Broadening the political "gene pool" for a more prosperous economy and society

Friday, 13 February 2015


    In an essay recently published by the CGEI titled "the governance of government", former AICD CEO and Managing Director, John Colvin FAICD, contends that Australia’s politicians have limited diversity in terms of their backgrounds and experience, both in business and more widely. This has contributed to a situation where laws and regulations passed by State and Federal Governments are stifling the ability of business to flourish, and create prosperity, job opportunities and taxation revenue.

    AICD analysis of the backgrounds of Federal politicians shows that very few have experience in senior executive or board roles at major commercial enterprises. Only 0.9 per cent of current Federal parliamentarians have had 10 or more years’ senior executive or board experience in a major commercial enterprise, and only 6.6 per cent have had some experience.

    Mr Colvin also points out that a large proportion of elected representative – from all sides – come through the ranks of the so called “political class”. Half of current Federal parliamentarians (as at 1 July 2014) were previously employed as a political staffer or a party or union official. Our system of government is suffering from a “narrowing of the political ‘gene pool’”.

    Mr Colvin believes that there is a need for change to ensure that policy decisions impacting on business and the economy are shaped effectively. He makes various recommendations, including in relation to the education of politicians and advisors, selection criteria for politicians, participation of non-elected individuals in Cabinet deliberations, creation of more forums for business to input on policy decisions, and secondments between the public and private sectors.

    Mr Colvin hopes that this paper will generate further discussion and debate around these issues, and provide further impetus to look at the governance of government more generally.

    In this video, Mr Colvin explains why business knowledge is important in politics. He notes that the issue is one of balance and diversity; to ensure that our policymakers adequately consider different interests in the Australian community as a whole. Mr Colvin notes that, increasingly, the voice of the business community is not being represented at all. Mr Colvin discusses possible ways of addressing this problem and highlights the importance of political party pre-selection processes.

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