Public service efficiency? Sorry, she can’t hear you
THE Queensland Government has come up with an innovative new way of ensuring that the tens of thousands of public servants it has hired are operating effectively: stop evaluating them.
That's right. Despite driving up the wage bill by $5 billion in just four years, the Labor administration reckons the best way to ensure taxpayers are getting value for money is less evaluation of the public sector rather than more.
This grand cover-up had been largely a secret, until now.
Around 90 performance measures were stamped "discontinued" in the service delivery papers attached to the Government's recent budget.
Some of these had been monitored for decades.
No doubt the Government will profess hand-on-heart that it has replaced a few of these old measures with new and more appropriate ones.
However governments chopping and changing how they monitor themselves is just another time-honoured way to avoid scrutiny.
The excuses used to run a red line through the measures would make hilarious episodes of famed British sitcom Yes Minister.
Many have been dumped because they have been deemed a "timeliness measure".
And, apparently, calculating how long it takes bureaucrats to respond to the public does not "meet the definition of either effectiveness or efficiency".
Yes, it actually says that.
These include figures like the percentage of customers whose application for drought or disaster assistance is processed within 21 days.
It includes the percentage of development projects managed, facilitated or delivered within committed time frames and budgets.
And it includes the percentage of title registry requests processed within five days and resource industry audits and inspections completed within prescribed times.
The fine print suggests these measures will reappear in department annual reports in some form. But don't hold your breath.
Other discontinued measures will continue to be monitored. However, the Government has just decided that it's in everyone's best interests not to report on them publicly anymore.
These include statistics on transport projects that start or finish late and those that come in over budget.
They also include passenger subsidies for planes, trains and buses and the number of incidents reported annually to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.
Not surprisingly, the Government wasn't travelling so well on many of the measures that have been rubbed out.
However the excuse for other eradicated indicators amounts to little more than the administration just can't be stuffed calculating it any longer.
It won't measure the response times of regular taxis or even those that take wheelchair customers at peak and off-peak times.
Apparently, the Government has been in the midst of major reform of the personalised transport industry since 2016 and because its role as a regulator is changing it won't monitor the industry any more.
It won't measure the satisfaction of non-government organisation that deal with the Department of Communities because the surveys couldn't rustle up a reliable sample size.
The views of local governments about departmental regulation and consistency of services on offer has not been reported this year because someone buggered up the survey questions.
And statistics on the success of efforts to reduce nitrogen, sediment and pesticide run-off is missing because no one got around to completing the 2018 Great Barrier Reef report card.
The energy sector's satisfaction with Government engagement on policy issues has been discontinued permanently.
However, we don't know why because they didn't bother to tell us.
The Government is far from the first Queensland administration to rub out some of these important accountability measures.
Times change and calculating some standards simply doesn't make sense any more.
But a government that has made much of its agenda to restore frontline services - and spent copious amounts of taxpayer's dollars in the process - should be committing to more disclosure, not less.
If the time taken to respond to the public isn't an effective measure of frontline service delivery then what on Earth is?
Powerful motives to go solo
POWER to the microphones failed at the beginning of last week's meeting of national energy ministers.
And the only thing everyone was able to agree on at the high-stakes get-together was that someone should figure out how to switch them on.
The ministers were meeting about the National Energy Guarantee, a plan that puts the onus on retailers to reliably supply their customers.
It has prompted threats from pro-coal Coalition MPs to cross the floor and condemnation from the solar sector that it is anti-renewables.
The Queensland Government has been criticised for not signing up to the NEG, with the Turnbull administration claiming Labor was condemning Queensland to higher power prices.
This is bogus.
The problem is that the NEG seeks to solve a problem Queensland doesn't have.
It promises to improve reliability by adding generation.
But we have the youngest fleet of coal-fired power stations in the nation, a developed framework for the extraction of our gas and a multibillion-dollar pipeline of large-scale renewable projects underway.
The NEG is promising $150 a year in annual savings. However Queensland power prices have already begun to decline, and that will continue as new generation brings much needed competition into the sector.
There's now an argument over whether it's in Queensland's interests to be in the national energy market at all any more.
While switching off the interconnector with NSW sounds like something out of Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen's playbook, it has actually been discussed within the Labor Government.
Coal-fired generation has been taken offline in Victoria and a major station in NSW is set to follow.
Both states are refusing to extract their gas reserves.
So they're increasingly relying on Queensland to keep the lights on.
When the NEM's generation capacity declines, wholesale prices increase.
And that means Queensland households and businesses are paying more because of the recalcitrance of other states.
Queensland Labor's signature 50 per cent renewables by 2030 plan has little chance of success if other states imperil Queensland's reliability.
The State Government should find a working microphone and telling Canberra and the other states that if they don't pull their weight then Queensland will be going it alone.
Miles from the truth
IF FURTHER evidence was needed that Health Minister Steven Miles's quest to dump Lady Cilento's name from the children's hospital has nothing to do with patient confusion, here it is.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced at the state funeral of Lady Flo Bjelke-Petersen in January that the Government planned to name part of the new Kingaroy Hospital after the iconic Queenslander.
It smacked of one of those ministerial announcements dreamt up in the back seat on the way to an event, given the Bjelke-Petersen family hadn't even been asked.
Had that courtesy been undertaken, then perhaps the Bjelke-Petersens could have informed the Premier that Kingaroy's community hospital had recently been renamed after the much-loved matriarch.
So now the South Burnett region looks like ending up with two hospitals effectively with the same name.
You'd think Miles would be concerned about the confusion this will create rather than obsessing over erasing the legacy of trailblazing physician Lady Cilento.
Meanwhile, Miles continues to run his dodgy online poll about changing the identity of the children's hospital.
It does not mention Lady Cilento's dumping.
And while the Government insists the results will inform its "final position" (which has already been decided), how can they be relied on given anyone in the world can vote multiple times?
I've personally voted on dozens of occasions.
Miles and his fellow travellers have probably been doing much the same.
Week that was... and will be
Good week: Annastacia Palaszczuk burst into public view multiple times after a poll showed Labor's support declining. She announced Queensland Ballet was going to China, although no news whether she will be also.
Bad week: Bob Katter, who despite his famed gift of the gab, couldn't talk his way out of the garden-variety racism that was spewed out by a member of his own party.
Quote of the week: "I don't believe we're a racist party - we're probably the most unracist party out here" - Katter's Australian Party MP Nick Dametto, seeming almost convinced.
Next week: After a break of almost an entire season, State Parliament resumes. Labor will ram through laws to sack Ipswich City Council, while Treasurer Jackie Trad will be in the Opposition's crosshairs.