Throwing a hammer at a moving nail

Forget the line about to a hammer everything is a nail.  The new role of government is about buying a pile of hammers, issuing them to bureaucrats (new and to be hired) and asking them to throw them at anything that looks interesting.

Apparently the Commonwealth Government has a new agency called the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA).  Who knew?  Yet the role of this DTA is:

… to make it easy for people to deal with government. We help government transform services to be simple, clear and fast.

So yet again it seems that Government’s solution to poor government is …. more government.  One might imagine that easiest way for most people to deal with government is not to have to deal with government in the first place.   Clearly it is wishful for government to establish a Government Reduction Agency (GRA).  Maybe also when the government runs 100% of the economy, or what is left the economy, then all will be perfect.

So here we go:

The Digital Transformation Agency has revealed plans to prototype a welfare payment delivery system using blockchain technology.

That’s right.  Cart before the horse style.  Rather than working out the best way to delivery welfare payments and then finding the best technology, the DTA wants to pick the technology first and the work out the best way to deliver welfare payments using the pre-determined technology; irrespective off course of whether the distributed ledger solution is the best one.

Yes.  Let’s go to a cardiologist to assess our asthma problem and let them perform heart surgery to vary our breathing patterns to help with the asthma.  Brilliant aren’t they.

But who enables this crap.  The Liberal National Coalition Government of Australia.  As part of the 2018-2019 budget:

the Australian government also set aside AU$700,000 in funding for the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) to “investigate areas where blockchain technology could offer the most value for government services”.

Ignoring for a moment why the government wants to be in this area in the first place, other than to keep some unnecessary bureaucrats within DTA busy doing stuff that they don’t need to do, consider the crowding out effects.  There are lots of blockchain/distributed ledger projects currently going on in the private sector and what is the government doing?  They are bidding up the price of expertise so that some Minister can wear chinos and an open collar shirt at a press conference to look cool and hip.

But let’s not also forget the left hand – right hand ability of government to throw away tax dollars.

Somewhere else within the near $500 billion per annum bowels of government is  an agency called the CSIRO.  And within the CSIRO is something called Data61.  And what is this government agency called Data61 doing you may ask.  Here is a clue:

Funded under the National Innovation and Science Agenda, we have delivered two reports that examine the risks and opportunities of blockchain technology in Australia.


But alas.  There are no opportunities for savings within the Commonwealth Government; no efficiencies, no duplications, no unnecessary programs.

Clearly a 23.9% tax to GDP target will keep the growth of government in check.

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17 Responses to Throwing a hammer at a moving nail

  1. MACK

    Reminds me of the story of Jeff Kennett in Victoria going around the bureaucracy and asking people what they were up to. One bloke said he had very little to do and had asked for redundancy but nothing had happened.
    All problems in all organisations are due to bad management until proven otherwise, and this is certainly the case in the Commonwealth government and public service.

  2. Griffo

    This is a typical public service approach to technology. In Victoria and elsewhere around the country, this approach has resulted in millions of dollars wasted on technology that is not fit for purpose and has often had to be abandoned. Public service CEOs are too often soft touches for IT salesmen, in many cases ignoring the advice of their own IT staff.

  3. H B Bear

    What happened to those becardiganned bureaucrats at that Nudge Agency that Judith wrote about a while back? They would be very close to the front of the line when they start to get lined up against a wall at some point in the future.

  4. Dr Faustus

    The new role of government is about buying a pile of hammers, issuing them to and asking them to throw them at anything that looks interesting.

    And there is a long queue of bureaucrats (new and to be hired) cheering this on.

    None more emblematic than the ‘Expert Reference Group’ that enthused about the role that the Australian Government must play in conquering space, the final frontier:

    Realising the challenge for Australia to grow its share of the global space sector requires the Government to facilitate industry growth in the folowing key areas: increasing Australian industry participation in global projects by securing international partnership agreements; investing in industry-led collaborative research and development in the areas of strategic priority; and making full use of the purchasing power of Government by linking large and small business to civil space-related government projects and investments in space.

    This irresistible trill attracted $40 million in the Budget for a Space Agency – and provided a home for Dr Megan Clark (Chair of the Expert Group), as head of the new agency.

