It’s been just under six weeks since the election of the Albanese Government, and – on the surface at least – it seems the new Prime Minister and his team have settled comfortably into the Ministerial wing at Parliament House.
Across the board, Ministers have hit the ground running and generally appear to be well briefed and in control of their portfolios.
This is due in no small way to two major factors that contribute to the stability of government in Australia.
The first is the permanent public service which, as it does at every election, would have readied itself in the leadup to polling day to immediately start work on the government’s promises and agenda – regardless of which side won.
In the early hours of Sunday, May 22, the leadership of the key departments would have begun briefing putative Labor Ministers from their “Red Book” – their plan to implement the Labor commitments. The “Blue Book”, on the other hand, will be consigned to the depths of a departmental basement somewhere in the suburbs of Canberra.
The second factor crucial to the smooth transition of power has been the group of political advisers that Labor is assembling. Although they are often derided, so-called “professional advisers” are key to both sides of politics being able to govern Australia smoothly and well.
At the moment, Labor is relying on temporary staff on short-term contracts to help Ministers get settled and get to work. There is a significant degree of security and background checking that goes on before advisers are employed, and as a result permanent rosters are still being finalised.
But across Australia Labor is drawing from its Opposition staff, from state governments, from advisers to the Rudd and Gillard Government, and from its party rank and file, to fill seats in the offices of new MPs and Ministers.
This is the same process that took place in 2013, when Tony Abbott and his team took over the controls.
There is a class of political operatives that understands the business of government. Advisers to MPs and Senators graduate to junior positions in Ministerial officers, then to Senior positions (often after a stint in Opposition or in a State Government somewhere). At each step they learn more not only about the politics, but actually about how government functions and what needs to be done to ensure Australians receive the health, education and other services they expect.
The two-party system may not be perfect, but both sides understand how to run the government. And that’s why they can change the baton so smoothly.