When Strategy Doesn’t Align with Election Cycles

John Watters, Executive Officer – AusSIP

Recently I was standing below one of the most iconic Australian symbols and wondered if any government would build it today? The Harbour Bridge remains a testament to the Australian spirit that became synonymous with other engineering feats such as the Snowy Hydroelectric Dam and the Opera House. The entirety of these projects spanned multiple election periods, crossing state and federal areas of interest and required extensive capital investment.

In the past decade the political scene at all levels appears to reflect issues of the day rather than an overall long-term strategy. Regardless of which party dominates the political landscape, the common issues that unite us as citizens do not disappear nor can wait for whimsical hopes.

Every so often at least one of current media ‘investigative shows’ will focus on investment shams that swindle Australians. The promise of getting rich quick from speculative and highly questionable propositions presented by highly engaging, energetic and almost mythical speakers, defies most logic. However, in the public sphere we to some extent expect similar results from long-term investments such as education to some how solve long-standing skills shortages.

What is more annoying is when a new government, regulatory body or individual removes existing structures based not on performance, direction or strategy, but on the name association with predecessors. Meanwhile, ‘Joe Average Citizen’ is confronted with additional red tape and learning new procedures and forms whilst not progressing any further in their life. If something is objectively waning, then strategy should drive improvements. On the other hand, if ‘it aint broke, don’t fix it’.

When you start a business or buy a house, most people need to borrow quite extensively to cover the capital required. Realistically, most people realise that repaying the loan will take years of hard work, determination and discipline. Overall, there generally is no magic formula in the equation. When looking in the public arena, a growing number of voters appear to disregard these principles that govern their personal lives. Advancements need to be made within election cycles, without any significant borrowing and be repaid without any alterations to either current spending allocations or sources of revenue.

Our collective strategic fortitude must be strengthened. We need leaders at all levels to have both the courage and honesty to tell it how it is and how it will be over periods that exceed their tenure as public servants. If the park needs better lighting to reduce crime, do it. If the highway needs upgrading, saving lives and travel time, do it. If the education standards across states needs aligning to improve attainment, do it.

As voters, we must increase our evaluation of strategy and lessen our opinions on day-to-day operations. Politicians will follow and move with opinion polls. They need to be given room to make minor mistakes and take corrective action as required. If errors are not contextualised within a greater strategy, then learning or progress will be limited. Investments should not be aligned with election cycles but with the greater good of the represented citizens. If we don’t start taking a longer-term, strategic approach we will forever be expecting a different outcome and yet undertaking the same activities every time.

I hope my children can look back later on and be glad that we built it, rather than questioning with disbelief why we didn’t.

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