Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Promise from the Heart II

Sometimes election campaigns can become frustratingly predictable.

Candidate crops up at a location that is either relevant or (if you're lucky) metaphorical.  The announce X millions for this or that, take a few questions that usually have nothing to do with the announcement, and the media toddle off the write about the announcement or whatever minutia is distracting them at that time.

It's rare to see a politician jump up and say "This is how we will do it BETTER" - it's all about spreading about the pork, thus perpetuating the idea that all the public care about is cash, and damn the implementation.

It often reaches the point where papers publish a "gauge" of the amount of spending promised, as if it is the sheer size of the promise rather than its brilliance (or lack thereof) that should define its value.

Moving on.

The next category of O'Farrell promises I wanted to look at was what he, into the "Contract with NSW", called "Return to Quality Services".

It continues the focus on "frontline services" which seems to me to be one of the sillier media/politician creations. I don't doubt the importance of police who are actually "on the street" - but what use are they without the people that train/equip/support administratively?  Is it reasonable to say that a "frontline officer" is ALWAYS better than a backroom employee?

Of course not. I'm sure the same goes for nurses - if they can't do their job because the guy who orders the drugs got sacked, what bloody use are they?

I'll have a look at them all individually:
Impossible to assess. Which was no doubt the intention.
This is covered in the budget speech, where the promise is in fact exceeded by some margin
This is met in part.  In fairness, one can't just summon teachers out of fresh air - they need to be trained, attrition needs to be reduced and a place to put them needs to be found.  But no complaints as yet.
The integrated Transport was, as I indicated previously, has been created.  As for the extra express services, I've looked and have found no evidence at all that this has been done, nor have I found evidence that things are happening.

That said, the plan may be to introduce them when the long-overdue Waratah's hit the tracks - it would make sense that the extra capacity makes the promise feasible.
Impossible to assess
Also impossible to assess - although I suppose if their had been falls in the raw numbers there would be a case for some criticism.

The problem, really, is that promises like this are easy to keep.  They are not expensive promises (comparatively) - it's fairly easy to just throw millions are the key issues (health, education, law and order) - but it's not good governance.

The steps O'Farrell has taken to limit/cut public sector conditions since the election are a case in point - a promise like the above would be easy to keep if harsh cuts are made in other areas.  Would we be better off as a result?

We need to expect more from our politicians - not to just sign a cheque, but rather to be constantly searching for better ways to do things.

That doesn't just mean more efficient (thereby pissing off the unions) - it also means searching for "Best Practice" to make sure our limited resources achieve the best outcomes available.

I'm by no means on top of the Gonski reccommendations, but I understand they go a whole lot deeper than needing $5 billion more per year (although you'd be forgiven for thinking that, given the media coverage).

How wonderful if, next election, rather than just making promises that offer to throw money at this problem or that, a government or an opposition offered to do something differently, or take the challenging job of restructuring something to make it better.

It can be a tough sell, because of vested interests - but if NSW is going to be the best it can be then it needs to be done.


  1. Some background on where the government is at with the "135 new express trains" promise:

    There have been new 63 new train services per week introduced (see link below), though information on them is broken down into peak and off-peak when I've looked.

    You're right about the 135 new services being something that will take time (as either new rolling stock is acquired, or the existing network is made more efficient to allow greater services with the existing rolling stock). Though the current government did promise an additional 6 services per day to/from Penrith/Blue Mountains "within months" (see next link below). The actual increase was 4, not technically what they promised, but also splitting hairs to claim that it is a broken promise either.

  2. My English is getting horrible. In the second paragraph what I meant was that the new services are split into peak/off-peak rather than express/all stops.

    Most of the new express services are likely to be between Campbelltown and the CBD (16* per day = 80 per week), but that won't happen until the track amplification between Kingsgrove and Reveby is completed in 2014. This will allow more express trains to overtake all stations trains.

    *I'm guessing the 16 train services is probably 4 trains per hour, spread over 2 hours of morning peak and 2 hours of evening peak.