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Reproducing editorials from Work Boat World and Ausmarine.

By Neil Baird, Editor-in-Chief, Baird Publications.


Bureaucratic arrogance and profligacy
Monday, 03 October 2011 10:00

Ausmarine editorial - September 2011

I was yet again alerted to an example of the disengaged, insensitive arrogance of our expensive and not very productive bureaucracy by a recent article in The Australian Financial Review. Published on August 16 and headed “Barrier Reef talks in Bahamas cause stir”, it reminded me, not that I ever really needed to be, why I continue to subscribe to the world's best financial, economic and political newspaper.

It was a damning exposure of the arrogance and profligacy of far too many of our grossly misnamed “public servants”. It showed remarkably clearly why no honest hard-working, tax-paying private Australian citizen would even blink if a change of government led to drastic reductions in their numbers.

This extreme, but by no means unusual, example of bad bureaucratic behaviour was, it seems, cooked up jointly by our old friends at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) aided and abetted by their colleagues at AusAID, another expensive but less than useful “feel good” organisation.

I quote the Fin Review which describes the jaunt brilliantly in the article by Marcus Priest:–

“The stunning Colonial Hilton Nassau in the Bahamas, made famous in two James Bond movies, is not the most obvious place to gauge the impact of global warming on the Great Barrier Reef.

“But its private, white-sand beach and ocean-view living room filled with Bond memorabilia may have convinced the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to part with $41,000 for accommodation for 45 people to attend a five-day workshop in July on the impact of climate change on coral reefs.

“Even so, federal bureaucrats may be wise to resist the temptation to “never say never again”, as the GBRMPA’s decision to hold the workshop on the other side of the world has the struggling north Queensland tourism industry up in arms.

“The workshop, entitled “Adapting to climate change: a workshop for coral reef managers”, explored threats to reefs from climate change and was attended by 38 coral reef managers from 12 Caribbean countries.”

My request to Russell Reichelt, Chairman and CEO of GBRMPA, for further information and comment on the Fin Review article was answered by a GBRMPA spokesperson.

GBRMPA answered as follows:–

“As a means of background for you, the workshop "Adapting to climate change: a workshop for coral reef managers" was an AusAID workshop funded by AusAID (all costs, including GBRMPA costs, were paid by AusAID).

“AusAID determined that the Caribbean was an appropriate location to hold the workshop as the majority of participants were from that region – there were 38 coral reef managers from 12 Caribbean countries (not 45 of our staff).

“AusAID contracted the GBRMPA to carry out the workshop on their behalf as GBRMPA scientists have expertise in coral reef management and climate change. NOAA were also involved.

“Caribbean reefs have suffered quite significantly from bleaching. The workshop was driven by developing countries in the Caribbean region advising AusAID that they sought skills in coral reef management and climate change.”

A self-incriminating non-answer if ever there was one. Not the spokesperson’s fault, of course, but, weasel words just the same, no matter who dictated them. Precisely what we have come to expect from two of the most self-serving, unproductive “sacred cow” government organisations. It is nothing less than sacrilege to criticise them but it is a pity that more of our long-suffering tax player's have not done so.

One who has, very bravely in my view, given his business is so vulnerable to any malicious retribution from GBRMPA, is Fred Ariel who runs the substantial Cairns based Raging Thunder tourist organisation. He, obviously, has had enough and as the famous movie decreed, “isn’t going to take it anymore.”

Mr Ariel has demanded an Auditor-General’s investigation of GBRMPA. I think he should look just as closely at AusAID. Both are out-of-control and, as Mr Ariel says of GBRMPA, “these guys are unaccountable – they can’t even get their permit system correct.”

There are many more negatives to GBRMPA. It is overstaffed and hopelessly unproductive. Its malicious and totally unnecessary elimination of much of Queensland’s fishing industry will cost all Australians dearly for generations.

AusAID is similarly expensive and dysfunctional. From what I hear of various of its “Programmes”, its main focus seems to be more on providing jaunts and perks for its employees than achieving measurable worthwhile outcomes for the poor unfortunate people it was ostensibly established to help.

This latest Bahamanian holiday at taxpayers’ expense will almost certainly achieve nothing except for reams of self-justifactory reports on the jaunt. It proves yet again, though, that both GBRMPA and AusAID should be thoroughly investigated by both the Auditor-General and the Federal Parliament.

They should then be, at least, thoroughly reformed or, better still, abolished and replaced by organisations that are constantly reminded to maintain a sense of reality. Their arrogance and profligacy must cease immediately.

Neil Baird

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