CPDS Home Contact Professionalism: Chronological Summary

Email sent 16/2/09

Terry Sweetman
Sunday Mail

Crony Capitalism in Queensland?

I noted your article ('A question of what is on the agenda', Sunday Mail, 15/2/09) which expressed concern about whether government decisions could be seen to be inappropriately influenced by political insiders. Your article suggested that there may be a perception that former ministers were able to cash in on their experience, contacts and mates after they leave office - because of the $500,000 success fee reportedly paid in relation to the Airport Link project.

Might I submit for your consideration that the concern that your article expressed may be only the tip of an iceberg because:

  • the Queensland's Government's decision in relation to the Airport Link project was extremely dubious (see Airport Link: An Example of the Monster) because it was made:
    • in an environment in which conflicts of interest had been suggested between the promoters of such projects (who received large immediate fees) and investors (including the QIC on behalf of state public servants whose returns depended on the project's long term viability - and who appear, in this case, to have 'done their shirts'); and
    • at the same time (ie May 2008) that information apparently became available that the project probably could not be commercially viable - because the aggressive financial engineering on which it was based was critically dependent on long term growth in traffic volumes, but emerging data showed a reverse trend in Brisbane - presumably due to the impact of rapid rise in oil / petrol prices, a commercially unfavourable trend likely to resume when the global recession eases because of the prospective global peak oil event;
  • politicians might also make decisions while in office that favour their 'mates' and receive benefits subsequently (eg in the form of well-paid jobs). Changes made to government in recent years have increased the risk that political decisions might be distorted for personal gain (eg widespread politicisation of the public service - ie its dominance by cronies and 'yes men', and significant private investment in infrastructure);
  • the process whereby land development in SE Queensland came to be restricted may be the most extreme example of where potential moral hazards were naively created for those involved in making key decisions (see Reform of Queensland Institutions or a Rising Tide of Public Hypocrisy?).

John Craig