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In December 1990 a conference was held to consider issues confronting South East Queensland. As a result, in 1991, a Regional Planning Advisory Group (RPAG) was established to examine the impact of population growth on the region: the SEQ 2001 project. RPAG was chaired by the then Deputy Premier and included representatives of: State and Commonwealth Governments; local authorities; industry associations; unions; as well as environmental and community groups.
This paper submits the view that there were deficiencies in the assumptions on which the SEQ 2001 project was based. For example, RPAG was commissioned to produce a regional outline plan to accommodate population growth, but not to consider how the region's economy might be developed. The result was necessarily inadequate because:
This paper will firstly outline various aspects of the SEQ 2001 project namely: RPAG's approach and output (Section 2); RPAG's proposals for growth management (Section 3); and public reactions to their work (Section 4). Next a number of deficiencies in the assumptions underpinning the SEQ 2001 project are outlined including: the insubstantial economic framework (Section 5); the attempt to define a vision by 'navel gazing' (Section 6); the uncertainty of rapid population growth (Section 7); and the unrealistic approach to financing (Section 8). The proposed methods for growth management are then shown to be impractical (Section 9), and inadequate in enabling the most important determinants of the region's future to be managed (Section 10). The need for remedial action following the SEQ 2001 project is also discussed (Section 11). Finally, the paper considers briefly how the social, environmental, land use and cultural goals of SE Queensland might differ if the economy were to be better developed, and how both economic development and urban and economic growth might be managed (Section 12).
Notes (like this) are included throughout the paper for the benefit of readers interested in details.
Attachments A-E outline the key issues raised in various source documents. Attachment F presents an overview of ideas relating to industrial location.
The author would welcome comment on this paper by interested persons. Apologies are offered in advance for errors of detail which will have inevitably resulted from dealing with a broad topic with limited resources. Hopefully these will not weaken the main argument.
2. RPAG'S APPROACH TO THE SEQ 2001 PROJECT
The SEQ 2001 project was primarily set up to address the land use and infrastructure implications of projected rapid population growth in SE Queensland. Given this narrow goal, RPAG took a workmanlike and sometimes innovative approach.
The task was divided into 15 policy issues (with 5 Working Groups each responsible for several topics). Each working group identified regional issues, contributed to a draft regional outline plan, and identified its implications for their policy areas. RPAG sought frank expression of views and 'ownership' by participants despite some discrepancies which would have to be resolved over time. Several hundred people were involved in the process.
In July 1993, RPAG produced: the draft of a Preferred Pattern of Urban Development for SE Queensland: proposals for Institutional Arrangements for Growth Management in SE Queensland; and 15 detailed policy papers. These were all summarised by a document Creating Our Future - Towards a Framework for Growth Management in South East Queensland. The major issues raised in the latter are outlined in Attachment A.
The SEQ 2001 process resulted in valuable debate about many land use and infrastructure issues, though there were many areas where the major recommendation was that someone else prepare a plan after more studies. RPAG's principal conclusion was that population growth was adversely impacting on the region, and that either this had to be limited or it had to be managed by an increased (or at least different) Government role.
The process generated a great deal of information as well as interesting insights. The latter include:
- past practices did not always ensure quality land use;
- service provision has lagged population growth in some areas. In future, the service requirements of actual communities must be considered. The demand for services such as transport or water might be managed to reduce requirements;
- there are regional issues which transcend local authority boundaries;
- concentrating facilities in major centres could be an advantage, and such 'strategic regional centres' might benefit several areas which suffer multiple disadvantages;
- dispersed settlement leads to a high demand for transport services. Higher overall densities might be achieved by policies mainly affecting new urban growth areas;
- there is an imbalance between employment and residential population in various areas, which could be reduced to improve efficiency and amenity;
- land use management can have benefits including: identifying economic resources and environmental assets which should desirably be protected; increasing efficiency in urban design; and establishing a regional open space system.
The draft regional outline plan took the form of: a 'vision'; a framework for growth management; and proposed institutions. RPAG's vision was that SE Queensland become 'internationally renowned for its livability, natural environment and economic vitality'.
3. RPAG'S PROPOSAL FOR GROWTH MANAGEMENT
'Growth management' was seen in Creating Our Future to be a preferable alternative either to allowing market forces to determine population growth rates and land use patterns, or to implementing strict controls on the amount and distribution of population and urban growth. Such growth management seeks to 'redistribute growth and development in ways that minimise negative environmental impacts, while achieving the maximum efficiency in the provision of services and infrastructure for a growing population'.
RPAG envisaged the growth management strategy for SE Queensland to involve: a preferred pattern of urban development; policies; and institutional arrangements. Principles for growth management were also suggested.
Features of the preferred pattern of urban development are: more compact urban development; faster population growth in Brisbane and Pine Rivers / Caboolture; increased choice of living environments; faster growth of jobs and services in 3 regional growth centres (each serving a population of 500,000 and having good rail systems); emphasis on public transport and arterial roads; a regional open space system; higher environmental standards; and identification of long term urban areas. (see Attachment A).
Features of the implementation arrangements are: a Regional Outline Plan (consisting of a Preferred Pattern of Development, Environmental Constraint maps and the principles underpinning them); Sub-regional Structure Plans; conforming Local Strategic Plans linked to the local authority corporate planning process; coordinated service programs; a Regional Co-ordination Committee; community participation; and a Secretariat / Resources Unit. (see Attachment A).
Principles of growth management are stated to be: building new arrangements on existing organisations where possible; promoting co-ordination and co-operation in services planning; linking land use and desired social outcomes; ensuring that sectional interests do not dominate over the general community interest; and ongoing monitoring of the process and the plan.
Creating Our Future suggested that a Regional Outline Plan would be negotiated by RPAG, leading to acceptance by various levels of Government in early 1994. This should then be translated into strategic plans and development control instruments over 2 years. Regional service programming mechanisms to enhance co-ordination and implementation of the preferred strategies would be established simultaneously.
RPAG had many high aspirations for growth management such as: promoting 'livability' by an integrated approach to planning; using infrastructure more efficiently; linking infrastructure with land use planning; reducing service costs; and increasing certainty. Section 9 will comment in detail on the feasibility of its proposed methods.
4. PUBLIC REACTION TO THE SEQ 2001 PROPOSALS
There has been widespread acceptance that there was a the need to do something about the rapid population growth which SE Queensland was experiencing.
Population growth does not necessarily ensure desirable progress. For example, California has achieved a rate of population growth roughly double that of the USA as a whole. Now air pollution, traffic congestion, drought, unaffordable housing, declining educational standards, homelessness, and gang crime are, for the first time, causing Californians to consider leaving (Manasian D., 'A Survey of California: Success and Excess'; Economist, Oct 13, 1990, pp S1-S22).
