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Reports that say nothing, in mire of red tape: what happens when govts protect powerful interests and offend no one, says business academic

Posted by gasweek on 4 October, 2007

The Nationals have long employed sham committees to protect sacred cows – the classic was Warren Truss’s Mickey Mouse 2004 Wheat Marketing Review committee, established with terms of reference that specifically excluded consideration of the single desk’s future, which delivered an eight-page report saying nothing, wrote Professor Paul Kerin, teacher of strategy at Melbourne Business School, in The Australian (25/9/2007, p.30).

Inquiries gathering dust: “The Government has also exhibited breathtaking arrogance in (not) dealing with parliamentary committees. In 1996 it committed itself to responding to all parliamentary inquiries within three months. Yet in mid-2005 a Sydney newspaper said ‘millions of taxpayers’ dollars have been wasted on parliamentary inquiries whose recommendations have been ignored and left to collect dust’. Things have deteriorated since then. In June the Speaker of the House of Representatives produced a list of 54 overdue government responses, dating as far back as 1999.”

Tough leaders not available: When questioned last December on the government’s lack of response to a three year-old House Standing Committee report into regional aviation, Mark Vaile said: “The government is working towards tabling its response as soon as possible.” It eventually did – six months later. The government can’t even manage its own committees, Kerin wrote. It illustrated what happens when “governments seek to protect or reward powerful interests, offend no one and be seen to ‘do something’ on every issue. Real reform requires tough leaders (think Thatcher or Kennett) prepared to make hard decisions at brisk pace. Until we voters get so fed up that we’re willing to make an otherwise unpalatable choice of leader to give a badly needed dose of the salts, the malaise will persist and deepen.

Problem gets worse: “Neither major party offers that choice in this election. Howard’s performance on red tape has been atrocious. He not only broke his promise to halve red tape, but presided over its massive escalation. Despite umpteen reviews and fluff promises, 11 years later it’s worse than ever. He should get off the pot,” Kerin added.

Reference: Professor Paul Kerin teaches strategy at Melbourne Business School. p.kerin@mbs.edu

The Australian, 25/9/2007, p. 30

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