CPDS Home Contact Professionalism: Chronological Summary

13 January 2007

Dr Scott Prasser
Sunshine Coast University

'Rudd's Ruthless Style Entrenched Labor'

I should like to provide some feedback in relation to your recent article which suggested that Queensland's Goss Government (under the guise of implementing the Fitzgerald reforms) had put in a political fix in favour of the Labor Party and tightly centralized control, rather than effectively achieving democratic reform. You also suggested that Kevin Rudd's potential as Australia's Prime Minister should be judged by what happened when he had a powerful role under that Government.

My interpretation of your article: Kevin Rudd has had no ministerial experience, and his performance as Prime Minister could best be judged by his pivotal role in Queensland's Goss government. That Government promised to implement the Fitzgerald agenda for parliamentary and public service reform. Rudd was Goss's chief-of-staff in opposition and Director General of the new cabinet office. Given the latter's role in overseeing the cabinet process, Rudd was defacto head of the Premier's department, Goss's closest advisor and the premier's Mr Fixit. And the Goss administration did fix government in Queensland in favour of Labor under the mantle of Fitzgerald reforms. There were worthwhile procedural changes, restructurings and electoral reforms. But aided by partisans such as Rudd the Goss government implemented a new political fix of increased centralized control, partisan appointments across the public service, media management, continued executive dominance of Queensland unicameral legislature and containment of corruption watchdogs such as the CJC. Where Fitzgerald had sought public service independence and expertise, the Goss Government increased political control. The PSMC (not a recommendation of Fitzgerald) was run by those with close ALP connections, and used as an instrument of increased executive and partisan control of the public service. Rudd's rapid advancement heightened perceptions of politicization. Replacement of many senior officials with those having Labor connections smacked of revenge rather than reform. Rudd ran the office of cabinet ruthlessly in relation to ministers and public servants meeting the premier's demands - and was known as Dr Death for his single mindedness of purpose and style. His actions led to considerable strains within the government and were seen to have contributed to the Goss government's poor 1995 election results. Elsewhere the stress was on control rather than democratic reform. Parliamentary reform hardly progressed. Performance audits by the Auditor general were rejected. There was ongoing conflict with the CJC as it intruded into executive actions. The CJC's chairman saw competing agendas to lessen the impact of Fitzgerald reforms and daily messages from various political quarters suggesting that the CJC should drop dead. EARC (which was to recommend on electoral and administrative reform) was terminated (prematurely?) because it was a source of advice outside the executive process. The Goss Government implemented the Fitzgerald reforms in form, but not in spirit. Executive control, secrecy, manipulated employment processes remained. To get an idea of what a Rudd Labor Government might look like consider what happened when Rudd held sway under Goss - which was not a picture to admire (Prasser S., 'Rudd's ruthless style entrenched Labor', Australian, 11/1/07)

While I personally have no clear picture of who was most to blame for the abortive 'reforms' under the Goss administration and suspect that systemic factors were mostly responsible, I have to point out that the consequences were not limited to a failure to improve the democratic process as you suggested.

There were many adverse practical consequences that also need to be taken into account to fully assess the history of the Goss Government. To consider only a few examples:

Moreover, not only was the democratic reform of Queensland's institutions ineffective, but abuses related to the state's political and judicial system seem to have continued (see Reform of Queensland Institutions - or a Rising Tide of Public Hypocrisy?).


John Craig