However RPAG's proposals were criticised (mainly by real estate and local government interests) for perceived inaccurate data as well as for unsatisfactory methods and implementation proposals.
[Examples of concerns expressed about RPAG]
As a result of such concerns, an independent expert review of the 127 written public submissions about RPAG's proposals was sought (see Attachment B). The reviewer's conclusions tended to support some of the public concern. These views in turn gained some industry support (Carr M. 'Local Authorities Demand a Role in Planning', Business Queensland, 8/2/94).
Broadly the reviewer, Professor Trevor Grigg of the University of Queensland, concluded that:
- the process should not be allowed to stall;
- too little analysis has been done to allow the preferred pattern of urban development to be credible;
- economic and social concerns have to be addressed, not just urban development issues;
- State agencies have difficulty dealing with regional issues;
- financing depends on there being a viable economic base; and
- there is no guarantee that the proposed implementation arrangements could work.
The review also suggested alternative approaches, giving particular attention to the implications of Government efforts to affect market determined outcomes (Attachment B).
The major focus of this paper will not be on the alleged inaccuracy and impracticality of some of RPAG's conclusions and proposals for SE Queensland, though some relating to implementation are referred to in Section 9. Rather the main issue is the inadequacy of the assumptions which constrained the whole SEQ 2001 project. Those inadequacies relate to: its insubstantial economic basis (Section 5); the narrow range of issues which were considered (Section 6); the presumed inevitability of rapid population growth (Section 7); and its unrealistic financing assumptions (Section 8). RPAG could never have found meaningful answers, because it was not given a mandate to deal with the right questions.
5. THE ECONOMIC CONTEXT
The SEQ 2001 project was focused on SE Queensland's population growth and its implications for land use and infrastructure. To an extent economic growth was also considered but SE Queensland's potential for economic development was not considered. Thus no serious basis was laid for RPAG's vision of high standards of `livability', environment or economic vitality.
5.1 THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT
'To grow means to increase in size by the assimilation or accretion of materials; to develop means to expand or realise the potentialities of, to bring to a fuller, greater or better states. When something grows it gets quantitatively bigger; when it develops it gets qualitatively better, or at least different. Quantitative growth and qualitative improvement follow different laws ....' (Goodland R. etal, Environmentally Sustainable Development: Building on Bruntland, Environmental Working Paper No46 of the World Bank, 1991).
This difference is important in many areas (eg the difference between population growth and community development is obvious). However, for present purposes, the difference between economic growth and development will provide the most useful examples.
Economic growth is a change in the quantity of activity (eg as measured by the number and size of firms, numbers employed and in the volume of output, trade, and value added).
Economic development is a change to the effectiveness with which business and the community can support industry, ie through upgrading systems for production, innovation, trade, industrial relations, savings and investment, initiating new opportunities, education and training, transport, research and development, information management, money and prices, law and contract, taxation and public services. Development relates to the 'quality' of economic activity both within, and amongst, organisations.
Economic growth is often accompanied by economic development (eg as new methods / skills are discovered, and translated into the way work, economic systems and society are organised). But rapid economic growth does not necessarily lead to economic development.
Malaysia is a resource rich country, and has achieved very rapid economic growth mainly by exploiting these advantages. However, observers have often wondered why it is 'that the extraordinary growth has not yielded a corresponding rise in business opportunities: referring to issues such as Malaysia's fragile financial system, and its diversification mainly into footloose manufacturing entirely dependent on foreign investors. One explanation alleges the existence of a 'rent seeking philosophy' where the private sector is passive because 'entrepreneurs' often take no risk free rides on the back of natural resources. (Clad J., Behind the Myth: Business Money and Power in Southeast Asia, 1989).
Uruguay achieved a relatively high living standard on the basis of natural resource riches until the 1950s when its terms of trade weakened. It proved unable to diversify its economy, and declined into third world living standards (Jacobs J., Cities and the Wealth of Nations, Viking, 1984).
Rapid population growth, such as SE Queensland is experiencing, is even less certain to be accompanied by economic development (as many third world cities' experiences show).
The characteristics of a 'developed' economy are constantly changing. The skills, organisations and machines required for mechanised manufacturing were the hallmark of a 'developed economy' in the 19th century. After the 1920s, the capability to succeed in mass production manufacturing established that an economy was 'developed'. In the 1970s large numbers of lower wage countries developed these capabilities, and the productivity of mass production declined. However, products and industries go through life cycles of: birth (where successful innovators gain high profits); growth (where profit margins fall due to increased competition); and maturity (where both profits and growth decline). Thus 'developed' economies have moved 'upstream' towards manufacturing and service industries characterised by the skills and flexibility required for innovation. Even large firms now strive for the flexibility of smaller enterprises with this goal in view. And there is no reason to believe the target will not keep on changing. In general, a developed economy may be defined as one with the capability to compete internationally in highly productive industries.
Productivity is not just another word for efficiency (ie the number of things produced per unit of input). Rather productivity is a measure of the value added per unit of resources employed in a firm or industry. Value added can be thought of as the sum of: worker's wages and salaries; return on investor's capital; and nett payments to government for public goods and services. Productivity depends on: the resources available; market demand; the internal productivity of firms; the mutual support and competition amongst firms; support from the community; and the policies of government (such as law, taxes). The internal productivity of firms depends on their efficiency, and also on producing what is in demand (requiring flexibility and quality). Most productivity gain (say >80%) comes from improved organisation, knowledge and skill (ie from development), rather than from greater efficiency. Value added is not sufficient in itself. It must be distributed amongst: investors (to motivate organising enterprises); workers (to provide a high standard of living and high domestic demand); and taxes (to provide public goods and services).
The importance of economic development will be further considered in Section 5.3.
5.2 SE QUEENSLAND HAS AN UNDER-DEVELOPED ECONOMY
The question of whether Queensland's (and particularly SE Queensland's) achievements are those of a well developed economy has never received attention.
However in terms of the ability of business and the community to support highly productive industries, Queensland's resource based economy seems relatively under-developed, despite its positive features (see detailed indications below). It has been highly dependent on foreign investors and government. Queensland firms are typically branch offices or small businesses, which do not attain high level commercial knowledge or skills nor have a systematic approach to business. There are few able to match the multinational's which have been interested in Queensland's resources, or the tough standards set by international competitors. The economy has frequently been described as under-developed. Many economic support functions are weak. Queensland's workforce skill levels are low by OECD standards. Thus, despite natural advantages, Queensland's economic performance has been unimpressive in per capita terms and by international standards.
A similar weak level of economic development characterises SE Queensland where acting as an administrative, transport and service centre has not brought forth the functions characteristic of a well developed economy.
