Is any Opposition truly ready to govern?

I’m surprised by former Treasurer Keith De Lacy’s comments on the Opposition’s readiness to govern reported by the Brisbane Times this morning (Labor had ‘secret’ plan to govern).  It seems a little unfair given I doubt any Opposition in Australian political history was fully prepared for the challenges of Government. Luckily, however, there is a huge bureaucracy, generally with very good people at the top, who will have an incoming Government brief ready for their first meeting with the leadership team. This will set out the economic and budgetary state of play, any important urgent business, and an assessment of how the new Government’s policy agenda can be implemented. It will, of course, note the policy measures that cannot be implemented or are truly silly.

I have no doubt that the new Government will need to change some of the policies it put forward before the election – e.g. its plan to prop up TAFE seems overdone and “back to the future.” But all new Governments change their plans. I remember once asking a (very) senior Treasury official in Canberra whether we should have been worried about some of the plans that were being presented by the Opposition led by Kevin Rudd prior to the 2007 election – e.g. Grocerywatch, Fuelwatch. The official replied that you need to be forgiving of Oppositions because they don’t have the resources that Governments do, and all Oppositions end up putting forward a few silly policies. That was the voice of experience. No Opposition is truly ready for Government, in a sense, which is why I find Mr De Lacy’s criticism a little unfair.

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7 Responses to Is any Opposition truly ready to govern?

  1. Stephen Austin says:

    Gene, it was my interview with Keith DeLacey yesterday at 8.30am that the Brisbane times is lifting the comments from. Have a listen here:

    I would be interested to know your thoughts.



  2. I think De Lacy makes some very fair points and, as he notes, is simply stating the obvious (i.e. Labor really never expected to be in government) when he said that a “transition to government” policy had probably not been front and centre of Labor minds up to Saturday night.

  3. Katrina Drake says:

    I heard the interview with Keith De Lacy – and I thought he was a tad misquoted and sensationalised by the Brisbane Times, unsurprisingly.

  4. Jim says:


    Of course the ALP are a bit underprepared to govern. Why invest all that energy in a plan for government when the odds against the plan ever being necessary are so low? Fortunately the ALP’s small target strategy actually constrained them from having too many policies at all, and consequently relatively few dumb ones.

    Mr De Lacy talks of a “period of paralysis”, but if that is the expectation anyway, that actually buys the ALP some time to think, consult, use the resources of the Public Service, and consequently act in a balanced fashion. Lets hope the ALP do think, consult, use the resources of the Public Service, and consequently act in a balanced fashion.

    • Gene Tunny says:

      Yes, good points, Jim. They’ll certainly have to use the resources of the public service. Partly I found De Lacy’s comments odd because I thought he was ignoring the fact that so much of Government business is driven by the public service. Governments get elected and are greeted by a reasonably well functioning bureaucracy.

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