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 The national cabinet is a national disgrace

15.01.22.  How many times has it been said on this blog when referring to government that poor judgement is the mark of poor leadership. A national cabinet was always going to be a farce because egos rule in Australian politics. To begin with, the ethos of both major parties, Liberal and Labor do not blend. Morrison’s way of trying to be all things to all players was and always will be an error of judgement. Proof of that is obvious via the flagrant bloodymindedness of the Queensland, Victorian and WA premiers.
There are many things birthed in and by this pandemic, the end of which I cannot wait to witness. The list is long. It is comprehensive. It is the embodiment of a Covid-inspired hit list, the contents of which Australians should never be subject to again. There’s strong competition for top spot but I’m handing it to the failed exercise that is national cabinet. Born of a genuine desire to unify our federation at a time of crisis, it’s been a powerful insight into ego, political horse-trading and what happens when you elevate certain individuals above their capacity and ability.

Source: Gemma Tognini for NCA

National cabinet tops the lengthy post-Covid hit list

It fertilised a new brand of horrible, state-based tribalism, and gave rogue premiers a powerful tool to consistently undermine the Prime Minister in the name of “safety”. Month after month they’d sit there, agreeing to a plan one moment (accepting millions in federal funding via JobKeeper, which kept entire state economies from falling off the cliff), all the while with their fingers shamefully crossed behind their backs.
That’s what misplaced trust looks like.
National cabinet should have an end. Soon. Firstly, it’s a cabinet in name only. Agreements are no sooner reached than abandoned.
Secondly, Australia needs less government. Not more.
But this week, he who would be prime minister reminded Australians that should he reach The Lodge, Anthony Albanese not only wants to keep the national cabinet, he wants it bigger, promising to give local government a seat at national cabinet. Another layer on Australia’s bureaucratic cake.
Can’t you just see it? Bill Heslop from Porpoise Spit, strolling into the room bellowing, “you can’t stop progress!”.
This policy was first mentioned last year, shared with delegates at the 27th National General Assembly of Local Government. Delegates were told a Labor government would ensure local government is invited to national cabinet to bring a focus on urban policy to a national stage. Over the past week or so, the Opposition Leader spoke repeatedly via his social media account, promising “A Labor government I lead will ensure local government is represented at national cabinet”.
Great stuff. No doubt it will appeal to the legion of Australian voters who eagerly anticipate receiving and paying their council rates, and enjoy the consistent, streamlined, efficiency offered by local bureaucracy.
More government, more often! Not only more government, but one for which there is no federal constitutional provision. Each LGA sits under the jurisdiction of each state and territory government.
Maybe it was just a political motherhood statement but given federal Labor’s historical penchant for expanding government, it’s worth at least attempting to tease it out.
There are 537 local councils in Australia so assuming everyone gets a seat at the table (because, inclusion) there might need to be a slightly bigger room. Certainly, the catering budget will explode.
The rationale, according to Albanese, is to facilitate a united approach on certain matters, which sounds excellent but denies reality. I’d love to understand how national cabinet could or even should deliver a united approach to urban planning that is suitable to Australia’s smallest municipality, Peppermint Grove (just 1.4sq km and 1524 residents) as well as the City of Sydney or the Shire of Scenic Rim.
Perhaps this idea is just about giving more people a seat at the decision-making table, to dilute responsibility. Perhaps it’s about giving yet another layer of government the opportunity to be two-faced on a national scale. Perhaps it’s an attempt to appeal to the cohort of Australians who during this pandemic have simply adored being over-governed. You know them. Govern me more closely. Remove from me any concept of personal responsibility and I promise I’ll thank you for it.
It’s one of those ideas that sounds like it may have positives, but really, should not be entertained by sensible people anywhere. What’s more, in recent years too many local councils have, in my view, been influenced by those with wider political ambition and we find ourselves dealing with municipalities more interested in condemning Israel, declaring climate emergencies and diving into debates about Australia Day.
And they wonder why we ratepayers hand over our cash through gritted, frustrated teeth.
Local government serves an important purpose and when done well, communities thrive and flourish into lively, vibrant, connected places (on that point, may I tip my hat to the City of Vincent in WA).
Local government’s purpose is reflected in its name.
Australia has had four prime ministers who served on local councils. John Gorton (Kerang Shire Council), Ben Chifley (Abercrombie Shire Council) Earle Page (South Grafton Council) and Arthur Fadden (Townsville City Council) but it’s fair to say the shape, form and function of local government was very different back then, which, of course, reflects a different era.
One thing that speaks to all generations though is the need for efficiency and simplicity. Good, effective local government has an important place and role in Australian communities. That’s where it belongs and should stay. As for national cabinet? The sooner we see the end of it, the better.

