Ministerial musical chairs means bad government

The lamentable leadership woes of the Australian Labor Party have kept us in thrall like watching a train wreck unfold for the past four years. It has been a dispiriting and disillusioning detraction from good government.

But there is another dimension to the jockeying for position that has gone largely unremarked. It is the almost constant rotation of Labor MPs into the cabinet and the wider Ministry.

Julia Gillard’s recent purge of Kevin Rudd supporters – and those who refused to give her the satisfaction of vanquishing them and fell on their swords – has highlighted a twisted game of musical chairs in the nation’s highest level of elected administration.

So far, in just over five years, 58 of Labor’s 102 MPs have held a frontbench position. The various nights of the long knives and even the afternoon of the blunt knives has seen an unprecedented number of MPs lined-up for photos with the Governor-General as she has sworn them into Ministerial office.

Gillard herself has given this practice a massive boost by implementing no less than five reshuffles of her own. Perhaps she keeps looking for MPs who like her. Or trust her judgment. Or think she can win the next election.

Whatever, it means that good government has become a forlorn hope, a real lost cause.

Imagine the task facing each of these 58 new Ministers as they scramble to learn the intricacies of their vast responsibilities while also keeping alive their personal vote back home in their electorate.

It is a massive challenge and one that not all are suited to.

And, let’s face it, not all those elected to parliament – from any political party – have the desired intellectual and disciplinary capability demanded of Ministerial office.

Labor has just made a farce of good government as it focuses more on self-aggrandisement rather than serving the people.

Yet, the Coalition should not escape scrutiny in this, either. The constant focus on Tony Abbott as the alternative prime Minister has meant that we have very little idea of how his own frontbench might perform if elected to government.

How many of us can name the key portfolios various Coalition luminaries will hold? And have we seen enough of them to be able to judge how they might perform when subjected to the immense pressure of Ministerial responsibilities?

The sad reality is that the Australian public is being treated with callous disregard as politicians on all sides play the game to look after themselves and not us. It really is time for change.



Acknowledgement: Emma Griffiths, ABC News chief political correspondent