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9The Independent Weekly
August 20 - 26, 2010
state politics Tom Richardson
Clare wind farm out the window
A wind farm along Camels Hump
Ridge near Clare will not go ahead
after heritage concerns prompted
renewable energy company Wind
Prospect to withdraw its proposal.
The move has been welcomed
by residents, who formed the
Clare Ranges Protection Group to
lobby against the project.
Wind Prospect released a
statement this week saying it was
withdrawing its approved applica-
tion for a 60m wind-measurement
mast along the ridge.
Development manager Stuart
Whiting said a locally heritage-
listed stone wall along the ridge
was behind the decision.
"It was a good site for most
reasons -- away from dwellings,
good wind resources and a low
amount of native vegetation,"
he said. "But the ridge is quite
narrow and to build on the ridge
would have a significant impact
on the wall."
Mr Whiting said the Clare
and Gilbert Valley Council s
expectation that the wall would
be protected made the project
"When we started off the
process, I don t think we really
recognised the significance of the
local heritage listing," he said.
The project would have seen
about 30 turbines built at a cost of
around $30 million.
Clare Ranges Protection Group
chairperson Michele Price said
the withdrawal was a relief for
residents who were concerned
about the environmental and
social impact of wind farms.
She said a number of families
lived too close to the site and
would be disturbed by turbine
"We are not against renewable
energy, but our concern is where
these wind farms are being
planned for. There is very little
opportunity for residents to have
a say in where these projects are
being put," she said.
"The problems of wind farms
are not well-communicated to
people in the city. Everyone thinks
these things are great, but ... they
change the landscape forever."
The State Government has
strongly encouraged wind farms
throughout the state and has
been criticised by anti-wind farm
groups for not doing enough to
protect local residents.
Mr Whiting said Wind Prospect
was examining other areas in the
state for suitability.
Whether the state s 100,000-
odd public servants
suspect it or not, we re
about to have a serious debate
about their job security.
Because whatever else is
contained within Kevin Foley s
budget next month, there is
little doubt the Treasurer will be
seeking to find at least $1 billion
worth of savings, possibly much
There will undoubtedly be
targets for job cuts, inevitably
much higher targets than those
pursued in recent years. And if
we have learnt one thing from
recent public service "purges",
it is that they simply cannot
be achieved while state public
servants are guaranteed security
This is one of the sacred cows
of South Australian politics.
In 2006, the Libs went to the
polls promising to slash public
service numbers by
4000. The cashed-up
Association (PSA), as
is its wont and duty,
went to town on the
Opposition to defend
But the union
needn t have bothered.
Firstly, in 2006 Rob Kerin s band
of bumblers had no chance of
winning government, so the
PSA might as well have saved its
war-chest for a rainy day. And
secondly, even if Kero had become
premier, he d never have got
anywhere near scrapping 4000
public service jobs, not in one
term and not in three.
And why not? Because the
Opposition was too scared to
admit it couldn t get rid of 4000
public servants without first
getting rid of their job security.
In the SA public sector, if your
position is made redundant or
you re not up to scratch, you
can t be told it s time to move on.
You can be offered a redundancy,
but you re under no obligation
to take it. In fact, departments
can end up hiring even more
people to administer training
and counselling to their "excess
employees", those who basically
turn up to work every day without
My own experience in the
(Commonwealth) public service
didn t convince me the sector was
pared to the bone.
I was a member of the graduate
intake some years ago (interest-
ingly, my department s minister
at the time was one Tony Abbott,
who may become prime minister
tomorrow). After the initial
flurry of orientation, I spent the
best part of the following year
sitting around waiting to be given
something to do.
After a few months, this got
ridiculous. One day I requested
a meeting with my supervisor
to discuss exactly what my role
was supposed to be. He told me to
wait half an hour, and then a little
later ducked out for lunch without
another word. After a few hours
he had still not returned, so I
tentatively inquired where he had
gone, and was told he was away
"for a couple of weeks". Bizarre.
