Most of us know how annoying it can be to have a leaking roof. A drop here, a drop there, and before you know it there are buckets and dirty puddles everywhere.
John Howard’s government has a badly leaking roof, and no amount of water policy can fix it. Yesterday the water problem got worse when the views of one of the Government’s most senior and respected bureaucrats were leaked to the Financial Review – a leak that couldn’t be patched or contained. The head of Treasury, Ken Henry, spilled the beans on the Government’s policies on water and climate change and confirmed his department had no input into the Government’s recent $10 billion takeover of the Murray-Darling Basin.
In response to Ken Henry’s comments, the top tier of the Government immediately manned the buckets. “I will not be leading a government that always takes the advice of the bureaucracy”, said the Prime Minister. “Treasury is no water expert. Treasury is good at Treasury but Treasury has not been engaged in water”, said the Treasurer. “Treasury certainly wasn’t involved in driving the process but they don’t know anything about water,” said the Water Resources Minister.
Treasury may not be a “water expert”, just like they are not “defence experts” or “hospital experts” or specialists in any spending area. But in the words of their website, the critical role of Treasury is that it “provides advice on budget policy issues, trends in Commonwealth revenue and major fiscal and financial aggregates” and, of course, “major expenditure programmes”.
Sometimes, when it gets really bad, there’s only one solution for a leaking roof. It just needs to be replaced.
Have a happy Easter break. Crikey returns to your inbox on Tuesday.