Academic journal article The Australian Journal of Politics and History

South Australia: January to June 2004

Academic journal article The Australian Journal of Politics and History

South Australia: January to June 2004

Article excerpt

The period under review saw some familiar South Australian themes; rumours of large manufacturing plant closure; more deal making on the River Murray's future and another court decision concerning the Commonwealth's plan to locate nuclear waste in the state's north. Less familiar, and announced with much alacrity by the premier, was the "State Strategic Plan" but striking a different note, the Anglican Archbishop resigned after troubling evidence came to light concerning systemic failure to deal appropriately with claims of sexual abuse by clergy.

The State Strategic Plan

In May 2003 the Economic Development Board recommended development of a "whole of government State Strategic Plan to provide guidance and discipline to government agencies on priorities for action" (A Framework for Economic Development, 2003 p. 24). The head of Premier and Cabinet handed the premier a draft response in December 2003 and, it appears, Premier Mike Rann was most dissatisfied with the bureaucracy's effort. To address this weakness, he convened a committee of senior ministers to give direction and when the Plan was released three months later he trumpeted: "There is a renewed sense of purpose in the air" (The Advertiser, 1 April 2004). Set within six overarching objectives; Growing Prosperity, Improving Well Being, Attaining Sustainability, Fostering Creativity, Building Communities and Expanding Opportunity, it ostensibly sets current and future governments a series of immediate, medium and long-term objectives. For Rann the most pressing objectives concern achieving the AAA credit rating within three years and orchestrating the introduction of "whole of government" improvements in communication between departments and between ministers. Toward the medium term (and an expected second-term Rann Government) are the bold objectives of leading the nation in transparency of government decision making and service delivery cost effectiveness, and exceeding national economic growth rates over the next ten years. Reducing landfill waste by 25 per cent within ten years and attaining a positive inflow of people to the state by 2009 are representative of the type of benchmarks the Plan sets for government.

Notwithstanding the fact that many targets are set beyond 2014 and will, conceivably, outlive the premier's tenure, he welcomed the fact that "we will be measured along the way" and seemingly relished the task ahead--"most people think this is politically dicey and that we have created a rod for our own back, I think this is a good thing" (Radio interview, ABC 891 Mornings, 1 April 2004). In answer to a question from Opposition Leader, Rob Kerin, who raised doubt as to the government's commitment to regular review, the premier pledged that an independent group "will make a judgement every two years on the progress we make as a state" (Hansard, House of Assembly, 1 April, p. 1, 899). To this end, he envisages that the three boards (Economic Development, Social Inclusion and Roundtable on Sustainability) will be charged with the task of pressuring "every public service head and every minister" to meet the targets. In theory the Plan now takes a prominent place as an economic and social policy measuring stick for future governments, whatever their political colour. Receiving favourable press coverage, and extended commentaries in the Adelaide Review's May edition, the Plan presents genuine benchmarks and, assuming a stronger state economy, many of its aims may reasonably be met. On the other hand, it is not without problems, most notably the very obvious tension between the expenditure austerity required by the AAA credit rating objective and the call on government expenditure required to push economic growth via education and infrastructure expansion, and the introduction of more sustainable environmental practices.

Adelaide-Darwin Rail Link and Mitsubishi's Woes

Much celebration surrounded the launching on 15 January 2004 of the Adelaide to Darwin rail link, a project some would say was 150 years in the making and others a mere nine years (Advertiser and Australian 15 January 2004). …

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