Monday, April 16, 2012

Money's Too Tight To Mention

Newly minted Queensland Premier has plans: there was a plan for day one, the day on which he was sworn in. There was a plan for the first week, and I dare say, the plan for his first month is merely a step along the way to the traditional First Hundred Days media milestone.

At this early stage - just three weeks into a three year term - a lot has been done, but nothing has been delivered. 

This is the process of new government. Unlike a re-elected team, a new government needs to spend precious time learning: where are the pencils (and the loos)? Who's in charge of X-Y-Z? What does the balance sheet really look like? What projects are underway, and what's their status? Who stays on my team, and who do I want to replace? 

In Premier Newman's case, there's a lot more questions than usual. He's never been a state parliamentarian; he has no experience in state government. He's in the job now; he has to be a fast learner on many levels. 

I suspect that for Newman and his team, the magnitude of the task is becoming clearer. Today, Premier Newman announced that the State Budget will be delayed by three months, not because Queensland's economic position is different to what he'd expected. Newman explained that the reasons for delay are so that his restructured departments can realign their budgets, and Peter Costello's independent audit can be completed and digested.

I've worked on my fair share of projects, and deadlines move for all sorts of reasons. Audits are conducted, restructures are rolled out, business priorities change, managers come and go, priorities are altered and budgets are redefined. 

One thing doesn't change: there is an end to our financial year and we report on our performance to our shareholders and to the Stock Exchange. We don't get to move our reporting dates at will. In fact,  I doubt that our shareholders would be delighted with an interim economic statement, and an IOU for a Real Budget. That's what Newman is providing to the people of Queensland...on a date yet to be determined. 

We are your shareholders, Premier Newman. 

Meanwhile, the Queensland Public Service won't be spending their time planning swanky conferences and attending feel-good courses either. Those have been outlawed, along with consultants. I guess current contracts will be honoured, so it's not so much a ban on consultants as it is a hiring ban on consultants. Phew! Peter Costello's audit is not in danger. He just won't be able to deliver his results from a five-star resort in Far North Queensland.

I hate the idea of banning training courses, though. In my perfect world, employers would have a responsibility to provide the means for employees to improve their skills. In fact, it would be mandatory.

More urgently, staff training is an essential component of managing workplace change. Campbell Newman has used the restructuring of some departments as reason to delay the Budget. A restructure of that size is a significant change. He must allow those departments to manage the changes coming their way.

Other cuts already announced include the now infamous Premier's Literary Awards, and the Government's Corporate Boxes at various venues. At least one of those cuts makes sense.

Three weeks in, Premier Newman has stated that his immediate goal is to cut waste. I admire the focus, but with caution born of experience: Don't cut too fast or too deep. 

Then again, the new Premier of Queensland is an ambitious man who has an ambitious agenda. 


  1. Good observations here Sal. There is that element of the naivety of the new here, Howard in 1996 all over again perhaps. We can but only wait and see.

  2. Thanks Donna. My hope is that he remembers that there are people at risk, not just dollars.