Paul Jacko

One day, glancing through the shelves of my local library I noticed a book called LEARNING TO BE A MINISTER, Heroic Expectations, Practical Realities. I picked it up thinking it to be some light-weight, humorous writing a la Yes, Minister. I was somewhat wrong. It is not humorous. Written before Rudd’s ignominious despatch by the Gillard true revolutionary group, (or the traitorous gang of four, depending on your viewpoint and the ALP’s current directive) it does its best to glorify the Federal Labor rule and to pre-emptively apologise for disasters even then looming on the horizon. Naturally, the blame for them is sheeted to the previous government directly wherever possible. Indirectly, Howard’s interference with the hitherto allegedly non-political federal public service will account for the reminder of cases long time into the future.

The new socialist government strove ‘person-fully': “In 2007, Rudd ministers appointed staff from a range of diverse backgrounds. Experienced individuals with long links to the ALP returned, including some who came out of retirement to assist the transition to government. They came from the private sector: from sometimes lucrative roles in business, law, management consultancy, lobbying and communications. Others came from traditional Labor recruitment grounds: trade unions, journalism, the public service and academia.”(p.84)

The substantial part of the book comprises ‘interviews’ with unnamed politicians and public servants. Some sound genuine. I understand that to preserve the promised anonymity, substantial editing was required, but the ultimate effect is weak. A reader, ignorant of how the academic publishing works, may be forgiven for thinking that even he could cobble together a book like that.

If you are considering a career in the politics, it would be more profitable for you to read or perhaps even watch Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister. In fact, some ministers interviewed admitted preparing for the job by watching Yes, Minister or The West Wing DVDs.(p.71) The masochist or a person with no sense of shame and of his or her limitations may read Mungo MacCallum’s How to be a Megalomaniac (2002) and I’m sure that all Labor aspirants had memorised Richardson’s Whatever it takes. On the other hand the coalition politicians, masquerading as conservatives when it suits, seem to read nothing but Carnegie’s How to win friends and influence people and Machiavelli’s The Prince. At least they act that way.

Therefore, the Weller&Tiernan book is likely to be read only by the political alchemy students in order to pass examinations, and by a few others for puzzled amusement or by a mistake. Learn how to minister to the public service, academia and journalists? Who cares? Surprisingly, considering it was written by two live, not-yet-retired Australian academics, it is not a 100% Labor party propaganda brochure.* Maybe there is some hope.

©july 2011

Anne Tiernan and Patrick Weller – Learning to be a Minister / 2010 Melbourne University Press

*/ If the commissariat were to take this sentence seriously, that would be the end of the funding.

About Paul Jacko

Jacko was born in Czechoslovakia not long before the communist putsch in February 1948. He studied industrial chemistry there and left in 1969 for Australia, where he became a lawyer and established his own practice. He has now retired and beside hunting, fishing, camping, prospecting and playing golf he amuses himself by writing.
This entry was posted in Australia, Book Review, Bureaucracy, Labour Party and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. No magician says:

    I guess those academicians are already writing books about Gillard and honest Labor being stabbed in the back by those evil murdochs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>