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Queensland's Next Unsuccessful Premier? (email sent 8/3/12)
Re: Newman can't just wait for ALP's fall, The Australian, 5/3/12
I would like to try to add value to your article. You suggested that the campaign launch by the Queensland Opposition Leader (Campbell Newman) was weak, and seemed to be rushed to deflect attention from questions about campaign donations that may have been linked to a controversial Brisbane City Council development approval.
As your article implies, it is apparent that the Queensland Opposition lacks any clear idea about how to govern more effectively than the present state administration. Moreover there have been indications that dubious business-government dealings (like those that the ALP suggested that Mr Newman was linked to) have involved some in the State Government itself (as Mr Newman subsequently claimed).
These points are developed in more detail on my web-site. This includes reference to: (a) suggestions about reducing structural obstacles that seem to prevent successful government (and effective oppositions); and (b) the need for all political factions to get serious about tacking abuses of power.
Unless attention is given to both these issues it seems very likely that Queensland's next unsuccessful premier will be the unfortunate winner in the forthcoming state election.
Details [Working Draft]
Political 'success' would seem to require more than winning an election on the basis of discontent with an existing government or trendy promises to fulfil the electorate's dreams. If such a win is followed by a rapid loss of community support over the next year or two because a populist policy agenda made little real sense or could not be implemented in practice, this is hardly 'success'.
The Continuing Need for More Effective Government
The Queensland Oppositions’ apparent lack of any clear idea about how to successfully govern Queensland has long been apparent, eg see
Suggestions (similar to those in the documents mentioned above) about ways to make government more successful were also made in relation to:
However little has changed, and the community and its representatives seem oblivious to, and unconcerned about, the structural obstacles that lead governments to almost inevitable failure.
Combating Abuses of Power
It is noted that Mr Newman has countered ALP accusations levelled at himself by claims of dubious dealings with developers by members of the ALP (AAP, ‘Journalists should probe Labor: Newman’, BrisbaneTimes, 5/3/12).
While the propriety of such dealings by anyone can’t be assessed on the basis of simple allegations, there are many indicators of abuses of power in the relationship between government and business (eg see Crony Capitalism in Queensland?, 2009). The latter referred to:
The Fitzgerald Inquiry in the late 1980s addressed the widespread abuse of police and political powers during the 1980s. However it merely addressed symptoms of more fundamental weaknesses in Queensland’s system of government that are mainly a symptom of the ‘resource curse' (ie the widespread tendency of resource rich regions to suffer incompetent government and limited economic development because rich natural assets give affected communities wealth from which political elites can personally benefit by enabling others to exploit those natural assets).
The post-Fitzgerald attempts at ‘reform’ of Queensland’s machinery of government by idealistic amateurs under the Goss Government made a bad situation much worse and left a legacy of dysfunctional administrative machinery for its successors which increased the risk of abuses of power (see Queensland's Worst Government?, 2005). In practice the goal of 'reform' was to create a political power base, not a competent system of government. ‘Senior’ positions were often gained by ‘yes men’, rather than by those with the competence (or personality) to express professional reservations if things were going wrong. This may have been due to the desire to ensure unquestioning compliance with political directives. However where the public service is politicised in such a way, the constraints on abuses of political power are dramatically reduced (eg see Davis B., `Public Service Culture May Foster Fraudsters', Australian, 24/7/95).
Some suggestions about the link between developing more effective institutions to support elected governments and constraining abuses of power are outlined in Journey Towards a More Effective 'Fitzgerald Inquiry' (2009). The latter suggests that developing competent support to the political system in dealing with the practical functions of government would probably be the best way to improve government's performance and accountability.