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Demolition man

September 28th, 2012

Fresh from announcing that Queensland is on the brink of bankruptcy, and sacking 14 000 (“non-frontline”) public servants Premier Campbell Newman has announced plans to demolish the Executive Building (where he and his Ministers have their headquarters) and Public Works Building, to replace them with spanking new ones. Apparently, the front line is in George Street.

The proposal is wrapped up in such a way as to make it impossible to determine true cost. It will be run as a PPP, a bunch of heritage assets will be sold, doubtless in a way that reduces their protection and increases their market value, and a casino license will be thrown into the mix. But, it’s blatantly obvious that if you tear down a building and put up a new one with exactly the same purpose, you are taking on additional debt, whatever the accounts can be made to say.

This kind of shonky deal is precisely what Commissions of Audit are supposed to investigate. And fortunately, we have one, due to report early next year. I’m confident that Peter Costello, Doug McTaggart and Sandra Harding, backed up by a strong secretariat will be able to unravel this deal and show how much harder it will make the task of reducing state debt.

And of course, if there’s anything really dodgy going on, we have the Crime and Misconduct Commission. At least, we do for now.

I did an interview on all this with the Queensland 730 program, which may go to air this evening.

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  1. September 28th, 2012 at 13:35 | #1

    Given how badly private enterprise has been burnt by Newman’s tunnel PPP’s one wonders who the suckers are going to be this time around.
    By the way it needs to be emphasized that the magic 14,000 are permanent public service employees. It doesn’t include all the contractors who used to work for the public service nor the workers employed by community groups etc. who are facing retrenchment as a result of the mindless cost cutting.

  2. Freelander
    September 28th, 2012 at 14:57 | #2

    Yesterday a former colleague introduced me to a nice term that covers much of what we see in the world today where is you get to a powerful enough position you can start converting all the resources under your control to your own benefit. So much easier nowadays that CEOs have been empowered with immense flexibility and autonomy to add value.

    The term is “control fraud” and there is now a growing literature.

  3. Freelander
    September 28th, 2012 at 14:59 | #3

    Not that such a thing has ever happened in Qld.

  4. Jenny
    September 28th, 2012 at 19:13 | #4

    I prefer the much simpler term — “kleptocracy” We had it with Joh, Russ Hinze and the rest of the gang and we have it with cando

  5. Mark
    September 28th, 2012 at 23:11 | #5

    Good luck with that John. The chance of Peter Costello being independent and not doing the LNP’s dirty work is zero.

  6. truth
  7. truth
    September 29th, 2012 at 01:39 | #7

    NSW Labor Inc wrote the text book on it, Jenny.

    They make Hinze et al, and the tiny sums they’re said to have misappropriated look like the teddy bear’s picnic.

    Some ministers of NSW Inc creamed off much of the State’s wealth to the tune of millions , and some of it , by the stroke of a minister’s pen a potential for billions—coal mines, fortuitously rezoned land, Circular Quay restaurants etc.

    In NSW Inc, Labor ministers and their children, cronies and school friends become rich as Croesus, with multi-million dollar harbour homes, and eastern suburb beach waterfronts.

    All of this happens with no visible source other than the very useful circumstance of having access to NSW strategic ministers and Labor-friendly bureaucrats and links to developers and the underbelly of NSW, as revealed most recently in the Medich murder charges, with its Labor links.

    Untold riches ensue for Labor insiders with the usual Labor scruples deficit.

    You had Labor Inc in spades in QLD—the cover-up of the Heiner matter ongoing, and involving Rudd , with Beattie and Bligh having covered his back and Labor’s for years.

    Six figure sums in hush money[ from taxpayers] were paid , and QLD’s system of governance—political—legal—law enforcement—media—-and the office of Governor, were and are all compromised , in order to keep Labor cabinet ministers from being charged for illegally destroying evidence to protect alleged paedophiles.

    It’s all on the public record, and Labor has made its own case unassailable, so has to suppress information to ensure it never comes to court.

    Ask John Quiggin what it was that Anna Bligh paid a six-figure sum in hush money to an Aboriginal woman for in 2008-9. What was it supposed to compensate her for, and why was silence demanded instead of justice set in train?

    With his connections he would know all about how Labor operates..

    http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/political-news/obeid-family-and-friends-reap-millions-from-lucrative-coal-licences-20120520-1yz31.html#ixzz1vS3UuFRI

    http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/political-news/obeid-family-and-friends-reap-millions-from-lucrative-coal-licences-20120520-1yz31.html#ixzz1vS3UuFRI

  8. Ikonoclast
    September 29th, 2012 at 07:41 | #8

    Our state is now run by Little Joh. The thing about crude political characters is that it’s always a bit of a shock to reasonably intelligent, sensitive and honest persons just how crude, mendacious, self-aggrandising and shameless such crude characters are.

