|The Loddon river overflows|
|Lunch at Daylesford|
• How do elected politicians share out, if they do, different policy tasks among political colleagues?
• What’s the division of labour between councillors in relation to maintaining political oversight of the work of the council?
• What criteria apply to the selection of elected members to these roles?
• Who decides and how?
• By what procedures are delegations shared and organised among councillors?
• What forms of accountability are applied to the work of councillors in these roles?
• What form of language – titles, briefs, portfolios – is used in referring to the organisation of separate responsibilities?
• How is the organisation of political leadership matched to the organisation of managerial leadership?“You know where this fits,” said John “in the content and focus? We’ve got ‘learning’, ‘negotiating’ and ‘governing’. It’s the last of those. Let’s ask people about this next seminar.” The work I’d done in UK a few years back with Michael Lyons on ‘cabinet-chief officer relations’ could apply here, indeed a twenty minute discussion at the end of the last Brisbane seminar had been all about how the Mayor and his or her political colleagues organised ‘portfolios’. There’s little or no party politics in Australian local government, and no reference, as in UK to a ‘cabinet’ or before that ‘the group’ of senior members who the officers, and other members in many councils, looked to for steer. I realised, with excitement, that we didn’t know enough, or in some cases, anything about how local government politicians were organising themselves collectively around the task of government. ** ** ** I’m rereading The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. I read it first when I was still in callow teens and was disappointed at finding it so unfrightening after all I’d been warned. I guess I’d have had the same experience with Conrad’s Heart of Darkness which I read much more recently. Neither of these novels have their full effect on an innocent reader. They're not revelatory and for that reason can leave the young reader – that I once was – hoping for more literal terrors as in Poe or even the brothers Grimm. With the awful knowledge of human depravity, not, thank god, experience, that comes with time’s education, these two works written not far apart at the turn of the 20th century, are landmarks in the documentation of evil, of things unthinkable in kinder times or among a more blinkered generation. Conrad pretended to be speaking about Africa’s stereotypical ‘darkness’ but he was, through his fictional interlocuter, Marlow, sat quietly on that vessel moored in the estuary of the murky Thames where the yarn was spun, referring with awful prescience to us in Britain and Europe. In Turn of the Screw James’ circumlocutions, once opaque, are now read as what he intended, an adult’s increasingly frightened search for internal fiends; ones she thinks may be figments of her imagination, hopes they are, but which she gradually realises have possessed the children in her care, inveigled them into innocent collusion in the crime against them. There has always been child abuse, but only in the last half-century, or less, have we opened the furnace door, exposed its banal frightfulness. James uses the diversion of unreality – the supernatural - to tell a story about a hideous reality. When I first read this book, like a million others who didn’t acknowledge or even believe in such things, I couldn’t make out what was so scary about it, nor did the films of the book help. Now I fully grasp the famous dying quote from Heart of Darkness - ‘the horror, the horror.’ ** ** **
|In our hotel in Brisbane|