The Victorian Ombudsman, Ms Debora Glass, has produced a ‘damming assessment’ of the politicisation of the Victorian Government; however, the report fell short of recommending any prosecutions, and it didn’t even make recommendations for the need for further investigation.
The reasons for this, and a number of other issues investigated by the Ombudsman over a number of years, indicate a pattern of ‘falling short’ as the norm.
We would argue that the problem is far more insidious than the Ombudsman has determined, while her investigations into various decisions, although relevant, mask the real need for detailed examinations of the functions of the alleged nepotistic appointees by the Government.
The Ombudsman’s investigation was flawed and failed to properly investigate unconscious bias exercised by Senior Government appointees.
As well as looking into the matters covered and identified in her report, the issue of bias in appointments can be accurately determined by patterns of historical management behaviour.
“Politicisation is far more nuanced, complex and potentially pervasive than simply the practice of hiring your political mates.”- Ombudsman.
One example that demonstrates an unconscious bias is the management and function of Victoria Police in the operational strategies employed in matters of civil unrest and demonstrations.
It is highly unlikely that the Operational Commanders at these demonstrations were the same officer, so how is it that the strategies are only ever consistent with the government’s ideology?
There have been a number of demonstrations where the Police response has varied to a degree to indicate that either actual or unconscious bias is at play. Consistency in Policing demonstrations is sadly lacking, we argue, because of the bias.
In particular, the lack of police action at the Black Lives Matter rally, the overreaction to anti-COVID demonstrations, the lack of any action at the Anti-Trans Rally and, of late, the Pro-Palestinian/HAMAS civil unrest all have a common denominator: the action of Police can be seen to mirror the ideology of the Government on the purpose of the demonstration, and that is a very bad thing.
“But nothing will change without a recognition at the highest levels of government that change is necessary.”
It corrodes standards of public governance, decision-making in the public interest and trust in government, and if left unchecked increases the risk of corrupt criminal offending.” -Ombudsman.
On that point, the protestations of the Ombudsman fail.
The highest levels of Government do not see an issue because, to them, the status quo is appropriate and a right, part of the spoils of Governing.
It is abundantly clear that the checks and balances that should prevent this problem either do not exist or are not enforced.
Simply raising the issue has little chance of achieving a satisfactory result. It is imperative that the inquiry continue to examine where the checks and balances have failed and what remedial action is necessary.
Starting with a search for answers measuring executive managers’ accountability and performance against the position’s benchmarks.
The infection of bias is near epidemic proportions, and it can be averted tomorrow simply by holding executive managers to account, starting with the most senior ones. It would only take a handful of Senior executives to lose their position because bias was identified in their sphere of control, and very quickly, bias would be diminished dramatically if not eliminated.
Unless this Government acknowledges that there is a problem, nothing will change. Positive action is required.
No public servant should receive a bonus if they have not exceeded their accountability and performance levels.
For a cultural change, as that is what is required, it is necessary that failure to perform free from bias must be managed by the greatest motivator, their hip pocket.