Presumably Queensland's economic approach has been unambitious because it was easy to do moderately well (ie to drift backwards slowly in affluence from a favourable starting point which was attained by being 'lucky' enough to possess rich natural resources). However, one should not go backwards indefinitely without wondering why so many supposed strengths do not seem to produce better outcomes.
[Note on evidence related to the strength's and greater weaknesses of SE Queensland's economy]
5.3 WHY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT MATTERS
Economic development has several effects on economic growth:
Firstly, economic development helps raise the productivity of firms or industries because it directly upgrades some of the systems on which productivity depends;
Secondly, economic development causes economic growth by increasing the value which can be created by given inputs, and thus increases community wealth. Conversely economic development might reduce the environmental impacts of any given value of economic output, by reducing the associated resource consumption;
Thirdly, development increases competitiveness (by increasing the productivity of firms and industries and thus their ability to cheaply, reliably and quickly produce goods and services in demand even with rising wages and exchange rates).
A nation is wealthy when it is able to compete in highly productive industries. This was traditionally seen to result from exploiting existing comparative advantages. However, to be relatively prosperous a society must now be able to create 'competitive' advantages by increasing its productive capability in desirable sectors (eg those with growth prospects where value added is likely to be large in relation to the resources employed).
[A Note on Creating Competitive Advantage]
Economics has no theories to fully explain economic growth or development.
Economic growth was traditionally seen mainly to be a consequence of investment (ie investment expenditure increased demand and increased income in a later period and thus allowed further investment; investment also allowed the introduction of better technologies). In the 1950s, studies in the USA showed that most economic growth was not primarily due to increasing inputs of labour or capital, but to a 'third factor' - usually ascribed to technology (know how). 'New' growth theories suggest that many forms of knowledge (not just technical knowledge) lead to economic growth.
Economic development was often defined as having a high per capita income. Development was typically seen as a challenge for less affluent countries, who required rapid growth. But none of the conventional prescriptions seemed to work, eg: increasing savings and investment; import replacement; or providing missing 'key' ingredients.
Furthermore, mainstream economics has difficulty explaining how societies in East Asia had achieved very rapid 'catch up' economic growth, because in the experience of Western societies it is 'impossible' to manage a faster rate of economic development than is achieved by a free market.
[A philosophical comment]
In summary: economic development is a qualitative improvement in the effectiveness with which business and the community can support industry; development accelerates growth, lifts per capita income, and is now often necessary to create competitive advantages in highly productive industries; though how development can be achieved is not easily understood within the framework of conventional 'positive' economics.
5.4 THE ECONOMIC BASIS FOR SEQ 2001
Despite SE Queensland's apparently under-developed economy, RPAG did not fully consider the economic basis for its growth management proposals. It thus appeared to accept the State Government's 1992 economic policy Queensland - Leading State as setting the economic context for SEQ 2001.
Major themes of Queensland - Leading State were: State's are regional economies which depend on external events. Queensland is expected to achieve rapid growth by Australian standards. State Government functions involve: financing public services; taxation; micro-economic reform; industry policy; and regional development. Government's poor record in economic intervention is the basis for 'market enhancement' to create an environment for economic effectiveness. Government's emphasis is on: low taxation; overhaul of public sector; corporatisation; co-ordination of policy and implementation; efficient infrastructure; increasing competition; reducing regulation; smoother land use approvals; more education and training; and flexible industrial relations. Trade and investment as well as major projects are to be facilitated. Many actions said to give effect to these directions were also identified.
RPAG's main consideration of economic issues was in a policy paper related to Industrial Location and Tourism. The policy paper noted the need to create jobs to match population inflow, and assumed that the industries which should be targeted for the region are: tourism and events; technology, education and training; value added manufacturing; and transport and distribution. The above paper draws heavily upon a prior Industrial Location and Tourism position paper.
The Industrial Location and Tourism policy paper dealt in detail with: developing an economic vision for the region, supported by accurate information; balancing jobs and resident population in each area; the need for serviced land for industry; managing strategic industrial sites; flexibility of the planning system to respond to emerging issues; and collaboration as a means for problem solving.
The Industry Location and Tourism position paper considered the structure of the region's economy, the implications of its spatial arrangement, the prospects for growth industries, and ways to: achieve this growth potential; achieve locational efficiency; retain strategic land; and achieve landuse compatibility. The role of Government and institutional requirements were also considered.
5.5 SEQ 2001'S ECONOMIC FRAMEWORK HAS LITTLE SUBSTANCE
Though the above reports identify many interesting topics, they do not provide confidence that the outcome would be a well developed economy in SE Queensland.
Firstly, Leading State did not create effective machinery to develop Queensland's economy (see Attachment E). For example, while nominally based on a philosophy of 'market enhancement', Leading State did not even describe or analyse the effectiveness of the practical market mechanisms in Queensland which Government's role was said to enhance, and thus could not really justify its proposed initiatives. Leading State's analysis was limited to economic structure (ie what industries were present rather than how good they were). Furthermore most emphasis was placed on the activities of government, which are only a fraction of the economy and have little to do with developing the effectiveness of enterprises and market mechanisms, and the commercial and technological knowledge and skills of the community. In addition, though Leading State noted that a regional economy such as Queensland's was dependant on external factors, it did not indicate what those factors currently were, or suggest how Queensland's economy might best adapt to them.
Secondly, there is little substance in the two papers on Industrial Location and Tourism. Both discussed second order issues concerned with the arrangement of industry in the region, but neither showed what would ensure that desirable industries would locate or grow in SE Queensland. Attachment F provides an overview of some literature on industrial location, to illustrate the types of issues which might have been considered.
Industry location is determined by many factors (available inputs, market access, complementary services, costs). Globalised markets now provide investors with a wide choice of locations. However, there is little 'footloose' industry which is likely to be highly productive (because of competition from low wage countries), so since the 1970s the challenge has shifted from attracting the location of outside investment, onto developing supportive linkages which allow highly productive 'home grown' industries to prosper.
Despite the formidable competition in East Asia, no mention was made in the Industry Location and Tourism papers of SE Queensland's relative strengths or weaknesses. Furthermore (as detailed below): preferred growth industries were targeted without any justification; some nominated growth sectors appear to be of the low productivity characteristic of an under-developed economy; and steps proposed to encourage the growth of industries are unlikely to result in a developed economy. It was also assumed that government mechanisms could constructively affect the location of industry quite easily.
Thus it would be risky to adopt the draft regional outline plan or policies based on RPAG's assumptions about economic requirements which do not appear to ensure the third component of RPAG's vision for SE Queensland: economic vitality. Evidence for this is presented separately in terms of:
6. SEQ 2001 SUFFERED FROM 'NAVEL GAZING'
An unreliable economic framework was not the only inadequate assumption underpinning the SEQ 2001 project. Its perspective was too narrow to allow a 'vision' to emerge which gave any real idea of how SE Queensland might position itself for prosperity and security in the global and Asia / Pacific contexts.
