August 14, 2010 | Ronda Jambe

A quick test of your financial knowledge

Quickly now, in 3 seconds answer this question: does your family have private medical insurance? If you know the answer, give yourself 5 points. Now another quickie (no cheating, by looking at your will or asking your accountant) Do you own any properties? If you got that right, you get another five points and hit the jackpot.

You have now scored better than the Greens candidate for the Senate in the ACT, Lynn Hatfield Dodds, who, according to an article in today’s Canberra Times, could not say whether her family had private health insurance, even though she was holding forth on the topic.

Shocked? It gets worse, this time from the ACT Labor government. They were going to buy Calvary Hospital for $77m, but it got messed up and fell apart. Now it turns out (I’m don’t know whether to laugh or cry) that they paid Price Waterhouse Coopers to look into the ACT government finances, and it turns out the ACT government already owns that hospital. So I guess that was $77m that would have been down the drain.

That’s the level of informed knowledge among our political elite here in the capital, and I hope it gives you comfort. That is, you can never now be disappointed at any other politician’s or government’s ignorance.

It’s like when I used to teach high school mathematics, and soon learned that it was impossible to underestimate the abysmal level of knowledge of my students or their total lack of interest in the subject. Now Science Daily News tells me students don’t even understand what the = sign means. It seems they treat it more like a running thing, as on a calculator.

It is surely not OK for government accounts to be so complex, convoluted or opaque that the government has to hire a consultant (I don’t want to know how much they were paid) to tell them what they own.

Another big negative for the Greens candidate was her spiel about how cutting the public service here would hurt the ACT economy, bla bla. Anyone who has ever been near the public service in Canberra knows that it is top heavy and bloats the whole local economy. Sad that the Greens can’t point that out and call for a bit of reform instead.

One would never get to the bottom of it, but I would venture to guess that much more than the equivalent of the wastage of Building an Education Revolution gets wasted on general salaries every year. But who’s counting?

CODA: an excellent presentation today by an environmental epidemiologist said that today’s climate change is happening at 30 times the rate after the last ice age, when wine was indeed grown in England.

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 7:40 am | Comments (6) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. Rhonda, your unsubstantiated attacks on the public service continue. You say:
    ‘Anyone who has ever been near the public service in Canberra knows that it is top heavy and bloats the whole local economy. Sad that the Greens can’t point that out and call for a bit of reform instead.’

    As someone who lives in Canberra and has done so since 1969, this is not true, but even if it were so what? It is the seat of government.

    The so-called BER wastage (ie cost blow outs) is as I understand it a fairly low percentage of costs – lower than might be expected on private enterprise building works.

    And given the spending was rushed out in the middle of the most damaging recession since the 1930s, I don’t care if it was digging holes and filling them in as long as it created employment. Which it did.

    And what is this wastage on general salaries you talk about? I worked in the ATO for on and off 20 years and my conclusion was that they were critically underfunded in terms of staff precisely because Government of either persuasion doesn’t want an effective ATO to make big business spay tax. 40% pay no tax at all and of those that do most pay well below the headline rate. This could in part be addressed by increasing the staff of the ATO who on average collect one hundred times as much in revenue as they cost. Even the marginal rate of return – about ten to one – justifies more tax staff. And it is not as if we have more than enough teachers and nurses, who are also public servants.

    The real waste I see is the billions on Afghanistan, the hundreds of billions on fancy defence projects, propping up the private health factories, the private education factories, not taxing the businesses of the religious, the $100 billion a year in foregone tax through tax lurks that goes to the rich and the well off middle class mainly.

    And the bonuses to the geniuses who gave us the GFC seem to me more of a waste that you might like to attack instead of a APS 6 in health or the ATO or centrelink working their butt off for the greater good.

    Comment by John Passant — August 14, 2010 @ 10:57 am

  2. John, we’ve had this discussion before. I daresay you have not worked in the public sector in the past few years – I have.

    The ATO is indeed understaffed, and fails to pursue corporate evaders. That is not my beef,I would them more staff, but at appropriate levels.

    In some areas, staff at the EL1 level, or around $90K plus 15% super, are the most oommon level, with SES officers sometimes supervising just 3 or 4 staff. Outputs are hard to quantify, and real work is outsourced at even greater expense.

    This is an empirical question, and greater openness about the internal workings of departments would help to clarify.

    In general, there will always be some wastage, and I would prefer a bit in the public sector rather than a lot.

    My point remains: the Greens echoing the ALP’s candidate with local protectionism is not leadership, and will not take the ACT economy ‘forwar’.

    Comment by Ronda Jambe — August 15, 2010 @ 1:40 am

  3. Wine was grown in England during the last ice age? Huh?

    Wine was grown in England during the last warm period c.1000AD but not during any ice age. Someone somewhere has badly misunderstood something.

    And climate change is happening 30 times faster? I’m even sure what that means. But by any measure its seriously erroneous.

    Comment by Mark — August 16, 2010 @ 1:12 am

  4. the words ‘after the last ice age, when wine was indeed grown in England.’, were meant to mean wine was grown (well) after the last ice age.

    At the end of the last ice age temperatures increases by 1 degree C per 1000 years, and the current rate is 30 times as fast (unless I misunderstood the good professor)

    And that assumed only a 3 degree C rise, but we are headed for more.

    Comment by Ronda Jambe — August 16, 2010 @ 3:35 am

  5. I think we need serious reform of the Public Service and the reform of the privledged banking system which leads the private sector in profits and produces absolutely nothing of tangible worth.Being an agent for money,the symbol of our worth,should not be rewarded to lavishly.

    Once upon a time there were high standards for those called to public office.It is no longer the case.The sad thing for PS is that they have been lobotimised.Public servants challenge themselves with cryptic crosswords rather solving real dilemmas.There are many intelligent people who work there but the system crushes their spirit.Rules and regulation are paramount to good judgement and common sense.

    The PS at the top have also rolled over like our pollies to powerful corporate interests.The West is now beseiged by enormous corruption and this will hasten our demise unless we move now to stem the rot.

    Comment by Arjay — August 19, 2010 @ 10:40 am

  6. wine after the last ice age? how many years would that be? in roman times. and the romans were big drinkers of wine.

    also, wine is grown in england today.

    Comment by Tyro Rex — August 21, 2010 @ 6:25 am

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