Tuesday, May 24, 2011

More gratuitous advice for the ALP

I know I'm on safe ground giving advice to the ALP, as they don't listen. So I know I'll never have to face the task of explaining how they failed after following my advice, and will always be able to say "If only they had listened ..." {and join the ranks of the great seer Bob Ellis}.

The current discussion is all about the crisis in Julia Gillard's leadership. Writing in Business Spectator Rob Burgess rightly points out that any move on the Gillard leadership would be terminal. He also points out the risk inherent in the large number of former NSW operatives now without gigs trying to influence Canberra. (There is a counter-view that the factional warriors that used to be on Ministerial staff to do factional work now have to have real jobs and hence no time).

There is no doubt that the Gillard Government needs to improve its narrative. Intriguingly just before the decision to roll Kevin Rudd I couldn't find a real weakness in the Ministry at large, yet now they seem to be everywhere. One glaring gap is the role Lindsay Tanner used to play as Minister for Finance and convincing spokesperson on everything.

Moving Penny Wong from Climate Change to Finance was a good move to get a different voice on climate change. She is also clearly very administratively good, but her personality is far more suited to something like Attorney-General.

More generally though the overall Ministry List shows the tendency to the State ALP disease of meaningless titles and administrative blancmange. Five Ministers with portfolios within PM&C is not so much a luxury as a farce. Meanwhile Senator Conroy carries DBCDE without so much as a Parl Sec. Most of these have actual real jobs as well, but it means that the administrative process is unnecessarily complex.

It is also time to move on a few of the old stagers. Jenny Macklin should be retired and Simon Crean needs to replace John Faulkner's role as Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary. Martin Ferguson is another who needs to be tapped now. The long snazzy titles need to stripped - Kim Carr as Minister for Industry and Science would be the same as Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Conroy as Minister for Communication would be the same as Minister for Broadband, Communication and the Digital Economy.

Climate Change and the Environment are not and cannot be different portfolios. Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, Resources and Energy should be one Ministry with a junior Minister assigned part thereof.

Deregulation belonged in the Finance portfolio only because it was a special interest of Lindsay Tanner's, but it is really part of Treasury. And that is the last real problem - Wayne Swan has
like so many of his colleagues been a very capable administrator of the budget and economic management. But he doesn't inspire confidence and the public has no idea what he says or does.

The ALP needs to create a strong praetorian around Gillard. A leadership team of Gillard, Smith, Rudd, Crean (as Special Minister of State), and Combet needs some extra spine on the Treasury/economy front. Given where he sits as Assistant Treasurer and given his ambition (and given that really Combet or Shorten is the logical next leader after Gillard retires as a long term successful PM or loses an election) Shorten should probably be given the Treasuer's gig.

This small group needs to lead the communication program of projecting the ALP's leadership credentials.

Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est

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