SEQ 2001 was virtually an exercise in 'navel gazing', because its reports dealt primarily with factors inside the region.
Creating Our Future dealt with: the region's resources, social issues, economy, carrying capacity, environment; methods for growth management; pattern of urban development; places of work; industry; community life; residential planning; transport; human services; water; and institutional arrangements
The Industry Location and Tourism policy paper dealt with: the region's employment and industry needs; requirements to achieve growth; balancing jobs and workforce; availability of land; planning systems; collaborative arrangements; and proposed actions.
Queensland's interstate immigration (which mainly locates in SE Queensland) was the only external influence given significant attention.
No one can say they know where they are going if they do not look at what is happening around them. Likewise, a vision of a region's future must start with an understanding of its environment followed by an assessment of what this implies in terms of necessary and desirable internal changes in order to better position the region in its environment (consider, for example, the method used for Australia 2010: Creating the Future Australia prepared for the Business Council of Australia, Access Economic and Allen Consulting, 1993).
Australia 2010 considered: end of the cold war system; new international order; population changes; shift to Asia / Pacific region; trading blocs and protectionism; competition for international capital; supranational organisations; economic shocks. Their implications were defined, before considering local factors.
External influences which could directly affect the rate and character of urban and economic growth in SE Queensland over the next 20 years (other than interstate migration) could include: geo-political events; refugees; product and service market demands; financial market and interest rate trends; investment; imports; transport systems; information and technologies; social trends; national and supra-national governance; environmental requirements; climatic changes; and East Asian cultures.
Failure to consider such factors may be a symptom of Queensland's branch office and small business character where few are familiar with what it means to adopt a strategic approach. Because such external influences were not clearly considered, RPAG implicitly assumed that either these factors were insignificant or that various working groups would take them into account to the extent that this was appropriate. However there are problems with this.
Firstly, a systematic study of external trends and ideas in relation to almost any of the influences suggested above (or many other factors) would quickly reveal potentially important opportunities and threats which would have to be assessed, before any proposals for SE Queensland's future could gain international credibility.
[Examples of issues not considered]
For an insightful vision hundreds of such concerns would have to be weighed by people with practical experience and knowledge, even though most have only a low probability of real impact. Some would be found which obviously are important now. Furthermore, change is now so rapid that new opportunities and threats emerge from obscurity to dominant importance in very few years. Real flexibility, which RPAG recognised to be required, requires precautionary responses before opportunities are lost or crises emerge, to be expanded or phased out as appropriate. This can not be achieved by 'navel gazing'.
Secondly, it can not be assumed that working groups in SE Queensland can be sufficiently aware of up to date external trends to adequately take them into account without efforts to focus on them. There is an awareness gap of 10-15 years because of Queensland's branch office / small business character, and the absence of analytical capability to translate the deluge of data about external trends into digestible and meaningful forms. For example, a consultative process was conducted for the 'Brisbane Plan' but the groups involved did not produce an industry / technology proposal which could have been seen as internationally credible. It was simply impossible for them to do so without better support. Such constraints can be overcome, but not by 'navel gazing'.
The Industry Location and Tourism policy paper emphasises improving access to accurate and authoritative information as an aid to regional development. But this primarily seems to imply more intensive 'navel gazing' (ie a closer study of SE Queensland).
For real 'development' the goal should be to analyse and disseminate (inside SE Queensland) information about everything else which is relevant to opportunities and threats affecting the region (eg new business techniques, market options, technologies, social options). Information about what SE Queensland is now is not challenging to the 'establishment' and can not show many new options or threats. More facts about SE Queensland may be of use to potential investors, visitors or residents, but this is of secondary importance and is not the key to any facet of balanced development (ie it enables external investors to take advantage of the region, but does not allow the region to take full advantage of its opportunities). Furthermore, the smart way to improve the information available about SE Queensland is not just to 'supply' data but rather to increase the 'demand' for it (ie community's need and willingness to pay for it). A focus on external opportunities and threats, which could not be addressed without better local information, could help do so.
RPAG's proposed 'vision' is only a 'mirage'. It shows what might happen if SE Queensland does not try to find a relevant role for itself in the new international economic and political order, and if it is bypassed by all influences from the outside world other than those already widely known and understood. In particular it provides no guidance to what might really be required for economic vitality, and without this (as shown below) RPAG's desired 'livability' and environmental ambitions will also be just an illusion.
7. RAPID POPULATION GROWTH IS NOT 'GIVEN IN HOLY WRIT'
7.1 INTERSTATE MIGRATION
RPAG was asked to define means for growth management, assuming that SE Queensland's population would increase by (more or less) 1 million by 2011 partly due to rapid interstate migration (currently about 40,000 pa). However, this core assumption is not guaranteed.
Interstate migration probably results from lower living costs (ie cheaper housing, little heating), lower taxes, climatic factors (ie it is better to be unemployed in pleasant surroundings) and perceptions of job opportunities due to economic growth.
Interviews with Interstate Migrants: One family gained better job opportunities than in a small NSW coastal town. Many look to fulfil their dreams, though few find success. Most local youth must go south for jobs. One family found it easier to be poor and comfortable due to the weather. Retirement motivates some. Escaping the predicability of Canberra influenced another (Taylor D et al., 'Heading North - Why everyone wants to be a Queenslander', Sun Herald, 28/11/93).
7.2 HAS RAPID MIGRATION CREATED AN ECONOMIC 'BUBBLE'?
However, a significant component of SE Queensland's economic activity is probably now due to interstate migration. Rapid population growth stimulates short term capital expenditure. This generates job opportunities which then attract further migration.
Assume: 13,000 dwellings pa are built in SE Queensland for 40,000 nett interstate migrants (@3 people / household). Average cost is $125,000. This creates 65,000 jobs in construction and supply of materials, services and overheads (@ $25,000 average wages). Half (32,500) of these jobs are in SE Queensland, and half elsewhere. Public services investment is about $50,000 / dwelling ignoring headworks (Sydney data). If the total capital costs of public and private services (roads, shops, schools, utilities, recreation) equals 80% of housing, total employment in servicing capital requirements for interstate migration will be 58,500 in SE Queensland (and the same elsewhere). Consumption spending (@ multiplier 1.5) creates further 58,500 jobs of which (say) 24,500 are in SE Queensland (with 36,000 elsewhere). A total of 83,000 EFT jobs in SE Queensland satisfies the employment requirements for a population of (say) 250,000 (@60% of population in working ages; 65% workforce participation; 20% part time - 10 hour per week).
