CPDS Home Contact Professionalism: Chronological Summary

5 November 1999

To Members of the Legislative Assembly

A 'Toy' Innovation Infrastructure for Queensland?

A draft plan, Innovation: Queensland's Future, was recently released for discussion by the Department of State Development. Unfortunately, it seems likely that real development of a productive modern economy will continue to elude Queensland, because the problem we have with amateurish administration has not been overcome.

The damage which politicising key appointments has done to intangible public assets (ie Public Service competence) and its effect on slowing development of our economy (especially in rural and regional areas) were previously highlighted in my letter of 28 May 1999.

The draft plan now suggests an ambitious goal of making Queensland into a world leader in innovation. This is consistent with the Smart State theme of the 1999-2000 State budget, and seems to be part of a whole-of-government program being orchestrated by the Department of the Premier and Cabinet to 'reposition' Queensland globally in the knowledge economy.

The goal of a stronger innovation capability is desirable, and long overdue. As innovation is the main way of creating economic value from knowledge, a sound commercial innovation capability in our regional communities would reduce many current social symptoms (1).

But, despite the draft plan's good intentions, much of the innovation infrastructure it suggests can (at best) provide costly 'toys' for Ministers to play with, rather than being commercially relevant - for reasons outlined in the enclosed summary comments (2). There are also risks that a politically based push to 're-position' Queensland could unwittingly de-skill our innovation capabilities, just as political efforts to 're-engineer' the Public Service (theoretically to make it business-like) did to the Service's professional skills in the early 1990s.

The adoption of trendy economic goals, that can have little useful real-world impact, reflects the limitations of the advice and implementation techniques now available to the Government.

[Signed by John Craig]


PS: The somewhat embarrassing APEC Technomart (Merideth H., 'Technomart show fiasco', Financial Review, 4/11/99) was cited by the draft plan as an example of an initiative to promote an innovative culture.


1. Queensland's economic strategy has emphasised low taxes and major investors - which traditionally resulted in the rapid growth of low productivity sectors. We have also accepted market oriented economic reform for 10-15 years, to allow a shift towards higher value added activities. But a general failure to create the capabilities needed for prosperity in a competitive environment has led to overall under-performance and adversely affected many regions and individuals - leading to inequality and political instability.

2. A complete version of the enclosed paper, Comments on 'Innovation: Queensland's Future', can be Emailed if you are interested.