Australian Treasury

David Uren argues that Martin Parkinson, Treasury Secretary, should be kept in place under a Coalition Government because

Installing a Coalition-friendly outsider – names mentioned include NSW Treasury head and former Peter Costello chief of staff Phil Gaetjens, and John Howard’s former department of workplace relations head Peter Boxhall [sic] – would be highly disruptive to the institution.

The Australian Treasury need massive reform, it is a poor reflection of its glorious past. It requires disruptive change.

People such as Henry Ergas, Phil Gaetjens or Peter Boxall (and others) are very well suited to lead Treasury and initiate the reform the institution needs. Martin Parkinson is a professional who realises that a new government may require a different type of Treasury head.

But it is not sufficient to change to a new Treasury Secretary. A significant number of the next two tiers need to change.

Fortunately the Australian talent pool is deep. There are more than sufficient people who are as good, or better, than the incumbents.

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25 Responses to Australian Treasury

  1. Token says:

    …would be highly disruptive to the institution.

    One would hate to disrupt an institution that has consistently got their forecasts wrong by multiples of $20 Billion over the past 5 years. :p

  2. Sinclair Davidson says:

    Heh – great minds think alike.

  3. Jim Rose says:

    peter boxhall was always disruptive.

    When as a commentator on a Treasury seminar paper in 1986, Peter Boxhall – fresh from the US and 1970s Chicago educated – suggested using monetary policy to reduce the inflation rate quickly to zero,

    David Morgan and Chris Higgins almost fell off their chairs. They had never heard of such radical ideas.

    In their breathless protestations, neither were sufficiently in-tune with their Keynesian educations to remember the role of sticky wages or the need for the monetary growth reductions to be gradual and, more importantly, credible as per Milton Freidman and as per Tom Sargent’s end of 4 big and two moderate inflations.

    I was far too junior to point to this gap in their analytical memories about the role of sticky wages, and I was having far too much fun watching the intellectual cream of Treasury senior management in full flight. (I read Friedman & Sargent much later).

  4. Robbo says:

    There are times in the history of a nation where sweeping the trash out and replacing it with better products is required. Now is such a time in Australia. Just have a good look at the performance of Treasury in recent times. Is anyone seriously suggesting that the people who are running that department have done a good job? The last thing that Tony Abbott needs when he takes over is being indecisive. He needs to be the very opposite of what we saw from Malcolm Fraser when he won a huge mandate in 1975.

  5. Geriatric Mayfly says:

    Are Swan’s daily ramblings, in answer to nearly every question in the House, all his own work or that of Treasury? If the latter, then there IS an intellectual deficit in the nation’s most important bureaucracy. The parrot’s lazy, repetitive responses are simply cringeworthy:
    Jobs and growth.
    We on this side of the House.
    Cuts to the bone.
    Those on that side of the House.
    The black hole and the crater.
    The global financial crisis.
    The investment pipeline.
    The envy of the developed world.
    Campbell Newman’s savage cuts ( to the bone)
    Dangerous global warming.

    In musical notation: Da Capo.

  6. Des Deskperson says:

    Interesting to note that, statistically at any rate, Treasury’s SES seems to be particularly inbred and long in the tooth. Treasury has a very high ratio of SES to other staff – one in 14 – but movements in and out seem minimal, with only 1 SES engagement and 3 SES promotions in the last FY (and it’s a reasonable surmise that those promotions were insiders)

  7. Alan Moran says:

    I guess many toyed with keeping Erik Honeker on to play an advisory role in a united German government. He had, after all, proven ability as an administrator

  8. Econocrat says:

    The idea that needs to be totally demolished is that only Treasury, or former Treasury, people can run Treasury. To the extent this idea prevails, it means the only contenders are climate change, anti-Coalition tragics such as Dr Parkinson and Dr Gruen.

    The place also needs a massive staff reduction to 350ish—down from 850ish—so that the people there actually have to do something, rather than sit around and fuel confirmation bias on taxing the rich, income redistribution, central economic planning, climate change and carbon taxes, and a whole range of other crap that only has currency at a dinner party in Ainslie, ACT.

