Thursday, February 16, 2006

Labor historian gone very astray

Some routine reflections by the head of the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet, Dr Peter Shergold on ministerial responsibility have attracted attention. As head of the department of Education Science & Technology he gave a more interesting address 'DESTiny: looking to the future' in 2002 (no longer on the DEST website) in which he made the revealing admission that bureaucrats now have to compete with external sources of advice, with what I felt was the implication that this imposed constraints on advice, and that he was happy with this. Shergold began his working life as an American labour historian writing a good book on the comparison of working-class living standards in the US and Britain 1899-1913 which concluded that US living standards were not as far ahead as those of the UK as some argued. In Australia he was then associated with the research effort that produced Convict Workers which interpreted convict settlement in Australia in human capital terms. Neither book are what you would expect from John Howard's chief advisor and earlier the head of the Department of Workplace Relations during the governments war on the waterside workers. Still working for conservative governments pays better than labour history. Shergold did enter the public service during the Labor years but he survived the transition well.


At 11:33 AM, Anonymous Tex Lumbago said...

Found you via your comment at JQs. Good site, I'll drop by again.


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