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22 March 2014

The Peter Principle

The Peter Principle suggests that people will tend to be promoted until they reach their position of incompetence, and that is exactly what we are seeing with this Coalition government. They had six years in Opposition to develop their policies, and access to the Parliamentary Budgetary Office to cost them, but when it came to the crunch the cupboard was bare.

The assessment of the potential of an employee for a promotion is often based on their performance in the current job. Tony Abbott has been described as a very good Opposition leader. Personally I can't see it, but that's because I think all members of Parliament have been elected to help run the country. Achieving anything was never on Abbott's radar. His entire being was devoted to 'attack dog' and truth and decency were no impediment. He wanted to win at any cost as Tony Windsor revealed. But what now?

Over six months in and it is patently obvious that the Coalition have no plan at all other than to slowly and methodically pay hundreds of millions of dollars to private consulting firms and mates to see if they can come up with a way to make the Coalition's election promises feasible. We have well over fifty reviews and audits and white papers and green papers in progress. Any discussion of policy or direction turns into the mess left by the previous government. They fail to realise that they were elected to fix this perceived mess rather than waste time bemoaning it. You don't employ a new CEO to sit there saying 'wasnt me, was the other guy'.

The Royal Commission into the home insulation programme is a blatant attempt to discredit the previous government. The money would be far better spent implementing the recommendations from the eight inquiries we have already had. The Royal Commission into unions is another blatant attempt to discredit all unions, silence the collective voice of the workers, and taint the Labor Party for their traditional association with the unions. There do seem to be some problems in the construction industry but this would be far better investigated by a police task force who can actually prosecute people. If I was giving evidence about intimidation by bikies I would rather talk discreetly to the cops than to a televised circus who has no power to lock anyone up.

In the ultimate display of NIMBY, the Coalition is claiming success in its promise to 'stop the boats'. If the boats have stopped why are we paying the US $3 billion for unmanned drones and spending $7.5 million on orange disposable life rafts and $5.7 million on an intelligence gathering technology that aims to locate security threats on the water before they reach Australian shores. Not to mention the $16.8 million cost of extending naval vessel, the Triton, for six months and the $25 million cost of increasing the contract for the armed patrol vessel, the Ocean Protector. All they have done is build a very expensive dam against the rising tide of refugees, thus inundating transit countries who are far less able to help these people than we are.

They remain committed to spend $22 billion on paid parental leave even though the productivity commission said replacement wage PPL was inequitable, very costly, and of little benefit. All expert advice is that childcare is far more important in improving female workforce participation.

In the face of concerted worldwide action on climate change and investment in renewable energy, they insist they will axe the tax and get rid of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. This has nothing to do with making your electricity bill cheaper. If they truly wanted to do that they could easily make power GST free just like fresh food and encourage competition through the renewable energy sector. This is once again just a blatant attempt to discredit the previous government by blaming everything that happens on the carbon tax which is in fact a temporary fixed price emission trading scheme if we want to be correct.

For a government who wants to cut red tape, Direct Action and PPL are going to be administrative nightmares. We already see Operation Sovereign Borders requiring the co-operation of 15 departments, how many public servants will these three policies alone occupy?

Rather than being flexible enough to react to circumstances, or adaptable to changing conditions, or willing to take expert advice, the Coalition have a script which they are determined to deliver regardless of the cost or what is happening in the rest of the world.

The author of the Peter Principle suggests that 'work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence'. Rather than seeking to promote a talented 'super-competent' junior employee, Peter suggested that an incompetent manager may set them up to fail or dismiss them because they will likely violate the first commandment of hierarchical life with incompetent leadership: [namely that] the hierarchy must be preserved. We mustn't have any of those pesky scientists or expert public servants or, God forbid, women, showing us up.

Peter goes on to say that Staff who find themselves with what they consider to be incompetent superiors may try to manage upward and support or manipulate them to be more effective, or may simply devise ways to minimise the damage and influence they have on the organisation. Peta Credlin is never more than a few feet from Tony. She sits at the table with world leaders carefully managing what her creation says and does.

A similar theory was proposed by Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert cartoon series. In his 1996 book, The Dilbert Principle, Adams suggested that the least smart people are promoted, simply because they're the ones you don't want doing actual work. We really need to find something to keep George Brandis occupied or he is just going to keep spending a fortune on trashy books to fill his gargantuan custom-made bookcases, and on networking at weddings. Other than approving raids and redefining human rights, George has spent a lot of time correcting grammar in preparation for 'repeal day', the so-called bonfire of regulations.

The deregulation of financial advisers should give us all a clue about the mentality of this government. They have our money to invest but they refuse to be obligated to invest it in our best interest.

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