CPDS Home Contact Professionalism: Chronological Summary

Mr Darrell Giles and Mr Steve Connolly
c/- Sunday Mail

Is Power Going 'North' or 'Up in Smoke'?

I should like to provide feedback in relation to your article ('Power shifts north', Sunday Mail, 18/2/07), which suggested that Queensland would gain an edge in federal spending and political access if both a future (ALP) Prime Minister and Treasurer locate their offices in Brisbane.

My interpretation of your article: An electoral win for the ALP could see a Prime Minister and Treasurer being based in Queensland for the first time. Brisbane's Lord Mayor sees advantages in this, as he has had trouble convincing Canberra to had over money for his 'tunnels' vision - and would hope to get a better support in dealing with infrastructure backlogs that result from the city's rapid growth and poor planning in the past. The AIG (David Hargraves) and Local Government Association (Greg Hallam) also sees such an arrangement as positive. Mr Swan suggested that both he and Mr Rudd would spend a great deal of time in Queensland. Both have close links to the state ALP as a former ALP state secretary and director general of the Cabinet Office respectively. The Queensland Government will be looking for billions to boost its budget from having both a Prime Minister and Treasurer from Queensland. Professor Paul Williams however suggested that locating operational headquarters in Brisbane was simply about perceptions.

Might I respectfully suggest that Queenslanders would be far better served by competent government, rather than by more opportunities for insiders to get special privileges from their political mates, which unfortunately has been a constant feature of the Queensland political scene.

What is so special about Queensland? Surely that state already benefits (perhaps excessively?) from federal largess in the form of 'horizontal equalization' payments under Grants Commission arrangements that compensate it for the weak tax base that has resulted from state economic strategies that have encouraged the rapid growth of poor quality / low productivity activities (see Review of Grants Commission Arrangements, December 2001). Perhaps it is time to challenge Queenslanders to consider what they can do for Australia, rather than build their expectations about what Australia might do for them. Moreover much more than sending truckloads of money is needed to ensure that it is capably spent (see Federal Pork for Queensland?).

Your article suggested that power might be "heading north". However the only direction in which power actually seems to be going is "up in smoke", because of the growing dominance of Australia's political system by populists (ie those who seek electoral support on the basis of policies that sound good to the uninformed, but which are unlikely to result in competent government) - see discussion and examples in Australia's Governance Crisis.

Possible reforms to reduce this problem and enable the federal government to be more effective are speculated in Restoring 'Faith in Politics' (December 2006), while similar suggestions about long-overdue repairs to Queensland's dysfunctional and crisis prone administration are outlined in Improving Public Sector Performance in Queensland (November 2005).


John Craig