DARIAN HILES: Michael O’Neil is right that a government panel can’t judge industry opportunities better than industry can (Weatherill jobs plan makes no sense: leading economist, InDaily, 23 January 2013). However if government is operating in the industry, as it did in the 1980s, it inevitably has a far wider understanding of the industry than individual players have. That expertise was stymied by the neoconservative ideology of the ’90s that took over all rational thought, privatised the government operations that were more successful than anything then or today, and gave us the GFC and the out-of-control cost of living increases from which we’re now suffering.
He’s also right that grants, an ideological diversion of the ’90s, are not the solution and that the money should go into design and research. But government, like it or not, is still far superior for essential services and it has additional knowledge of cross-industry and international trends. Overseas government links can also be of vast help to local businesses if they’re treated properly, but they’re not at the moment and both SA and Australia miss major opportunities as a result.
MICHAEL SCHILLING: Your story Weatherill linked to controversial land deal (InDaily, 22 January 2014) is an important piece of reporting. It does not however automatically translate into a conclusion that the deal does not bring benefit to SA. What the story does is expose the way business has been done.
Having set up the Renewal SA Board as recently as 2012 and having appointed persons with a high level of credibility and expertise, an explanation is warranted why this board, which had responsibility for the 400 hectares at Gillman, was bypassed. Even if the deal struck is the best that could be achieved, something that will have to be demonstrated, the Premier should have consulted and worked with the board. Not doing so could suggest either ignorance of normal government land sale procedures, or simply a view that this was an extraordinary deal that could only be handled at the very top of government. Or it could indicate a view that the board did not matter in this case – which prompts the question of why set it up? And it is not surprising that some board members resigned in the wake of having been snubbed.
If it turns out that the land sale and attached conditions are attractive, it most likely will still exercise the minds of the Auditor-General and his staff, not to mention those of inquisitive journalists. At the heart of this is the need to prove that the sale gives the best possible return to taxpayers, and why the responsible board was not involved. Hopefully, further detail will be made available soon to fill us in.
RICHARD ABBOTT: As I see the March state election: yes, the Labor Party clearly wins on long-term pledges and the Liberal Party clearly wins on promising zip. A guaranteed promise: after the March election, the state’s constituents will all remain poor cousins to the government of the day.
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