Thus interstate migration, which was boosted initially by decisions such as that in 1976 to reduce death duties, generates capital expenditure and jobs which have become a constantly expanding 'magnet' for further migration. Perhaps this inflow of people now provides employment for a SE Queensland population of 250,000, compared with nett interstate migration over the past 10 years of 225,000 (ie 80% of Queensland's total of 285,000 according to Department of Housing Local Government and Planning, Recent Population and Housing Trends in Queensland, 1993, Table 7). A steady increase in migration might be self sustaining for many years so long as confidence is maintained that SE Queensland's growth prospects are better than those in southern cities. However this may not indicate the economic health of SE Queensland.
Refugees from Australia's economic restructuring is a label applied to northward migration by one observer of the overall process of Australia's economic transformation (Cribb J. 'Parables for a Nation Standing at the Cross-roads', Weekend Australian 22-23/1/94). See also Gee L., 'Unskilled Flock to Queensland as Clever Locals Quit State', Courier Mail, 5/7/91.
Where actual economic growth occurs because people act on their belief that growth will occur, there is potential for a boom / bust cycle (consider arguments by George Soros about what he called 'reflexivity', The Alchemy of Finance, 1988). If interstate migration were to be slowed, for any reason, capital expenditure on dwellings and other services would be reduced. Economic pressure for out-migration could then emerge, and accelerate.
7.3 WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
Queensland's economic growth during the recovery from the 1990-91 recession was driven by consumption, housing (due to rapid interstate migration) and public spending (Queensland. Treasury, Economic Outlook, March 1993). Private fixed capital spending did not recover as quickly in Queensland as it did nationally (Sampson A., 'Heading North' Australian Business Monthly, August 1993). Thus consumption rather than investment has driven the recovery, and this is not a sustainable. Queensland's economy depends on international economic conditions, but it is not clear that any high productivity sectors are likely to gain major new investment (noting the possible effect of Native Title legislation on discouraging mining - Stevens M., `The Search Moves Offshore', Australian, 9/2/94, p31), or that competitors will not erode important existing sectors (eg coal).
The motivation for interstate migration will be reduced if recovery increases high wage employment opportunities in Australia's core industrial regions (Sydney and Melbourne). Much greater pressure for industrial transformation has been experienced in other states due to the recession (one observer suggested Queensland had been 'twiddling its thumbs', see Hunter R., 'Economists dismiss pessimistic survey', Business Queensland, 11/1/93, p3). International migration to Australia has slowed, and may not meet the demand for labour in southern cities which it has in the past. Some US 'sunstates' grew quickly in the late 1970s, but slumped when core regions recovered in the 1980s and the 'footloose' industries which had been attracted by low costs moved on to even cheaper locations ('Shade in the Sunbelt', Economist, 7/9/85).
A real estate group recently suggested that Queensland's prosperity depends on high levels of migration ('State Government must help State Migration', Sun Herald, 3/10/93), indicating both the perceived importance of such flows, and the bias possibly introduced into discussion of economic options by any group where 'real estate' interests dominated. The possibility of a 'bust' in dwelling construction in SE Queensland (due to building 23,000 dwellings pa in SE Queensland rather than the 14,000 seen to be required on population grounds) can also be noted (Harley R., 'Housing Riding for a Fall', Financial Review, 23/12/93).
However Creating Our Future shows that some service costs of population growth have been deferred. Thus the full investment impact of interstate migration may not have been felt and a reduction in dwelling construction might now be offset by `catch up' in other areas. However, lower living costs are also an attraction to migration which could then be lost.
An aside: There is a computerised management simulation game which allows a player to 'govern' a country. One strategy is to lower taxes, and so encourage immigration which leads to economic growth until rising service costs require tax increases, and the economy 'busts'.
The cost of services for interstate migrants is already placing pressure on State finances ('Interstate Migration Overloads Services', Courier Mail, 3/11/93), and it may be that SE Queensland is merely `importing poverty' as southern California did (noting that migrants who can not find jobs may be unable to afford to go back - Walker J., 'The new Gold Rush', Weekend Australian, 13-14/6/92).
Given the poor quality economic growth and environmental problems accompanying rapid population growth, it may be better to consider alternatives sooner rather than later. Thus the assumption on which SEQ 2001 was based, that something like the existing rapid population growth trends will be continued in the future, is not 'given in Holy Writ'.
Another aside: Many major companies are said to have sacked their economists because econometric methods merely project forward past trends, and usually miss major qualitative shifts which upset those forecasts (Linden D. 'Dark Days in the Dismal Sciences', Forbes, 21/1/91). Arguably the standard now required is to anticipate (and sometimes to manage) those qualitative shifts.
8. RPAG'S PROPOSALS APPEAR FINANCIALLY UNSOUND
RPAG was asked to suggest how to deal with the effects of population growth. These effects must include increased per capita public sector spending over the next two decades. For example, RPAG showed the need to catch up on a service's backlog due to past growth; while congestion due to increasing population will increase per capita service costs.
Furthermore RPAG suggested substantially higher environmental and 'livability' standards.
Higher standards were suggested for: environmental protection (vegetation, habitats); open space; cultural services; transport; human services (access and social justice); and water management; waste management.
Though increased per capita costs seem likely, and population growth is already stretching Government revenue sources, RPAG did not consider how its proposals could be financed.
RPAG envisaged increased efficiencies as a result of the better planning and coordination of facilities by 'growth management'. However, can such savings cover the (multi-billion dollar?) costs of catching up a services backlog, and adopting higher standards? Also can 'growth management' actually achieve any increased efficiencies at all given the complexity and political difficulties of centrally planned solutions, and the erosion of practical skills in the Queensland Government (see Section 9 below)? The author is not optimistic.
Thus achieving RPAG's vision (or even maintaining the status quo) requires increased per capita revenue. This could be achieved by higher tax rates, new taxes, or a deeper tax base (ie higher per capita income which determines the revenue from any given tax rates). Of the financing alternatives available, deepening the tax base seems best because: increased tax rates are limited by international competition for industry; and there is large scope to deepen the tax base (approximated by GSP / capita) by economic development.
RPAG's proposals lack credibility as they considered neither the financing of the 'catchup' and improved services proposed, nor the economic development required to provide the deeper tax base needed for such financing.
9. `GROWTH MANAGEMENT' PROPOSALS ARE IMPRACTICAL
Preceding sections suggested that SEQ 2001 was based on poor assumptions. However most public concern relates to the proposed methods for implementing 'growth management'.
RPAG's high aspirations for growth management (eg reducing costs, improving coordination) did not ensure the ability to achieve such goals in practice.
Growth was suggested to be managed by many public sector agencies through formal processes for administrative coordination. In addition to a formal Regional Outline Plan an interlocking series of further plans, strategies and policies was proposed.
