By Font PR Strategic Partner Paul Arnold
While the resignation of State Minister, Matthew Groom comes as a shock, it is not surprising to the casual observer. State ministers are under enormous pressure hour by hour, day by day, week by week. Not surprising the workload and pressure takes its toll on any reasonable person somewhat connected to the world of government administration. I admire every Minister that takes on such a workload, and I am sure most people would commiserate with them, if they were aware of their hideous work/life balance.
The portfolio coverage by the eight ministers in this state, is burdensome and unrealistic by any measure. Any other workplace would not be allowed to overburden staff in such a manner. Sadly, the minority public pressure over the years has indicated that we, the people, would like less politicians, but the corollary of that, is more public servants are required, who end up running the state. As a result, portfolio outcomes are often determined by unelected public servants, and hence the minister, under the Westminster system, takes the fall or otherwise, for the outcomes. One small hiccup across the widest of portfolios can result in ministers being required to take the walk of shame. This is wrong on every count.
One of the greatest problems with so few ministers, is that little major reform can occur. The ministers are too thinly spread to start major reform. Yet the state desperately needs reform on so many fronts…TasWater, local government, energy, State Growth/infrastructure, state taxation, transport, TAFE, port & rail, ICT, industrial relations, workplace health and safety, to name just a few.
Surely it has come time to revisit the size of parliament, and bring some sense back to the distribution of portfolios, which would allow much needed reform to be actively pursued. A short term majority government has 13 members at best, under the outdated Hare-Clark system, but in reality, there should be at least 13 ministers or more, with a robust backbench.
While we have enjoyed majority government for the past three years, there is genuine fear that we are heading towards minority government again and that would be disastrous for business confidence and outcomes.
It follows that minority government brings chaos, with even more accountability shifted to public servants, and there can be little realistic accountability or reform in portfolio outcomes. Not much wonder that minority governments are a guarantee of inaction, and generally result in a major lack of business confidence.
When opposition parties can hold their meetings in a ‘telephone booth’, we the people are also poorer for the result. Every good government needs a good opposition, as well as an ambitious backbench.
So, it’s time. Bring on greater numbers of elected members to the House of Assembly and do it now.
Thirty five members would give a good ministerial shared workload, a more robust backbench to choose from, and a larger opposition party with better performance all round.
The electorates that give rise to majority governments being formed have been crucial for stability. The North West Coast delivers significant retribution on poor performing members and gives great confidence for majority government. This same electorate is desperate to see the fruits of a broader ministerial portfolio distribution, so that some, just some, of the enormous potential of the North West can be harnessed. The world is our ‘oyster’, if only we could clear the barriers, bring on reform and grow our parliament to a proper number, with half decent workloads. By delaying return to the greater number, we are kidding ourselves, and we will stagger forward into a misty future.
Time to return to the old, so that we can be new again….