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Response to - An open note to Campbell Newman (email sent 23/3/11)

Michael [Matusik]

Your open-note suggestion to Campbell Newman (see below) about nominating a few simple goals was good. I should like to try to add value to your proposal, by suggesting that the goals for Queensland that such political leaders might express would usefully take account of the following:

  • Queensland’s political / government system is a mess. Some thoughts on the nature of the mess are in The Upper House Solution: A Commentary (and also in Improving Public Sector Performance in Queensland, 2005; and 'Is our System of Government in Queensland Working?': Outline and Commentary, 2007). The former argued that the problem is not just to reform the political process (eg make parliament better able to hold the executive to account) any more than it had been to just reform the machinery of government. Rather my commentary suggested the need to boost the competence of support to the political process – both externally (eg through more realistic and up-to-date understanding of policy issues by community leaders generally) and internally (eg through restoration of professional independence in public services). Past attempts at ‘reform’, based on often-wild political theories, have simply made Queensland’s situation progressively worse (see Toward Good Government in Queensland, 1995; Reform of Queensland Institutions - or a Rising Tide of Public Hypocrisy?; and Journey Towards a More Effective 'Fitzgerald Inquiry', 2009) – while the inaction of the Borbidge Government as it struggled to come up with meaningful initiatives was also not constructive;
  • A similar mess exists nationally, and some thoughts on the nature of that mess and what might be done about it are in Australia's Governance Crisis and the Need for Nation Building. The basic thrust of the latter is that ‘nation building’ is not about governments ‘building things’ for the community, but about building a framework in which governments can act competently. This can’t be a precondition for ‘doing things’ (or else, as the Goss Government’s ‘reform’ process showed, nothing much actually happens), but rather must be a recognised goal as part of the process of achieving practical outcomes;
  • Queensland’s mess includes an overstretched (and possibly misrepresented) capital account – so that capacity to launch large spending initiatives is limited;
  • Campbell Newman appears to have the capacity to be a ‘visionary’ leader, and thus perhaps to express the sorts of long term goals that your open note advocated. However given the weaknesses of institutional support to Queensland’s political system, his initiatives have often seemed as ill-advised as those of Peter Beattie who also sought to get the community moving in new directions (eg see Brisbane's Transportation Monster (2008) which implies that there are problems with building tunnels everywhere; and 'Newman digs in to save a city' - but who is going to save the city from Newman?, 2006). Brisbane City Council’s growing budgetary constraints, due to often-unwise large-scale spending, are not significantly different from those generated at the state level over the past decade or so. The ‘vision’ now required for Queensland as a whole seems somewhat different to that which leaders such as Campbell Newman and Peter Beattie have been able to provide (respectively to Brisbane City and Queensland generally) in the past.

The establishment of independent working groups to try to come to grips with Queensland’s challenges would give politicians with capacity to provide ‘visionary leadership’ ideas to work with that might produce more constructive outcomes. At present such working groups don’t visibly exist, though the competencies required to make useful contributions are probably available in embryonic form in many organisations.

John Craig

From: Matusik Missive []
Sent: Tuesday, 22 March 2011 3:53 PM
Subject: [New post] Extra - An open note to Campbell Newman


Extra - An open note to Campbell Newman

Michael Matusik | March 22, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Categories: Matusik | URL:

Leadership is about marking out a future.   Jeff Kennett said it best – as he often does – only last Friday and whilst in Brisbane none-the-less:  “What is missing in Queensland is a long-term goal” – a 25 year plan, as he called it, a distant marker in the ground, if you will. Campbell, please [...]

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