Features of the implementation arrangements are: a Regional Outline Plan (Preferred Pattern of Development, Environmental Constraint maps and the principles underpinning them); Sub-regional Structure Plans; conforming Local Strategic Plans linked to the local authority corporate planning process; coordinated service programs; a Regional Co-ordination Committee; community participation; and a Secretariat / Resources Unit. (see Attachment A).
Plans, strategies or policies were also suggested for: state and regional nature conservation; state and regional water resources (and water infrastructure); regional coastal management; state recreation; regional land use standards; state open space; integration of major centres; rural residential land; regional transport with special attention to freight; social justice; disadvantaged areas; local total management of water; regional waste management; waste minimisation / recycling; subregional structure; and services programs.
As detailed separately, the suggested administrative machinery for growth management is not consistent with experience of what can actually be achieved by administrative coordination. Furthermore growth management proposals are too complex to necessarily reduce service costs or increase certainty. The suggested cooperative principles of 'growth management' are inconsistent with the heavy handed style of recent restructuring in the Queensland Government, and would lack credibility. Such restructuring also rendered Queensland's public sector incapable of undertaking anything ambitious. Also suggestions for managing the demand for services (such as transport) raises problems in dealing with interest groups.
10. GROWTH MANAGEMENT PROPOSALS ARE INADEQUATE
Even if proposals for 'growth management' had been practical, they would have been insufficient to enable the citizens of SE Queensland to exert more than a minor 'housekeeping' influence over their region's growth and development, because they dealt only with matters affecting 'real estate' and the public sector.
10.1 SEQ 2001 WAS CAPTURED BY `REAL ESTATE' AND PUBLIC SECTOR ISSUES
RPAG made a real effort to integrate the views of participants in the SEQ 2001 process. However in practice the results of such a process depends heavily on who is involved, what agenda is set, and on how subsequent action is to be achieved.
Because of the way the SEQ 2001 project was set up after the 1990 conference, it was captured by those, particularly in the public sector, concerned with 'real estate' issues. Furthermore the process involved preparation of a plan for political approval (rather than enabling action in a competitive situation). This allowed the sectional interests involved to represent their economic and public policy priorities as the general community interest.
'Real estate' focus: The process was dominated by organisations with a broadly define 'real estate' focus namely: government agencies and local authorities concerned with land use, environment and infrastructure; and private interests who saw SE Queensland as valuable real estate. For example, the Policy Paper Industry Location and Tourism attracted comments from numerous government agencies, but only two comments from business interests, both of whom had a 'real estate' focus (see Attachment B to the Industry Location and Tourism policy paper). As a result the 'tools' which were envisaged to be used to manage growth in SE Queensland were 'real estate' tools.
There was a little involvement in working parties by those who might see SE Queensland as a community whose prosperity might be enhanced by development of their economic capabilities, or who might have known how to do so. Presumably this resulted from SE Queensland's economic under-development. There is an army of people able to deal competently with broadly defined 'real estate' issues, but very few able to put forward credible ideas about what a developed economy in SE Queensland might look like.
RPAG also implicitly assumed that the major issues facing the region were those in which government has an involvement (land use and infrastructure), as shown by basing proposed machinery for growth management on Government's direct involvement. Growth is envisaged to be managed primarily by a process of administrative co-ordination. Though the Industry Location and Tourism papers considered community development in a broad sense, they did not consider the role of the market or any other powerful mechanism which would have prevented a primarily public sector focus.
Public sector focus: The main actors in regional planning and cooperation are envisaged as state and local governments. Non government organisation only participate by making an input. Local authorities are seen as the principle agencies responsible for planning. The draft regional outline plan is seen as being reviewed by government and interest groups. Though non governmental agencies are involved, the criteria for acceptable outcomes would be political criteria (ie interest group desires).
10.2 THERE ARE OTHER WAYS TO MANAGE ECONOMIC AND URBAN GROWTH
However, many of the important influences on SE Queensland will not affect the region through mechanisms having much to do with 'real estate' or Government. For example:
Such matters as coordination of State and Commonwealth infrastructure with local authority planning represent only a few of the many dimensions in which consistency and coordination of resource usage is useful. Though there are some techniques for influencing economic growth through `real estate' and government mechanisms, these are not the major influences. In particular, market mechanisms will be far more significant in bringing external influences to bear on the scale and character of future economic growth (thus influencing population and urban growth), while social mechanisms will affect tastes, household formation etc (and this also affects urban growth).
Some major mechanisms affecting economic and urban growth were treated as 'black boxes'. Thus the opportunity was lost to either build on, or to modify, those mechanisms for more effective management of growth in the region (ie in effect to build on the compatible goals of community enterprises, and firms). Furthermore, growth management through either local or state governments based on land use factors would tend to be in conflict with them, rather than to be complementary.
There is a need for simple machinery to address the real problems of infrastructure and land use which RPAG identified. But this should not be the main basis for managing SE Queensland both because it is impractical, and because only low productivity economic growth will occur if the economy remains under-developed.
Government's most useful contribution to managing SE Queensland would come from recognition of the importance of 'governing' (which is concerned with the effectiveness of the 'whole of society'), rather than just with providing public goods and services.
There is more to 'governing' than managing the public sector. The prime role of governments is to 'govern' the whole of a societies' activities. It was only in the 19th century that Governments expanded their secondary role of providing public goods and services. Managing those functions has now become so costly and difficult that there has been a tendency to see Government as just a large business, and believe that the efficiency and integration of public sector activities is the main agenda in governing.
Even perfect co-ordination of government activity would not ensure that the community was actually better off, because community welfare also depends on social and economic arrangements which might be adversely affected in ensuring 'whole of Government' perfection. For example, if Australia is to be serious about international competitiveness, then market demand must influence economic growth through competing legitimate enterprises, without being filtered through an administrative / political process.
A public sector emphasis impedes real regional development. Regional development involves integration of functions amongst all organisations in a region such that they provide better mutual support. Government departments (which are driven by political policies) can not manage regional development, or even participate in it very well (even with increased local autonomy). Gladstone probably emerged as a dynamic regional economy because Government was far away, and integration amongst organisations in business and the community emerged, rather than just administrative coordination.
10.3 'GOVERNING' THE MARKET SHOULD BE POSSIBLE
RPAG and various commentators on its work have devoted considerable effort to discussing the relationship between the role of the market and of Government in managing urban and economic growth of SE Queensland. Three comments are offered:
Firstly, the 'market' is not the same as the private sector. The market' is the whole framework of conventions, laws, arrangements and organisations which enable firms to interact opportunistically, and supply goods and services to consumers. Thus to say that outcomes are determined by 'market forces' is not to say that they are decided by firms so much as by the pressures on them from consumers and from the market framework;
Secondly, there is nothing fixed about market outcomes. They depend on what sort of market arrangements exist. Where the market is relatively undeveloped (as in SE Queensland) then the outcome of 'market forces' may be quite different to those which would emerge under a more effective market regime;
Thirdly, the alternatives available for dealing with SE Queensland's urban and economic growth are not merely to limit population and urban growth or to manage growth (ie ensure that outcomes are within a desired range). An alternative is to alter the arrangements which affect the outcomes which the market (and other non 'real estate', non government mechanisms) will 'freely' produce.
