Labor mates and lovely little earners

Among the myriad of wasteful expenditures initiated by the outgoing ALP Government was an “I’m from the Government and I’m here to help you” project, Innovative Precincts.

This program builds on the February, 2013, “A Plan for Australian Jobs: The Australian Government’s Industry and Innovation Statement”. While keeping a straight face, the plan’s promoters say it has “provided a vision and strategic framework for current and future industry and innovation initiatives. It set out the Government’s major commitments and priorities to drive business growth and create new high-skilled jobs.”

Innovative Precincts injects $505 million into R&D and its coordination. Up to eight precincts are envisaged, all overseen by a National Precincts Board composed of government employees. No one seems to have noticed that public servants riding shotgun on entrepreneurs is an oxymoron.

The ALP-appointed Vice-Chancellor of Melbourne’s RMIT University, Margaret Gardiner, recently informed university staff that her institution had been jointly awarded custodianship of one of the first two “precincts” — Food Industry Innovation. Perhaps unaware that he had moved on after the latest Rudd-Gillard-Rudd leadership swap and blood-letting, the $900,000-a-year bureaucrat related that it was Minister for Climate Change, Industry and Innovation Greg Combet who had announced the decision.

By the way, Ms Gardiner’s husband, Melbourne University Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis, sits on the National Precincts Board.

The government’s high falutin’ blurb says, “At the core of each Precinct will be a team of highly skilled individuals, led by an experienced executive and governed by an industry-led board to drive and facilitate collaborative activities within the Precinct.” Many such government-financed positions end up with ALP hacks at the helm – one thinks, for example, of RMIT’s recently established Centre for Innovative Justice, which is headed by serial appointee of soft judges, former Victorian Attorney General Rob Hulls.

With this in mind those of a suspicious bent could be excused for thinking that the solemnly appointed leaders will have other credentials. Of the two appointed to lead the Food Industry Innovation precinct, at least one, Zoran Angelkovski, has the standard credentials of being an ALP promoter. As well as being a previous appointee to different government bodies, his tweets also reveal him to be a keen ALP follower. He was recently beside himself with excitement at "what President Obama has to say about climate change." It’s doubtful he was anticipating what turned out to be Obama’s retreat from the front lines of the whole climate-change farce!

Mr Angelkovski is clearly a busy and much sought after man. For, as well as leading the Food Industry Innovation Precinct, he is also the CEO of the other announced precinct, which covers manufacturing.

The moral of this story: get government out of business and the universities. Indeed, get government out of just about everything. Without the discipline of pursuit of profit, programs will likely be stacked with people whose presence raises questions about whether or not appointments are made on merit. Those of a cynical bent might well conclude that Labor mates are being looked after.

No doubt intelligence and competence figure in such apppointments, but the suspicion of less worthy motives will always be there to taint and diminish all such announcements — not merely those of people with close and obvious ties to Labor.

Alan Moran is the director of the Degregulation Unit at the Institute of Public Affairs

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