CPDS Home Contact Professionalism: Chronological Summary

30 April, 2001

EMail to Hon Mr Tom Barton, MLA [Copied to all MLAs]
Minister for State Development

Queensland's Challenge

Thank you for your letter of 24 April 2001, acknowledging the congratulations and cautions in my letter of 15 March, and expressing confidence 'that the Government's undertakings to the people of Queensland represent a focussed and solid step forward in addressing both the challenges and the opportunities, which this state is encountering'.

Unfortunately the reality seems to be that the State Government now lacks the resources - both financial and human - to give effect to any 'focused and solid step forward' no matter how well intended (see the supporting documents to my letter on the above web-site).

The most unforgiving lack is of finance - as illustrated by the reliance on about $2bn in 'equity return' (ie on stripping the balance sheets of GOCs) to maintain state capital spending. The implication that this 'equity return' can continue to increase "... in line with general growth in departmental equity" ( see Economic and Revenue Outlook: Budget Paper #3) has to place Queensland's 2000-01 budget in a class of its own in terms of attempted public deception.

In terms of human resources, anecdotes suggest that the Government is now discretely trying to fix the Public Service by manipulating staffing. However this can not work without dealing with the source of the problem (eg with 'reform' that routinely throws the baby out with the bathwater). Ineptitude and injustices are not a secure foundation for anything. And political 'reformers' will remain unable to tell what is needed for effective Public Service policy advice and implementation - because that knowledge still only comes from experience. In practice real professionals still seem to be being persecuted, as the system reinforces the dominance of cronies and 'yes men'.

The Premier's undoubted genius and interests seem to lie mainly in politics, rather than in administration (see Fraser A. 'Alone on the high wire', Weekend Australian, 17-18/2/01 - by an apparently informed author). And a strong impression is coming through that politics is all the Government is really interested in - and that, in the absence of any serious political opposition, it is settling down to enjoy the spoils of victory. However there is more to government than politics.

While the 'experts' (who are unable to see any reality beyond press releases) are all sure that the Government is secure for many years (eg two Parliamentary terms), I naively predict that it will join the ranks of those that 'crash an burn' if its 'undertakings to the people' have not produced 'focussed and solid' results in one year (ie by just after a federal poll). Reasons for this are (a) the growing electoral volatility (b) the pressures outlined in an enclosed email and (c) the fact that the 2001 state electoral result was probably a vote for 'Government' (ie for someone to do something), rather than a vote specifically for the 'Beattie' Government.

The 1990s were our decade of lost opportunities, and the risk is that the present decade is one in which our status as a 'banana republic' is confirmed by our inability to cope with (economic) change and by public recognition of the failure of our system of government.

You now have the ball at your feet.


John Craig