The Little Green Book

Don Russell’s “little green book” will be a heavily underlined bible on the desks of senior public servants, ministerial staff and policy makers.

The Little Green Book

Don Russell, Leadership, Monash University Publishing, 2021


Why is the Morrison Commonwealth government plagued with problems of “programmatic laziness” and incompetence in relation to aged care, vaccination and the lack of quarantine stations around the country? If you want to move beyond just political partisanship the answers lie in this very important book. The Morrison government has created ministerial offices that are not properly linked with the capacity of the Australian state through Federal departments and public servants. Probably from the Abbot government onwards, but maybe even before under previous Labor governments, the temptation has been to surround Ministers with outside consultants, public relations people and the professional political classes. Politics has become all spin and no capacity for delivery.

This is just one of the insights of Don Russell’s “little green book”. I used this phrase advisedly because one of the famous turns of phrase emanating from the Prime Minister’s office when Russell was its chief was “precis please”.  There was never enough time to read great tombs of policy advice. Things had to be synthesised, and in keeping with that, Russell’s Leadership barely wastes a word. Yet like a master chess player’s gambit, the feeling for bold departures and multiple possibilities is there.

The book is also valuable because it provides an insight into one of the nation’s most insightful can-do leaders. Russell is currently chair of Australia’s largest superannuation fund Australian Super. Over his career he has worked for four Prime Ministers, a Premier and 21 different Ministers in the Federal and State spheres. In between his stints in public policy he worked for fifteen years in asset management and superannuation and was also US Ambassador from 1993-1995 where he created a relationship between Prime Minister Keating and President Clinton that was spoiled only by Keating’s electoral defeat in 1996.

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