CPDS Home Contact Professionalism: Chronological Summary

9 August 2000

To Members of the Legislative Assembly 

More Evidence of the Need for Public Service Renewal?

As you may recall I wrote on 20 April 2000, highlighting the need for renewal of Queensland's Public Service on a professional basis, and suggesting how this might be achieved.

A recent report, Infrastructure for Queensland's Growth - Strategic Directions June 2000, again indicates the serious problems affecting our state system of public administration.

An analysis of the above report is submitted in Attachment A. It suggests that the methods being used are most unlikely to discover constructive infrastructure options, because:

Queensland has apparently been making large 'strategic' financial commitments (eg trying to stimulate economic change (2)) supported by funds from Government Owned Corporations which are well beyond the latter's capacity to pay (3). It is critical our future economy and public finances that such spending be economically and financially successful. Unfortunately the attached analysis of infrastructure planning, and a prior analysis of the Smart State strategy (4), suggests that the 'strategic' guesses that are attracting funding are unlikely to be productive.

As suggested in Note 2 in my letter of 20 April 2000, Queensland may well be repeating Victoria's 1980's experience under the unfortunate Cain administration which: (a) politicised its Public Service; (b) ignored its 'bean-counters'; (c) spent heavily trying to 'force the pace' of what was politically seen as long overdue economic change; but (d) used methods which ensured that such spending would be unlikely to produce market-sustainable outcomes (5).

[Signed John Craig]


Attachment A: A Review of Infrastructure for Queensland's Growth
- Strategic Directions June 2000 -

The Strategic Directions report was prepared on behalf of the Queensland Government by the Department of State Development, and presented a draft Strategic Infrastructure Plan.

What it said: The report commenced with an outline of assumptions about the future economy (including the effect of globalization, the need for innovation, the challenge to commodity producers, the growth of services, and state's strong growth record). It next considered the role of infrastructure (including its traditional priority for government in a decentralised state, the new emphasis being placed on R&D, the introduction of competitive service delivery, and the need for a strategic approach to enabling technologies and infrastructure). The stated objective of producing a Strategic Infrastructure Plan were to (a) to define the direction for future public / private sector planning (b) identify initiatives likely to support economic development (b) establish budget priorities (d) provide private investors with a mechanism for identifying infrastructure opportunities and (e) give business confidence in investing. The process is to involve: defining key themes; resolving state-wide issues; and development of prioritised annual regional plans. Key strategic directions envisaged relate to: strategic / coordinated approach to infrastructure; systematic investment in soft and hard infrastructure; and particular priorities for improved modern telecommunications, integration of transport and economic priorities and resolving transport funding difficulties, advancing water policy issues, provision of 'smart' infrastructure, energy, and the preservation of land required for future infrastructure.

The following preliminary comments (which are based only on an Executive Summary of Infrastructure for Queensland's Growth) suggest that the objectives identified for a State Infrastructure Plan are important but that they will not be achieved through the methods which have been adopted.

Some obvious concerns suggesting that the apparently desirable objectives of the Strategic Infrastructure Plan will not be achieved are:

The draft paper does mention soft infrastructure and the State Government's desire to make Queensland a 'smart state' but it's discussion of 'Smart Infrastructure' is very weak. The latter says (at least in the Executive Summary this is all it says) that we need smart infrastructure, and government has to provide it. Strategic Directions does not define what 'smart infrastructure' means or identify the real limits to which government can be involved in its provision or suggest how the vast majority of such infrastructure in which government can not be directly involved is to be enhanced. Furthermore, the methods being used to make Queensland a 'smart state' appear likely to produce only political rather than commercially relevant impacts - for reasons outlined in Attachment C.

[Also the same process can not really be used for planning conventional hard infrastructure and the softer infrastructures which are now more important to regional competitiveness and productivity. The issues and skills involved are vastly different]

For conventional 'hard' infrastructure, achieving the apparently desirable objectives identified for the State Infrastructure Plan probably requires management of Queensland's infrastructure system so that the enterprises involved can realistically plan - rather than a governmental process to pre-empt the results of such planning. This might include attention to:

For the 'smart' / 'soft' infrastructure, which Strategic Directions mentioned in passing but did not seriously address, a quite different procedure and set of skills seems likely to be required.

1. Defects in Economic Tactics [[which was Attachment B]] suggests why 'industrial era' economic tactics seem no longer adequate.

2. Consider the costly information technology / biotechnology strategies, and industrial recruitment.

3. This conclusion seems logical if the Opposition's claim about the large increase in the deficits of Government Owned Corporations is correct (see Franklin M., 'Borbidge blasts failed budget', Courier Mail, 21/7/00).

4. See a previous letter (dated 5/11/99) concerning the draft Innovation - Queensland's Future plan.

5. See also Attachment C of Towards Good Government in Queensland - previously provided