Youth and inexperience

There has been a lot of talk about a lack of adult input into Rudd government policy making. Today Peter van Onselen raises the issue in The Australian. Three individuals are singled out as being too young and inexperienced for the positions that they hold.

Chief of staff Alister Jordan, 30, press secretary Lachlan Harris, 30, and senior economics adviser Andrew Charlton, 31, are three of the most powerful players in the Rudd government because they are listened to and trusted by the Prime Minister in a way cabinet is not. But they are all relative political novices with no experience in the labour movement and next to none in industry or business.

So let’s take all of that as given and read and so on. It is only when we get to the end of a long feature piece that the real problem begins to emerge (emphasis added).

While Rudd’s young advisers may have been given too much responsibility too early in their careers, their failings are ultimately the Prime Minister’s. It is he who appointed them and chose their counsel to the exclusion of advice from others.

Who appoints the prime minister – apart from the GG who has the formal duty? Who gives the prime minister council even if and when he doesn’t want it?

The Rudd government has been an institutional failure – the rules of the game appear to have been violated on many fronts. Sure it is possible that poor appointments may have been made, but they should be rare and quickly fixed. Sure dumb policies were announced, but again they should be rare and quickly fixed. But we see none of that. Silly ideas are common and persist. Decisions are made in haste by a small number of people with little consultation.

Maybe this attitude does explain what’s wrong.

Senior Labor sources believe arrogance is a key reason Rudd and his entourage don’t seem able to turn around their fortunes. Says one: “The advisers around him work on the idea that ‘we are smart; the punters are dumb; they won’t recognise that we are running a scam’.”

Yet this too is hard to believe. Government and bureaucracy are process driven institutions – these processes are there for good reason. Similarly the ALP itself is an institution with rules, proceedures and traditions of doing things. Mistakes should be rare and quickly fixed.

So blaming a bunch of 30-year olds isn’t the solution to the Rudd government’s problem, blaming Rudd himself is part of the solution, but we need to look at the institutitons themselves. The machinery of government, the bureaucracy, and political parties should be fairly stable and conservative institutions. Within those institutions there should be a group of fairly hard-headed, thick skinned individuals whose primary function is to prevent institutional failure. Right now I can’t see where they are, or what they are doing.

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29 Responses to Youth and inexperience

  1. Entropy says:

    I think what you would find is that the institutions you refer to are pretty much sidelined: their only input is to flesh out the details of policies already decided and announced.

    Policy development is done in a unit of PM&C, with the occasional input from ministerial offices on less headline policies. All needs the approval of PM&C.

    It so laughable they should make a TV comedy about it. Oh, wait…..

    Why didn’t the hollowmen get a second series?

  2. Infidel Tiger says:

    His appointment of these whippersnappers was a desperate attempt to recapture the school and uni experience he never had. He wanted to run with the cool crowd and surely now as PM the cool kids wouldn’t royal flush and atomic wedgie him?

  3. Fleeced says:

    He really does have the persona of someone seeking validation, doesn’t he IT? I recall someone once saying that many politicians were a bunch of boring nerds who were last to be picked for their teams at school sport, and spend their rest of their lives trying to be picked as leader.

    At the time, I found the idea somewhat amusing, though perhaps unfair… with Rudd, it’s spot on – but not so funny.

  4. “Why didn’t the hollowmen get a second series?”

    Because it wasn’t actually all that funny. I also thought it only ever seemed to have a feel of quasi-authenticity, unlike their take on current affairs programs (Frontline.)

  5. Infidel Tiger says:

    Steve’s right. The Hollowmen would have worked if they’d written it specifically about Rudd.

  6. Butterfield, Bloomfiled & Bishop says:

    Howard’s government at this stage was no different to this one.

    how little memory you clowns have

  7. John H. says:

    The Hollowmen would have worked if they’d written it specifically about Rudd.

    No way, would have received a MA rating because of the language!

  8. Fleeced says:

    “Howard’s government at this stage was no different to this one.”

    lol… an astounding level of denial from Butters, there.

  9. Fleeced says:

    So Butters, perhaps you could remind us of all the backflips, failed policies (some leading to deaths) and leadship speculation that occurred during Howard’s first term? Or is this where you revert to the, “well if you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you” routine?

  10. Entropy says:

    Actually a few hollowmen episodes were based on real life events, some from the Howard Government and, especially in later episodes, Rudd. The Irish ambassador=Alston
    whereas the quiet January episode was definitely rudd, if not a real event.

  11. Butterfield, Bloomfiled & Bishop says:

    gosh fleeced, howard never got to the heights Rudd got to.

    his leadership style was questioned as well.

    no-one thought him a great leader until 2001. They thought they won despite Howard not because of him.

