Tasmanian Greens leader and state Minister Nick McKim has emerged as the most hated and Education Minister since controversial 1980’s NSW Liberal Terry Metherell. We look at the troubled minister’s year of governing incompetently, why he’s accused of arrogance and what it means for the Greens.
The inner-urban far-left Greens political party has matched the level of votes and parliamentary representation of the now-defunct Australian Democrats.
It largely achieved that by building support from disaffected major party voters – mainly Labor’s – who came to regard the big parties as being a little too compromised, not sufficiently idealistic, not inclusive enough and perhaps just too right-wing and mainstream for inner-urban tastes.
The Greens – whose leadership principally comprises enviro-leftists and geeks of a standard where they’d struggle to prosper in a major party – have ruthlessly tapped that vein, perhaps to the fullest extent possible. Using $1.6 million donations from rich leftists like Graeme Wood who made his fortune from selling cheap flights and hotel rooms to leisure tourists with big carbon footprints and ad agencies, they’ve presented themselves as the idealistic groovy face of the unglamorous, uncool business of governing.
And yet when the rubber of rhetoric hits the road of reality, the Greens political party have left a mighty wide skid-mark and are at risk of a major collision.
Let’s leave federal politics aside, because they are not really governing there, despite their pretence to the contrary and the Coalition’s desperate desire to paint them as if they are. Certainly to the extent they are driving policy, it is self-evidently not going that well. The heartfelt letter from Hazelwood worker John Webb in today’s Herald Sun speaks volumes for the electoral dangers Prime Minister Gillard faces from her carbon tax/ETS plan which will be detailed on Sunday prime-time.
In Tasmania, though, the Greens are formally part of the government.
Their leader Nick McKim is a Minister of the Crown and, after the last reshuffle, is a senior one. He is the Minister for Education.
In earlier roles, as the Minister responsible for public housing, his first act was to increase rents for public housing tenant battlers.
As Minister for Corrections, after being on the job for more than a year, an inquiry revealed that McKim’s Risdon maximum security prison was one of the worst in the country, representing a clear and present danger to inmates, staff and the general public alike.
Press reports at the time explained the damning findings:
Former Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Palmer’s report, released on Wednesday, said conditions at the prison “can only lead to further deterioration and a likely occurrence of serious riot and disorder” without a major overhaul.
Mr Palmer’s report says the maximum-security prison suffers from a lack of effective leadership, a serious lack of commitment to workplace health and safety and a lack of respect for prisoners by some officers.
He also found defective management of prisoner counts, no effective incident management within the prison and “effectively non-existent” housekeeping and hygiene controls.
McKim’s poor handling of industrial relations issues at the prison has been blamed:
The prison has been beset by an ongoing industrial dispute for more than nine months, springing from the government’s decision to get rid of a four-member armed group charged with dealing with prisoner incidents.The dispute came to a head when officers were stood down…forcing the prison into lockdown.
In short, the inmates are kept in dreadful conditions, the staff feel like they’re in constant danger and the public are left to worry about the prospect of prisoners escaping due to security lapses and a sense of desperation. Mass murderers including Martin Bryant are housed at Risdon.
But McKim has this week exceeded even that poor record in his botched and bizarre attempt to shut twenty government schools in Tasmania.
McKim scandalised these school communities – and many Tasmanians more generally – by failing to consult with them on the dramatic decision to close the schools and then struggling to go through even the basics of explaining his decision and its reasons to the teachers, students and parents hurt by the Greens party boss’s decision.
Tasmania has lots of relatively isolated communities and those schools on McKim’s hit-list form important social reference points and reduce the lengthy commute bus-trips students have to endure every day. A point even Nick McKim’s federal leader Bob Brown made, somewhat undercutting his Tasmanian state counterpart.
The pressure got too great for McKim and he backflipped. He now says he won’t close the schools, leaving a $24 million budget black-hole, a big-sized problem in a small-sized state.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of axing twenty small country schools, and McKim’s shabby, amateurish and disgracefully incompetent mismanagement of the community consultation process, the central point here is that governing isn’t easy.
Leading, being responsible for change, for outcomes, for results, for allocating scarce resources in a world of unlimited wants and ever-increasing needs, is very tough. That’s why we regard public service as the noblest calling that there is. Far too noble for us, we prefer to throw rotten tomatoes from the cheap seats.
And yet the key to the Greens political party’s successful manipulation of the far-left and inner-urban constituency is the fraudulent argument that it’s somehow the failings of the major parties that are at the heart of our problems.
But when the Greens political party was given the chance themselves to run Tasmania’s education system, what happens?
Absolute chaos. Communities treated like pawns. Uncertainty and panic. Out-of-touch minister showing up with armed-muscle in a series of “sneak” visits to the schools so we could avoid parental wrath.
Nick McKim is only human. Indeed, he’s a B-grade operator of the kind who wouldn’t cut it in the competitive battle-ground of major party politics.
It takes the best and brightest to govern competently. And even for them, it aint easy. Pretending that it is easy, presenting oneself as the monopoly of idealism and decency is a shrewd short-term trick but when actually tested will lead not only to inevitable disappointment but the mother of all back-lashes.
And he – and the Greens party he leads – has just been found out. Big time.
It’s early days but our familiarity with the lefty inner-urban demographic leads us to conclude when this betrayal is fully comprehended that the reaction will be swift and merciless. Remember how quickly and brutally they all dropped the Australian Democrats after they were seen to be guilty of just one-too-many compromises and back-flips. In the space of a couple of years inner-urbanites went from gushing about Natasha Stott-Despoja’s Doc Martens to cursing the very name of the sour-looking mid-life crisis brigade who represented the Dems. It’s a fickle demographic that’s tough to please. It’s a question of when – not if – the inner-city wakes up and smells the soy latte.
From this incident – in a small state that doesn’t get a lot of play in mainland media – this snowflake from icy Tassie will eventually roll into the avalanche that crashes down on the Australian extreme left’s most cunning political operation since the Soviet-backed Communist Party of Australia controlled a mighty chunk of the labour movement, academia and many in the public service. It’s just a matter of time.
And if you doubt our predictions, consider our call, many years ago in our predecessor publication the OC, that The Age print edition was doomed.