Strategic Infrastructure for Queensland's growth: Notes on Context

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[These comments were produced on a June 2000 draft of SIQG and to a varying extent (which the author has not reconsidered in detail) were taken into account in the September 2000 version].

Why infrastructure planning is now hard

A major un-stated reason for the Strategic Infrastructure Plan is presumably that Queensland's framework for planning 'hard' infrastructure has been ineffective since the early 1990s. That system had involved planning and provision by departments or statutory authorities. It ceased to be effective as an unintended consequence of poorly evaluated prior policies when

An attempt was made to plan infrastructure through regional planning studies (eg SEQ 2001) which process was then embodied in the Integrated Planning Act. However this is ineffectual for infrastructure as it is not focussed on (and thus can not take account of) the considerations which affect infrastructure service providers. The result of the loss of relevant knowledge and skills and of effective planning processes is typified by: (a) the planning debacle, management difficulties and cost overruns associated with the South Coast Freeway in SE Queensland; and (b) the under-provision of power stations in the early 1990s (and resulting brownouts) [with the expected large overcapacity for the next few years reflecting the competitive excesses which can emerge in newly deregulated markets].

Another constraint on 'planning' is that many infrastructure services (even those that are provided by government) are now provided by enterprises which have to produce commercial benefits by selling the service to users (perhaps with some input of public subsidies through Community Service Obligations (CSOs)). Thus:

Macro Uncertainties affecting the Environment for Infrastructure Services Generally

The environment for planning of Queensland's infrastructure is anything but as simple as the Strategic Directions paper assumes. For example:

Furthermore the optimistic 'spin' which is placed on Queensland's situation is unrealistic. For example:

An analysis of DSD's Innovation proposal is available. Queensland''s innovation plan may achieve political benefits (ie convince community leaders and the media that enough is being done about innovation) whilst merely creating a ''toy'' innovation capability for the political system to play with. Queensland in its 'smart state' mode appears very similar to the unfortunate Cain administration in Victoria in the 1980s - where long overdue economic change was 'pushed' through politically oriented initiative - which made the government popular for a few years but ultimately led to large losses as those activities lacked market logic and were not sustainable without ongoing injection of public resources. Ominously, in Queensland a very large cash injection is now being seen to be needed to sustain biotechnology research activities which have been politically driven (Johnstone C. 'State biotech firms call for cash injection', Courier Mail, 23/6/00);