|CPDS Home Contact||Professionalism: Chronological Summary|
Email sent 25/7/09
Ms Mardi Lumsden,
Journey Towards a More Effective 'Fitzgerald Inquiry'
The July 2009 edition of Journey focused on the late-1980s' Fitzgerald inquiry. It posed the question 'what have we learned?' in the light of current indications of problems that might justify a new democratic reform initiative in Queensland.
On the basis of past experience, I should like to suggest how a future reform effort might be more effective.
The Fitzgerald Inquiry addressed symptoms of weaknesses in Queensland's civil society (ie abuses of political and police powers). A deeper problem has been a lack of realistic and up-to-date community understanding about government and public policy issues, which arguably has its origin in Queensland's colonial history and the 'curse' of rich natural resources. The latter seems everywhere to provide a path to influence by those who profit from natural riches rather than from quality leadership.
Fitzgerald's proposals addressed the symptoms but it did little to reduce the underlying problems (see Reform of Queensland Institutions - or a Rising Tide of Public Hypocrisy?). As a result Queensland's political system is still characterised by weak Oppositions, an ineffectual Parliament and scope for abuse of power by those who at worst can be virtually political con-men (see The Upper House Solution: A Commentary).
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 (op cit). This would, for example, provide Oppositions with the raw material required to insist on more effective policy and performance, and make things much 'hotter' for those who seek to abuse power.
In practice the Fitzgerald Inquiry resulted in a focus on 'reform' of democratic government which was not supported by solid understanding of what such government should actually be doing or how it should be doing it. Administrative 'reform' took the form of a poorly-informed and ruthless process of across the board restructuring and restaffing, under which forward-looking and tacit practical competencies were not understood or valued as much as compliance with often-simplistic political theories.
The lack of realistic policy awareness within the community that had allowed corruption to emerge under Bjelke Peterson's regimes, resulted in abuses of power in the pursuit of the almost-equally-out-of-date assumptions by those politically-endorsed to control Fitzgerald-inspired 'reform'. Theories developed by inexperienced academics in the 1970s, and later adopted by political advisers, lacked practical realism and were sometimes out-of-date in the 1990s (eg theories about change management and strategic 'planning'). Almost unbelievably the resulting machinery of government was even worse than the run-down system it replaced, and was not actually capable of doing much. This laid the basis for the substandard performance, crises and unethical behaviour that have continued to plague Queensland's Governments.
By 1995 the electorate had worked out that there was something wrong even though this was invisible to commentators who could not see through the smokescreen of trendy policy rhetoric (see Toward Good Government in Queensland, 1995). Some of the ongoing problems that have resulted from ineffectual government machinery over the past 20 years are outlined in The Growing Case for Professionalism (from 2001) and in analyses of various administrative failures.
An outline of, and comments on, Journey's recent articles are on my website. My comments address: the problem of reform failure; options for overcoming social disadvantages; current reform challenges; the Church's critically important roles; involuntary sexual behaviour; prison's systems; and support for the oppressed. The emphasis is on how the aspirations the Journey articles reflect might be transformed into practical achievements. More can be gained by developing an environment in which governments can be competent and successful than by protesting about the failures that occur in the absence of such support.
Addendum: suggestions about the need for a more broadly based approach if future reform is to be more effective (eg one which includes attention to the civil institutions that provide advice and support to the political system) are in: Reform of Queensland Institutions: A bigger picture view and in Queensland's Next Successful Premier.
|Journey Articles with Comments on||
Outline of Articles (with Comments) [Working Draft]
Relevant articles from the July 2009 edition of Journey are outlined below with comments.
In brief it will be suggested that the answer to the question "What have we learned from the Fitzgerald Inquiry after two decades?" is that: "Political involvement based on good intentions that are not supported by a realistic understanding of what is required for good governance can make complex problems worse".
