I’m very pleased to see that Queensland Treasury is re-structuring itself, with a view to enhancing its economic advisory and research capabilities, something I’ve long advocated for. Applications close just before midnight tomorrow (Sunday 10 November) for a range of high-level positions, advertised on the On Talent website, which I suspect would be of great interest to any Queensland economists currently working in the public service in Canberra. In my view, the most interesting role on offer is the new Chief Economist role:
The Chief Economist will provide leadership and planning for economic growth in Queensland to create jobs and improve prosperity for Queenslanders. The Chief Economist is the key economic expert for the Queensland Government and will lead the delivery of economic advice and forecasts to the Queensland Government. The key spokesperson for the Queensland economy, the role has a strong external-facing component, and will provide the pre-eminent narrative on the current and desired future state of the economy on behalf of the Government.
Apart from having to provide “planning for economic growth”, which has a socialist central-planning sound to it, this all sounds very good. It’s a great move for Queensland Treasury to appoint a Chief Economist, who should have a lot of scope to influence and improve government policies.
The Chief Economist may find it challenging being the key spokesperson for the economy, however, as that really should be the job of the Treasurer, that is Jackie Trad. It would be fantastic if the Chief Economist would be “external-facing” and offered frank and fearless commentary on the economy and government policies in public, but I suspect that may end up being a challenge. Whoever drafted the position description in the Treasury must have foreseen this issue, as the position description calls for someone with “high-level political acumen”—i.e. someone who will know their place and won’t upset the government. Most top-flight economists, who tend to be fiercely independent and opinionated, would therefore struggle in this role.
The other positions on offer, which I expect some existing Queensland Treasury staff would be well-placed to pick up, are:
- Deputy Under Treasurer (Economics, Policy and Commercial)
- Deputy Under Treasurer (Corporate and Strategic Initiatives)
- Head of Commercial
- Head of Budget and Financial Management
I hope the Treasury fills all these positions with the best people it can. One of the lessons from my book Beautiful One Day, Broke the Next is that Queensland needs a strong and influential state Treasury.
The home of Queensland Treasury, the Tower of Power at 1 William St, Brisbane. Photo by Jennifer Tunny.
Hmm, you’ve put your finger on the problem – ambiguity about the Chief Economist’s public facing role. The appearance of independence, but not much to back it up. Anyway, there are always these kinds of ambiguities in public service, and some people can do a lot with them.
I’m thinking of Alf Rattigan.
Yes, he’s a good example of someone who made it work. Alfred Kahn in the US is probably another good example. Otherwise I think economists are limited by the constraints of public service.