Today I had a brief but interesting conversation with a work colleague which ended in this person angrily denouncing the background of former Finance Minister Penny Wong – explaining that she didn’t really have any finance experience at all, and also revealing they voted Liberals in the same sentence. I took the mention of these two things together to suggest my colleague was making the assumption that the Liberal party had candidates that were more educated and better suited to their roles. So I decided to do a bit of my own research and answer the question with some actual evidence.
I created a spreadsheet of each of the newly announced Ministers for the Abbott Government and compared them against the previous Labor Government minister that was in the role the longest (as there were quite a few changes at the end – but I’m going to ignore those for the purpose of this exercise. Then I went about confirming the educational and industry experience background of each and every single member and based on that, judging whether their experience and education was relevant to their appointed portfolio.
Note that I have NOT counted experience managing a folio in government as “experience” in the industry. I don’t think this information is available anywhere on the internet and it took me about 4 hours to do so hopefully its useful to people other than my curious-self!
Alright, drum roll for the results…
AUSTRALIAN LIBERAL PARTY MINISTERS
(Newly appointment Abbott Government Ministers)
|Prime Minister||Tony Abbott||Bachelor Economics, Law||Journalist, Plant Manager, Political Advisor (10 yrs), Parliament (17 yrs)||N/A|
|Foreign Affairs||Julie Bishop||Bachelor Law, Harvard Mgmt Program||Lawyer (20yrs), Parliament (14yrs)||No|
|Infrastructure & Regional Development||Warren Truss||Highschool||Farmer, Chair on multiple regional agriculture boards (12yrs), Parliament (12yrs)||Part|
|Employment||Eric Abetz||Bachelor Arts, Law||Lawyer (28yrs), Parliament (6 yrs)||No|
|Arts||George Brandis QC||Bachelor Arts/Law, BA Civil Law||Lawyer (20yrs), Parliament (7yrs)||No|
|Social Services||Kevin Andrews||Bachelor Arts, Law, Masters||Layer/Lawyer Education/assistance (11yrs), Parliament (22 yrs)||No|
|Human Services||Marise Payne||Bachelor Arts, Law||Political and public affairs advisor (10 yrs), Parliament (16 yrs)||No|
|Small Business||Bruce Billson||Bachelor Business, DipEd Mgmt||Public Service (3yrs), Parliament (17yrs)||No|
|Environment||Greg Hunt||Bachelor Arts, Law, MA||Public servent – advisor on foreign policy (10yrs), Parliament (12yrs)||No|
|Immigration & Border Protection||Scott Morrison||Bachelor Science||Policy and research council (6 yrs) Senior roles in tourism (7 yrs), Parliament (6yrs)||Part|
|Finance||Matthias Corman||Bachelor Law||Health (4yrs), Public service (7yrs), Parliament (6 yrs)||No|
|Health and Sport||Peter Dutton||Bachelor Business||Police Officer (9yrs), Parliament (12yrs)||No|
|Defence||David Johnston||Bachelor Jurisprudence||Barrister & Solicitor (20 yrs), Parliament (17yrs)||No|
|Agriculture||Barnaby Joyce||Bachelor Commerce||Grew up on cattle farm, Army reserve (5yrs), Accountant (5-10yrs), Parliament (5-10yrs)||Part|
|Justice||Michael Keenan||Bachelor Arts, Philosophy||Bar attnt/salesman (8 yrs), real estate (4 yrs), Parliament (6 yrs)||No|
|Education||Christopher Pyne||Bachelor Law||Public service (3yrs), Solicitor (3yrs), Parliament (20yrs)||No|
|Industry||Ian Macfarlane||Highschool||Farmer, President on multiple regional agriculture boards (25yrs), Parliament (10 yrs)||Yes|
|Indigenous Affairs||Nigel Scullion||Rural leadership program graduate||Fisherman, Business Owner, Mining co researcher & manager, company director, Seafood councils, Parliament (11 yrs)||No|
|Veterans Affairs & ANZAC||Michael Ronaldson||Bachelor Law||Barrister & Solicitor (18 yrs), Parliament (21yrs)||No|
|Trade and Investment||Andrew Robb||Bachelor Economics and Agricultural Science||Animal health officer (2 yrs), Agricultural economics (5 yrs), ED Farmers Assoc (7 yrs), Senior exec/SEO/Chair multiple pharma co’s, Praliament (9 yrs)||Yes|
|Communications||Malcolm Turnbull||Bachelor Arts, Law, Civil Law||Journo (4 yrs), Barrister/Gen Counsel (7 yrs), Biz owner & grazier (10yrs), Chairman Ozemail (5 yrs), Parliament (12yrs)||Yes|
|Housing & Homelessness||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Financial Services & Superannuation||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Treasurer||Joe Hockey||Bachelor Arts, Law||Banking and finance lawyer/public policy (10 yrs), Parliament (14 yrs)||Part|
AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY MINISTERS
(Rudd Government Ministers / Gillard Government Ministers)
*Note, I have chosen the “main” minister – that is, the minister that spent the most time in the position while Labor was in government.
