In a recent Quarterly essay, Laura Tingle argues that our current political system has forgotten the lessons of the past.
It is an essay about maintaining a sense of perspective and history. As Tingle states ‘the role of memory in politics and policy-making in Australia’.
Market forces have meant that both the media and the public service have to be as slick and efficient as possible. This leads to Laura Tingle to argue that, ‘people no longer knew what they wanted from, or what they could expect of, government. The results that there is a disconnect’.
Individuals become apathetic, society wants big government services at small government tax levels, politicians find it hard to communicate and use stunts in an attempt to engage their electorate.
People get sick of hearing about reform which Tingle see as a ‘hollowed-out word which you attach to anything you think voters won’t like in the hope that it makes you appear a strong and decisive government’. Hollow, short-termism now is the norm with a focus on winning the next election.
While governing to win the next election is now common, there has always been a steady public service and media that has held a reservoir of institutional memory for the MPs to tap into. She argues, ‘there is a growing loss of institutional memory about how things have come about, and, more importantly perhaps, why they did. Without memory, there is no context or community for the making of new decisions’.
But in recent times, the public service has seen an exit of those who been with it for many years - meaning that there are fewer people who have known what has been tried and worked as well as what has been an epic fail. Tingle also states that ‘the problem we have now is that public servants don’t necessarily stay on and live with the consequences of policy decisions’.
Part of the problem now is that the gap the service has been filled with political appointments with an ideological agenda rather than a drive for what is the best for the country.
This is another essay from a political veteran and political genius. Laura Tingle has seen governments come and go for long enough to see the bigger picture and the fallout of the current era. A must read for anyone contesting this year's election and the journalism class of 2016.