    This initiative will create 10,000 to 20,000 “high value” jobs that otherwise could never happen.
    Dead set.

  5. Confused Old Misfit

    So, if you want to deal digitally with, for example, Centrelink, you must have, at a minimum, a smart phone (with a charged battery), a username, a password and the code C’link will send you.
    They don’t make it fast, they don’t make it easy. The blockchain nonsense is a techie snowjob that some dimwit in the upper echelons of the APS has latched onto in order to appear “with it” and hip to the very latest technology.

  6. I’ve been involved in a number of government IT initiatives over the years and not one has been run efficiently or effectively.

    It’s not that there aren’t competent and skilled personnel involved, it’s the fact that there are unskilled and incompetent people involved at the higher levels. There are usually so many people in the higher-level decision chain that anything potentially good that could be achieved is immediately nullified.

    And the number of those unskilled and incompetent people increases exponentially with the cost of the project.

  7. Mark M

    Seems we will have to pay more for our carbon (sic) levels in space …
    4 Apr 2011: CSIRO chief Dr Megan Clark backs carbon price.

    What Level of CO2 inside International Space Station?
    Congressman Rohrabacher asks about what the space station inhabitants are breathing compared to our Earth’s atmosphere:

    Peak incompetence. Are we there yet?

  8. Pete of Perth

    As long as big government exists, we will never reach the apex of peak incompetence.

  9. Dr Fred Lenin

    Pete ,you have to admit that the public service has one good point, it keeps those incompetent clowns away from efficient business , even a short time with a good company would leave residual damage ,the resemblance between the PS and the polliemuppets is uncanny ,failed lawyers and failed teachers would fit right in to the swamp,they are interchangeable it seems .

  10. Tom

    Clearly a 23.9% tax to GDP target will keep the growth of government in check.

    A week after the Budget, it’s occurred to me that this is yet another sleight of hand by the Trumble Black Hand Coalition Team, designed to understate total government spending.

    According to the Budget papers, 2018-19 total taxation revenue is $428 billion, but total government spending blows out to $488 billion — 25.7% of GDP and the biggest government burden in history.

    And spending will keep climbing to $540 billion in 2021-22, which, according to Treasury estimates will by then be “only” 24.9% of GDP.

    Under the Trumble Black Hand Coalition Team, Big Government is out of control and is crushing the economy, which, as a result, is permanently on the verge or recession. There are no more mining booms to save us.

  11. hergo007

    Sadly, the DTA is just feeding of the standard operational processes inherent in Departmental operations. So, many technology heads and CIO’s choose the technology before looking at the requirements. It’s called the bright shiny toy syndrome.
    Having worked as a consultant to Govt for decades it can be soul crushing, but it pays the bills. The general rule is new Department, same old problem.

  12. egg_

    Throwing a hammer at a moving nail

    No wuz, hiviz all round.

  13. JohnA

    the role of this DTA is:

    … to make it easy for people to deal with government. We help government transform services to be simple, clear and fast.

    This body is an exercise in futility. It will attract time-wasters and wheel-spinners but will drive away all those with any zeal, initiative or technical competence, because the objective is impossible of achievement.

  14. Dr Fred Lenin

    Why not pay a firm of forensic accountants on contract to go through every department and quango thoroughly and submit a binding report to decrease public spending . The contract could be one year renewable ,no doubt it could become an ongoing job keeping the PS under control . This move accompanied by one year performance based contracts for all public employees would increase efficiency and reduce spending . Just a thought why not put politicians on the one year performance based contracts , and limit the time they can spend in parliament to destroy career politics . We could certainly attract better quality people to the job than the career muppets we have . Get elected ,work hard for your country for one term then hand over to fresh people ,sounds better that the swamp that exists now.

  15. stackja

    Dr Fred, saints needed.

  16. nerblnob

    pick the technology first and the work out the best way to deliver

    As for energy policy, or anything “green”.

    Or pretty much anything government run.

  17. Amadeus

    Classic bureaucracy – randomly pick a solution to make you look smart and in “the know” and then run around to create a problem to fit it. Nothing has changed since I called it quits in Canberra in 1985. Efficiency in government? Talk about an oxymoron…

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