I found time today to fill out the Queensland Plan survey, which is meant to inform the Government’s development of a 30-year vision for Queensland. I did my best to answer the somewhat vague questions, a couple of which are misguided, being based on a faulty presumption of the Government’s role in the economy and society more broadly. The questions (in bold) and my responses are included below. As a great believer in debating fundamental issues of economic and political philosophy, I’d encourage you to undertake the survey if you haven’t already done so.
In the context of living in the community, how do we move our focus from me to we?
This isn’t a policy relevant question. It’s not the role of Government to offer moral or spiritual instruction.
How do we create and foster an education culture that teaches skills and values to meet global challenges and optimise regional strengths?
We need to improve the quality of teachers at our schools by paying better teachers more and worse teachers less (to give them the incentive to do better or leave), and by investing in ongoing professional development.
How do we empower and educate individuals, communities and institutions to embrace responsibility for an active and healthy lifestyle?
There should be a strong public health campaign against sugar, the over-consumption of which is largely responsible for the high percentage of our population that is overweight or obese. It is unnecessary to consume sugar in the large quantities we do (and coffee tastes much better without it). Obviously we should also encourage people to have active lifestyles and walk, ride or take public transport instead of driving.
How do we structure our economy to ensure our children inherit a resilient future?
Governments should provide essential public services as efficiently as possible and shouldn’t try to determine the structure of the economy. Ultimately, the economy’s structure is not something that can be set, but is rather the outcome of businesses supplying goods and services to consumers as cheaply as they can.
Governments shouldn’t try to pick winners. Broadly speaking, governments should treat industry sectors equally, because a subsidy for one industry (e.g. the film industry) is at a cost to other industries. A subsidy for a favoured industry means there is a higher tax bill that is borne in part by other industries.
How do we strengthen our economic future and achieve sustainable landscapes?
Government policies and regulations should be designed to encourage economic activity and the creation of wealth to pass on to future generations (while ensuring appropriate protection for our natural environment, of course). Currently there exists scope to improve policy settings with a view to enhancing economic outcomes – e.g. by restraining spending, outsourcing more public services, and getting rid of some inefficient taxes such as payroll tax and stamp duty.
How do we attract and retain the brightest minds and ideas where they are most needed and capitalise on global opportunities?
If we get the basic economic policy settings right, the brightest minds and ideas will come naturally. One policy we really need to reform is the set of restrictions on retail trading hours. Our trading hours restrictions are archaic and embarrassing and must annoy many bright minds who visit our cities and towns.