Commentators have highlighted the poor record which Government's have had in trying to achieve goals which are inconsistent with market pressures (eg to 'force feed' growth centres). But why is this so? The core difficulties relate to:
These constraints apply where Governments attempt to directly control specific market outcomes (eg the location of a growth centre). They do not apply to the same extent where Governments change the market mechanisms which determine what types of outcomes the market will tend to freely produce (eg providing tax or regulatory advantages for general goals like high density rather than low density housing). Being easier to achieve does not, of course, mean that such changes are necessarily beneficial. It is, for example, very likely that only non-democratic East Asian Government, which do not respond to interest groups or equate power with decision making, can actually enhance economic performance.
Enhanced economic performance appears to have been possible in East Asia, but to have depended on non-democratic but benevolent government (Wade L. Governing the Market: Economic Theory and the Role of Government in East Asian Industrialisation, Princetown University press, 1990). The reason may be that enhanced performance requires accelerating the rate at which an economy 'learns' to respond to emerging opportunities and threats. Democratic governments respond to interest groups protecting the status quo, and can not take action on new issues until everyone accepts them (ie they are politically acceptable), when it is often too late to benefit from opportunities or avoid crises (Craig J., 1993, op cit.).
The economic policy Queensland - Leading State espoused a philosophy of `market enhancement' (though it did not take itself seriously). If one takes the view that present market mechanisms are not leading to a sustainable or desirable urban pattern, and if one recognises that the problem is too complex for administrative and `real estate' oriented management, then the development of market (and various other) mechanisms should be considered as means to influence economic and urban growth in SE Queensland. Methods by which this might be achieved are explored elsewhere (Craig J., 1993, op cit).
11. THE NEED FOR REMEDIAL ACTION
The SEQ 2001 project has been useful in focusing on issues affecting SE Queensland, especially those related to population growth. It has also created an improved sense of regional identity. But it has also laid the basis for: uncertainty; 'red tape'; public sector financing problems; and permanent economic under-development.
There is widespread uncertainty about RPAG's preferred pattern of development and the practicability of proposed implementation machinery. Some conclusions were controversial and, even if they might later be proven correct, this must take time to resolve.
The goal of higher densities (for example) has been challenged with respect to its economic, environmental and social benefits. Higher density infilling may not significantly reduce urban sprawl, or transport costs. (McLouchlin J., 'Urban Consolidation: A Modern Urban Myth', Policy, Spring 1993, pp19-22).
The President of the Royal Geographical Society warned that a decade might be required to resolve all the uncertainties involved (see Section 4). SE Queensland simply does not have this time because: the challenges of population growth are continuing; and East Asian methods for solving complex problems set a speed standard which others must now match (eg Romm J., 'The Fast-cycle Gospel According to Sun Tzu', Business Review Weekly, 17/1/92).
RPAG's proposal to manage growth through political / administrative machinery might tie SE Queensland in red tape, and prove to be 'the (economic) straw which breaks the camels back', given the risk that the apparent economic 'bubble' driven by interstate migration might burst, and the uncertainty about where increased investment will come from.
If taken seriously SEQ 2001 could place Queensland on the path to fiscal problems like those which Victoria experienced, because RPAG proposed higher environmental and 'livability' standards and catching up on a services backlog, without showing how this could be financed, or endorsing the rapid economic development required to deepen the tax base for increased per capita revenue. Presumably it will not, therefore, be taken seriously.
However, the most serious consequence of the SEQ 2001 project is that it has left many organisations with a view of their role in realising a 'vision' of SE Queensland as an under-developed economy. Unless an understanding of other possibilities is created, their day to day behaviour will forever impede the real economic development of the region.
12. A PROPOSAL FOR DEVELOPING SE QUEENSLAND
This section speculates briefly about how economic and urban growth might be more effectively managed in SE Queensland. It suggests various goals which would be a pre-requisite for achieving livability and environmental aspirations for SE Queensland like those which RPAG expressed. Methods for achieving those goals, and who might be responsible for doing so, are also submitted for consideration.
12.1 SUGGESTED GOALS
In order to achieve `livability' and environmental goals like those which RPAG suggested, the rapid development of SE Queensland's economy appears essential. This goal implies creating the capability to initiate and support highly productive industries (ie those which achieve international rather than Australian standards of productivity).
Development is essential in order to: increase community income (wages and investor profits); provide a deeper tax base for financing a high standard of 'livability'; increase international competitiveness and thus contribute to reducing the balance of payments constraint on Australia's growth, and reducing foreign debts; allow growth to be sustained for long enough to make a significant impact on unemployment; provide scope for increased savings and investment; enable progress towards an ecologically sustainable society without reducing living standards; increase the community's ability to control its own future; and ensure its security and meaningful role in the future of the Asia / Pacific region.
Economic development also implies shifting slowly from Queensland's traditional reliance on various forms of 'real estate' (natural resources, property) as the basis for economic performance onto a reliance on the functions of a modern developed economy, especially in SE Queensland. This would impact on the State's wealth (ie on the growth and level of GSP / capita), as it would allow more productive use of available resources because of the better commercial and technological tools which could then be used on them. This goal implies changes to government, and to the structure of some business.
Functional and structural changes to government and in the private sector could be required. The state in Queensland has arguably had to be 'strong' and dominant because of the value of Queensland's resources, and the weakness of the private sector. Multinational firms would otherwise have exploited those resources with little local benefit, and with ineffective infrastructure. However that state strength has protected business and suppressed the development of an effective market economy. The state can only step back to allow the economy to develop, providing strong local business groups emerge to an integrated approach to resource development. Thus whilst a great deal of future growth will occur through small and medium enterprises, some large business groups are also likely.
Simultaneously complementary goals related to environmental sustainability, and purposeful cultural and social development would be pursued.
Other desirable goals might be based on:
A complementary political goal could be to ensure that all segments of society are involved in, and gain from, the process of economic, environmental, cultural and social development; in order to avoid obstacles from interest groups who might otherwise resist change.
Policies which have contributed to population, urban and economic growth for its own sake (eg Queensland's low tax stance) have arguably achieved what was intended (increasing Queensland's scale and 'voice' relative to other states). Those 'growth at any price' policies seem now to be generating more problems than benefits and might be shifted to a more neutral approach. This would not only enable higher quality services to be financed, but might avoid low quality economic and urban growth as a result of rapid migration.
