Recognising the world changes but how issues remain the same

| February 28, 2013

 “If we want things to stay as they are things will have to change.”
– Prince Tancredi Falconeri in The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

“It is not the fittest but the most adaptive that survive.”
Reviewing a collection of papers, minutes and deliberations of committees he has been part over the last 20 years, Peter Fritz, Managing Director of Global Access Partners puts forward a case for the establishment of the Institute for Active Policy.

“The principal financial constraint on the growth of small enterprises is their generally inadequate capital funding.” – Small firm finance forum, 20 July 1994.

“The Government acted decisively earlier this month to announce fundamental reforms to the structure of the Australia financial system following the report of the Wallis Inquiry.”
Statement by the Minister for Workplace Relations and Small Business, the Hon. Peter Reith MP, 30 September 1997.

“Australia’s economic performance is poor and getting worse. There is need for substantial tax reform.” –
Innovating in 1988 Mortimer, Goldsworthy, IPAC, MTIA and ABFL reports.

“Australia is in a period of major change – a societal revolution based around information and communication technologies.” – The Global Information Economy: The Way Ahead
by the Department of Industry, Science and Tourism, Commonwealth of Australia 1997.

“The NSW Government will be a leader in the use of ICT to transform government service delivery, and build sustainable public sector productivity.” – NSW Government ICT Strategy 2012.

Reading through the above quotes it is easy to conclude that we are treading water, recognising the issues but never solving them.

What I believe highlights this even further is the following quote from Cicero, which despite being said over 2065 years ago, shows the issues of today are certainly not new.

“The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.” – Cicero – 55 BC

However, to say we are going nowhere would be the wrong conclusion.

Reality is that these issues are “ever green”. They are a permanent part of our social and economic makeup and revisitation of them is legitimate, but the adhoc, disjointed approach we have today should be replaced by a continuous assessment and adjustment.

There are two ways we can do this:

Retrofitting legacy systems


setting up new initiatives on new foundations.

Existing structures will always resist change. With entrenched processes, and strong vested interests, these organisations will be better placed to maintain the status quo instead of embracing change. (Jetstar would never have flown as a division of Qantas).

We have to recognise that society changes over time, but key elements such as education and health are always there. It is wrong to say that our management systems are still based in the 20th Century. We need to put in place appropriate institutions which can respond to the faster paced world we live in.

“A rigorous evidence-based approach to public policy will help Australia to face the challenges of the 21st century in an efficient and cost effective manner and encourage community acceptance of otherwise contentions policy decisions. The adoption of rational methodologies, accurate collection of a broader range of data to develop improved base-lines and the encouragement of transparency throughout the decision making process would greatly improve the effectiveness of policy making.” 
Proposal for the establishment of the Institute for Active Policy, 2011.

I propose the establishment of the Institute for Active Policy. Similar to the Productivity Commission, but tasked to initiate and implement selected projects with multidisciplinary participation, delivering outcomes from policies following the above principles.