Sunday, February 21, 2010

Oh f*ck, it's actually worse than we thought

Gobsmacking. Just gobsmacking. (Though it is good to see that that my opinion of Nicola Roxon was well founded.)
Myles Peterson was last year hired to write speeches for three Rudd Government ministers, including Health Minister Nicola Roxon. He now writes of the astonishing waste, arrogance and rush-rush spending that’s the defining characteristic of this colossally inept Government and its hyper-distractable leader.

The whole article, by a man who walked out in disgust, is a must read, but here’s just a few of its insights:

I was given my first speech to write. I was not given an induction, training, an occupational health and safety lecture, a security clearance, a standard operating procedures manual, a style guide or anything you would expect when starting a job with the federal government of Australia…

Around the same time a section meeting was called. Our boss arrived late, but in the best of moods. ‘’We’re under budget!’’ she announced proudly. The old-timers let out whoops of joy… Our section was under-budget by hundreds of thousands of dollars, necessitating we blow all the unspent money before the end of the financial year. Unfortunately, ‘’training’’ did not mean I would finally get some training. ‘’Training’’ consisted of hastily booked, dubiously relevant conferences and courses, most of which were conveniently located a long way from Canberra.... 

I started to have my first run-ins with the ministers’ staff, cranky young professionals who were forever firing off orders and then countermanding them.... The ministers’ staff were as fond of cancelling events as they were of commissioning them. Then it fell to someone, usually me, to ring the nursing home or hospital or wherever the planned visit was to be and tell the locals to stand down their troops. The minister would not be coming....

After remaining silent on the issue for many months, the Prime Minister suddenly took an interest in the nation’s health. I found out when a grim-faced boss herded us all together. ‘’The PM is going to make a health announcement and you have to organise it,’’ we were told.

‘’When’s it happening?’’

‘’Monday.’’ (It was Friday afternoon.)

‘’When did we first learn about it?’’


And that is how the department’s major reform initiative, YourHealth, and its associated round of public consultations began. ..

The Prime Minister’s office staff feared nobody and respected them less. The only time they shut up was when the Prime Minister himself was speaking. Any other speaker, including Minister Roxon and the commission’s spokeswoman, could go to hell. One grabbed my pen from my hand and stormed off with it. I later asked for it back and was laughed at....

A (YourHealth) website was thrown up that looked ghastly when it first went live, so ghastly the Prime Minister refused to promote it as had been planned… The gossip was the Prime Minister’s attention had been caught by the Web 2.0 phenomenon, as had many Western leaders in the wake of Obama’s presidential campaign, and would be the first to jump on the bandwagon.

Along with the tidal wave of events we suddenly had to organise, I was given a new duty: ensuring photographers were always present to capture our ministers nodding gravely as they consulted. There was no limit to the cost. Fortunate photographers around the country suddenly found themselves hired, whatever quote they supplied.... Money was thrown at local production companies to create sincere-looking website testimonials. Staff were ordered to use the site and vote on the polls to generate hits…

Peterson’s insights ring so absolutely true of Rudd and the government he’s corrupted with his wild mix of impulsiveness, arrogance, authoritarianism and short attention span. His article help to explain Rudd’s extraordinary series of bungled programs and crashed dreams - Fuel Watch, Grocery Watch, the free insulation disaster, the Asia forum, the threats to prosecute Japan and the Iranian president, the emissions trading scheme, the Oceanic Viking fiasco, the $43 billion broadband, the $15 billion spendathon on school halls and canteens, the bungled roll-out of school computers…

I repeat. Read it all.

A regular reader who this time withholds their name comments:
As a public servant, I am appalled by the whoop-it-up decisions made by his managers to fritter away under-spent budgets. This (in Peterson’s article) is particularly galling:
“I was attending a conference on Web 2.0, a topic I was mildly interested in but which had nothing to do with my duties.”
As it happens, Web 2.0 has everything to do with my duties but thanks to Lindsay Tanner’s additional 2% productivity dividend (ie, budget cut) applied across the the board (that impacts smaller agencies more than it does large agencies like Health} I am struggling to hang on to staff, let alone send them off to conferences in Sydney. It is sickening.

No wonder the public service is increasingly demoralised. downer I am not surprised at all about the flibberty-gibbert way the Health Minister is carrying on, eg building pointless, meaningless and expensive websites, having speeches written for events that never happen, using up health professionals as props for her PR stunts. She was appalling in Opposition and even worse than could be imagined in Government. That applies to all of them. The only ones who are not getting on my last nerve are Stephen Smith and John Faulkner, and that is only because their Departments resist the sort of nonsense that Myles has reported and will not let their ministers derail their mission. Look what happened to the last one who tried (Joel Fitzgibbon}. He had the rug pulled out from under him.

Posted via email from Garth's posterous

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