  9. Skuter says:

    The idea that needs to be totally demolished is that only Treasury, or former Treasury, people can run Treasury. To the extent this idea prevails, it means the only contenders are climate change, anti-Coalition tragics such as Dr Parkinson and Dr Gruen.

    True. I’d say Ergas, Gaetjens or Boxall fit that mould, but I’d also throw Steve Kates’ name up as a dark horse. As an outsider with vast experience in IR from his days at ACCI, I’m betting he could effect the necessary changes quite nicely.

  10. I am the Walrus, koo koo k'choo says:

    Boxall.

    Problem solved.

  11. Des Deskperson says:

    ‘The place also needs a massive staff reduction to 350ish—down from 850ish’

    Treasury actually had 1285 staff at 30 June 2012!!!

  12. Econocrat says:

    Treasury actually had 1285 staff at 30 June 2012!!!

    FFS! And that’s post-voluntary redundancies!

  13. Empire Strikes Back says:

    I like the sound of Ergas. He has a way of demolishing magic pudding fantasies that would be popular with the punters and maximise leftoid head explosions. Question is…would he want to work for an authoritarian high taxing LNP government?

  14. Econocrat says:

    Women in Treasury = Judith Sloan

  15. Milton Von Smith says:

    “I won’t hide from the fact that when I found out what was going on it was like, oh my God…I know nothing about program design, about program delivery, about program risk management.”

    Martin Parkinson, March 2010.

  16. jupes says:

    Abbott needs to get rid of every single person in Treasury who reckons the CO2 Tax is good policy. With extreme prejudice.

    They are numpties.

  17. H B Bear says:

    Martin Parkinson should be the second item on Abbott’s To Do list after the Climate Commission.

    The post-Wombatian Treasury is the Canberra equivalent of the Augean Stables.

  18. Forester says:

    Do we need Treasury?

    Just pay off the debt and don’t borrow any more?

    Defence could be run as a self funding boutique ‘foreign legion’ mercenary service to the Europeans.

  19. Do we need Treasury?

    Just pay off the debt and don’t borrow any more?

    I’ve asked that question multiple times now, and each time it sinks like a lead Titanic, never to be seen again.

  20. WhaleHunt Fun says:

    A talent pool is preferable but not absolutely necessary. Removing them and replacing them with no one would mean nothing got done. This would mean we would continue our current rapid decline into penury instead of the continuing acceleration of the decline under the current damaging incompetents. Nobody is sometimes better than somebody if the somebody is a graduate of the school of stupid.

  21. Econocrat says:

    Nobody is sometimes better than somebody if the somebody is a graduate of the school of stupid.

    Revenue Group should be abolished to prevent them creating new taxes. Markets Group should be cut in half to stop them distroying markets.

  22. Boss Hog says:

    When I was in the public service I was frequently offered the sort of arguments, that Uren dishes up, when it was obvious that a particular department head (for example) should go. Usually by officers, from related departments, who feared the disruption and inevitable dislocation which accompanies a new regime. My response was, and probably still would be – what if he/she died tomorrow?

  23. Do we need Treasury?

    Just pay off the debt and don’t borrow any more?

    I’ve asked that question multiple times now, and each time it sinks like a lead Titanic, never to be seen again.

    See what I mean, Forester? A blog full of economists and no bloody answer. Even a simple ”Winston, you’re a bloody naive idiot’ would do the trick.

  24. Mk50 of Brisbane, Henchman to the VRWC says:

    …is a professional who realises that a new government may require a different type of Treasury head.

    Bwahahahahahaha!

    Just got an email from a contact in Treasury. I will post none of it here, so they cannot trace the person. Shall we just say that the word ‘head’ has two meanings, and that there is a lot of mirth in Treasury this morning, and descriptions of the sort of ‘Treasury Head‘ currently demanded by the ALPgreenfilther coalition?

    (yes yes, SFW, from Rocky Horror)

  25. Mother Hubbard's Dog says:

    The insular nature of Treasury, noted by Des Deskperson above, is, if anything, worsened by Parkinson’s stupid exchange program to try and get Treasury staff more “business oriented”. What sort of private sector firm would take on a used Treasury official? Either one from the FIRE sector or an economic consultancy firm, both of which are as remote from the concerns of real business as Treasury is.

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