A Vision for Australia – Part 3

| October 9, 2015

Global Access Partners (GAP) is developing a ‘big picture’ vision and roadmap for Australia. The Chairman of GAP, Peter Fritz, concludes his series of blogs by sharing the most important part of achieving progress.

Reimagining Budgets

Budgets for expensive public services — such as health, for example — must start to account for the future of technological change. Such budgets still involve the allocation of a certain sum of money towards particular equipment purchases which must then suffice for ten years or more, whether or not they are obsolete in five. In health, this does nothing to improve patient care, but is driven by the cumbersome way in which transparency procedures are implemented, and so in search of one benefit we are sacrificing another.

Individuals, companies and governments must all learn to ‘manage for change’ rather than merely managing change when it happens. We must all anticipate and prepare for future directions, because there simply is not enough time to launch yet another inquiry or alter long established practices when that change occurs. There must be a new culture of monitoring change, responding intelligently and finding opportunities where the less prepared would see only difficulty. The mere creation of dedicated institutions for this purpose is not enough, just as outsourcing our hopes for the future to the political class will always court disappointment, whatever the excitement of a new hand on the helm.

A diversity of truths as well as people

The many meanings which ‘shared’ values embody for different groups and individuals mean they will inevitably clash over time. Well intentioned agreement to improve the lot of the underprivileged, for example, will still provoke fierce debate over how this may best be achieved. The appearance of a problem can often depend on the angle one is approaching it from.

There is a dichotomy between the attitude of much of the Anglo-Saxon world regarding how to run a country and, at the other end of the spectrum, the approach taken by most European governments. Anglo-Saxon economic philosophy rests on individuals taking care of themselves, but while this is desirable for many, it could never be claimed that everyone can manage for themselves. The Europeans take a more social point of view, given their long and turbulent history of inequalities of wealth leading to disunity, social unrest and revolution.

The increasing polarisation of wealth in Australia — a once proudly egalitarian country — certainly requires a strong government to address it, but the definition of the strength required is also open to debate. It would take a determined administration to tackle such inequality at source, given the power of vested economic interests and the influence of wealthy individuals. It would also take resolve of a very different sort to handle the potentially volatile social consequences of ever-widening economic divides, or persuade an ever less Anglo-Saxon population of its benefit, or at least inevitability.

The question for Australia is where to position itself between the two, and although such a balance is difficult to find, it can at least be attempted. It was an early American President, Andrew Jackson, who observed that only role for government is to feed its people. The debate continues over whether this means the state should ensure that no-one goes hungry, or that everyone has a job. If done right, this trading of social equity for economic rationality can benefit both sides of the equation.

A ‘fair go’ is indeed central to this Vision for our fair land, but a ‘fair go’ can mean many things to different people, depending on their point of view. The same easy slogan may be offered to protect unearned and unmerited privilege as well as opportunities for all. A ‘fair go’ for established businesses, or a ‘fair go’ for people who are underprivileged, may produce very different sets of policies to placate very different interest groups, just as innovators, management and public servants have different requirements too. There are so many different concepts of a ‘fair go’ that an endless debate could be held, nevertheless we must soon agree on a range of outcomes to pursue and the proper means to attain them.

Six Essentials of Good Government

Studies have offered six essential aspects – three technological and three social – which any nation must bring under control to become truly successful. These elements are transport, energy, and water and sewerage in terms of infrastructure, and healthcare, education and security as three fundamental services. Only those countries with a sound foundation across each and every one of these can sustainably build a better future for all. A Vision for Australia, as well as the government of the day, should therefore concentrate its attentions on securing these basics on which everything else relies.

Prioritising Implementation

This leads us naturally to implementation, which is often left as little more than an afterthought to grand schemes and bold ambitions, but is by far the most important part of achieving progress. No matter how modest, any well-implemented plan will improve more people’s lives to greater effect than the most detailed design forever pinned like a gaudy butterfly to a dusty drawing board.

We must look to create a sustained programme of targeted and coherent action towards our goals. We should agree our priorities, identify the most sensible measures to achieve them, and put them to work through public policy and private endeavour. We cannot wait in a long and barely moving line with other supplicants for permission or look towards wider ‘coordination’ which merely stifles all initiative at birth.

The long-term issues facing Australia demand long-term solutions, consistently applied beyond the term of any particularly government or leader. Some have proposed the establishment of independent bodies, rather than politically appointed ones, to handle some major areas on which broad national agreement can be found. The independent ‘Fed’ in the USA and Britain’s independent Bank of England control monetary policy in their respective nations in an apolitical matter to meet generally agreed objectives, freeing politicians of the temptation to dash for short-term growth to win office at long-term inflationary cost to the nation. This point again cycles back to the question of the balance between individualism and community in society and who looks after whom, but an intelligent discussion of such issues should not inevitably deteriorate into partisan bickering over the ‘nanny state’.

These proposals must now be developed into a coherent programme of action. This is the crucial next step, and we cannot afford to stumble or falter now. GAP’s initiative marks another positive step in this direction, and would betray its purpose if it was seen as an end in itself. Just as it enlarges and expands upon an initial set of pointers for debate by including views from a much wider range of people, so its next iteration must offer a concrete plan of effective action for the benefit of all.


Read the previous blogs in this series:

A Vision for Australia – Part 1
A Vision for Australia – Part 2



  1. Max Thomas

    Max Thomas

    October 9, 2015 at 9:52 am

    A Fair Go

    Since, as far as I know, my 'Vision for Australia' is the only one that prominently advocated the "Fair Go" as a guiding principle, I suppose Peter Fritz's remarks here might be an oblique reference to that, or otherwise it's a remarkable coincidence. Of course, a 'Fair Go' can be used by anyone as an "easy slogan" in support of anything. But I was careful to define its meaning in the context of an argument for constitutional reform which is far from easy. Peter Fritz listed the 'essentials of good government' with which I think most would agree. I would contend, however, that a major impediment to good government in Australia is over-government, enshrined in a federal constitution that could not have anticipated the challenges that Peter outlined in his series. The enormous waste created by interstate competition and political manoeuvring is so well known it need not be canvassed again here. The 'Fair Go' as defined in my Vision is intended to be the foundation of the implementation that Peter very eloquently outlined. A wide definition of the 'Fair Go' in this context includes: the rule of law; parliamentary democracy; the right to vote; the separation of powers; the presumption of innocence; trial by a jury of peers; free speech; the right to assemble and protest peacefully; and independent media. But there is some doubt as to whether some of these things are securely guaranteed. The word 'must' appears many times in Peter's vision for Australia, along with the notion of a vision that is 'prescriptive'. It is true that people are motivated by incentives, but there is also something innate that responds to liberty. Many of the world's people are free only to do as they are told, which is not at all conducive to innovation and effort. Arguably, much of what we enjoy, from the incredible advances in aviation and medicine to the internet and a myriad of electronic wonders, we owe to hard-won liberty.

  2. Peter Fritz

    Peter Fritz

    October 14, 2015 at 11:41 pm

    Good government and innovation

    Thank you for your comments, Max, which I've read with great interest. I'll talk more about good government and innovation in a coming blog, and I'm looking forward to your insights. Best regards, Peter.