Home' Future Building: The Australian Infrastructure Review : Volume 5 Number 1 Contents futurebuilding 47
Volume 5 Number 1
needs to clearly understand that they have to inject
as much competition as possible and demonstrate as
much of a competitive process as possible.
Simply trying to lock in equity returns at the start
of the process and then work out the risks and how
they are allocated doesn't really work. It has to be a
genuine two-way negotiation.
MZ: Is there a culture of fear in the public sector
that good ideas can't be properly vented because they
might make their way into the press or create tension
in the minister's of ce? How can we incentivise
public servants to be more entrepreneurial?
JB: I don't sense a huge fear that is crushing the
capacity to have good ideas. In fact, one of the really
refreshing things about working in New South Wales
at the moment is that you have a government that has
a real interest in reform and a Premier who is very
Generally, there is a culture in the public sector
where you get absolutely penalised and lambasted
for your mistakes, and sometimes much less
rewarded for innovative thinking, so there is a whole
apparatus of machinery around auditors general,
ombudsmen and other scrutiny bodies -- and I
make no complaint about that because it's entirely
appropriate -- which militates in favour of people
being potentially more cautious about having open
discussion internally regarding innovative and
potentially controversial things.
Equally, it's incumbent upon bureaucracies to
come up with good long-term strategic advice.
In the absence of properly structured, evidence-
based, sound advice, you have the preconditions for
opportunistic, politically driven programmes based
on primary school whiteboards, with space programs
and bridges to Tasmania.
PR: The key for government is to ensure that
the thinking is refreshed as well. When I came into
New South Wales Treasury three and a half years
ago, I hadn't been around that scene before. I'd been
working in Sydney and overseas, for both the public
and private sectors, so I probably did have a different
viewpoint on how things are done.
That did allow me to take things forward in a way
that wouldn't have been possible had the bureaucracy
been set up the way it was before that point. But the
Government at the moment in New South Wales is
pretty forward thinking and open to new ideas.
It is always going to be a balance between
getting public sector people who are risk-averse and
conservative, and those who are more entrepreneurial,
but as long as there are fresh thoughts coming in and
new approaches that aren't immediately starved of
oxygen, then it can work very well. But it's all about
a sensible balance.
KM: The last two big road PPP projects in
Victoria have been driven from within government,
so I don't believe that there is a lack of that
It depends on how determined you are; you've
got to keep plugging away. When you are working
on the basis of a report that was very well considered
by Sir Rod Eddington, and trying to bring forward
some of the projects in that report, you know it is
well based and you know that you are going to get
there at the end of the day.
I don't think that there is any negativity, either,
towards ideas that come from the private sector.
Governments are generally pretty open to those
sorts of things. I encourage the private sector to
keep pushing their agenda as well, and bodies
like IPA and other industry groups all have a role
to play in pushing governments along with the
delivery of infrastructure.
JM: If there is a fear in public service and
politicians in Queensland, it is a fear of mediocrity.
I don't think that there is a fear of entrepreneurship
and getting on with the job. I think that all states are
in fairly similar situations, faced with high debts and
stretched balance sheets, and we are all dealing with
the fact that there's an ongoing public expectation
that we get on and do this to improve the economy.
That's not going to happen if people are fearful of
putting forward good ideas and testing them.
Delivery of major projects in Australia -- panel discussion
Above: Lend Lease's
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