The Fitzgerald Inquiry was a watershed in the history and culture of Queensland (according to Rev. Dr. Noel Preston). It provided a change to renew / re-discover democracy. It promoted a more just / open / tolerant society. The Uniting Church had striven to fight injustice since the 1980s under Prof. Rollie Busch. Christian groups had expressed theologically-informed dissent since the 1970s. Standing up against bad government was seen as a matter of personal morality. Frank Putland (who had been involved in trying to change police culture under Whitrod) noted that Jesus had faced even more hostile adversaries - and was shocked to learn that many he had dealings with were criminals. Dr. Tamara Walsh (Uni of Qld) suggested that Fitzgerald Inquiry created new era for marginalised people - as a policing culture can have an enormous impact on their lives. However the situation now is like that which existed 20 years ago - and Christians need to protect the alien / fatherless / widow. (Lumsden M., 'Corruption reopened').
Most Australians live in a society that is fairly free of corruption - perhaps partly because of the Fitzgerald Inquiry. However there is a need for Christian activism to seek justice for the disadvantaged and to 'love your neighbour'. This needs to be extended on a global scale. There must be revolutionary voices speaking for righteousness (Lumsden M., 'Globalizing Fitzgerald').
17 year olds should not be in adult prisons - a Fitzgerald Inquiry recommendation (raised in May 2007 Synod) which has not yet been actioned. Siyavash Doostkhah (Youth Affairs Network) is amazed at lack of adherence to Fitzgerald recommendations. There was: insufficient investment; no safety for whistleblowers; no cultural change (merely targeting of a few top cops). Inquiry led to many positive outcomes - FOI legislation, creation of CJC / CMC and EARC. Marg O'Donnell (Legal Aid) suggested these promoted accountability (eg all submissions to EARC were published). However under later governments: CMC powers were diminished; FOI needs revamping; GOCs are less accountable. There is also concern about aggressive police powers and a lack of checks and balances. Government decisions are not open and accountable. There is a need for policy dialogue. Greg Mackay (UnitingCare Centre for Social Justice) suggests that another inquiry may be needed because institutions are compromised. Having emerged from decades of misuse. they are again weakening. Mark Lauchs (QUT School of Justice) said Fitzgerald report had little impact, because it has been watered down over time (eg in terms of FOI). Fitzgerald Inquiry did not indicate significant corruption - or else it would not have happened. Noel Preston's argument for an Integrity Commissioner was the best initiative for preventing corruption (though, according to John Harrison (UQ), there was concern that he would rock the boat too much). Governments now again head back to a 'trust me' approach. Churches' role as moral arbiters in society is to 'maintain the rage and be willing to have a say'. (Lumsden M., 'Issues unaddressed')
The Uniting Church has always stood for social justice. (eg opposing alcohol and prostitution in the late 19th century, seeking indigenous land rights from 1960s; upholding Fitzgerald's inquiry, and now seeking to keep 17-year-olds out of adult prisons). Noel Preston says that Christian faith inspires a passion for social justice. It is a political faith. It is about engaging with powers that be as Jesus way to the cross demonstrates. Christian belief must expressed in a practical ethic - and concern for the disadvantaged must be central. While there may be a simple 'Christian line' on public policy, individuals need to be active. The Fitzgerald process provides a profound learning experience. Mark Young (former UC social justice advocate) suggested there was much to learn from Fitzgerald Report. Casualties were not only minority groups who disagreed, but also integrity of judiciary, government and parliament. Fitzgerald Inquiry and later reforms clarified the boundaries between them. Civil society (including people of faith) must still be vigilant about well-being of democracy. Dr Preston suggests that Church's fight against corruption stemmed from Jesus' teaching about love for neighbour. (which requires guarding against corruption and abuse of power). The Church must work with God to constantly renew the world. The combination of self-righteous, self-delusional power is a dangerous mix (and was the phenomenon Fitzgerald uncovered in Fitzgerald years). Religious organisations are still learning about what democracy and transparency means - and how power can be misused (as it can be in churches). Churches had often refused to question how things were being run prior to Fitzgerald inquiry - and today are still on the sidelines not engaged with body politic. A call to repentance is at the heart of Biblical message - and only those who examine themselves can call on others to do so. There is a need to re-hear Fitzgerald's caution about the need to constantly name the vested interests that subvert real reform while creating a new attractive but hollow facade to hide the continued misuse of power (Lumsden M., 'Church ethics and corruption').
