Is the Treasury independent?
KEN HENRY: Strictly of course we’re not. The Treasury Department is a department of state. It is part of the executive government. It works to the government of the day, whatever the political persuasion of the government of the day. And so in that sense of course the Treasury is not independent from government and it can never behave as if it is independent from government.
Too many in the press forget this in reporting on Treasury views. The most egregious examples occur when our Treasurer decides to use his department as a human shield.
John Stone’s recent letter in The Australian said it all:
A poorer nation (Letter published in The Australian, 3 June 2011)
Dr Ken Henry’s appointment as a “special adviser” to the Prime Minister marks a clear watershed in the role and status of the Commonwealth Public Service.
Dr Henry, who resigned as Secretary to the Treasury last December, is entitled to take whatever job he (properly) chooses. However, the choice he has now made means that there can no longer be any shadow of doubt as to the politicization of his former role during his tenure of it.
For years now Dr Henry’s behaviour as Secretary to the Treasury has come under increasing public scrutiny. Throughout, and despite my own growing doubts, I have refrained from any public criticism of him. Indeed, in a March, 2008 Quadrant article I went out of my way to criticize his treatment by the Howard Government over a particular incident in May, 2007. (I have since come to think that the Government was right, and I was in error).
My reluctance, until now, to criticize Dr Henry (and certain other Treasury officers, such as his successor, Dr Martin Parkinson) stemmed from my deeply held belief that the Treasury is a great national institution – an institution in whose intellectual integrity (and hence, political detachment) it is imperative that we be able to have faith. Sadly, I can no longer do so on either count.
In recent days another notable Australian, Professor Ross Garnaut, has also shed all semblance of political impartiality in his intellectually laughable, but irremediably politically tainted, final report to the Prime Minister on “global warming” and the proposed tax on carbon dioxide emissions. In the process, he has finally completed his own move from the role of respected professional economist to that of political hack.
These basically related developments have not come to pass overnight. They have been, under successive governments, some 35 years in the making, and Australia today is a poorer nation as a consequence.
John Stone, Lane Cove, NSW
John Stone’s letter should be treated with the contempt it deserves.
funny I do not recall anyone criticising Henry when he did his job well under the previous government particularly when he was giving the Government to sell the GST.
Just to take one example.
Henry is now special economic advisor to the PM. That doesn’t mean he is partisan at all.
It does mean she will get excellent advice that is unlikely to deviate much from Parkinson.
That is a big departure from previous times whether it be Keating or howard.
What is more Stone knows this
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