|Portfolio||Main Labor Minister||Changes||Education||Experience||Relevant?|
|Prime Minister||Juilia Gillard||1||Bachelor Arts, Law||Industrial Lawyer (12 yrs), Parliament (15 yrs)||N/A|
|Foreign Affairs||Kevin Rudd||2||Bachelor Arts||Diplomat (7yrs), CoS/Dir-Gen (7yrs), China consultant(3yrs), Parliament (15yrs)||Yes|
|Infrastructure & Regional Development||Anthony Albanese||0||Bachelor Economics||Bank officer (1yr) and researcher (4 yrs), Party official (6yrs), Policy advisor (1yr), Parliament (17yrs)||No|
|Employment||Bill Shorten||3||Bachelor Arts/Law||Superannuation director (9 yrs), Workers Union (6 yrs), Parliament (6yrs)||Yes|
|Arts||Simon Crean||2||Bachelor Law, BA Economics||Labour Unions (20yrs), Parliament (23yrs)||No|
|Social Services||Jenny Macklin||0||Bachelor Comms||Researcher (9 yrs), Health strategy (8yrs), Parliament (10yrs)||Yes|
|Human Services||Multiple: no one had this role for more than 12 months under the former Labor govt||5||Multiple||Multiple||No|
|Small Business||Gary Gray||4||Bachelor Economics||ALP Secretariat (14yrs), ED Med research (1yr), Snr Mining exec (6 yrs), parliament )6yrs)||Part|
|Environment||Tony Burke||2||Bachelor Arts, Law||Shop assistant (9 yrs), Electorate office (2 yrs), Union (7 yrs)||No|
|Immigration & Border Protection||Chris Bowen||3||Bachelor Economics||Researcher (1yr), Union (5 yrs), Public service (6 yrs), Parliament (9 yrs)||No|
|Finance||Penny Wong||2||Bachelor Arts/Law||Law (6), Unions (4yrs), Parliament (11yrs)||No|
|Health and Sport||Tanya Plibersek||1||Bachelor Comms/Masters Politics & public Policy||20 years in public policy and parliament||No|
|Defence||Stephen Smith||2||Bachelor Law||Barrister/Tutor (7yrs), party treasurer & advisor (10 yrs), Parliament (10yrs)||No|
|Agriculture||Joe Ludwig||2||Bachelor Arts, Law||Industrial inspector (10 yrs), Training consultant (6yrs), Parliament (13yrs)||Part|
|Justice||Jason Clare||1||Bachelor Arts, Law||Corp relations (4 yrs), Policy advisor (6 yrs), Parliament (10yrs)||No|
|Education||Peter Garrett||4||Bachelor Arts||Musician and activist (28yrs), Parliament (11yrs)||No|
|Industry||Kim Carr||2||Bachelor Arts, MA, DipEd||Teacher (11 yrs), Ministerial advisor and policy analyst, parliament (20 yrs)||No|
|Indigenous Affairs||Jenny Macklin||0||Bachelor Comms||Researcher (9 yrs), Health strategy (8yrs), Parliament (10yrs)||No|
|Veterans Affairs & ANZAC||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Trade and Investment||Craig Emerson||3||Bachelor/MA/PhD Economics, PhD Philosophy||UN Economic analyst, CEO SQ transit authority, Public service (10 yrs), Parliament (20 yrs)||Part|
|Communications||Stephen Conroy||1||Bachelor Economics||Superannuation officer, research assistant, Parliament (14 yrs)||No|
|Housing & Homelessness||Brendan O’Connor||5||Bachelor Arts, Law||Union official (11 yrs), Parliament (12 yrs)||No|
|Financial Services & Superannuation||Bill Shorten||3||Bachelor Arts/Law||Superannuation director (9 yrs), Workers Union (6 yrs), Parliament (6yrs)||Yes|
|Treasurer||Wayne Swan||1||Bachelor Arts||Lecturer (12 yrs), Analyist and advisor (4 yrs), Parliament (14 yrs)||No|
I also did a quick analysis of a number of other things I often hear people spouting like “There’s much more experience in Liberal” or “Labor are riddled with Unionists” or “Liberals have a shitload of Lawyers”…or something along those lines. Now here’s the truth:
|Number of Lawyers||13 (59%)||11 (47%)|
|Number of Unionists||0 (0%)||6 (26%)|
|Number of Biz/Comm/Economists||5 (21%)||6 (26%)|
|Number of Arts Degrees||8 (33%)||12 (52%)|
|Years experience in Parliament||272 years||265 years|
SO WHAT HAVE I LEARNED…
