Aug 31, 2012

The costs and rewards of devolving public service functions

In contrast to Labor, the Coalition is thinking about alternatives to current ways of doing bureaucratic business.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

The Coalition has sent two signals lately around its approach to public administration if it wins government.

The first, which received greater attention, related to the warm welcome extended to UK “Big Society” advocate Phillip Blond when he visited two weeks ago. Blond visited last year as well, and on both occasions met with senior Liberals.

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139 thoughts on “The costs and rewards of devolving public service functions

  1. Migraine

    Devolved responsibility a la Blond and Abbott sounds like a recipe for atomisation and alienation, further undermining people’s sense of community and doing even less for the idea of a ‘nation’.

  2. SBH

    It’s difficult to see how Robb’s proposal could be implemented without costing a lot more. Centralisation, whatever its ills, creates economies of scale that would start to fragment if pushed down to the states and territories to seperatly administer.

    And it’s equally difficult to believe anyone in Canberra doesn’t know that the first thing every premier, regardless of party, will ask – ‘where’s the money?’ and they’ll want more than they got before.

  3. rossmcg

    “Imagine a devolved Commonwealth program, being managed by a state — or even one of Abbott’s “little platoons” of community-based service deliverers — which goes bad: say there’s a 3% complaint rate about it, or some shonky private contractor cuts corners, resulting in people being injured or killed.”

    we don’t have to imagine … it only took 1 second for the case of the aboriginal elder in WA who died after being transported through the WA outback in an unairconditioned prison van by a private contractor. Ok that was a State government outsourcing but it is the perfect example of what happens when governments abrogate their responsibilities and had out the work to companies who put profit first.

  4. wilful

    All of the “pink batts deaths” could honestly be sheeted home to State OH&S regulation. All of the “school halls rorts” from teh BER could reliably be attributed to State education departments. That never stopped the coalition in Federal Parliament.

  5. Peter Ormonde

    Oh dear … here we go again. Those of us with more elephantine memories might recall Fraser’s “New Federalism” … funneling Commonwealth funds through all those totally responsible and more accountable States and the feds stepping back from the pointy end of responsibility.

    The result: a sprawling slow train wreck of a policy with services being increasingly unequal depending on lines drawn on maps. Queensland’s schools, NSW hospitals… all different, all failing, and the notion of equality of opportunity and living standards for Australians went out the window.

    Actually having watched the NSW Public Service up close, I have few issues with O’Barrell’s plans to set to the behemoth with a chainsaw … failed managements in roads, housing, health, education and community service… a failed State in terms of meeting public expectations and dealing with challenges of the 21st century. But I suspect O’Barrell will simply grab the cash – the temptation is overwhelming. It’s what happened with Fraser’s new federalism as well.

    Pity really – something really needs to change – but I don’t think importing our recycled failed ideas from the English will really help too much… just less and less and less. Pity. We could do with some decent imaginative policies and programs here. But we’d need politicians with a commitment to delivering results beyond securing preselections.

    When will someone start talking about really solving the problem and abolishing these absurd bureaucratic fiefdoms called the States?

  6. Suzanne Blake

    The richest suburb in Australia in terms of income per caita as per the census was in Canberra region.

    Jerrabomberra just across border in NSW.

    Wonder why?

    Public Servants nest there.

    Bet it will be No 1 in 2016.

  7. Peter Ormonde

    See what I mean Jimmy… just trash.

    Here’s some decent numbers: http://www.smartcompany.com.au/economy/20110729-revealed-australia-s-top-50-richest-suburbs.html

    They just make stuff up.

    I’m off for a shower now – just makes me feel a bit greasy reading this sludge.

  8. Peter Ormonde

    Jimmy, here’s another one… slightly better: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/in-search-of-the-new-rich/story-e6frgabx-1226450654336

    Ignorant, dumb and lazy. Not interested in facts. They just “know” … it has the feel of “truthiness” to it – and that’s enough.

    Now leave them alone and let them wither away on the edges of the world they so desperately try and attach themselves to…. the real one.

  9. Suzanne Blake

    IT’S always been regarded as a nice place to live, but 2011 census data has revealed Jerrabomberra has the highest median weekly …

    google it

    highest median weekly earnings as they define it

  10. Oscar Jones

    Blond’s stale and predictable theory is simply Thatcherism/Blairism and the Coalition devoid of real ideas is bound to lap it up.

    Thatcher proclaimed local councils could deal with the homeless rather than the government. This isn’t a policy, it’s an abrogation of duty and passing the buck.

    The result is what we see today in Britain : a massive decline in community housing (where the opposite is happening throughout Europe) and the transfer of taxpayer’s money to private hands, landlords housing the homeless for profit, an inevitable boom and bust cycle in housing costs.

    Exampled by how Britain now hands out billions$$ in housing subsidies even to the working poor, thus supplementing a generation of would be property developers and a problem they cannot solve : cut back on housing subsidies and property prices will collapse.

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