simply ignored.
During this Liberal Coalition Government’s tenure we have not merely had three Prime Ministers; we have also had three different Treasurers, three different Ministers for Health and three different Ministers responsible for energy policy.
The reality is good public policy cannot be developed and implemented when there is so much internal chaos within portfolios.
This Liberal Government’s energy policy or lack thereof is a prime example of public policy paralysis. The energy portfolio is of the utmost importance as the world transitions to clean energy production. Unfortunately, the last five years has witnessed a battle between climate change sceptics and moderates which has torn the Liberal Party in two.
At the end of 2018 the Government desperately tried to introduce a new energy policy into the Parliament. This action remains the epitome of a rushed policy process because the Government was desperate to produce an energy policy before Christmas. The policy was so hurried the majority of the Cabinet had no knowledge of the policy before it hit the floor of the House of Representatives.
The cornerstone of the Government’s policy was unprecedented market intervention providing government the ability to break up companies. The policy will not only deter investment in the energy sector it will set a dangerous precedent in Australia. Consequently, the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Energy Council and the Energy Users Association all pleaded with the Government to drop the policy.
When Joe Hockey exited politics in December 2015 he said if he had stayed in politics he would be too focused on “getting even with people.” We need people in politics to be focused on the policy process and delivering for the community, not focused on factional infighting and Party ideology above the delivery of good government.
Let division and chaos reign no longer in Australian politics, I think many hope that 2019 will be a year of change. The next 10 years must be about people, policy and a government focused on delivering for the lucky country.
This opinion piece was first published by The Examiner on Thursday 24 January 2019.
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