August 19th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments
Wayne Swan’s new book, The Good Fight, presents a disturbing picture of the atmosphere in which the NBN fiasco developed, I write in The Australian today.
Nothing made Rudd angrier, apparently, than soundly based independent counsel. “He was intolerant of detailed advice, especially of a deep and highly technical nature — the kind that comes from public servants with decades of experience,” Swan notes.
Debate or dispute “undermined his sense of control of minutiae”; Rudd’s outbursts “were often disproportionate to the matter at hand”; he “burned through staff like a child flicking matches from a box”. Advisers laboured within “a culture of fear and blame that had its origins in Kevin’s temperament”. Far worse, says Swan, “their advice was not listened to”.
Like every good horror story, the vampire gets skewered in the end, but in circumstances that leave open the possibility of a sequel. The frail character of Australia’s 26th prime minister plays the central role in Swan’s narrative, but its subplot reveals a frailty within public administration that ultimately may prove more destructive.
If the job of our professional, well-remunerated public service is sometimes to save politicians from themselves, how do we account for its spectacular failure to avert the Rudd fiascos? Will any heads roll for the frank and fearless advice not given? Will careers be ended as a consequence of their cravenness and complicity? Or will their salaries and novated leases continue to be honoured irrespective of the fortitude — or lack of it — they bring to their day jobs?