Mark Latham is a better analysts than politician. The weekend the AFR has his top ten list for improving Australian political life. Some on the are good – others not so much.
1. LIGHT-TOUCH GOVERNMENT
Our national leaders need to regain the habit of educating the electorate about a realistic role for government. In economic policy, this means abandoning the pretence of interventionism. While policymakers can improve the business environment with strategies for market competition and skill development, they actually have no way of directly controlling economic outcomes.
In social policy, governments need to acknowledge the rising tide of self-reliance, rolling back middle-class welfare entitlements. The major parties need to concentrate on doing a limited number of things well.
A good start – but I’m not convinced government does a good job at “strategies for market competition and skill development”. Certainly the ACCC isn’t evidence of good policy.
2. REDUCING BUREAUCRACY
Despite the marginalisation of government power, the size of the federal bureaucracy and the number of parliamentary sinecures attached to it has grown ever larger.
Yes – at a time when people realise that government can do less rather than more, the size and scope of government intervention in society has grown.
3. INDEPENDENT POLICYMAKING
… There is a strong argument for extending the success of the RBA to other areas of economic debate, such as fiscal policy and climate change.
Not convinced on this score – yes; independent monetary policy does seem to work, but is likely to be a special case (if there is a causal relationship here and not just correlation).
4. DOWNSIZING STATE POLITICS
… State backbench MPs should hold part-time positions, similar to local government.
Why stop there? Federal MPs should be part-time too. It’s not like Parliament sits every day. The job of an MP is to represent people in the Parliament – so when Parliament isn’t sitting they’re not doing their job. Working to get re-elected and schmoozing with constituents is time-consuming but I’m not sure that we should be paying them a salary to do that.
5. MINIMISING INFOTAINMENT
… To this end, question time in Federal Parliament should be abandoned. It has lost its original purpose of holding the executive to account.
Mixed feelings on this – question time doesn’t work for its intended purpose, but it does provide opportunity for the opposition to confront the government. Otherwise the relationships within Parliament would become far too cosy.
6. ENTITLEMENT REFORM
The solution to entitlement rorts is straightforward: bundling up and cashing out the current system of entitlements into a single global budget – to be managed by MPs themselves, under strict guidelines. A truly independent monitoring body should also be established, with the power to fine and, in clear cases of rorting, expel offending MPs.
Too timid – let that “single global budget” be their salary, paid in cash. Legitimate work expenses can be deducted through the tax system – like every other Australian.
7. VOLUNTARY VOTING
Yep – and abolition of the abomination that is preferential voting. One person, one vote.
8. SMALLER ELECTION CAMPAIGNS
Nice try – this amounts to suppression of free speech.
9. SIDELINING LOBBYISTS
Federal and state parliaments should enact laws that:
• require any minister lobbied by private financial interests to list the nature of the meeting on a publicly available register;
• ban former MPs or party officials from acting as lobbyists for a period of five years after leaving office;
• adopt Peter Reith’s proposal for senior party officials to be prohibited from holding corporate positions.
The problem here is that people have to work – this amounts to a restraint of trade clause being written into MPs employment contracts.
10. POWER TO THE EDGE
… Both parties are shackled by their ancient production-side links, with union-based factionalism dominating the ALP and corporate figures running the Liberal Party.
Yes, well – in time parties will either rejuvenate their internal legitimacy or face popularist competitors. The ALP has the Greens and the Coalition the PUP.
Notice, however, that Latham doesn’t recommend that MPs only access their Super at the same age as the rest of the community or have to work to the age of 70.
Anyway – a good list overall, and far more “radical” than anything he could or would have implemented as ALP leader.