CPDS Home Contact Professionalism: Chronological Summary


Mr Matthew Franklin,
c/- Courier Mail

Shooting a Messenger is not a Solution to Queensland's Financial Woes

I noted your claim that Commerce Queensland might be sent to Coventry by the State Government for its vocal criticism of government practices and of a senior minister during the recent state election campaign ('Locked out of the foxhole', Courier Mail, 11/2/04 - which I have outlined below).

I believe that your claim is likely to be unfounded for four reasons.

First, 'shooting the messenger' is not a viable way to defend creative accounting. Commerce Queensland's major concern related to 'fudging' of figures to balance Queensland's budget (Murdock S., 'State faces onslaught from leading lobby group', CM, 20/1/04). And unfortunately their claims about this seem to have been an understatement rather than partisan politics (see Enron-itis; and About the 2003-04 Budget).

Second, Commerce Queensland's broader criticism of state policy appeared to be well supported by a comprehensive and professional evaluation of relevant issues (see Smart Business: Smart Queensland). The latter analysis, which reflected a 'liberal market' viewpoint, linked credible public policy principles with practical business concerns. Though their research base had limitations, it was vastly more solid than Commerce Queensland (and most equivalent organisations) have traditionally produced. Thus Commerce Queensland's assertions during the state election campaign were not necessarily mere 'shameless political partisanship' as your article claimed. Once again the deficiency in their argument seemed to be that it did not go anywhere near far enough - as many state economic programs are simply NOT a competent way of achieving their desired practical outcomes (eg consider Commentary on Smart State).

Third, the days in which ignorant authoritarians could successfully control Queensland's political system are past - for reasons outlined in an attached email ('Beattie draws strength from long term incumbency').

Finally the State Government is itself presumably only too aware of this and that it cannot succeed by simply 'shooting messengers' who identify problems. The increasing and widespread dysfunctions in government administration as well as the state's vulnerable financial position mean that the State Government now knows has no choice now but to 'get real'.

Yet your article suggested that the Government might be merely vindictive, and that members of Commerce Queensland should not have the intestinal fortitude to question dubious policies and practices that emerge from Queensland's quirky political system.

If The Courier Mail is genuinely to help lift the level of political debate in Queensland, someone will need to do better than that.


John Craig

An interpretation of 'Locked out of the foxhole'

Queensland's Treasurer has a reputation as a hard man who never forgets. Commerce Queensland needs to consider this as it contemplates a long time out in the cold. It was shamelessly partisan in its support for the conservative side of politics. It claims to be the peak business organization representing 3500 members and 100 chambers of commerce. But it will pay dearly for backing the wrong horse. Business can no longer just deal with the conservative side of politics. Successive Labor governments have made major changes to the relationship between government and business (eg by corporatisation and PPPs). Based on its partisan behaviour Commerce Queensland deserves to be sent to political Coventry because (a) its president (Graham Heilbronn) is a National Party member - and, while everyone can have a private political position, in such a role one needs to act in the interest of an organisation's members (b) its CEO (Joe Barnewall) told journalists that the Treasurer did not have right credentials because he started life as a boilermaker. There should be robust political debate - but offending the Treasurer is not the best way to get best deal for Commerce Queensland members. Consultation is likely to be favoured with Australian Industry Group which represents manufacturers and is not politically partisan. Commerce Queensland members should consider the position of its leaders.

The email ('Beattie draws strength from long term incumbency') that was attached had been sent (11/2/04)  to Mr Peter Charlton in response to his Courier Mail article of 9/2/04 in which he had suggested that:

'"With three wins under his belt and the conservative parties in no real position to win in 2007 - baring a miracle, scandal or Act of God - Peter Beattie is the latest in a long list of authoritarian premiers".

The basic them of the email (which has been re-presented as Authoritarian Government in Queensland) is that Queensland's changed circumstances now make it impossible for 'ignorant authoritarians' to succeed as they have done in the past.