Around this point, I started
to spend my days bolstering
my resume and sending cadet-
ship applications to various
newspapers. Some days were
spent indulging in futile acts of
rebellion: one lunchtime, my mate
and I ducked out of the office to
get our eyebrows pierced.
By the time I got my photo-
graph taken for the department s
intranet site feature on "new
employees", I had taken to wear-
ing ripped jeans and a T-shirt to
On other days, it seemed all
too much effort to even turn up,
and I would stay home writing
the Great Australian Novel (still,
Needless to say, I didn t get the
impression the Commonwealth
public service was buckling under
the weight of punitive hours
and oppressive work regimes.
This is, of course, a fallacy:
many employees spend long days
wrestling with ever-increasing
waiting lists or making policy
sense of the latest government
But I did get the distinct
impression that -- perhaps terri-
fied of losing thousands of years
experience when the "career
public servant" generation retires
en masse -- the sector s hiring
policy was to get as many staff as
its budget would allow, and then
work out what to do with them all.
Now, Kevin Foley s budget will
demand deep cuts to the public
service, and not just to "excess
employees" such as myself. My
purpose is not to defend the need
for these cuts, but to point out
that, for better or worse, they are
simply not achievable without
one pretty obvious reform.
Last week, as I do most years
around budget time, I asked
Foley whether he would consider
scrapping public service tenure.
Most years, he falls back on the
conventional Labor soundbite:
"This Government fully supports
public service tenure." This year,
however, while not committing to
a change in policy, he conspicu-
ously revised his rhetoric.
"That s a good point," he said.
"Our public servants do enjoy a
security of employment
that others in the
community don t have,
and that needs to be
edged and valued."
When pressed, he
refused to elaborate.
Curiouser and curi-
ouser. Of course, Labor
went to the election defending
public service tenure, so it
would be a substantial betrayal
of that pledge to change horses
But K.Fol s budget is clearly
going to be a different beast to
previous years; he is seeking cuts
of a magnitude not contemplated
in the life of this government.
He is either serious about
reducing the public sector or, as in
previous years, he will talk about
it and set targets, before establish-
ing whole new bureaucracies
dedicated to thinking about how
to reduce bureaucracy.
In recent years, we ve had
Jay Weatherill serve time as
"Minister for Public Sector
Management", we ve had the
Premier s mate Lance Worrall
heading up the Public Sector
Performance Commission and
we ve had numerous budget
savings targets predicated on
job reductions through targeted
separation and "natural attri-
tion". And guess what? Over
that period, the public sector has
continued to grow, and not just
in frontline services where more
Public sector's tenuous tenure
Foley is either serious about
reducing the public sector or, as
in previous years, he will talk about
it and set targets, before establishing
whole new bureaucracies.
employees are desperately needed.
The PSA cogently argues that
government pay scales are substan-
tially smaller than those for equivalent
jobs in the private sector, and tenure
is one of the perks required to remain
competitive in attracting high-quality
Yet I can t help but wonder why such
high-quality applicants would require
guaranteed job security in the first
place? And what kind of corporate
culture is bred in a workplace where
staff simply cannot be removed?
Now this is certainly not to advocate
for Foley s cuts, which by dint of
their sheer scale will inevitably affect
not just government employees and
customer services, but also the wider
economy, with unemployment set to
But if the Treasurer insists these
cuts are necessary, he must recognise
they cannot be achieved without
major public service reform. This
doesn t require a new think-tank,
or a specially appointed minister,
or a pointless new sub-department,
or any of the other delaying tactics
this Government has traditionally
In fact, the solution was provided to
Labor -- and promptly ignored -- years
ago, when the Economic Development
Board urged abandoning public sector
tenure as one of its fundamental
Foley s "razor gang", the
Sustainable Budget Commission, is
almost certain to recommend the same
thing. If the Government is still too
politically squeamish to follow its own
advice, it is probably time it aban-
doned this whole charade of seeking
budget cuts, because if it wants to
reduce the size of the public sector,
there is simply no other way to do it.
Kevin Foley: Demanding deep cuts.
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