But, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln’s response to pro-slavery advocates’ warnings about miscegenation, just because Governments want to stimulate their economies doesn’t mean they want to control them. This claim of a latter-day Red menace is one of the laziest canards seen for a while. Estimates hearings commence next week, and doubtless Ken Henry will come in for another ill-mannered grilling from Coalition senators. In truth, though, Henry should also blame himself and the Government for some of the fire being directed at him. It is clear, for example, that Henry isn’t always a fan of public debate, ridiculously complaining about how “unhelpful” public discussion was of whether there were differences between Treasury and the Reserve Bank. He also has a decidedly unbureaucratic manner of public speaking (his speech this week is not a bad read at all for a macro-economic dissertation) and a willingness to have a go at critics. While this makes for good copy, the long-standing reasons why public servants should generally be seen and not heard and, if heard, heard to speak in highly-measured tones -- that it, that they are not elected like their political superiors -- still holds. The Government, too, has been willing to exploit Henry as much as it can, repeatedly stressing how it has acted on Treasury’s advice, as if we elected Henry and not Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan to make decisions. Henry has become a rhetorical crutch and a visual prop for Rudd and Swan during the financial crisis and as such has been wilfully dragged into the political line of fire. Henry does have a position different to most bureaucrats. He is leading a major tax review and that requires a higher profile; he has also overseen a significant change in Treasury forecasting practice at a critical time in Australia’s economic fortunes. That change should be explained and justified. But some circumspection from all sides -- the Government, the Coalition and Henry himself -- might improve the quality of economic debate.
Circumspection please, Ken Henry is not the bunyip
Ken Henry has become a new bogeyman for conservatives; obviously his years of loyal service to the Howard Government have been forgotten.