THE Minister for Trade, Simon Crean, has told his senior public servants to improve their connections with other public servants to help him avoid being ”surprised” by his government’s policies.The former Labor leader addressed an ”away day” for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s senior executive service at a Canberra hotel on May 10, eight days after the government revealed its controversial resource super profits tax.He told the 100 or so officials he would have preferred not to have learnt about the contents of the Henry review and the decision to delay the emissions trading scheme from newspapers, sources at the meeting said.They said Mr Crean urged them to establish better connections with officials in other departments so that as their minister, he did not have any more such ”surprises”.The sources said Mr Crean urged the officials to play a bigger role in a broader range of policies with an impact on international economics or trade, to ”play itself in” to policymaking.He said he wanted the department to strengthen its economic and trade analysis and to work more closely with his office.There has been serious disquiet in the cabinet from ministers shut out of crucial decisions by the so-called kitchen cabinet, or strategic budget and priorities committee. These included the decisions to delay the emissions scheme and to adopt the super profits tax.Some ministers have told the Herald the cabinet has been consulted more in recent weeks and that the government has set up a larger cabinet committee to develop policies for the election this year.But many blame the narrowness of the advice – from the committee and the Prime Minister’s office – for many decisions that have backfired and contributed to Labor’s slide in the opinion polls.Last week Mr Crean conceded on Perth radio that the government should have consulted more widely before announcing the new tax.Asked whether consultation should have happened, he said: ”Of course, it should. But it didn’t take place. What we’re now saying is let’s fix it. We will have the consultation. We’ve signalled that, and what we want to do is to get an outcome – to get a result.”Mr Crean declined to comment on the address yesterday.
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