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Intellectual Arrogance: Unfortunately Mr Rudd is Not Alone (Email sent 16/6/10)

Brian Toohey

Re: 'Know-all Rudd has no use for advice', Australian Financial Review, 15/6/10

I noted that your article suggested, in relation to Australia's Prime Minister, that:

"Intellectual arrogance provides part of the answer to why he feels no need to bounce ideas off his parliamentary colleges or take calm advantage of the talent available in the public service and elsewhere'.

However, while Mr Rudd seems to be particularly at risk, it is likely that Australia's political establishment generally suffers from a failure to recognise the vital importance of informed, practical and independent advice.

Queensland's Worst Government outlines how another government managed many years ago to 'snatch political defeat from the jaws of probable victory' by its refusal to listen to advice or the voices of experience in an autocratic approach to implementing its idealistic policies. While Mr Rudd had a central role in that administration and many in the Queensland ALP (and various other observers) believe that he was primarily to blame (eg see King M., 'Rudd learns to duck', Courier Mail, 25/1/05; and 'Rudd's Ruthless Style Entrenched Labor'), it is unlikely that he was solely responsible for what went wrong.

Moreover other governments have been similarly afflicted by a loss of contact with reality - especially since widespread acceptance of public service politicisation caused political leaders to be surrounded by 'yes men' and at risk of losing touch with the fact that not everyone shares their assumptions (see Decay of Australian Public Administration). Also the more governments sincely try to ensure that they have access to competent professional advice, the more they are likely to end up surrounded by 'yes men' - because of the fact that they can't know what they don't know (see Turning a Blind Eye to Incompetence and Abuse of Power).

There is nothing new about what is now happening, and there is little to be gained by scapegoating Mr Rudd. The real problem seems to be that Australia's politicians generally are slow learners.

John Craig