  9. Ikonoclast
    September 29th, 2012 at 10:32 | #9

    Mark :
    Good luck with that John. The chance of Peter Costello being independent and not doing the LNP’s dirty work is zero.

    LOL. I think JQ assumed irony alerts were uneccessary when he was being so obviously ironic.

    Also, what is a group of politicians called? My suggestion is “a slime of politicians”.

  10. may
    September 29th, 2012 at 12:30 | #10

    the Wivenhoe engineers,who in the merde press were falsly accused of incompetence and dishonesty have been vindicated.

    the press campaign,carried out during your election run up,shows the affect of abuse of public broadcasting power,in that the attention that shoulda/woulda/coulda have shown the people of Qld just exactly what they were voting for, did not happen.

    imho.

    policy . policy. policy.

    icono?
    the misunderstood,the sad and the fugly?

  11. paul walter
    September 29th, 2012 at 14:22 | #11

    They are fiddling with legislative settings in SA at the mo re new developer legislation that privatises decision-making at councils expense, we presume hence, accountability and transparency.
    Qld’ers were quite right to punish the blockhead Bligh ALP government but the result, way out of proportion in temper, betrayed a lack of foresight guaranteeing weak opposition and a free for all for the new maggots, as also evidenced by Seeney’s new move to geld the anti- Corruption authority in QLD

  12. John Quiggin
    September 29th, 2012 at 15:56 | #12

    @truth

    “Truth” I’ve posted your comments just so I can link to show what an idiot you are. Your suggestion that I am in the pocket of Bligh and NSW Labor shows that you don’t have a clue, as does your implicit claim that Labor corruption justifies LNP corruption

    http://johnquiggin.com/2010/12/24/in-the-name-of-god-go/

    You’re permanently banned.

  13. Freelander
    September 29th, 2012 at 16:41 | #13

    Many years ago I expressed surprise, to a then colleague, at just how top to bottom corrupt Australia is. He explained “Always has been. Going right back to the rum rebellion.” Since then, I’ve become aware just how corrupt many countries are, and the sad and potentially fatal trend to greater corruption. Societies bearing a large burden of corruption break unless they introduce a large level of partisan oppression, and often even then.
    At least our society is sufficiently anarchic with opposing factions that the evidence of widespread corruption is not difficult to find.

    Periodically someone is “done” for high level corruption, but what is clear is that they are almost never being punished for that crime. Rather, their punishment is for some other crime – a falling out, or poor choice to be on the losing side in some struggle between or within societies various factions.

    One suspects some such might for example, be behind some of the continuing revealations and claims concerning various union business.

    Labor is now a brand so badly trashed that recovery would be miraculous and certainly not worthy of the miracle.

  14. Freelander
    September 29th, 2012 at 16:48 | #14

    The type of changes the ironically self-titled “truth” notes taking place in SA are part of the sellout of the public interest that is a seemless part of public policy regardless of which side is nominally in power.

  15. BilB
    September 29th, 2012 at 17:10 | #15

    What is there to say about Demolition Man, other than you guys voted for him….en masse!

  16. BilB
    September 29th, 2012 at 17:15 | #16

    Oh yes,tere is someting else to say about DM. Everything that he does reduces Abbott’s chances and improves Gillards prospects for remaining Prime Minister. And that is fine by me.

  17. Freelander
    September 29th, 2012 at 17:37 | #17

    BilB

    Wouldn’t a choice be nice? And if you think you can’t punish Labor for their numerous misdeeds why do they even need to try for your vote? And maybe that is one of the many reasons they don’t try? Rusted-on voters and compulsory voting (evil twins).

  18. Freelander
    September 29th, 2012 at 17:40 | #18

    Maybe Toxic Tony will make the trains run on time? But nowadays few dark clouds have silver linings.

  19. Freelander
    September 29th, 2012 at 17:55 | #19

    ” Premier Campbell Newman has announced plans to demolish the Executive Building (where he and his Ministers have their headquarters) and Public Works Building, to replace them with spanking new ones.”

    These sorts of grossly wasteful monumental expenditures from the public purse as examples of public master… Well, you get the picture. Spanking being the right term.

    The fiscal crisis must indeed be over, because rarely is there “spanking” on such a grand scale.

  20. BilB
    September 29th, 2012 at 17:58 | #20

    I’m anything but a rusted on voter, Freelander. And I do have a choice, a very clear one. It is a choice between a sociopath and a balanced thinking compassionate person for prime minister.

