LETTER FROM AUSTRALIA DECEMBER 1997

A Managerial Milieu

AUSTRALIA, IN COMPANY with most other countries, is gripped by the new corporate mentality. Market driven values now determine the character and direction of most public sector services and activities.

Government departments and agencies now refer to members of the public as customers. The concept of a Public Service is increasingly relegated to keep company with the Dodo Bird.

This trend commenced under the former Federal Labour Government and is now embraced as an article of faith by both sides of politics at all levels of government.

In Victoria the conservative Coalition State Government has set a trail blazing pace as it rolls back the public sector. With the Labour Opposition reeling from electoral rejection and community activists marginalised it has been the Churches who have largely provided the voice of criticism and concern over the New Corporatism.

The Victorian Government's promotion of the Gambling Industry has attracted particular criticism from across the Churches. The establishment of a Casino in Melbourne and the growth of Gaming Machines across the State has generated a windfall boost to State Revenue but has also created considerable social harm especially in the area of family breakdowns.

In the Federal sphere moves to change the delivery of Aged Care services has provoked widespread Church criticism. The Churches, on the frontline of Aged Care, have voiced grave concerns over the manner and direction of Federal Government policy.

"Anglicare Australia", the new Anglican peak welfare body, has spoken out against an increasingly "user pays" approach within Federal Government welfare thinking to the detriment of principles of justice and equity.

The Anglican Church of Australia, however, is not immune to the new managerialism. Barely a week goes by without another diocesan strategy paper being published that reeks of the Amway Ecclesiology that pervades so much of the corporate church and its minions of secular imitation.

A number of Australian dioceses have abandoned the traditional Office of Registrar and created General Managers for their manifestations of Anglican Inc.

Those who seek to advance up the Church ladder churn out the jargon of Mission Statements and Ministry Strategies that would do credit to any third-rate Business School. Bishops and those who aspire to the purple act increasingly like Area Managers for a franchise network that as pastors to the Lord's flock.

Melbourne diocese, that is forever crying poor, recently sent one of its regional bishops to England to attend a ten-day Graduate Management Course! A subsidised visit to Lourdes or a retreat at Iona or Mirfield would have done more for the spiritual growth of the individual prelate and his cure.

At a national level the Anglican Church of Australia can be seen to be emulating the ECUSA model of management and policy manipulation. The General Secretary of General Synod was once a backroom operator in the style of a Whitehall manadrin now we see the new General Secretary, Revd Dr Bruce Kaye, adopting a profile across the Australian church that evokes the style of a US Presiding Bishop.

Earlier this year Anglicans were encouraged to attend a national "happening" where focus groups and keynote speakers were used to massage and mould opinion-makers within the Church. Next year's General Synod will see a change to the meeting's format to also include discussion groups.

The General Secretary promotes these changes as alternative to the confrontational and polarising nature of formal General Synod debate.

This model of decision-making is drawn from the new managerial milieu of the increasingly corporatised University sector previously home to Dr Kaye. It is designed to give the appearance of consultation and grassroots involvement but in reality it is all about ensuring the agenda of the liberal power elite.

Articulate Traditionalists will find no place at the tables set by the power elites. The various talkfests organised at diocesan, provincial or national levels will make no provision for the recognised leadership of Traditionalists to be represented in any dialogues.

Across Australian society the relationship between the Citizen and the State is being changed and the empowerment of the individual as part of a communal compact is not part of that New Order.

Unfortunately, as far as the Anglican Church is concerned, her ability to provide effective and legitimate criticism of this trend is muted by her increasing inability to practise what she preaches.

Martin Hislop is Anglican Chaplain at the University of Ballarat, in the province of Victoria.

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