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|'Post-war reconstruction' is only one of many Challenges (email sent 14/1/11)||
Re: ‘We will bounce back’, Courier Mail, editorial, 14/1/11
Your editorial noted that Queensland’s challenge in recovering from recent and current flooding has been likened to ‘post-war reconstruction’.
It is worth recognising that governments facing troubles at home are sometimes alleged to seek involvement in foreign wars, so as to divert attention from domestic woes and unify people behind them.
Such a suggestion in relation to Queensland’s current predicament may seem inappropriate. There is no doubt that the floods that have devastated Queensland require immense and unified effort and that the ‘war’ that now requires reconstruction was started by nature. Moreover political leaders are entitled to benefit from the way they cope with unfolding events, as observers have suggested that some are likely to do (eg see Parnell S. ‘Premier Anna Bligh a shining light amid the storm’, The Australian, 14/1/11; and Drysdale A., ‘ Flood brings bounty for Bligh’, BusinessSpectator, 14/1/11).
However severe problems existed before this particular ‘war’, and there is a need to look beyond the destruction and disruption caused by nature if recovery is not to be disrupted by other pressures and constraints. Paul Syvret made a reasonable case for doing this in recent Courier Mail articles.
Some reasons to endorse Paul Syvret’s arguments are outlined below. This refers to:
Dealing with such challenges in the face of the need to recover from natural disasters will be difficult. However, this might be achieved by: (a) giving operational priority to disaster recovery; (b) focusing apolitical study groups (comprising those with relevant operational responsibilities) on the bigger picture challenges; (c) disseminating information about those study groups and their conclusions widely; and (d) inviting proposals to elected governments about appropriate responses.
The Need to Look Beyond Disaster Recovery
In articles outlined above, Paul Syvret made a case for considering more fundamental requirements for reform of governments, and for attention to economic risks that may potentially emerge from the international environment.
More on Governance Risks
Emerging problems in Australia’s system of government generally were suggested in Australia's Governance Crisis and the Need for Nation Building (from May 2003). This included reference to: the complexities that governments are now trying to deal with that defy simple ‘rational’ solutions; and dysfunctions created by ill-advised reforms. Some preliminary speculations about how those defects might be remedied are in A Nation Building Agenda. This suggests, for example, that:
It is worth considering the possibility that:
In Queensland’s case, in particular, the emergence of a dysfunctional and crisis prone administration has been increasingly obvious for two decades (eg as outlined in comments on ‘Is our system of Government in Queensland Working?’, 2007). The latter includes reference to suggestions about the sorts of reforms that have been needed to re-create an effective system of public administration – suggestions that have been put forward regularly by the present writer since the early 1990s.
It may also be worth considering the possibility that problems in Queensland’s budget position may be more serious than officially reported (see About the 2009-10 Budget – which, amongst other things, noted a worrying lack of transparency about Queensland’s capital accounts generally, and about the rationale for asset sales that presumably generated large fees for those who arranged them).
More on Economic Risks
There are reasons to suspect that the external economic risks that Paul Syvret mentioned could translate into real difficulties for Queensland / Australia. For example:
However Queensland’s / Australia’s economic risks do not only lie in the economic environment, but also in inadequate economic strategies which have left the community with few options in the face of external instabilities (eg see Queensland's Economic Strategy, 2002; Impact of Economic Liberalism in Australia, 2002; and Fixing Australia: Do the Econocrats have the Right Answers?, 2010). One key point is that economic liberalisation (the basis of dominant microeconomic reform agendas since the 1980s) requires the community to compete, but does not ensure the emergence of the systemic supports that are needed for individuals / enterprises to compete successfully in high value added activities. Some suggestions about an alternative were outlined in A Case for Innovative Economic Leadership (2009).
In Queensland’s case, in particular, the effect of dislocating the rapid interstate migration which had put the icing on the cake of economic prosperity in SE Queensland seems to need attention that has not yet been officially given to it (see Speculations about Queensland's Economic Predicament, 2010)