Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Corruption or incompetence?

I was interested in the report on last night’s 7-30 Report. This blamed the current WA events not on Brian Burke or Julian Grill, not the 3 sacked West Australian ministers – and certainly not Kevin Rudd or John Howard although given the publicity one might think it might be. Blame was directed at the current Western Australian Government which was described as hopelessly inefficient at dealing with development approvals.

Leading business figures in the state – particularly those in the mining industry - say the reason the Burke-Grill pair were in demand was their ability to get decisions out of a labyrinthine bureaucracy most businesses found too hard to navigate.

According to this view the rationale for the shadowy world of political lobbying is the incompetence of the WA Government and its inability to deliver decisions. Dumping Burke and Grill would, accordingly, impose at least short-term losses for business since they would be forced back to dealing with the incompetence. There is then a need not to get rid of profitable consultancies but to improve the processes of government.

I don’t know if this is the most sensible view or not. Is what is happening bureaucratic inefficiency or an attempt by business to cut corners to escape reasonable regulation and to unreasonably enhance profits? Certainly profitable Burke-Grill-style consultancies emerge to meet a market need and this need can be created by inefficiency, corner-cutting as well as by the possibility of corrupt payoffs. Indeed, inefficiency and corruption are joint outputs of incompetent politicians.

Maybe the stench emanating from the major state Labor governments of Australia reflects a combination of incompetence as well as corruption.

Meanwhile, on the alleged corruption/dubious practice front:

(i) The Burke-Rudd scandal itself is heading towards being a total farce – the Liberal MP replacing the unfortunate Ian Campbell is now being accused of having shares in companies which Brian Burke advised. This is totally ridiculous.

(ii) Graham Richardson that great warrior of the NSW right of the ALP and Swiss bank account expert – ‘whatever it takes’ – has been hit with a $2.3 million tax bill.

(iii) Liberal MP Andrew Laming is alleged to have rorted $67,000 from electoral printing allowances while two other Liberal MPs are being investigated by AFP. The stench of corruption creeping into the Coalition?

(iv) The WA Secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, Kevin Reynolds admits to continuing to pay Brian Burke a retainer of $600 per week. Burke was a mate he said and he had no intention of ‘ratting’ on him. I hope this comradely solidarity is supported by the union’s rank and file who pay this bill.

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