    I, for one, remember the lessons of history.

  21. Freelander
    September 29th, 2012 at 18:01 | #21

    But Bob Brown’s gone. And the Greens prospects not that great!

  22. BilB
    September 29th, 2012 at 18:08 | #22

    Oops! wrong choice of term. That should have been Sociopathic Thug, IMO.

  23. paul walter
    September 29th, 2012 at 18:54 | #23

    Funny how some dills are so blind as to be unable to see the forest for the trees. All the bad guys on one side, all the angels on the other?
    No good faith, it kills an adult conversation when it just sinks to asinine spitefulness and inanity. you have to wonder why some people are like this.
    Btw, what an AFL Grand final.
    Australians often don’t realise just how lucky we are compare to many parts of the world. But Freelander ‘s comment about corruption is of course right. Like Freelander, I’ve always been aware of it to some extent. It’s amazing how much work has to go into having the scales fall away, seeing things for what they are, and how abysmal the feeling when you are shown things as they are.
    Now it’s being legalised, as a complacent public used to living off the fat of the land snoozes.
    I feel sorry for bright individuals like our host, who heals the healer?

  24. Jim Rose
    September 29th, 2012 at 18:55 | #24

    for want of an upper house. Too many on the Left assumed that they were the face of the future, rather than just another political party that will hold power as often as not. Hence, they opposed upper houses because they could slow the arrival of the future.

    In a unicameral parliament, those crazies to the right or left of you are tempered by an occasional general election only every 3 to 5 years.

    both privatisation and budget cuts are a lot slower in a federal system with effective upper houses elected by proportional representation at the federal and state levels.

  25. Hal9000
    September 29th, 2012 at 19:28 | #25

    @Jim Rose
    It’s three years. Jim, in a doubly-entrenched provision of Queensland’s constitutional legislation.

    The abolition of the Legislative Council occurred when upper houses in most states were either appointed or elected on a property franchise. It’s not difficult to see why a reformist party would object to them. Queensland’s was appointed (for life), and its abolition only effected by the stratagem of getting a Labor appointee as Lieutenant Governor to appoint an AFL team of unionists to the chamber. Since they weren’t paid for being a member of parliament other than perks like gold railway passes, a guarantee that the perks would continue once the chamber was abolished was sufficient to ensure the ‘suicide squad’ passed the legislation. It’s worth reading the Legislative Council Abolition Act 1923, btw – it is a model of clarity and brevity for such far-reaching legislation.

    Upper houses have only become beacons of democracy in the last half century. I recall as a teenager in the 1970s seeing a boarder in my family home who was from South Australia filling in his postal ballot papers for a state election in his home state. The legislative council ballot paper had a declaration envelope where the voter had to show the real property description of the lot registered in the voter’s name. Renters need not apply. Citizenship was divided on clear class lines. This was the Australia that elected the Whitlam government – itself turfed from office by an upper house tainted with undemocratic political appointments – and it is not difficult to see why there is lots of residual antipathy to upper chambers among people on the Labor side of politics.

    The trick, one that Queensland has never mastered, is to have strong independent institutions overseeing the administration and reporting frankly to the public. Upper houses, when they work well, can perform some of this role. This tends to be more a matter of good luck than anything. Where a government or an opposition controls the upper house, it’s useless or an abomination.

  26. BilB
    September 29th, 2012 at 21:59 | #26

    Quite so, Paul Walter.

    “No good faith, it kills an adult conversation when it just sinks to asinine spitefulness and inanity. you have to wonder why some people are like this”

    This is what our politics have sunk to.

    But it is not about good guys and bad guys, it is about “honest” guys and those for whom winning is so important that all honour, integrity and intellect are acceptable casualties of the quest for power and control.

    Good management of common interests is no longer the primary interest of political rivals, it is control for the servicing of vested interests. Australia was a bright spot of political enlightenment, but I feel that that was a “passing phase” on the road to eventual ruin.

    But perhaps I am miss understanding you, in which case you might care to share your perceptions of forests and trees.

  27. Freelander
    September 29th, 2012 at 23:17 | #27

    I have to agree with Jim!

    An upper house can keep that essential grit in the cogwheels which stops or at least retards the efficient implementation of some simple majority of extremists. The value of the swill is that it is unrepresentative, or at least that its representation is not identical to the lower house.

  28. paul walter
    September 30th, 2012 at 09:50 | #28

    BilB, the attack on ecology, and science and rationality in general over the last twenty years here and across the globe, on the basis of expediency, alibied by neoliberalism and implemented by instrumentalist zombies of behalf of greedy morons, has been a heart breaker, truly gutting.
    Totally self defeating and dictated by false consciousness.

