She’ll be right mate just doesn’t cut it
Australia must focus on cooperation not China

The grim truth behind a baffling decision

Frewen griggs young
When Australia's politicians don't want to and public servants aren't up to, in comes the military - Lieutenant-General John ‘JJ’ Frewen, Vice-Admiral Ray Griggs, Commodore Eric Young (AAP)


ADELAIDE - I think that several causes lie behind the farcical situation described in ‘The man who was told he wasn’t Australian’.

Firstly, I think that the current federal government has repeatedly expressed its hostility to 'illegals' and this sentiment (however false) has now firmly gripped the minds of the immigration bureaucracy.

These submissive public servants are now predisposed to interpret the facts, whatever they may be, in a way that is adverse to an 'illegal'.

Second, the federal bureaucracy has for many years been strongly discouraged from exercising any form of policy initiative, much less innovation. Rigid adherence to the government's requirements is the rule and is rewarded with approval and promotion.

This has led to the appointment of many compliant and unimaginative bureaucrats to positions of authority.

Basically, the bureaucracy has been stripped of its ability to formulate and argue for good public policy.

This function has been passed to a small army of so-called political advisors, whose grasp of reality let alone policy is often dubious, and a somewhat larger army of consultants who will usually offer support for the conclusions the politicians have reached.

The mainstream media has been rather slow to catch on to the so-called 'khaki takeover' of key policy areas outside of the normal remit of Defence.

We have seen Operation Sovereign Borders and Lieutenant General Angus Campbell responsible for explaining to us about turning back asylum seeker boats. He was so good at that he’s been made Chief of the Army.

Then Vice-Admiral Ray Griggs had been retired for only two months when Griggs has been called back by the government to become the new Indigenous Affairs boss late last year

The Commander of the Defence Covid-19 Taskforce, Rear Admiral Robert Plath, appointed earlier this year, was closely followed by the Vaccine Operations Co-Ordinator, Commodore Eric Young, and before we had learned his name the stern features of the Commander of the Federal Vaccination Taskforce, Lieutenant-General John Frewen, glowered from our screens.

So appointing senior military personnel to responsibilities formerly executed by senior public servants has become a ‘thing’ with our prime minister.

It suggests that the current government is not likely to try to rebuild policy development capacity within the now supine bureaucracy.

Third, the corporate memory of the federal bureaucracy is now so seriously degraded that it struggles to understand and deal with any issue that has antecedents in even the not so distant past, for example, Papua New Guinea becoming an independent state or China being our biggest trading partner.

Fourth, all bureaucracies adhere to the 'doctrine of stare decisis', which is to say that decision making is governed by established precedent.

The theory is that this helps ensure equity and procedural fairness in decision making but it tends to reinforce the discouragement of initiative and innovation.

The fifth factor, which can never be under-rated, is a lack of good judgment combined with compassion and comprehension.

These are qualities that should always inform decision making in a democracy but they are spectacularly absent in the current government, which preferences narrow political and economic considerations above human needs generally.

Sixth, I have an uneasy feeling that Mr Troy Lee's ethnic background was an unspoken issue in the case reported on by Stefan Armbruster.

No-one seems likely to admit to this, but a reasonable person might become suspicious given Australia's deplorable history of racism.

If you take these factors into account, the seemingly inexplicable decisions in the case of Mr Lee become easily understandable.


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