An article in ABC opinion by Scott Prasser, ‘Smart State or Dumb Distraction’ examines the emergence of the ‘Smart State’ policy in Queensland, to what extent it resulted in policy change rather than rebadging , and its future after the resignation of Premier Peter Beattie.
Prasser points out:
Smart State seems reasonable, sensible and most all economically needed. Of course politically it has unbalanced the Opposition as it is a hard policy to criticise. Also, as the strategy is pro-business and pro-development it has seized the Coalition’s traditional territory and allowed considerable funds to be provided to business and has been a great way to win votes.
Furthermore, the smart state project has meant considerable funds to universities, especially the University of Queensland, and probably explains its vice chancellor’s high praise for the Beattie Government.
Ask Vice-Chancellors from outside of Queensland however, and they would be certain to label the generous funding the University of Queensland received from the State Government as protectionism. The university has managed to attract a number of academics and researchers away from key ‘competitor’ institutions.
And when it comes to investment attraction, Queensland is the only State that has not signed a memorandum of understanding not to poach investment from other states by offering more incentives.
The Queensland Government is quick to advertise its low taxes and business-friendly climate. But State policies are not all about allowing the economy to function freely, as Prasser indicates.
However, the Beattie Government’s rejection of Commerce Queensland’s The Role of Government in Queensland report to further free up the economy to the private sector and market forces, suggests that the smart state strategy has been more about old style handouts by governments to particular interest groups than about developing an innovative economic and business culture.