Trying to democratise and “green” the state. Yeah, good luck with that…

It’s an age-old dilemma;  Existing industry has power, influence, lobbyists.  The industries we need (solar, wind, energy efficiency etc) are smaller, weaker and as-yet-not-quite-there.

So, how DO you get (enough) state bureaucrats to see and support an opportunity that isn’t there (yet)?  How do you, when trying to talk about ‘green jobs,’ get the powerful office-holders (elected or unelected) in the room.

Bureaucrats are, by self-selection and training, cautious creatures.  Far better to be wrong but blameless than right but with a reputation as a risk taker. Keynes said it best when he observed ““Worldly wisdom teaches that it is better for reputation to fail conventionally than to succeed unconventionally.” 

And what is one of the best ways of not making mistakes?  Not being in the room, not being “in the loop.”  That’s the most plausible deniability of all.

And if a bureaucrat’s wish combines  with a politician’s wish not to have to give money to new groups – and offend those who benefit from the status quo (and who will be supplying the non-executive directorships after the next election or the one after), then it’s HIGHLY likely that the really important bureaucrats will be all Macavity.

All this springs from two 20 year old newspaper articles I have just found.  Between 1993 (Noakes, 1993) and 1995* a “Green Jobs Unit,” staffed by the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Conservation Foundation, existed.  It was funded by the Department of Employment, Education and Training. In December 1994 it released a report on “Green Jobs in Industry.” (see Birnbauer, 1994)

A few months later one of the ACTU’s assistant secretaries was paraphrased in a newspaper account (Milburn, 1995) as saying;

“the Advisory Council on Environmental Employment Opportunities, established after a report by the jobs unit and a parliamentary report last year, suffered from a lack of coordinationThe absence of officials from Treasury on the council made any of its proposals to government vulnerable because most proposals would depend on having suitable tax and economic policies in place to survive.” (emphasis added)

It’s almost as if the political elite had given the greenies and their horny-handed sons (and daughters) of toil a sandbox to waste their time in.

This is the game of statecraft.

Birnbauer, B. (1994) Green Jobs Sprout Across New And Old Industries The Age 13th December

Milburn, C. (1995) ACTU’s George Plays Peacemaker To Greens, Unions  The Age 24th March

Noakes, F. (1993) ACTU and ACF launch green jobs program Green Left Weekly January 27th

* Haven’t been able to track down when it was killed off. Can’t imagine that it survived the coming of Howard (March ’96), if Keating hadn’t already axed it…

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