- The level of appropriate skills matching between ministers and their portfolios is an absolute JOKE with BOTH parties, in the Liberal Party only Malcolm Turnbull, Andrew Robb and Ian Macfarlane had the necessary industry background for their roles. In Labor – only Bill Shorten, Jenny Macklin (not her role in Indigenous Affairs) and Kevin Rudd (as Foreign Minister) had the necessary backgrounds for their roles. This is just not good enough. There wouldn’t be a CEO in the world (unless he or she were a startup CEO), who would be hired by the board if they didn’t have extensive experience in their area. Let’s take Telstra CEO David Thodey for example. He worked in sales and the senior exec positions for IBM and then Telstra for close to 20 years…the guy knew his telecommunications before he stepped into a role with a company that hires 45,000 Australians and manages 25.5 billion in annual revenues. Yet, just as an example Marise Payne who managers Human Services has no background in it, and yet she’s responsible for a portfolio containing Medicare AND Centrelink – equal to probably over 200 billion or more each year! Whhhhatttt? Let me make this clear to BOTH parties: 20 years experience as a Lawyer DOES NOT make you an experienced leader fit for a role managing a portfolio you know nothing about – no matter how you want to argue it!
- There is WAY too much change, surely making it nigh on impossible for anyone to get any real work done when ministerial management changes up to once every year.
- A bunch of Lawyers run our country…well 50% at least. And its NOT just Liberals…its both parties. Given the kind of mistrust most people have for the profession, its no wonder people are apathetic about politicians, and its no wonder they’re so good at spinning the truth – that’s what they’re all trained for.
- It’s true, Labor DO have more Unionists in their ranks (just over a quarter to be precise) – given Liberals have zero. This claim is true.
- Labor actually has more finance knowledge and capability than the Liberals (based on education and experience alone – obviously I can’t judge talent), but it IS true that Wayne Swan as Treasurer, didn’t have broad experience in finance, although he was acting treasurer for many years.
Putting all of this another way just to show the absurdity…
- We have Indigenous Affairs ministers who have never lived in Northern Territory where majority of the aboriginal population reside
- We have Education Ministers who have never been teachers or principals or curriculum advisors
- We have Health ministers who have never been doctors or nurses or health executives
- We have Finance ministers and Treasurers who never did a degree in economics or finance
- We have Ministers for Small Business who have never run their own business
- We have Defense Ministers who have never fought in a war
- We have social and human services ministers who have never worked in and with those disaffected communities
- We have employment ministers who have never hired someone or been a HR manager
- We have housing and homelessness ministers who have never worked in real estate or construction, or worked for any organisation that assists with homelessness
Ultimately, we have Ministers who seem so intellectually and emotionally removed (in terms of their non-parliament backgrounds) from the areas they look after, its beyond me how this country gets anything done at all. How can they truly represent the country without having strong knowledge of the areas they look after? It’s absolutely bizarre. I guess we have to thank the public servants in making up for the shortcomings of their on-again/off-again bosses.
Thoughts people? Is this a serious gap or a non-issue for you?
*If you want a copy of the excel spreadsheet, let me know and I can send you a copy.
- Wong backs Albanese for Labor leadership (sbs.com.au)
- Abbott and Bishop re-elected (bigpondnews.com)
- Tony Abbott sworn in as Australian PM amid row over male-dominated cabinet (theguardian.com)
- What does Abbott stand for? (theaimn.com)
- Abbott unveils ministry with one woman (news.theage.com.au)
- Tony Abbott unveils new ministry: Mathias Cormann promoted, Julie Bishop sole woman in Cabinet (abc.net.au)
- Smashing the glass ceiling (blogs.abc.net.au)
- Tony Abbott’s new woman problem (smh.com.au)
- Abbott’s new woman problem (theage.com.au)
- The Womanless Cabinet (seggler.com)