What ever happened to good government? What are the signs of bad government? And can Malcolm Turnbull apply the lessons of the past in a very different world? In this crisp, profound, and witty essay, Laura Tingle seeks answers to these questions. She ranges from ancient Rome to the demoralised state of the once-great Australian public service, from the jingoism of the past to the tabloid scandals of the Internet age.
In Quarterly Essay 46 Laura Tingle shows that the answer goes to something deep in Australian culture: our great expectations of government. Since the deregulation era of the 1980s, Tingle shows, governments can do less, but we wish they could do more. From Hawke to Gillard, each prime minister has grappled with this dilemma. Keating sought to change expectations, Howard to feed a culture of entitlement, Rudd to reconceive the federation. Through all of this, and back to our origins, runs an almost childlike sense of the government as saviour and provider.