Business has little chance of being heard in NSW
19 January 2009
Businesses in NSW can be forgiven a slight smirk when they hear the
government’s much worn catch cry that Australia’s largest state is ‘open
for business’. Says who? is the chorused reply. Certainly not the economists
who report today that just about everything that could go wrong in NSW has. The Government was anxious to counter that
this morning crying out that all is being tackled by a motivated team. (http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/were-not-in-recession/2009/01/19/1232213493625.html)
Business will have just as much trouble swallowing that line as it does the
government’s favourite ‘open
for business’ slogan. The problem is extremely serious with business
costs increasing rapidly while the State stagnates – or regresses. A lot of the
problem is tied up with nervous and inexperienced Ministers worried about
opinion polls that increasingly determine the mood and behaviour of their leader and his team. They all fear his next, often threatened reshuffle.
This leaves fearful Ministers captive to both
overworked, inexperienced bureaucrats trying to do their best and truculent,
power- hungry, fat cats who have held the reins for too long.
Recently I raised with senior government advisers a very serious business
issue that had only got worse under inept, vicious and bloody-minded bureaucrats. My analysis of the situation was not doubted
(clearly they’d heard it before.) I was
told the best thing for the business involved to do would be to ‘Sue us! That way we can go after the stupid idiot who
caused this problem and your client can get a lot of money.’ That
would be tax payers money. Hardly an edifying response or serious attempt
to resolve an issue crippling a responsible employer in this state.
Not much management is managed while this shambolic, club-footed government
dances to the tunes of daily media that sets NSW’s political and, therefore,
economic, agenda. For more than a week the newspapers have been reporting that
the four-month long premiership of recently-wedded Nathan Rees is on its last
legs. And they moan that he’s a grumpy, grim-faced groom. All sorts of cabals
have been mentioned as having met and plotted to knock him off for either
someone even more shiny-new than him, or a dumped minister with too much time
on his hands. Naturally, those who have been identified as plotters vehemently
deny it. No-one is listening and no-one really knows who is telling the truth.
It doesn’t matter. The media are on a roll and they are going to win this one.
I suspect some are still a little bruised after missing the Rees ascendancy in
the first place. None of them had any idea that former Premier Morris Iemma was
being rolled four months ago until it happened. How embarrassing. And where has
the Opposition been? The media has decided nowhere. And so the Fourth Estate
morphs into Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.
Certainly the public will be confused, but I get the feeling they just don’t
care. Those of you who might be in the hapless jobs of advising this
government, take note. When you tell me (as you repeatedly do) that the
Opposition is in just as bad shape and their leader is also under threat, it
just doesn’t matter. It should. But life is not like that. In the words of a
former Labor leader, a drovers dog could win the next election against your
lot. Many of the Joes in the street struggling to get to work on clogged roads
or a barely functioning public transport system probably have no idea who
Opposition leader, Barry O’Farrell is. Fewer could name his front bench. But
they sure as heck know that something is very wrong and they have no faith
Labor can fix it.
What can Business do in such an environment? Ensure you have
identified the handful of serious, hard working advisers buried deeply in this
morass trying to do their best. They are there, it just takes a while to
And then there are the courts. How appalling.