Saturday, February 13, 2010

Thick As Two Planks

Neville Angove

Today's Sydney Sunday Telegraph ran a story highlighting the plight of a father who wrote to the Environment Minister and the Prime Minister. He had written to complain about faults in the free home ceiling insulation system that was causing deaths by electrocution. It must be said that installers who do not realise that connecting metal insulation to live wires will make the insulation definitely dangerous: think of their deaths as evolution in action.

The mistake lies in anyone thinking that letters to political Ministers actually reaches the Ministers. Instead, they are read by civil servants, answers written by civil servants, and the justification for the answers written by civil servants.

I have been writing letters to various Ministers for three years. Only once did one actually reach the Minister (John Della Bosca, the deposed Health Minister of NSW), and a reply written by him received. The letter was a copy hand delivered to him of a letter written to a local politician.

This problem applies to the US, the UK and Australia. It could apply elsewhere, but I do not have sufficient contacts in other countries. Accept the fact that governments are run by civil servants for their own ends (enjoy a little power, fertilising the ground for post-retirement remuneration), leaving the game of getting elected so they can enjoy the perks of office (and occasionally slip in some good works, civil servants not being the brightest lights around).

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