Well known UQ economist Cameron Murray yesterday announced his candidacy for the Queensland State seat of South Brisbane, currently held by our formidable Deputy Premier Jackie Trad, who was already under threat from a strong challenge by the Greens’ Amy McMahon (see this Courier-Mail report). Cameron will be campaigning on the issue of corruption. As I have noted in a previous post, Clear evidence re-zoning decisions favour the politically connected, Cameron has undertaken some very interesting research on the topic. This research led him to being an expert witness at the recent CCC inquiry into local government corruption. In his view, the Government’s proposed ban on donations from developers to political candidates does not go far enough.
Earlier this year, Cameron and co-author Paul Frijters published a book, Game of Mates, expanding their work on alleged local government corruption to make the case that the whole Australian economy is a rigged game of mates. As I argue in a review of the book in the latest issue of the Centre for Independent Studies’ Policy magazine, Game of Mates makes some extraordinary claims that cannot be supported by the evidence, such as this one:
It is the story of how groups of ‘Mates’ have come to dominate our corporate and political sectors, and managed to rob us, the Australian majority, of over half our wealth.
As I argue in the review, this assertion is over the top and cannot be reconciled with Australia’s very high GDP per capita, moderate degree of inequality, and low level of perceived corruption. So I largely reject the book’s thesis, although I acknowledge the authors make many good points. There are obviously many real cases of corruption, rent seeking and abuse of market power out there. But the authors go much too far in arguing the whole economy is a game of mates and that this robs the average Australian of half of his or her wealth.
You can pick up a copy of the latest issue of Policy at many newsagents. Cameron’s book is available at good bookstores such as Folio Books on Mary St, Brisbane and Avid Reader on Boundary St, West End. Despite my comments above, Game of Mates is worth reading, as it does contain a lot of interesting conjectures and facts, particularly regarding the so-called revolving door between government agencies and resources companies that has existed in Queensland. Many prominent people are named, and there is a good chance that if you are a regular reader you will know some of them.