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We live in a state ruled by populists (Email sent 15/11/09)

Terry Sweetman
Sunday Mail

Re: 'We live in a state ruled by nay-sayers', Sunday Mail, 15/11/09

Your article suggested that 'nay-sayers' are blocking the effectiveness of government in Queensland - noting the NIMBY response to the Traveston Dam proposal and to various road developments. Governments, you noted, now consult with the community far more than they used to, and this allows special interests who are adversely affected by proposals to dominate over the welfare of the community generally.

While this concern is valid, there is a bigger problem - namely political populism.

Populism involves political support for those who offer quick-fix solutions to perceived problem, though their policies may be neither practical or beneficial (see On Populism, which refers to the origin of this phenomenon as a consequence of increasing complexity and the damage that it potentially does in an environment in which there is no longer a politically independent public service to provide a 'reality check' on foolish proposals). Populism has in fact made it 'necessary' to politicise government agencies (ie replace professionals who might ask embarrassing questions with 'yes men'), and this has been the main cause of the inept public administration and the crises that have plagued Queensland for the last decade or so (see The Growing Case for a Professional Public Service)

While government proposals for particular projects may be being obstructed by community pressure, those projects themselves may be suspect. For example, the question of whether the Traveston Dam proposal was viable as a future water supply to meet SE Queensland's needs never seemed to be adequately evaluated (see SEQ's Water Supplies: A Comedy?). And planning for the development of SE Queensland's transport systems seems equally suspect (see Solving SE Queensland's Transport Planning Woes? and Brisbane's Transportation Monster).

Effective government in Queensland requires much more than overcoming NIMBY resistance (eg see Queensland's next Successful Premier).


John Craig