Gemma Tognini is executive director of GT Communications.

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • luk1955 15/01/2022, 6:26 am

    Finally a fakestream idiot who sees that the national cabinet is not a constitutional authority. And Gemma, as long as you practice the social distancing, injecting of untested chemicals into your body, the face nappying, qr tracking of your every move, paying by card, you are helping the plandemic to continue. Ditch the failed control policies and you will be free again. Compliance only brings MORE tyranny.

    • DT 15/01/2022, 11:03 am

      Please explain why getting close to 95 per cent of vaccinated Australians are idiots?

      What chemicals are injected?

      How about a link to your claim of “untested” because in Australia and elsewhere that is incorrect.

      Pandemic continues because of vaccinations does it. So why do our leading medical professionals not say that? But it is agreed that there will be more mutations into new strains of the virus in future but also people’s immune systems will become more resistant and the vaccinations will provide that pathway. Season influenza develops into new strains and requires boosters.

      • Muphin 15/01/2022, 3:00 pm

        “”Please explain why getting close to 95 per cent of vaccinated Australians are idiots?””

        Because the smart ones refuse to be poisoned by a experimental substance.

  • Cliff 15/01/2022, 6:31 am

    Scottie, go.

    We’re witnessing a repeat of 1972 and the MacMahon government debacle. And even more unfortunately, we’re about to witness a repeat of the even bigger Whitlam debacle with an Albanese government.

    Scottie, you’re the only man with the power to stop it.

    By going. Now.

    • DT 15/01/2022, 11:05 am

      Are you serious?

  • Honeybadger 15/01/2022, 9:17 am

    Throughout the last 2 horror years Gemma’s commentary has been a breath of fresh air.
    National Cabinet seemed like a cohesive idea for sensible people but should have been disbanded 6 months from inception. The ego driven Premiers had nailed their colours to the mast but no judgement Scottie, couldn’t see it. Left is left and right is right and never the twain shall meet. The left embrace no personal responsibility with gimme gimme, and conservatives want control of their own lives as much as possible. If only there was such a thing as a benevolent dictator!

  • wal1957 15/01/2022, 10:12 am

    Let’s cut all the BS and get right to the nut of the problem.
    Politicians are inherently egotistical blowhards who care more about themselves than doing what is in the best interests of the country.
    National cabinet was never going to work. Did anyone think that politicians would join together as one to do what is right for a change? Not me.

    “We’re all in this together”
    “Just 2 weeks to flatten the curve”
    “Keeping Queenslanders safe”
    “Queensland hospitals are for Queenslanders”
    The list is endless.
    Stuff the moronic imbeciles and those that are part of their cheer squad!

  • Aktosplatz 15/01/2022, 10:26 am

    I said the other day that Albanese’s best chance of winning this forthcoming election, is to stay silent. Keep his trap shut.

    But instead,he has spoken about the National Cabinet and said:-

    “But this week, he who would be prime minister reminded Australians that should he reach The Lodge, Anthony Albanese not only wants to keep the national cabinet, he wants it bigger, promising to give local government a seat at national cabinet. Another layer on Australia’s bureaucratic cake.”

    He wants it bigger! We,on the other hand, don’t even want it! We want less government, public servants, and red tape, not more!

    There’s the first public example of Labor snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

    • DT 15/01/2022, 10:57 am

      I won’t share it with readers here but over the past week I have listened to some very astute observations about the 2022 Federal Election campaign, the published polls (as compared to what parties commission and do not publish) and generally including Albo and colleagues on an individual analysis basis, and my conclusion would upset some contributors here, particularly the repeat hopefuls of a minor party dominance.

  • DT 15/01/2022, 10:44 am

    Given that constitutional laws separate the powers and responsibilities of Federal and State governments what other way could a Prime Minister try to gain cooperation and coordination between Premiers and their State Governments?

    Was Labor PM Keating also wrong when he created COAG (Council Of Australian Governments) which the National Leaders Cabinet replaced? The only difference is number people attending the meetings or video conferences now. Keating famously remarked that standing in the way of a Premier and a bucket of money was a dangerous position.

    One of criticisms is closure of interstate borders, well that was confirmed by a WA Court and later the High Court of Australia, State Governments can do that under certain circumstances but generally they cannot. Pandemic was a good reason the Courts decided. Nothing the PM or Federal Government could do about it. But they were blamed for not.

  • DT 15/01/2022, 10:53 am

    NLC, “it’s a cabinet in name only”, really, who would have thought that before this author pointed it out – sarcasm!

