Once upon a time when Ministers had offices in departments. I cannot help thinking the problems that Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon is having with some people in his department flow directly from the modern practice of Ministers relying heavily on their personal staff for advice rather than using professional civil servants for that purpose.
When I came to Canberra 50 years ago it was common practice for ministers to follow the British practice of having their main office in the departmental building. That was where they worked when Parliament was not sitting and regular contact helped minister and administrator get to understand each other.
In those days too, the limited size of the offices in the old Parliament House restricted the number of personal advisers and most Ministers chose not have any at all apart from, perhaps, a press secretary. I doubt that there has been any improvement in the quality of government since politically-appointed advisory staff has expanded so dramatically to fill the huge space available in the current house on the hill.
The value of parliamentary privilege. A wonderful reminder this morning of the value of parliamentary privilege. In the United Kingdom the Liberal Democrat peer Matthew Oakeshott delivered a speech naming web sites which were publishing documents which “appear to detail systematic tax avoidance on a grand scale by Barclays” banking group.
British newspapers had been banned from publishing both the documents themselves and where they could be found because of an injunction obtained by Barclays. The sites listed by Lord Oakeshott and published under the safety of parliamentary privilege by The Guardian are wikileaks.org, docstoc.com and gabbr.com.
Goodness me — a political speech not read. A speech by a politician with 850,000 or so hits on YouTube must be almost a record. That’s what the British Conservative Member of the European Parliament Daniel Hannan has achieved with a recent critique of the economic policies of the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. In this age when most politicians can do no more than read verbatim boring words probably written for them by someone else, this is a delight to listen to whether you agree with Mr Hannan’s views or not.
Self examine ourselves three times daily. That advice comes from a man whom the People’s Bank of China calls an ancient Chinese philosopher, is seen as a starting point for reforming the regulation of international finance. On the eve of the Group of 20 meeting in London the Chinese central bank is stressing that “reform begins with self criticism” In analysing the root causes of, and drawing lessons from, the current crisis, such spirit is sorely needed. “Only by looking inward with this spirit, can we draw the right lessons and avoid being blindsided” says the Bank in its just released paper, Reform International Financial Regulatory Framework:A Few Remarks. “Only with the right lessons learned, can far-reaching reforms begin. Recently, there have been some blaming games, which intend to hold others responsible for the on-going difficulties. Such lack of remorse does not help in examining the flaws in the existing financial regulatory system.”
With that philosophical start out of the way the Chinese go on to deal with what it sees as the vulnerabilities in capital adequacy requirements of banks exposed by the financial crisis: (a) the Basel II framework does not adequate capture risks of complex credit products; (b) the minimum capital requirement and the quality of capital have not provided adequate buffer during the crisis; (c) the pro-cyclicality of capital adequacy has amplified volatilities; (d) there exists the differences in capital requirements among different types of financial institutions.