First published in The Australian, 12 July 2013
Since his return, the PM has not acted in the public interest.
PEOPLE respond to quality performance. In working life and leadership, sound performance keeps us employed, garners respect and presents opportunities. I understand that, as I’m sure you do, but this week I’ve been asking myself more than ever: does Prime Minister Kevin Rudd? In 2010, Kevin Rudd was deposed as prime minister due to his performance shortcomings.
He lost the confidence of his cabinet and party colleagues to reliably and effectively develop and deliver policy initiatives.
Given this background, one would expect him to return to the top job with a dogged determination to prove his ability as an effective leader with a focus on national priorities.
Alas, after a few weeks back on the job, his first major announcement is to ensure a Labor Party leader can no longer be deposed mid-term. That he requires reform to entrench the leader’s position instead of relying on his performance to earn it, for me, calls into question his self-confidence in leading effectively. Couple this with his only other "policy" initiative, the related and limited federal Labor intervention in the NSW party, and it would seem we are being led by muddled priorities.
I stress this is not a political comment. The facts speak for themselves. CPA Australia is a professional organisation that acts in the interest of not only 144,000 members, but also in the greater public interest. Australia urgently needs to change its thinking and many of its policies, if we are to transition to a more knowledge-based economy, one that is geared-up to actively engage with the fast-growing and evolving Asian economies. Even Mr Rudd noted "the China resources boom is over. . . the time has come for us to adjust to the new challenges." I agree, wholeheartedly.
Australian Andrew Liveris, the highly respected president, chairman and chief executive of Dow Chemicals, has framed our predicament and our challenge more starkly, saying: "Australia is actually in rigor mortis. It’s lost its ability to actually innovate… my wonderful home country, the lucky country, the well-written about happiest country in the world of course has complacency as its greatest enemy." Given the widely acknowledged imperative for decisive action to secure Australia’s place in the Asian Century, that Mr Rudd’s immediate preference for action has been on internal party matters reveals much about both capacity and intent There is much to be done, the challenge is great, and there is little time to waste. It’s about performance, and irrespective of political persuasion, every effort must be made to boost Australia’s international competitiveness.
The federal Opposition’s prioritising of the urgent need to boost productivity and reduce regulation as a central element of competitiveness is welcome. A plan which requires reporting of red tape reduction in parliament and annual reports, links the pay of senior public servants to their performance in reducing unnecessary regulation and requires all Cabinet submissions to include a regulatory impact statement has a chance.
Red tape, at all levels of government, is verging on the ridiculous and is strangling business efficiency.
I know of a cafe in Richmond in Melbourne that recently wanted to place a retractable clear plastic sheet from their awning to the footpath to protect customers from the elements.
They approached the local council for permission and were told that, in addition to council approval, they needed approval from the state authority responsible for main roads as the cafe was on a main road; the state authority for public transport as a tramline runs down that road; and the local water authority, as the cafe is in a once-in-a-century floodplain.
Overregulation is what businesses large and small wrestle with on a daily basis.
Fixing it is not a new conversation, but while we’ve known for years that our international competitiveness has been handicapped by too much regulation, lithe has been done. Reducing regulation is a priority issue that is in the national interest.
Fixing power structures within a political party is not.
Alex Malley is chief executive of CPA Australia.