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The huge damage of political managerialism

A managerialism topCHRIS OVERLAND

ADELAIDE – Right now, we have a complete overload of dumbness to contend with around the world.

Let me give an example from a field I know something about - hospitals and aged care.

In these health industry sectors, there are some functions that can be effectively outsourced but they are substantially fewer than you might assume.

Tasks like maintenance and information technology can be comfortably outsourced, but there is comparatively little beyond.

Even cleaning and catering should never be outsourced in a public hospital. When this is done, quality and timeliness always suffers.

And lost is the important sense of an efficient hospital as a well-integrated team environment in which every individual worker matters, however humble their role.

When confined to a private hospital not so long ago, I noticed it had not outsourced these functions, for the very reasons I have given.

In Australia, our federal government has behaved like bloody idiots with its clumsy managerial and administrative interventions.

The consequence is a dumbed down public service that is incapable of overseeing much beyond direct routine administrative functions.

Most policy development has long since passed into the hands of the hordes of ministerial advisers (otherwise known as apprentice politicians) and external ‘think tanks’ and consultancies.

There is little respect or regard for notion that it can take years of being steeped in a specialised industry before it is properly understand how it works.

There is an erroneous assumption that a good manager of, say, hospitality in the tourism sector, can easily move into a senior position in health.

After all, isn’t running a hospital just about managing an accommodation service with a few surgical instruments and sutures thrown in.

This sort of erroneous reasoning is startlingly prevalent amongst managerialists and the political class that thinks it knows how things work.

A managerialismThis leads to a lack of understanding of highly complex processes and an overall condition of managerialism gone mad.

In modern politics there has developed a lack of respect for industry-specific knowledge and how important this is if you want to make effective decisions in a difficult and complex environment.

To use a naval analogy, it’s as if someone with no seagoing experience could be made captain of a warship because they had been a successful manager of a fruit shop or, probably worse, a newspaper opinion writer.

If you want to see an example of this reality, look no further than the Russian military in Ukraine, where the generals find themselves entirely subordinate to the bizarre strategic and even tactical demands of Putin.

He is repeating the same mistake that Joseph Stalin made in 1942 until, after a series of disasters, it dawned on him it might be best to leave military planning and war fighting in the hands of experts.

These were those generals who had survived his earlier paranoid campaign of murdering perceived rivals or opponents.

So, in the case of Russia’s contribution to World War II, enter Georgie Zukov and others who prosecuted the war with intelligent and ruthless vigour.

For Ukraine’s sake I hope Putin remains resolutely stupid.

But to the present day in Australia and the state of play after a decade of inept political intervention in expert industries.

Even if an Albanese government is elected and wants to reverse this fad of ideological managerialism, it is going to take years to repair the damage caused.

Private companies have become very adept at poaching clever and experienced public servants by offering them large salaries.

The Australian military invests millions in training young recruits in areas requiring great expertise, yet these people can make more money by joining private firms and being contracted back to the military to perform essentially the same roles.

This is a very common practice.

When I scan where we are as an effectively operating society, I doubt an incoming Albanese government can make much difference.

The Labor Party is too wedded to the current system and will be afraid of the inevitable pushback that will ensue if there is any attempt at reform.

The neo-liberal idiots who now dominate the Liberal-National coalition will squeal endlessly in support of their business mates if a Labor government attempts to revitalise the public service.

After all, according to their ideology, private enterprise is efficient and effective while public servants are luxuriating in red tape just a waste of oxygen.

This simplistic nostrum is meat and drink for the extreme right, which has not had an original idea in years.

Across Australia, the electoral consequence of this has been a new awareness among many moderate conservatives of the hopelessness of their preferred Liberal Party.

It seems this is resulting in these people shifting their allegiance to more moderate conservatives.

So we watch the emergence of so-called ‘Teal Independents’ (teal being their favoured campaign colour) – who are typically well-educated professional women of conservative bent but with acute situational awareness of the threat caused by the neo-liberal approach to politics - political managerialism.

These Teal Independents are electorate not party based, and constitute no formal political grouping.

But they are seen by Morrison and his entourage as a mortal electoral threat, which they undoubtedly are to some of his senior ministers including Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg.

A TechnocracyCome Saturday 21 May, Australians have a crucial decision to make: reward dumb ideology and political managerialism with another three years in office, or make the switch to what looks like a more rational conservatism that aims to fix some of the more high ranking problems of Australia.

Including the four big C's - climate change, coronavirus, cost of living and corruption.

I'm hoping they have the luck and electoral support required to win their seats and begin to address the complete overload of dumbness currently failing us.

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