CPDS Home Contact Professionalism: Chronological Summary

23 August 2004

Mr Peter Beattie,
Premier of Queensland,

'Premier's men insulated from blame'

I should like to congratulate you on two astute observations that you reportedly made about Queensland's electricity network crisis - ie that no one can anticipate every departmental problem, and that a good government will seek to identify and fix problems that arise.

My interpretation: Premier has defended his colleagues amid the electricity network crisis - arguing that no one can anticipate every departmental problem. He argues that the role of good government is to identify problems and fix them. A Review found that Energex and Ergon were not coping with current demand - quite apart from future growth, and that regulatory measures were not taken to protect consumers interests. (Parnell S., Courier Mail, 2/8/04)

However, I must also suggest that it is not enough just to 'fix' particular problems as they arise for reasons that are elaborated in Failure in Queensland's Electricity Supply (on my web-site).

For example for reasons indicated briefly below this email, it is also necessary to ensure that government have competent technical support to minimize the number of problems which arise in the first place, and that effective arrangements be in place for governance of Queensland's electricity industry in the competitive environment to which it is now subject.


John Craig


A. Technical Competence:

Because governments can not anticipate every departmental problem, it is essential that they gain professionally skilled support (both in the Public Service and in their major service undertakings) to attend competently to issues that are not politically foreseeable. Thus, in addition to a willingness to identify and fix problems, 'good government' requires genuinely seeking professional support to minimize the problems that arise in the first place (as I first argued in a 1995 submission to the ALP, Towards Good Government in Queensland).

However professional merit has not really been a required consideration in Queensland in making 'senior' Public Service appointments since well before your first Government was formed (see Ombudsman's reasons). Moreover:

B. Effective Governance of Queensland's Electricity Industry:

Queensland's electricity companies are (theoretically) operating in a competitive national electricity market and, in this situation, their financial viability (and the state's budget bottom line) requires that they be enabled to make investment and service decisions on a commercial basis in response to customer demand.

Unfortunately your Government's commitment (on a political basis) to 'fix' the electricity network problem must further reduce the ability of those electricity companies to operate commercially - and thus further undermine the always-dubious 'corporatisation' model Queensland has adopted over the past 10-15 years for its major service providers.