11.2 POSSIBLE METHODS
In order to 'choose a future', rather than having a future which just happens, there must be means for influencing economic, social and urban growth and change in SE Queensland.
Rather than having special plans and organisational fragments for everything that might otherwise have moved, a better means to influence economic, social and urban growth and change in SE Queensland is to have informed and effective people and organisations in the public, private and community sectors. SE Queensland must be managed by people (not by plans and formal organisation structures). Raising the effectiveness of those 'governing' various facets of the region, and those operating public, private or community enterprises, is the most useful way to achieve the desired goals.
At present some capabilities are seriously deficient. This includes the underdevelopment of SE Queensland's economy (noting Section 5.2 above), and weaknesses in public sector organisation and attitudes (Section 9 above).
Institutional requirements for managing SE Queensland should not be addressed at the margin by creating increased political and administrative machinery to patch over existing deficiencies. Rather existing organisations should be stimulated re-consider their core functions to take account of new priorities (such as those suggested by RPAG in Creating Our Future, or as suggested in Section 12.1 above).
This could be achieved by methods similar to those RPAG used providing:
Organisation structures and legislation would change at the initiative of those involved, rather than from central plans. There would be no special ongoing organisations or legislation to deal with once off issues (eg RPAG's proposed growth management machinery), as these inevitably become the cause of inflexibility when the problem changes. The quality of the people and organisations involved, and effective communications amongst them, can guarantee good outcomes, providing the process is not made into a 'paper war' by trying to plan an exact outcome.
No greater emphasis should be given to 'real estate' or to the co-ordination of the public sector than is given to any other important aspects of the region. Economic or social mechanisms are not 'black boxes', but can be altered for advantage. However, to do this, real machinery would have to be created for economic and social development.
Economic development might be accelerated by various apolitical organisations each acting in their own indirect interest, using 'strategic management' / 'action research' methods while building on strengths or searching out new opportunities. For example: larger firms could act on their upstream / downstream production chains; financial institutions could develop the environment of larger borrowers; entrepreneurs can assemble resources for new ventures; business groups can enhance support provided amongst members; and ordinary citizens can highlight options in which they become interested. Support required for this would include an understanding by enterprises and others that their effectiveness depends on the economic system within which they operate, as well as on their internal operations, and that such systemic effectiveness can not be improved through a political process except in a limited number of ways. 'Protocols' would also be needed whereby various different entities could 'develop' aspects of the economy. The logic of this has been detailed elsewhere (Craig J., 1993, op cit).
Though a formal process based on administrative coordination is not 'the answer' to economic and urban growth management in SE Queensland, a new emphasis on coordination might improve the effectiveness of the public sector, and the people involved.
[Note on improved administration]
It is useful for organisations like the Department of Housing, Local Government and Planning to focus attention on issues such as the land use and infrastructure consequences of SE Queensland's population growth.
However such perspective does not provide the base from which to define a politically driven plan for the region as a whole. Even a 'whole of Government perspective' (such as might be taken by the Office of the Coordinator General) would be too narrow. The 'whole of government' only reflects (say) 30% of the 'whole of society', especially if government's task is just seen as 'running a large business' rather than 'governing'.
Many groups contribute to the management of urban and economic growth:
Thus managing economic and urban growth is not solely a task for politically elected governments, and in the case of managing economic development it is arguably best if political involvement is limited to encouragement by asking others what they intend to do. Economic development can not be undertaken by politically accountable organisations because of the pressures of interest groups, and because responding to opportunities and threats when they have become widely known and accepted is too slow. It can be noted that Australia's political system has not maintained the impetus for economic restructuring which Australia generally requires.
The Past: Australia's core economic problem of declining relative living standards due to its economic structure was given political priority in the 1980s, though the rate of adjustment achieved was slow. Restructuring was 'put on hold' in the early 1990s because of the deep recession. Real (politically unpopular) sacrifices are now needed to reverse Australia's slide towards a second rate economy and living standards. The Fightback! package was seen by economists and business leaders to be the sort of medicine Australia required to become more competitive (though this author disagreed). Fightback! was rejected by the electorate in 1993 not because of any alternative but because it demanded sacrifices. The politically astute have since decided to make the best of Australia's 'inevitable' decline, by claiming that the structural problems have been solved. But cyclical recovery from recession has not solved the core problems, as shown by many ongoing indicators of declining ability to compete in highly productive sectors. Furthermore, there may no longer be any political options for dealing with these core problems.
The Future: 'It looks like Australia will be a series of resorts for the Japanese and a supplier of raw materials. The problem of generating revenue to enable the country to move outside that small market is very serious. And that's very sad. Australians have this wonderful sense that somehow or other they will muddle through. This time I don't think this is on the cards' (Kerr Jill, 'Visions of Australia in the Next Century', Weekend Australian, 24/8/93)
Serious economic development will require new roles for existing apolitical organisations in lifting the 'quality' of economic growth in SE Queensland by 'developing' the capabilities of organisational and society / economy wide arrangements.
To have a prosperous, relevant and secure future, business associations, labour unions and community groups could usefully define protocols under which 'apolitical' machinery for economic development would work, and seek bi-partisan political support (or a Royal Charter if bi-partisan support is un-attainable). Such machinery would create research capabilities in various existing organisations to assess worldwide opportunities for, or threats to, the economic functions by which they are indirectly affected. This would be linked to means (using those accepted protocols) to stimulate others with complementary, rather than competing, interests to take these opportunities and threats into account in changing the way they deal with ongoing tasks.
Such machinery is needed now, though it was not in the past, because of having to create 'competitive' advantages to achieve economic prosperity rather than rely on existing advantages in low productivity sectors. Otherwise 'adventurers' from East Asia will continue to be the only ones able to 'develop' SE Queensland's economy for their own benefit.
To address the full range of issues which SE Queensland faces, RPAG (or a similar group) could be established as an Association or as an Institute connected with a non-governmental parent body.
Roles for a SE Queensland Regional Association / Institute might be:
- stimulate serious attention to the requirements to achieve a more developed economy;
- negotiate an understanding of the region's functions and structure (ie how major aspects of the region work, and how they are arranged). This would be accepted through informal agreement amongst members, rather than by seeking political acceptance. Such an understanding would contain inconsistencies and the goal would be to highlight them and arrange efforts to reduce them;
- organise a regular forum for discussing all types of issues relevant to the growth and development of the region, and maintain linkages with subregional groups of local authorities or other bodies dealing with the region's urban growth and development.
- The SEQ 2001 project indicated some important 'real estate' issues which must be addressed. It is not too late to build upon that work by also forming proposals for a more developed economy through apolitical machinery, and using both 'real estate' and economic development goals to stimulate changes in the plans and operations of those existing public, private and community organisations which are creating SE Queensland's future.