VECCI presumes to charm 'Mr Decisive'

Ex-Treasury Economist Richard McEncroe points out that VECCI is placing unjustifiable demands on our new Premier.

Business Age

Thursday 17th August 2007

JOHN Brumby has been Premier for five minutes and the ever predictable Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, aka VECCI, have been all over him like a bad suit, as the saying goes. The opinion and business pages are full of enthusiasm for the wonderful infrastructure our new "Mr Decisive" Premier will deliver and VECCI has been feeding the media with what amounts to a list of demands for him.

VECCI acting chief executive Wayne Kayler-Thomson has used these pages to urge Brumby to get the whip out and act "decisively" on channel deepening, among other projects. VECCI's "front foot" approach presents as enthusiasm to capitalise on Brumby's reputation as a "can do" type; and his reputed "Kennettesque" dreams of ever more "cranes on our skyline". But it looks more like a desperate and ill-timed attempt to "bully" a man unlikely to appreciate it.

VECCI has failed to grasp the fact that Brumby is not a man to be pushed around.

It also seems not to appreciate that the Government, any government, can only make decisions based on sound, reasonable, testable and rational information. The Bracks and now Brumby governments have been entirely responsible to delay the channel deepening project because the project proponent, Port of Melbourne Corporation, has been unable or unwilling to make its case.

What else could a responsible Government do? Does VECCI really want a brand new premier to approve a billion-dollar, environmentally sensitive project that, despite years of assessment processes and reviews, cannot boast a viable business case or economic rationale? Surely VECCI appreciates that a reasonable and sensible government could only approve a project of this environmental sensitivity if it was demonstrably necessary; safe; urgent; and, obviously, financially viable. The paucity of information provided to the Government and the various hearings and inquiries by the port mean this project does not yet meet those criteria.

That the Government is still none the wiser about the details of this project should be worrying for all Victorians. Here we are, at least six years after PoMC came up with the project, and we still do not know how much the project will cost or who will pay for it. PoMC itself acknowledges there is no financing plan for it and no attempt has been made to break down how the various project costs will be met and by whom.

VECCI wants "decisive leadership" from Victoria's new Government. Hear, hear! Decisiveness is great! A premier decisive enough to put a line in the sand and say, "we don't know enough yet about this project to risk our bay", would be refreshing and sound.

Richard McEncroe runs Esperanto Consulting and Communications.

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