There is nothing more destructive to public service productivity than public servants spending time worrying about whether they will continue to have a job and if they do, what it will be. Right now, in department after department in Canberra, output is at a low ebb as fear and loathing of Kevin Rudd’s ministerial “razor gang” spreads. Those at lower levels in the service are particularly concerned that they will fall victim to what is now known as the National Capital Authority precedent where management already has announced sackings of 40% of the Authority’s staff without including any members of the senior executive service.

It beggars belief that a gathering of 1000 of Australia’s best and brightest to consider plans for the future will not contain any Jewish minds but that is the likely outcome from choosing the Passover Weekend of 19-20 April for the Government’s national summit of ideas. The first idea of Kevin 08 should surely be to ensure that he gets advice on clashes of dates before making decisions.

Brendan Nelson must surely regret making Malcolm Turnbull the Opposition Treasury shadow minister. Malcolm is taking every advantage of troubled economic times to show himself as a potentially better Liberal Leader than the good doctor who is being made to look weak and wishy-washy by not wanting to offend the Neanderthals in his Party who want no part of saying sorry to anyone. Things looked even worse for Dr Nelson when the television chose to run last night a repeat of his emotionally charged words about Aborigines when the stolen generation Royal Commission report was originally released nearly a decade ago.

The 2008 version of Kevin Rudd retains the ability that Kevin 07 showed of stone walling television interviewers when he had not thought out what the correct answer to a question should be. Last night with Kerry O’Brien on The 7.30 Report Kevin 08 stalled and prevaricated when asked what position Treasury Secretary Ken Henry would take on interest rate rises at today’s meeting of the Reserve Bank Board. The Prime Minister just kept repeating that the Treasury Secretary would be able to update his fellow Board members on the fiscal plans of the Government. It left the impression that Mr Henry may in fact be expected, as the question implied, to put a Government view on interest rates. If independence of the Reserve is to mean anything then the appropriate answer would have been to say that Mr Henry, after giving a briefing about Government spending plans, would then join his colleagues in making what was considered the most appropriate decision after considering all the economic evidence.

The Pick of This Morning’s Political Coverage

Nothing I can do on rates rise: PM – Peter Martin, The Canberra Times
Opposition wedged on Rudd call to Summit – Michelle Grattan, The Age
Rain above odds cools eastern states – Gil Wahlquist, The Australian
380 not quite a saviour – Nick Henderson, The Advertiser
Tokyo axe hangs over MitsubishiChristopher Russell, The Advertiser

The Daily Reality Check

There are things for the Reserve Bank Board and the Federal Treasurer to ponder from the things that are not of major interest to the Australian people. The evidence from this morning’s Crikey survey of what people are actually reading on internet news sites is that the much forecast rise in interest rates comes well below concern about the weather forecast. The weather tops the mentions while interest rates failed to make it into the top five most read stories on any of the 10 major sites. That does not augur well for a rate rise bringing about a change in public behaviour in a way that curbs inflation. Wayne Swan fared better, but only slightly, with his attempt to show concern for would-be first home buyers. His announcement of Cabinet giving the go-ahead for tax concessions on home saver accounts at least got a mention on the three most serious websites – The ABC, The Australian and The Age – but stories about Matt Damon and Heath Ledger occupied four spots in the Tele’s readership table with a gentleman getting punched in the mouth for insulting “devout Buddhist” model Miranda Kerr making up the top five list.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey