Sunday, March 25, 2012

Inquiry to Success

It's a funny thing, an inquiry.

Kevin Rudd was endlessly derided for being unable to make a decision - he prevaricated, going back and forth, and in the end got nothing done.  If you believe the accounts drifting out of the Labor party, that (along with his vicious temper) was the biggest reason for the disaster that was his government.

Andrew Clennell makes a similar, but curious criticism of O'Farrell in his piece published yesterday.
The full story can be found here
He goes on to say this:
Further on:
It's certainly true that O'Farrell has been gifted a great deal of power.  He has a opposition not only reduced to a rump (not so much as QLD Labor, but that's a topic for another blog) but nonetheless an opposition short on not just members but no doubt staff and back-room numbers as well.

He has a margin that will, barring disaster, be all but insurmountable for Labour in 2015. He has a public who seem to be so in love with him that scandal and missteps barely budge the polls. He has, much as I abhor the term, a mandate to do pretty much whatever the heck he wants.

But how is that power best exercised?  Some, including it would seem Clennell, would have him fly headfirst into a hurricane of developments and changes.

Rather, his approach has been a cautious one - low-key, even.  There have been a few wrong turns, but O'Farrell's government has for the most part busied itself keeping promises and getting things heading in (what they suppose is) the right direction.

Many matters are, however, not a binary question. Should we be investing in infrastructure? Sure.  

How much?  When?  Where?  Which project first? These are political questions, at their heart - any infrastructure will help different groups unevenly, and for every project you have to say yes to there are many more that get a no.

They are also complex questions - it is easy to pander, and to favour your marginal seats or sensitive demographics, as Labor did for many years.

What O'Farrell is at least purporting to do is to rise above the political and focus on policy - that often wished for beacon of good policy over good politics.

Essentially, what I'm wondering is whether this focus on inquiries is trying to make good policy good politics as well.

I think we can assume, for present purposes, that an inquiry will find the policy that is best for the state, rather than the policy that is most expedient politically.  Any inquiry rests on some assumptions, but nonetheless I'll back a Commissioner or the like over a politician intent on being reelected any day of the week.

Clennelll criticises O'Farrell, suggesting that he is incapable of making a decision.
It seems that the Tele would rather he just did something, or, even better, did what they would have him do (such as sell off the power generators, notwithstanding the recommendation from the Tamberlin Report).

For me, the real test isn't the number of inquiries he refers matters to - rather, it will be his reaction when they report back.

Will the reports sit on his desk for months as he prevaricates? Will he ignore the reports if they are politically inexpedient?  Or will he take action, safe in the knowledge that a non-political recommendation has been received?

Clennell would call it reticence.  I don't agree - he's taking decisions that Labor made only on political grounds, and he is letting policy wonks make them.

I don't know about you, but there is no way I would rather see him use his power than that.

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