What do we need in our State government?
Historically, our governments have been made up of (usually) well-meaning individuals with little or no previous experience in the work of the portfolios that they are assigned.
Few Ministers for Health have ever held a degree in medicine, few Attorneys General have ever practiced at length in the law, few Ministers for Transport have been engineers or pilots or train drivers or bus drivers or have ever been involved in the planning and regulation of traffic and pedestrian flows in our cities, few Treasurers have ever had to organize the finances of large corporations or have been successful in business.
Essentially we have had government by collaborative amateurs.
Now, on the odd occasion when elected officials makes up for their lack of experience with enthusiasm, drive and a willingness to learn, then we can usually cope with and adapt to the results that emerge.
It’s when these qualities are lacking that we truly get the governments we deserve.
Large government contracts balloon out the public debt through lack of proper monitoring and scrutiny, decisions made concerning spending on education, health, law and order, welfare, infrastructure and the wide range of issues in which government is involved get skewed by emerging from a knowledge base that is lacking.
We then have the spectacle of our politicians needing to pretend that they know what they are talking about because it would be political folly to admit otherwise. We see them becoming overnight experts on complex issues such as nuclear power after a quick overseas trip to visit some far off land. We see them elevating themselves to the level of expert by unashamedly granting to themselves positions of high office in their profession. We see them stubbornly maintain their stated positions on child care or energy supply, despite the truly disastrous consequences that their policies have wrought on those under their care.
But most of all, what we see is a group of people who are simply loath to accept their policy inadequacies and are steadfastly determined not to admit even the tiniest skerrick of responsibility.
It is not their fault, now or ever. It is the fault of the wind, the rain, the heat, the federal politicians, the Labor Party, the Liberal Party, the preference deals, the strange political alliances.
When a government can’t admit that it is wrong, when politicians can’t accept that their time in Parliament has been largely ineffective and pointless, then public resentment builds and builds to a point where its only outlet is in an electoral explosion.
But the dangers of mediocrity becoming the norm not only applies to tired, failed governments. The wrath of the electorate can be equally felt by an invisible or an inactive Opposition.
For if a government has failed by its inability to produce effective governance when allowed 14 years to prove itself, then it is right to ask what has the Opposition contributed over that same 14 year period, what has it added to the political discourse that drives the development of policy?
Political accountability demands that the Opposition also be closely scrutinised to see exactly how it has spent its time, who has been a worker and who has been a watcher or a sleeper.
In other words, if the Opposition had not existed at all, would our lives have been any different over the last two and a half decades? Have they made any difference at all?
So to return to the opening question.
What we do not need is more of the same. We have been brought to this nadir by the mostly well-meaning efforts of a long list of amateurs. Surely when considering who to vote for and later, who to appoint to which Ministry, we could do far better to appoint those with some relevant experience in the areas in which they are to represent us. Whether they need to be “full time” politicians, in the sense that they would sit in Parliament day after day achieving very little, is debatable.
But even the part time contributions of experienced and qualified people in the areas of their expertise would be infinitely better than the half baked, misinformed musings of another batch of amateurs.