I have enormous respect for Ken Henry but he can’t believe that you should have consensus because it is better to have bad policy that everyone agrees with than eventually get good policy that will work.
The ETS was a flawed scheme. Had the government got it through it would be dead by now because of the financial crisis.
I also disagreed with the scale of the stimulus package … It wasn’t evidence-based policy; they panicked. The government rammed those decisions through the economy even though they were fraught with risk. No one was consulted about an alternative view and if you did say anything you were attacked by the Treasurer and the Prime Minister in public.
That’s hard. It gets harder.
Treasury, as far as I can tell, has become an arm of political policy. Historically they have always been the ones who have said, ‘Wait a minute, this policy of subsidising green cars to try and save the constituents of a particular electorate is not a very sensible way to spend $8 billion.’ You just don’t see that now.
What makes this particularly damaging is that McKibbin isn’t just some ratbag academic economist – he is a serious insider.
Professor McKibbin says the only debate he now has with the Treasury secretary is at the board table.
”If the government won’t engage you behind closed doors then an academic has no other choice than to express their opinion in the public interest, in public, for the public to assess.
Telling other people to shut up is never a particularly strong argument for your own case. If you are convinced of your arguments, the least you have to fear is open debate. This makes the recent intervention by Treasury secretary Ken Henry all the more remarkable.
In order to quell dissent on his policy recommendations such as the emissions trading scheme and the controversial mining tax, Henry even interrupted his overseas holiday to address a conference in Sydney. The delegates were given a strong warning not to criticise his proposals any more.
Ken Henry seems to have forgotten that he is not heading the Ministry of Truth but that he is supposed to be a non-partisan bureaucrat.