Issue 8
Monday, 05 June 2017
Charles Darwin University
Dr Don Zoellner: “An explanation of how the system actually works”
Dr Don Zoellner: “An explanation of how the system actually works”

Ministers mirror rich philanthropists, says academic

By Patrick Nelson

Alice Springs-based University Fellow Dr Don Zoellner has likened the behaviour of government ministers to that of wealthy philanthropists in a book that traces the history of vocational training in the Northern Territory

The Northern Institute researcher said elected government ministers had used vocational education and training as a philanthropic intervention in the lives of Territorians.

“Northern Territory ministers each year determine how to redistribute the $100 million plus vocational education and training budget to organisations and individuals,” Dr Zoellner said.

“Decisions about the financial and programmatic elements of vocational education and training in the Northern Territory are made by a minister who is elected to serve as the philanthropist of the public’s combined resources.

“Highly successful ministers have not allowed public servants to dominate their own finely tuned political instincts and knowledge of their electorates in determining how the public largesse is distributed.”

Dr Zoellner said this was not a criticism, but rather a critical observation through a particular perspective of a pattern of behaviour in the 39 years since self-government in the Northern Territory.

“If one wishes to understand the decision-making process used by ministers, and consequently how the training system works, knowledge of philanthropy and related behaviours, will provide a highly productive perspective,” he said.

“By philanthropy, I mean the moral invitation to expand the horizons of their self-interest to include meeting the needs of others.”

Dr Zoellner said the book described and analysed the impact of European social, economic, bureaucratic and political practices in a remote and sparsely populated region.

“As well as being a chronological account of events, people and institutions, I offer an explanation of how the system actually works.”

The book will be launched by former Chief Minister Clare Martin at the Northern Territory Library (Darwin) on Wednesday 7 June at 5.15pm. 

RSVP today (Monday 5 June): W: book launch.