    The Federal Government cannot control Premiers and State Governments, despite the misleading claims to the contrary posted here from time to time. The writers seem to have ignored the separation of responsibilities and powers and relied upon the correct point that if a State Government legislates or acts to infringe Commonwealth-Federal areas of responsibility and powers the Federal Government neutralises the State position. VicGov Belt&Road Agreement with the CCP for example, and that new legislation now extends to other areas including leasing of State or Territory owned ports by States and Territories to foreigners.

    The NLC was sensibly created from COAG to provide a forum for discussion between the leaders aimed at gaining cooperation and coordination during the pandemic. Astute observers, as compared to the endless supply sources of negativity towards our PM, realise that Labor Premiers chose to abuse the forum for party political purposes targeting the 2022 Federal Election, and shamefully regardless of their impact on the people they represent.

    • Albert 15/01/2022, 11:25 am

      “aimed at gaining cooperation and coordination during the pandemic”. Really? That worked well didn’t it?

    • Aktosplatz 15/01/2022, 11:35 am

      The mechanism of the National Cabinet, compared with COAG is worth looking at.

      Are they ‘real’ meetings with action minutes, or just discussions? How did COAG operate in comparison?

      The tragedy of the National Cabinet (IMO) is that it revealed much disunity and non-cooperation between parties , as each State embarked on doing their own thing. For instance I cannot believe Pallychook told the National Cabinet that ‘Qld Hospitals are only for Queenslanders’.

      I’ve worked with people like that, those who help forge an agreement in an important meeting which they immediately trash while just leaving down the corridor, usually because ‘someone has just thought of a better idea’.

      Anyway, Albo clearly would make things worse if he got in, am grateful for the heads up.

  • ibbit 15/01/2022, 11:55 am

    Gemma’s comment is sensible. The National cabinet has been grabbed onto by the premiers for political purposes and they have used it shamefully.
    And sad to say, its very existence has undermined most of what the PM tried to do, or was trying to do.
    The national cabinet was a big mistake due to the premiers, so it has to go as we can’t get rid of the premiers who are really a national disgrace.
    The PM’s success or otherwise is about to be tested in an election and most sensible Australians should hope that Albonese and his stupid hat are not in charge post election.

    • Aktosplatz 15/01/2022, 12:03 pm

      I know anyone can be wise in hindsight, but I think the National Cabinet could have been restructured as follows.

      The Federal Cabinet allocates a current minister to each State together with two appropriate Senators from their relevant State. And they go head-to-head with each State Premier and his State Cabinet, feeding back to the Federal Body.

      That may have helped these back door “corridor decisions” that happen after the NCL meetings.

      Anyway it’s too late now.

      • ibbit 15/01/2022, 12:14 pm

        I reasonable idea with one thing standing in its way – the premiers.
        Reading about and listening to the Victorian premier has made me think we are lucky not to have such a dictatorial person in charge of the Country. Big difference between strong leadership and dictatorial tendencies.
        And the Queensland premier is not really clever enough to be a dictator, she is simply a bully of the worst kind – lacking in understanding and compassion of any sort.

      • Disgruntled 15/01/2022, 2:43 pm

        ibbit; your take on the Queensland premier and her bunch fell far short of what they really are; You could have mentioned that they are the most inept and incompetent Govt ever to reign in Qld. With great emphasis on the most inept and incompetent bit.

        They just stumble along and the state seems to not run because of them bit in spite of them! Their handling of the covid issue has been incredibly stupid. I know; many will say I am stupid and she kept us safe; yes; but at what cost? And she still tries to push hard the tactics of SCARE to the extreme!!

        Talking of ineptness and incompetence; What about Wellcamp? That was obvious to any sane person that it was never going to be needed (especially at Wellcamp anyway) and it has played out that way now after all.

        The only reason for it was so the Premier could put the middle finger up to the Feds. At any cost; our cost!!
        The way it was done was disgraceful; NO OTHER department either state or local was consulted in any way. Even the Toowoomba Council Mayor knew absolutely nothing prior to her announcement.

        They will NOT release any figures or detail (probably they themselves don’t even know) and some costs of the 50 to 80 million dollars range are being bandied about??
        Figures of $1 million + per week are being bandied about for running the joint and that is supposed to be on a contractual basis and ongoing; for how long nobody is saying!!

        I shudder to think what the Olympic games thingys are going to end up being as already a lot of complexities are spoken of; They just wouldn’t know! If they do know they are not saying. My money is on the don’t know bit! It might be said that the Feds are partners but that is no consolation either!

        DT stated earlier that standing in the way of a Premier and a bucket of money was a dangerous position.
        I state that standing in the way of a Premier without a bucket of money is just as a dangerous position. (especially Annastacia Palaszczuk; and hasn’t she got nasty as she goes along; power corrupts fully!)

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