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Dec 13, 2011

Cabinet reshuffle highlights overgovernment.

Cartoon: By Pickering.

The cabinet reshuffle, which has been tipped for some time, goes a long way to demonstrate the degree to which Australia is overgoverned. There are 22 members of the inner cabinet, another eight in the outer cabinet in charge of (at a rough count) fifty-five ministries. There is a list of them here:

Years ago on the comedy show, The Two Ronnies in their faux news section they posed the question, “We ask are there too many government ministers, and we will be talking to the Minister for Steak and Kidney Pie on the issue.” Australia is not too far behind this scenario. Given that some of these ministries cover multiple functions, it is clear that just too many matters fall under government control.

If more functions were left in the hands of the individual, and the government stayed out of matters not reasonably falling into its net of intrusion, it would be more effective in its proper place. One of the secrets of successful management is delegation. Why not delegate the way we conduct ourselves to us and stay the hell out of our lives?

While some of the press is hailing this development as a “Julia stamps her authority,” moment it is reasonably clear that she is not really in control:

But the reshuffle has sparked tensions over the dumping from cabinet of Kim Carr, a former Gillard supporter now seen as sympathetic to Kevin Rudd, and led one minister to describe the changes as more about "spin" than policy.

The Prime Minister was also forced to fend off suggestions that her decision to expand the cabinet by two places was because senior ministers refused to go. Senior sources last night denied reports that Peter Garrett and Robert McClelland had threatened to resign from parliament if they were demoted.

The Australian understands that Mr McClelland, who remains in cabinet, was moved despite making a strong case to remain attorney general.
This rings true, as no realistic cabinet reshuffle would be likely to keep Garrett on after his disastrous performances in every area entrusted to him in the past. Garrett was brought into the government at the behest of Hawke on the basis of being a washed up pop star who might inspire the young to vote Labor. Since then he has achieved little other than an inflated sense of self-importance.

The idea of ‘super ministries’ that has been exulted by the press as a great innovation, are a crock. If the persons given these responsibilities were in fact up to them, the sheer volume of work involved would almost certainly guarantee that it would be impossible to carry out the multiple roles efficiently.

Greg Combet though has a ready solution to this problem. He has had Industry and innovation added to his Climate Change portfolio. If he succeeds with the climate change part along the lines the government is proposing, the industry and innovation part will no longer be needed.

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