We expect politicians to be more vocal around election time, and with the Victorian election late November 2018, the New South Wales election coming up in March and the Federal election due by May, there has been no shortage of opinions from those vying for public office recently. The 24-hour news cycle and the rise of social media has increased the opportunities for politicians to be heard and amplify their messages. But what effect is this having on the prosperity of our state and nation?
Concerningly, based on the latest Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Suncorp Pulse Survey of Business Conditions, the largest survey of the Queensland’s 400,000 small and medium size businesses, the answer is investment frustration and increasing environmental activism weighing on economic activity. With the Federal election and concerns around the Federal Opposition’s policies the key thematics of the December quarter 2018 survey, sentiment across Queensland’s small and medium sized businesses has fallen to its lowest level since 2015.
Politics and economic stability top the list of major constraints for business growth and for business confidence. Serving and potential public leaders should heed the fact that survey respondents continue to vent frustration and disappointment in state and federal politicians due to a perceived lack of coherent policy development and delivery and lack-lustre performance.
However, what we are seeing from some serving and aspiring public leaders around the current Murray Darling Basin debate following the recent fish deaths and the release of the South Australian Government’s Royal Commission into the Basin Plan, is the exact opposite. Disappointingly, they are using this issue as another opportunity to divide those living in the Basin and pit graziers against irrigators, communities against communities and governments against governments.
It is crucial that any debate concerning the management of water in the Murray-Darling Basin is based on evidence and an informed understanding of the complex mix of current circumstances we face, not politicking or rhetoric or pushing single issue agendas. No one has got, nor will they get, exactly what they want from the Basin Plan. Ironically, the fact that nobody ‘likes’ the Plan is perhaps what gives it the best chance of successfully transforming 100 years of over-allocation of the water in the Basin.
The ridiculous suggestion from a South Australian Senator that we should ban cotton exports is the latest example of failed leadership. It almost doesn’t warrant a response, except to point out that this shows a total lack of understanding of the last 25 years of water reform, water management and its regulation, environmental and socio-economic impacts, basic democratic rights, and farming.
The Basin Plan was a watershed moment for Australian water policy – overcoming a hotly territorial issue for over a century to work towards environmental outcomes while minimising the economic and social impacts on communities. Any environmentalist will tell you that results from the Plan will not be immediate and we are only half way through implementing it. Yet some serving and aspiring public leaders are intent on tearing it apart. If successful, the only thing they will achieve is to erode what little trust people have left in politicians and governments on this issue and ensure the environmental objectives are not realised. That’s not leadership and it doesn’t bode well for the future prosperity of our state and nation.