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Memo to Julia

By Ken McKay - posted Wednesday, 1 September 2010

How to ensure you have a functioning and long term government?

To ensure you have a successful and long term Labor government you need to abandon the Hawker Britton model.

Do not employ the twenty-somethings to be policy advisers on peanuts and load your Ministerial staff with media advisers.


Development of coherent policy is the heart of a good Labor government. To achieve this you need to employ quality people with life experience. Not an army of spin doctors who start the week sitting around a table determining how to manipulate the media to ensure the government has the headline each day and that so much government spin gets out that it stops the opposition getting any coverage.

If you do not achieve this they will have you making comment on the new colours for the next AFL side, or who makes the best pumpkin scones on Masterchef or some other nonsense.

The Hawker Britton model has seen Labor Governments in New South Wales and Queensland destroy the brand name of Labor so badly it may take a generation or two to fix.

The model relies on using a popular leader to sell good news, with line Ministers facing the music in crisis or stuff ups. Line Ministers never get the chance to promote the policies or decisions that they have worked on, hence they are perceived by the public to be duds.

The success of the Hawke/Keating government was not only building consensus in the community but within government. Ministers were able to develop policy and promote it. The leader did not suffer from paranoia about creating rivals, so did not attempt to hijack all the good news.

Creating a good functioning government is critical; and second, allowing full and frank debate is critical. This can only be achieved if Cabinet is selected by the caucus. Consequently removing the leader’s power to hire and fire is critical: restoring the sovereignty of caucus isn’t just good Labor politics, it is vital to create the right balance between the executive and parliament.


Turning to policy, Labor has to have its Trade, Foreign Affairs and Agricultural Ministers working together to recreate the Cairns group. The largest impediment to the world’s economy is corrupt trading practices in agriculture. It deprives the developing world of export markets, but more importantly it is single handedly stopping the elimination of poverty around the world.

In developing countries such as China and India the rural poor face a bleak future; fair trading practices would see a transfer of wealth from the richest societies to the poorest. This is a mission worth fighting for. This is the greatest moral challenge of this century, the elimination of poverty.

We are involved in a challenge to civil society, in the spread of terrorism. We have engaged in spending billions of dollars and sacrificing our soldiers in a battle without trying to win the war. The war involves removing the gulf between the richest societies and the poorest societies; and those societies with freedom of information and those that are indoctrinated by their power elites.

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About the Author

Ken McKay is a former Queensland Ministerial Policy Adviser now working in the Queensland Union movement. The views expressed in this article are his views and do not represent the views of past or current employers.

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