    Backflips. what about never ever!

    Fleeced you are a loony if you think Rudd is responsible for any deaths.
    in Insulation there were four deaths.
    Three by electrocution of which any company knew about and signed to their competence and one by heat exposure. wow an experienced company puts an employee into a roof when it is too hot and it is Rudd’s fault.

    no wonder you people are a couple sandwiches short of a picnic.
    most of the hollowmen’s scripts were wrttien when Howard was PM!

  12. Fleeced says:

    So… the only backflip you can come up with, is the GST, which was actually put to an election?

  13. Speaking of the dubious merits of youth, Tony Abbott and the LNP are not immune either, with Tone seemingly endorsing the pre-selected 20 year old to run for Mal Brough’s former seat:

    http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/abbott-backs-political-tyro-20100615-ych9.html

  14. Fleeced says:

    Sounds like a bad idea, Steve… this whole talk of “youn, fresh talent” shouldn’t include people with so little experience.

    Though it sounds like he’s merely going along with what other’s have already picked rather than made the choice himself. Mal Brough needs to be drafted back somewhere – he was seemingly competent.

    I suspect some people got pre-selection before it was considered a chance for the Coalition to bounce back (or for ALP to fall so drastically)… the danger now is that they won’t be able to win back these seats against experienced candidates

  15. C.L. says:

    Running for a seat is not the same thing as running the country as an agenda-setting chief adviser, Steve. Paul Keating entered Parliament at 25.

  16. Infidel Tiger says:

    Is this the same steve who wanted grumpy old men’s opinions excluded from the climate change charade?

  17. Sid Vicious says:

    From what I recall, PJ Keating always wanted to be Treasurer but never did make it.

  18. Samuel J says:

    None of the three young turks is smart. They are just below average people on the make. Arthur Daly would con them easily. The whole PMO is proof of the Peter Principle. It is a weak and intellectually barren office. A national disgrace. Bring back Crean.

  19. daddy dave says:

    From what I recall, PJ Keating always wanted to be Treasurer but never did make it
    .
    Sid, obviously you missed about a decade of Australian history somewhere. Drugs, perhaps?

  20. jC says:

    The horrifying thing is that the “young turks’ may be smarter than the boss. That’s the truly frightening part of it all.

  21. jC says:

    The little turd should try the Costanza theory.
    Do the opposite.

    To paraphrase Jerry:

    If every political instinct Rudd (The Little Turd) has is wrong then the opposite must be right.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKUvKE3bQlY&feature=player_embedded

  22. Peter Patton says:

    The pity is that Keating stay on as Treasurer, and leave the heavy-lifting to the real star; Hawkey.

  23. Taylor says:

    None of the three young turks is smart. They are just below average people on the make.

    Not sure about that! Give Charlton credit where it’s due: he topped his year at Sydney Uni and then went to Oxford and did it again.

    Canberra’s part of the problem I think. After 3 years working stupid hours cut off from the rest of the world it’s no wonder if your judgement becomes impaired.

  24. Sid Vicious says:

    C’mon dd, tether your comments to reality. Keating was in charge of record queues at the Bankruptcy court, he delivered the baleful duo of double digit interest rates and unemployment figures and got rid of our smokestack industries to make way for a services/tourism based economy. The poor fellow couldn’t move sideways without lodging a T/A claim form. Was I on drugs? No. I just copped a severe mugging.

  25. daddy dave says:

    got rid of our smokestack industries to make way for a services/tourism based economy.
    .
    Yes that’s a shame. But those industries were moribund and highly protected. Is manufacturing viable in Australia? Surely if we could have a big manufacturing base, we would still have one?

  26. daddy dave says:

    incidentally, the “on drugs” reference was an attempt at humour, given your moniker.

  27. Samuel J says:

    Taylor – Sydney University and Oxford are noted for their economics faculty. Yes, he is smart. But I don’t think he is a great economist.

  28. Samuel J says:

    Sorry I meant that Sydney University and Oxford are NOT noted for their economics faculty.

  29. Rococo Liberal says:

    One of the nicest chaps I knew topped law at one of the universities in Sydney. However, when it came to work he was hopeless. He couldn’t understand a brief or write an advice to save his life when he started. Another chap who just scraped through went brilliantly from day 1 and made Partner in record time.

    Mr Top later had an epiphany and turned from a soft lefty into a Tory. From then he never looked back. Suddenly he could apply his knowledgeand became a great lawyer.

    The lesson is, if you persist in working with lefties, you will be an idiot, on the old principle of laying down with dogs you get up with fleas.

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