Partnership key to better government

Peter Kearney
Peter Kearney

PETER Kearney says: Tasmania is a great place. Even with our economic disadvantages, it is still the lucky country; God's country.

Why is it then that we cannot seem to get our government working better in our state?

In 1879, T.C. Just, MHA, wrote: "There is very little to exercise a check upon the actions of ministers and their officials and family cliques.

"At the present time parliamentary government, as administered here is a sham and a delusion. The effect is to retard the progress of the country (state) and to plunge it into debt."

Things may have improved a bit in 134 years.

I know that government is complex and difficult.

I know that many senior government bureaucrats and politicians work incredibly hard.

Yet it is the way they are working that seems to be much of the problem.

We have just seen a government agency successfully manage a major bushfire threat.

The Tasmania Fire Service is a partnership.

It relies very heavily on volunteers and community support.

It uses the talents, capacities and leadership skills of its volunteers and engages with their communities. Partnership works.

Surely that highly efficient model is applicable to all government departments?

Government bureaucrats who can only operate on a top down and command and control approach are not achieving for Tasmania and are wasteful of financial, people and community resources.

Across the state, local leadership is willing to be brought into the governance process.

We are looking for politicians and bureaucrats who can and will lead; building a culture of partnership and local engagement.

There is currently a view that our government is controlled by minorities.

Surprisingly, embracing the concept of a social licence can protect us from minority control over proposals and projects.

If a social licence can be demonstrated, but only then, it binds all the stakeholders.

As Errol Stewart put it, talking about his proposed Silos project, ultimately I have to gain community support as this is who the council represents.

When the area school at Hagley was proposed, the community said it could go ahead, but only for one year, during which it had to demonstrate success. Social licences were around 76 years ago.

We live in a free society and have, within the law, freedom of speech and assembly.

Our democratic rights include the right to participate in the democratic process.

They also include obligations to accept the outcome of the democratic process.

It is not a democratic right to try to subvert the clear will of the majority.

Any such actions ought to carry a high political cost.

Reform of parliament is also part of getting our government working.

Parliamentary democracy requires that the government party backbench has more members than there are ministers.

In government, it is the backbench that is the real opposition.

The backbench chooses the Premier.

Nothing gets a government moving faster than a backbench revolt on an issue.

This means 10 more members of parliament are required (paid for by 20 less minders).

These 10 extra members should be elected from single member electorates (not just as extras added to multi-member electorates.

In that way new leadership can come into parliament, accountability improved and candidates can be attracted who would never come forward under a Hare-Clark system.

This also offers a new pathway for local leaders to become parliamentarians.

Tasmania faces big challenges; financial, economic and social.

Increasingly we have to survive and grow in an unfriendly and globalised world.

To compete successfully, we expect our government to be working for us, not for themselves.

Government working in partnerships through engagement and encouragement of local leadership: Less policy, less regulation and less directives.

Supporting new businesses by allowing them to have a fair go.

It means a parliament that generates enthusiasm and confidence.

So what is my vision for Tasmania? Simple really - Tasmania: Achieve the Possibilities.

•- Peter Kearney is a West Tamar councillor, retired principal of Hagley Farm School and life member of the Australian Education Union.


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