CPDS Home Contact Professionalism: Chronological Summary

Email sent 10/12/08

Chris Hale,
Centre for Transport Strategy,
University of Queensland

Improving Queensland's Transport Policy Systems

I noted your suggestions in a recent article ("Free transport idea doubt", Courier Mail, 8/12/08), to the effect that:

  • responses to pressure on Brisbane's public transport have been inadequate;
  • proposals for free public transport services have now been put forward by this state Opposition, though similar schemes failed in Victoria;
  • increasing fares would probably be better as this would provide the revenue streams needed for quality services - while remaining cheaper than car transport;
  • real progress in improving public transport requires more enlightened decision-making and a longer term approach. In particular, this requires:
    • that new appointments in key positions affecting transport (and other state services) be drawn from the best candidates; and
    • capacity building within transport industries (eg training and career development; professionalism; research driven solutions; and best technology);

By way of feedback I should like to suggest:

  • rather than merely improving public transport there may be a need to make this into the core of Brisbane's future transport systems (ie its long term share of the transport task may need to grow by a factor of 8, not 2) - for reasons suggested in Brisbane's Transportation Monster. This refers to:
    • the lack of access to the cheap rights of way needed for motor-vehicle-based transport, as Brisbane's growth is now limited by an urban footprint; and
    • the transformation of transport systems that will probably be forced in the next few years by the global peak oil event;
  • there is a need for caution about 'research driven solutions'. Not all research is necessarily realistic, especially in a world in which post-modern assumptions dominate the humanities (ie where ideas are held to be valid because people believe them rather than because they satisfy objective tests) - see A Crisis in Education at QUT?. Ideas emerging from research need to be regarded as inputs for consideration by those with experience - to avoid losing contact with practical reality (eg with the many factors that need consideration because of details of current arrangements and non-transport needs). Many of the difficulties facing transport development in Queensland (eg the lack of industry capacity and professionalism that your article implied) are the result of autocratically imposed idealised 'research based' solutions to all government functions in the early 1990s (see Queensland's Worst Government?). Those responsible didn't know that their idealised 'solutions' were neither realistic nor up-to-date. And well-meant attempts to claim a commitment to 'professionalism' on the basis of half-baked theories has resulted (not only in Queensland) in administrative systems dominated by cronies and 'yes men' (see Politicisation of the Bureaucracy). In Queensland legislation was actually enacted that made it legally unnecessary to make appointments to key positions from the best candidates (see Ombudsman's reasons) - presumably because political elites assumed that their own knowledge and skills were self-evidently the best available;
  • it is not sufficient to direct leading-edge policy options to governments. They must also be communicated effectively to the broader community because the latter elect the governments which, if community ignorance allows them to be dominated by autocratic populists, will continue to devastate the 'capacity' of transport (and many other) industries (see Comments on 'Is our System of Government in Queensland Working' and More Competent External Support to Government).

I would be interested in your views about these matters.

John Craig