The Administrative State

Whenever I think about the growth of the administrative state, I am reminded of the brilliant BBC government documentary series – Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister.  In particular the episode – A Compassionate Society.

In this episode, the Minister visits a recently opened hospital.  It has 500 administrators but no patients, no doctors, no nurses.  The chief administrator does not want to take patients because it would affect the hospital’s efficiency and reduce the life of equipment.

No patients.  No doctors.  No nurses.  Sounds like the Commonwealth Department of Health.

I will leave it to others section to make comment on the contribution of the Union delegate.



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18 Responses to The Administrative State

  1. Greg

    This actually happened in Victoria, I think under the Kirner government, with a hospital in the western suburbs, fully staffed, but no patients.

  2. Mollusc

    Brilliant series and a brilliant episode. What’s amazing (or frightening) is how relevant this 30+ year old series still is today.

  3. Fred Lenin

    I lived in a country town where a new hospital secretary began empire building .he was re named CEO ,and recruited masses of office staff . At a function ,I suggested he get rid of the patients ,he would have more room to build offices ,and could get rid of doctors and nurses ,thus having more money to employ admin “workers ” ,three doctors in the group I was in agreed with me,the CEO went off in “High Dungeon” ,grossly offended by the TRUTH !

  4. P

    Brilliant series and a brilliant episode. What’s amazing (or frightening) is how relevant this 30+ year old series still is today.

    It’s my favourite episode.

    Ellen of Tasmania Tuesday 1 Dec 15.

  5. Robber Baron

    I know a university that has half the student numbers it had 2 years ago, but the salaries of the bosses have all increased by around 50%. Go figure!

  6. JohnA

    Every episode is available for regular viewing in this household, always enjoyed and lessons absorbed on a regular basis.

  7. "Up The Workers!"

    Correct, Greg.

    If memory serves, that hospital was the new “Sunshine Hospital”, a massive big place on Furlong Road, St Albans.

    That was the ONLY enterprise in the whole of Miss Piggy’s fetid sty which was NOT run at a massive loss.

    Then they buggered it up by putting all these malingering SICK PEOPLE and Doctors and Nurses and the like, in there.

  8. kevin

    Doug Cameron’s brother?

  9. Diogenes

    Iirc there were whole floors in the QE11 hospital in Brisbane that were empty, built in case of extra demand during the Commonwealth Games. When the area grew enough to cause the operating theatres to be opened , the equipment had to be replaced as it was obsolete.

  10. Des Deskperson

    My favourite ‘Yes Minister’ line was Sir Humphrey’s description of some cabinet members: “the Industry Secretary is the idlest man in town, the Education Secretary is illiterate and the Employment Secretary is unemployable”

    It always reminds me of back in the eighties when I ran the NZ desk – among others – in a certain department and when the NZ Minister for Defence under the left wing Lange Government was a declared pacifist.

    “..and the Minister for Defence won’t fight”.

  11. a reader

    Sounds like the new RAH. Supposed to be finished in April, no patients until at least September.

  12. Ubique

    After working for a number of years in regional WA, she who must be obeyed worked in a largish Commonwealth Department in Canberra about nine years ago. She was amazed that there was virtually no one to be seen in the office before 0900 hrs and reckoned you could fire a howitzer in the place everyday at 1600 hrs and not injure anyone. People were constantly on training courses and when in the office at all were constantly ducking out to attend school functions or take their kids to music lessons. She found that while staff were mainly not unintelligent and were well educated, most were underemployed and had little responsibility despite being paid very well.

    There is an enormous amount of money to be saved if we ever get a government that grasps the nettle and sends two thirds of the Commonwealth public service packing.

  13. Boambee John

    Ubique @ 2042:

    I commented on another thread that an arbitrary reduction of staff numbers by 10% in any bureaucracy will have no effect (other than saving money, of course). A further reduction of 10% will start to produce efficiencies. A further reduction of 5% will optimise efficiency.

    This is efficiency only in a bureaucratic sense. There is always a proportion who sit quietly in a corner, not detracting from efficiency by actually doing anything, but costing less money than they would if thrown out onto their own resources, soon to be followed by them becoming clients of various “caring” organisations, government and non-government.

    Beyond the 25% mark, it starts to get hard, however.

    I base this on over 30 years as a Commonwealth public servant, having been involved on several occasions in “efficiency” reviews.

  14. Ubique

    Beyond the 25% mark, it starts to get hard

    The big reductions in numbers can be achieved by removing Commonwealth duplication. The Department of Health, which has virtually zero service delivery responsibilities, could be closed. The Commonwealth could otherwise shut down most of the Department of Education as well getting out of interfering in public transport, ports, railways, local government, regional development, urban planning, indigenous affairs and climate change to list but a few areas.

  15. Fuck, this is easy!
    Remove pointless staff & pointless processes.

    1/. when presenting at hospital emergency room @3am, I’ve been asked three times by three different staff, for my name, dob, address, etc. At best ask once, or even better, have a doctor or even a nurse attend the patient.

    2/. as said above, stop the pointless training courses. they achieve nothing – the staff could try, y’know, doing some work instead.

    3/. cut out the pointless processes. whenever immigration attend my workplace, they always do it in pairs. there is no need. the council health inspector does his job alone, the council building inspector does his job alone.
    so why do softcock commonwealth departments, that aren’t achieving anything anyway, using two people? if you’re going to achieve nothing, achieve it with only one person.

    4/. get rid of 30% of police. this is my best estimate of the amount of police time used to harass middle class law abiding businesses or people (example; me) where there will be no change of behaviour or increased risk to the public by removing the police harassment.

    5/. eliminate all jobsworth type red tape and regulation. a minimum of half regulatory & legislative compliance serves no public interest, does not improve public benefit or public safety, and costs a lot of time & effort by commonwealth/state/council to police, for no gain whatsoever.
    (example: an inspector comes around every so often to check all my staff have completed the 2-day or the 1-day course in how to not serve drunks – this requirement, and the policing of it, are pointless) (another example: two fat women – it could be done by one fat woman – comes around every so often to ensure nobody in the outdoor smoking area is munching on a packet of crisps – how fucking stupid is this?)

    I could go on. But y’all have got the picture, there are tremendous savings to be made, without harming the standard of service one bit.

  16. Snoopy

    SATP, the reason they send round two fat ladies is that if they sent just one you might seduce her.

  17. iamok

    All good and necessary but the govts will not take on the unions meeja staff for fear of losing the fight. Gutless wonders all of them.

    We all know what needs to be done as it is outlined again and again above. It ain’t hard to work it out but unfortunately ee do not have fighters in govt anymore, we almost exclusively have leeches. And there is not enough salt for all of them.

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