Home' Future Building: The Australian Infrastructure Review : Volume 6 Number 1 Contents 4 futurebuilding Volume 6 Number 1
reform process in some cases, and again was returned
with an increased majority. You can reform and bring
the community with you, but you've got to work the
community. You've got to be incredibly equitable,
very open and fair. You've got to make sure that you
look after the lower quartile -- make sure that nobody
disadvantaged is any worse off, and [that they are]
hopefully better off. You can do it, but you really must
work the community; you must have a consistent
strategy. When I say consistent, [I mean] consistent in
everything you say and do.
BL: Martin, you have stood up in a big way on
electricity, coal seam gas and other issues. What has
made you take such a strong stand?
Martin Ferguson (MF): It's about commitment to
leadership, and a desire to do the right thing in the
national interest from a policy perspective. We, as a
nation, have proven in the past that we can do it,
throughout the Hawke, Keating and Howard periods.
We're now seeing it at a state level with Mike Baird
-- an outstanding leader -- who is actually prepared to
decide on what is needed, to argue why it's needed,
and to then deliver it. That was about leadership.
The Australian community now expects the major
political parties to front up to their responsibilities at
a national level.
We must stop focusing on the short-term political
outcomes and start to think about a productivity
agenda over the next 10 to 15 years. That's
exceptionally important at the moment, because
our economy is in transition. The resources boom is
over in terms of investment in major capital projects.
We will reap the bene ts of that capital investment
for many years to come -- from iron ore to coal, and
especially lique ed natural gas (LNG). We will be the
biggest exporting nation.
A prime example of the lack of leadership at the
moment is this false and dishonest debate about
the Free Trade Agreement with China across all
political parties -- not just the trade union movement.
It verges on having racial overtones, just like [the
failed takeover bid of] GrainCorp; just like we've
got in a prime region of investment at the moment,
the agricultural sector and the position of the
National Party. We need the Free Trade Agreement
because the potential industries that will grow are
the bene ciaries.
It's almost as if the Construction, Forestry, Mining
and Energy Union (CFMEU), coming from a sector
that is bene ting from Chinese investment, wants to
hold the rest of the nation to ransom for their short-
term political gain. The message to Canberra has to
be to x this and x it quickly, because we actually
need the jobs and we need them now. We cannot
afford to put them at risk.
BL: Max, you ran the federal public service for
a period of time. What sort of impact would the
political debate about the Free Trade Agreement be
having, do you think?
MMW: I didn't run the federal public service. I was
happy to lead, but it's a very capable organisation.
We are very fortunate with our federal public service
because it's got a lot of intellectual horsepower, but
it needs to be harnessed in a disciplined way. We've
been losing that discipline; progressive governments
have become wilful, they haven't adopted disciplined
approaches. When the traditional disciplined
approaches [have been adopted], which did happen
in the Hawke--Keating and Howard periods, you get
good results. Governments should not marginalise
their professional advisers and tell them, 'Do as I tell
you,' rather than talk to them about the Government
agenda; however, this is what's happening. The public
service would be horri ed by what's happened with
the China--Australia Free Trade Agreement, because it
is bipartisan. Both sides of politics desperately want
a China--Australia Free Trade Agreement, and for this
to come up at the last minute is really very sloppy
and very messy. It's part of the confusion about us
being like the United States. We all know that every
free trade agreement in the United States nally ends
up in Congress, then they ddle and fool around
with it, and something nally gets through when the
President is able to fast-track it. We're not the United
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