Christians need to be aware of not only the Bible but also the realities of the world (eg as recorded in newspapers or the Fitzgerald Report), and of the judgment of the world that God spoke through Jesus. Fitzgerald inquiry created wide debate about corruption in Queensland's public institutions. Jesus' message to Nazareth church in Luke 4 apply today. Everyone knew that corruption existed, but Fitzgerald made this public. People in churches who spoke as prophets were often told to keep public affairs out of the pulpit - a view endorsed by Bjelke Peterson government. Opinion was divided about church responses. When government changed, Synod advocated voting in terms of the Gospel. Mark Young (then Synod Social Justice advocate) outlined UC position on moral issues (eg abortion, capital punishment, homosexuality, firearms, the environment, Aboriginal sacred sites, economic justice) and many of those issues remain now (Don Whebell, ' The religious figure')
Fitzgerald report recommended state should review laws regarding voluntary sexual behaviour - and decriminalizing homosexuality was proposed. This divided churches - though Uniting Synod Social Responsibility Committee argued that existing laws discouraged homosexual men seeking help with AIDS. Government (without commenting on the morality of the issue) consulted churches about proposed decriminalization, and conducted a fairly open debate on the subject (Young M., 'The social justice advocate')
There was a hope that Fitzgerald recommendations would lead to a more compassionate, coherent and sensible world - but this hasn't happened. Marginalized people are now treated worse than before. People in prison before had usually done bad things - and prison was brutal. Now it is harder to expose this because marketing and media images of new prisons. Boggo Rd was better because inmates could at least protest. Prisons conceal the marginalised. They increasingly house aboriginal women, those with mental illnesses, the poor, those struggling with alcohol / drugs, those with learning disabilities. The systems is supposed to re-habilitate, but leads to re-offences (Kilroy D., . 'The prisoner')
Some in Uniting Church experienced conflict between church and state, and personal criticism. Remaining silent given unjust policies, corruption and the abuse of power would have meant abandoning the church's mission in the world. An alternative witness to Christ in the world was provided to government supporters who claimed to be defending Christian cause against social evil. For those who took a different view Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King were heroes, and Liberation theology the credo. Fitzgerald Inquiry opened the way to a new start for Queensland, but reforms were constantly threatened. (Noel Preston). In 1985 government sacked 1000 workers after electricity dispute, and Concerned Christians joined picketers and were arrested - on the basis of their association with picketers who were breaking law. In defence it was argued that Christians should be able to stand with vulnerable and outcast - and this view prevailed (John Woodley). Church leaders were behind Fitzgerald - having pressured government to set inquiry up. Government minister had pretended to be unaware of brothels, and to be taking frivolous approach to serious social problems (John Harrison) ('What impact did the Fitzgerald Inquiry have on your life and work?)
|A: Independent Commissions Are Not Enough to Contain Political Corruption||
Independent Commissions Are Not Enough to Contain Political Corruption - email sent 6/8/13
Re: ‘Corruption and sleaze engulf Labor, business’, Australian Financial Review, 1/8/13
Your article noted that the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption recommended criminal charges against two former NSW ministers, and that this issue has national political implications because of:
I would like to suggest for your consideration that to really contain corruption there is a need for more than independent commissions who can recommend legal proceeding against individuals.
A fundamental problem is that Australia’s government machinery has been becoming increasingly ineffectual, and this facilitates corrupt behaviour (see Journey Towards a More Effective 'Fitzgerald Inquiry', 2009). The latter is based on closely observing the short and long term outcomes in Queensland of attempts over 20 years ago to clean up corruption that were recommended by the Fitzgerald Inquiry.
Queensland’s institutions were not effectively reformed after the Fitzgerald Inquiry. By way of background it is noted that I had a strategic policy R&D role in Queensland’s Coordinator General’s Office and Premier’s Department in the 1980s. I thus had an inside view of the Goss Government’s ‘reform’ process. This led me to conclude that not only was ‘reform’ not effective, but that it was not ‘straight’ (see Reform of Queensland Institutions or a Rising Tide of Public Hypocrisy?). The latter includes reference to:
It is of current relevance that those allegations included some against Australia’s Prime Minister who had had a central role in the Goss Government. I passed information about those allegations to individuals with ALP connections prior to the 2007 election so that any possible problems could be discretely investigated. I presume that this was done and that the allegations were found to be baseless.
