Monday, August 24, 2009

Too Much Plotting, Not Enough Planning

It seems that the press just can’t resist the temptation to propagate speculation about a possible change of leadership of the Labor Party in New South Wales. Once again we have been regaled with reports of secret focus group polling to gage the appeal the list of usual suspects, and the revelation that Nathan Rees is actually on holiday leaving one of his potential replacements in charge of the state. While it is all very plausible, and it would come as no surprise if the reports are on the mark, the real question is does anyone actually care?

The New South Wales government has such a history of making big and bold announcements which never actually materialize that nobody believes a word they say anymore. Time after time, and Premier after Premier, the Labor government has unveiled grand plans to overhaul transport and roads, claiming to have laid the foundation for progress for generations to come. And yet each grand plan is either modified beyond recognition, shelved, or abandoned altogether, only to be replaced by the next grand plan.

The perfect example is the Metro proposal announced by Morris Iemma, which may well have been a great idea, but which was unceremoniously dumped when the revolving door of the Premier’s office stopped spinning for long enough to leave Nathan Rees sitting behind the big desk. Now we have less ambitious Metro plan which will still cost billions, take years to build, and yet only service a very small proportion of Sydney, let alone the rest of New South Wales. Don’t hold your breath, but this one could also be dumped, especially there is a new Premier before the end of the year.

But that’s the problem. With every new Premier, there’s a new agenda. Old plans are scrapped, new plans are concocted, and nothing ever gets done. There’s too much plotting, and not enough planning. What is needed is a plan that can survive changes of leadership and be brought to fruition over an appropriate timeframe. It should begin with maximizing the existing infrastructure by extending the rail network we already have, connect the missing links to join our motorways together, and ensure that whatever Metro and light rail projects do get built actually integrate with the other pieces of the puzzle. Most importantly, an independent planning authority, similar to the Olympic Coordinating Authority which was so successful, is needed to see such a plan through.

Instead, all we get is speculation about whether there is or is not a leadership change brewing in the Labor Party. But it’s not Nathan Rees that’s the problem, and replacing him would not make any difference. All it would achieve is the creation of yet another ex-Premier, but for some reason it seems that the members of the Labor Party are the only ones who don’t understand that. They still seem to think that the people of New South Wales are dumb enough to fall for the same old trick just one more time. And the press hounds still seem to think that somebody cares about which deckhand takes the wheel of the Titanic long after the iceberg has struck.

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