Strong Choices poorly received by public – Treasury needs to do a lot more work

The Queensland Government needs some new advisers who can prepare logical, coherent arguments as to why particular assets such as ports and electricity businesses should be privatised, because the current Strong Choices campaign has flopped (see the Brisbane Times article Strong choices on budget spark debate). The campaign appears to have been developed by PR consultants, but it doesn’t present any facts or logic that would convince the public on the need to sell assets. It doesn’t address the primary concern people have over asset sales – that the community will get ripped off and private operators will make monopoly profits. The Government needs to explain how the proposed sale process and post-sale regulation will protect the public from getting ripped off. Given I support the Government’s position on asset sales, I’m disappointed that it is being let down by poor PR advice.

Steve Austin and I had a good chat about the problems with the Strong Choices campaign and the People’s Budget website application on 612 ABC Brisbane radio yesterday morning:

Economist labels “Strong Choices” a joke

Steve got in touch with me early yesterday morning after he read my Monday night post:

Qld Treasury needs to explain logic of asset sales much more clearly

Also, I’d recommend Mark Beath’s post from yesterday:

Clean for Gene: Strong Choices or Weak Leadership?

Mark makes a great point about the failure of the website application to offer genuine choices around changing the tax mix:

Sadly, there was no interactive option which allowed me to play with abolishing stamp duties on insurance and property transactions in return for a broad based land tax. More sadly the responses they are likely to receive on the info provided could well lock out any such reform. The explanatory information provided on land taxes will inevitably skew a more negative response.

The Queensland Treasury needs to pay less attention to its PR consultants and instead focus on producing solid economic analysis of the pros and cons of asset sales, which can then inform a serious public debate.

Update: I was interviewed by Brisbane Ten News regarding Strong Choices:

Hard Sell

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7 Responses to Strong Choices poorly received by public – Treasury needs to do a lot more work

  1. KT says:

    Hi Gene, I agree that the Government needs a lot more work with asset sales and hopefully that this is only the first part. I think it’s actually a very good interactive tool but I am sure over 95% of the public just wont use it. Too hard

    The government has been doing some good work in places but unfortunately it has been very poor in communicating this message.
    Long way to go

  2. Sue Feeney says:

    Dear KT – “Too hard”
    Just the patronizing tone that “the public” resent from the current government.

    • KT says:

      HI Sue – I actually agree with you. My biggest thing is that the government needs to be better at communication. It’s a good website but it needs to be easier to use

  3. Holden Lover says:

    Hmmm, I actually went to the presentation yesterday and in front of a cold audience the Treasurer took all questions and in my view answered all questions well. However the point I think that many pundits have failed to hear for whatever reason is that this is a consultation, at the end there will be a plan with further consultation and then it goes to an election and we vote on it. As the Treasurer said last night “If you don’t like the plan we come up with for the election in 2016 don’t vote for us”.

    I saw the Treasurer take many questions about regulation and impact of sale vs lease and these were handled well on the basis that the QCA already provides for framework about access to leased infrastructure and other such questions and the person and group asking the question seemed calm and accepting of those responses and examples, however it is impossible to provide the sort of detail you refer to without a final plan in place such as Sale or lease and what regulations go with it. There’s just too many details to get into when everything is on the table Judging by the Treasurers responses he is thinking about these sort of issues.

    In terms of the comments above about land tax vs stamp duty etc etc I would suggest you write a submission to the Treasurer with your suggestion including costings given the described disappointment about not being able to show that impact. Its all very well commenting via the PR machine whether that be the ABC or the Govt PR machine and not attending and asking your questions directly or spending the time to contribute.

    Overall I thought the session was well structured I don’t recall the last Govt doing any such consultations but by action breaking the promise not to sell assets but then three months later actually doing it. I find it strange the electorate wants engagement, gets it, then parts of it complains about it when the consultation is not able to cope with every permutation and computation that can be thought up, personally I think this process is much better than the last non existent one .

    • Gene Tunny says:

      Holden Lover, thanks for your comment. I’m pleased the Treasurer is answering the questions at the consultations well and is across the detail. I take your point about contributing a submission to the Treasurer.

    • KT says:

      Holden Lover – you last paragraph is very good but the government needs to do more consultation

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