However the core implication is that independent bodies to investigate allegations of corruption are inadequate in themselves. There is rather a need for structural reforms to Australia’s system of government to create the strength and competence needed for an environment that is hostile to unethical and criminal behaviour (eg as suggested in Australia's Governance Crisis and the Need for Nation Building).
|B: What happens to 'a house that is swept clean'?||
What happens to 'a house that is swept clean'? - email sent 20/10/13
Hon Mr Campbell Newman, MP
Re: Murray D., ‘Jail ‘em all’, Sunday Mail, 20/10/13
This article reports on your determination to drive out a particular criminal element – namely outlaw bikie gangs. However merely eliminating such groups may make Queensland easier for others that might seek to provide similar illegal services (or engage in similar activities). That the demand for illegal services is part of the problem is indicated, for example, by ‘Boomers hooked on drugs’ (Sinnerton J., and Cornish L., Sunday Mail, 20/10/13).
Queensland’s history shows what can happen when criminal factions are suppressed. While working in the Queensland Premier’s Department during the Fitzgerald Inquiry into police and political corruption I had become aware of, and blown the whistle on, the involvement of Japanese Yakuza gangs in making / facilitating major investments in Queensland. I was later informally advised by the criminal intelligence group in the then new Criminal Justice Commission that in the post-Fitzgerald environment the organised crime groups linked to corrupt police and Japanese Yakuza seemed to be being replaced by those with Mafia and Chinese Triad connections. Moreover public officials who took a serious interest in organised crime did not seem to last long under the AWU-dominated Goss administration (see Reform of Queensland institutions - or Rising Tide of Public Hypocrisy?).
The Bible records Jesus’ warning that removing an ‘evil spirit’, thus leaving a ‘house that is swept clean’, can merely create a space for other ‘evil spirits’ to move into (Luke 11: 16-36).
If not replaced by a ‘good spirit’, there is a similar risk now that driving out particular ‘evil spirits’ (ie outlaw motor cycle gangs) might create a niche for other ‘evil spirits’. And in Australia there seems to be an increasing, and very severe, threat from organised criminal groups (see Australian Crime Commission, Organised Crime in Australia – 2013 report – which notes that this phenomenon is now actually seen as a threat to national security).
A replacement ‘good spirit’ might be present in a social environment that is characterised by:
That the threat to Australians from organised crime is increasing can be illustrated by the prime minister’s recent efforts to promote close trade and investment links in East Asia without any apparent recognition of the role that organised crime is likely to play in such activities (see 'Rules' that favour state-linked businesses are not the only behind-the-border problem in economic dealings with China). There is traditionally no separation in East Asia between military / security activities and everything else (eg economic strategy, social relationships and even the activities of organised crime). The failure of the former federal government’s Australia in the Asian Century Asia Century White Paper to recognise this was highlighted in Asian connection has a dark underbelly (Townsend J. and Bergin A., Financial Review, 26/11/12). Stephen Seagrave (in Lords of the Rim) had argued in the 1990s that triads have traditionally acted as the ‘private armies’ of China’s Diaspora in seeking to exert political and economic influence across SE Asia. And it was noted just a couple of days ago that under Chinese culture the owner of a company was respected by subordinates as a 'war lord' because of his success in business, politics and the underworld (Garvey P., ‘How power and greed ruined inside trader’, The Australian, 19/10/13).
The challenge Queensland faces thus goes beyond eliminating a particular ‘evil spirit’. There is a need to replace it with a ‘good spirit’, and creating a social environment that is not supportive of organised crime requires diverse community-led initiatives. Action by government (eg to eliminate outlaw bikie gangs) is necessary but not sufficient. There is a parallel with the community-led initiative arguably needed to address the educational inequality that exists amongst individuals and regions that was revealed by the Gonski Review. Educational inequalities have complex causes in the social environment and can’t be remedied merely by throwing money at educational programs (see Gonski Review: An Example of the Limitations of Government Initiatives), any more than a community environment that resists organised crime can be created purely by law and order programs.