More fun with the Howard Government directory. Yesterday Crikey reported on:

The specialisation of personal staff job titles — senior advisers, senior media advisers, assistant media advisers, special advisers show an ever-growing hierarchy with new levels of demarcation. The Treasurer’s office has five senior advisers and one special adviser, but, hilariously, appears to have no adviser advisers or assistant advisers. This pattern is even being repeated in some electorate offices…

Print off a list of ministers and their staffs from the online phone directory on the Parliament House intranet, and you’ll discover that it fills up 11 A4 pages — with no spacing between the lines.

There has been a 29% rise in ministerial staff since 1996, the equivalent to 105 new staff. Media reports today say the staff has increased by seven full-time members and one part-time since February. Nationals Senate Leader Ron Boswell — not a minister — has a massive nine staff, compared with four for your average backbencher.

Big-taxing, big-spending, big-government conservatism comes with a proliferation of titles. Here are just some examples of Howard Government nomenclature from the directory:

Chief of Staff; Chief of Staff/Adviser; Senior Adviser; Senior Media Adviser; Senior Adviser (Media); Senior Adviser (Political); Senior Adviser (Strategy); Principal Adviser; Media Adviser; Assistant Media Adviser; Adviser; Assistant Adviser; Senior DLO; Assistant DLO; DLO…

As the Government slumps in the polls, there’s a scramble for fancy titles. Just in case any social anthropologists want to explore the directory at any time in the future, here are a few thoughts on what this array of job descriptions might mean.

First, it offers some clues about who’s on AWAs and earning lots of money. The ring-a-ding-ding job titles they’re allowed to award themselves with allow lesser staff know just how important they are. These mere mortals are usually forced to use a standard job title, reflecting the different classes of adviser on collective agreements provided for in the Members of Parliament Staff Act.

But that’s bread and butter stuff. There are three more important facts to glean from this proliferation of titles. It reflects the pecking order within individual offices, the pecking order across the ministry — and the age of the Government and the need to create what looks like a career path for the old lags that serve it.

Peter Fray

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