What the QCA had to say about special deals like the Downer Maryborough trains deal

As a Queenslander who grew up during the days of Sir Joh, I’ve come to expect a certain level of impropriety in Queensland politics, so I haven’t been surprised governments since Sir Joh’s have had questionable dealings, although they’ve been of a lesser magnitude than what we saw in the 1980s I should note. This week we’ve learned more about the proximity of two prominent lobbyists to the highest levels of government, as I noted in my post Special deals can be bad deals for Government – my comments in today’s Courier-Mail re. Maryborough trains contract. The Premier’s granting of a $600M+ contract without any competitive process was extremely bad form, and I thought it would be worth noting the Queensland Competition Authority noted in its excellent review of industry assistance in 2015 that such deals were not in the interests of Queenslanders. Here are the relevant excerpts, for the record (from p. 309):

While much of the activity under Queensland Government procurement policies and programs focuses on improving value for money, some activity may result in the preferential treatment of local businesses, thus providing industry assistance.

Procurement policies reflect the ongoing tension between the desirability of achieving value for money in procurement and longstanding pressures for policies which preference local industry…

…Preferential procurement policies can protect local businesses from international competition, increase procurement costs leading to higher taxation, and disadvantage businesses with higher productivity. Even if preferences support the expansion of those businesses supplying government, they do so at the expense of other businesses and lower household incomes…

…Public sector procurement decisions should be guided by a single objective — achieving value for money in procurement. Broader economic, social and environmental objectives are best addressed through other policy instruments.

Basically, the QCA’s words suggest the Premier’s announcement, during the election campaign, of a $600M+ contract for Downer to build trains was bad policy. But, hey, this is Queensland, and, if you’re a client of a lobbyist on our side, how can we help?

I acknowledge we have nowhere near the rot we did in the eighties, but we clearly need to improve standards of governance in Queensland based on recent news.

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