  29. BilB
    September 30th, 2012 at 10:09 | #29

    It has all been predicted, Paul Walter

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_B._Calhoun

    There is even a photo in there of John B meeting Head Rat, “the Pope”.

    “Template changing always has gained a slight, though often tenuous, lead over template obeying. Now we must search diligently for those creative deviants from which, alone, will come the conceptualization of an evolutionary designing process”

    Are you a conceptualizing creative deviant JQ?

  30. Edumak8
    September 30th, 2012 at 21:37 | #30

    @Ikonoclast
    Yes … otherwise known as: The Titanic Duo – The Joh-ker & Sackmamn

  31. September 30th, 2012 at 21:41 | #31

    As Queensland’s parliament is uni-cameral and this State is effectively “mono-media”, the party (LNP or ALP) with 1 more seat than the other runs it as a dictatorship with the only countervailing force being Rupert Murdoch’s imprimatur on “important” decisions.

    Even then, they can get away with ignoring even Murdoch if they really want to.

    At the ALP wipeout election this year it is very important to note that Peter Wellington (‘Nicklin’ on the very conservative Sunshine Coast) and Liz Cunningham (‘Gladstone’ a supposedly Labour – as in blue collar – electorate) both kept their seats.

    Wellington was once a vital key to a minority ALP government when he and Cunningham allowed Beattie to form government in 1998. Unsurprisingly, they got done over as soon as the ALP didn’t need them anymore (big hello to Andrew Wilkie and his $1 pokies promise).

    My point is that while the rest of the State was chucking out a bunch of people they had never met and replacing them with another bunch of people they had never met because, in a nutshell, they had a gutful – they re-elected these two independents.

    I’m fairly positive that I am not the only person in this country who is fed up to the back teeth with this cynical and pointless ALP/LNP partisanship fuelled by a Murdoch controlled media.

  32. Freelander
    September 30th, 2012 at 21:51 | #32

    Some experiences in life are like selling a loaded gun.

    Only to find the person you sold the gun to sitting opposite you, holding both the gun and the money you’d been given when he’d purchased from you.

    Difference I s’pose between naive economic analysis and learning by having it done to you.

  33. Freelander
    September 30th, 2012 at 22:16 | #33

    The misery across the Tasman, is in part due to the lack of an upper house, exacerbated by a small realatively homogeneous population. Fine with benevolent philosopher kings having fifty percent plus one, but prone to violent change when radicals get hold of the reigns.

  34. Newtownian
    October 2nd, 2012 at 10:49 | #34

    @Freelander
    I agree a house of review is a good thing especially if it allows minority opinions to surface through having block votes.

    However the US has a senate and a review system which is arguably more independent of party policy. Yet they have entrenched vested interest and pork barrel politics so there is more at play here. At least in Queensland you can still in theory sack the presidential premier any time. So I suggest the problem of what might be called legal corruption may have multiple sources which we are not well set up to analyse.

    For me a more important question to be asked is whether current politics globally is degenerating by which I mean becoming more antidemocratic, by virtue of multiple forces including:
    - allocating proportionally more political power the neo-liberal managerial/economic/finance interests through international treaties and constructs such as an independent reserve banks which seems to operate under the assumption that economics are as scientifically objective as say medical systems ( a more nasty example is the European Union where ‘technocrats’ are being assigned more power over elected governments – whether Greece and Italy have overspent is a separate matter to whether the solution is to call in an administrator who produced the economic system that led to the mess in the first place – in the same manner as happens with Australian local government all too often.)
    - movement of the media towards ‘balanced’ reporting which increasingly means presenting really nutty ideas as equally valid as less nutty ones (see last night’s Media Watch item on vaccination)
    - the demise of old time progressive philosophies (seems to be the case with Labor but also with the Liberals too with the reduction in the influence of their ‘wets’.)

    Thus Queensland may not be exactly a return to the good old days of Jo – but rather that modern political economics is moving more to a Jo model and Queensland realizing it used to be a leader is merely reasserting this system (just kidding – sort of).

  35. Freelander
    October 2nd, 2012 at 14:40 | #35

    The US has major problems including design problems. But one major problem that has made there system totally corrupt is the lack of the type of party discipline found in more evolved parts of the world. That is why Congress is such a wonderland for lobbiests. With party discipline you need to bribe whole parties to do what in the US can be achieved by buying off just the few key players to swing things your way.
    As a consequence seems to me that vested interest will ensure the US will remain unable to address the many urgent issues it needs to address until it is far to late.

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