Case Studies of Reform

by Bob Carr

Speaking toCanberra public servants this week I discussed three case studies of reform from 1995-2005 in NSW state government. They were: turning the NSW police force from a poorly performing, corruption-prone police force into a professionally-performing, corruption-resistant police force; wiping out the rorts of plaintiff lawyers in tort law to increase payments to the injured; and restructuring forestry to secure jobs in a reformed timber industry but also declare 350 new National Parks.

The toughest part of the police reforms was giving the Police Commissioner power to dismiss an officer in whom he had lost confidence. It was accompanied by the establishment of a Police Integrity Commission and the introduction of random alcohol and drug testing.

The result was a change in police culture but it involved a battle with the Police Association and in the Labor caucus before the Commissioner received the increased power over non-performing and corrupt officers.

The second case study was Labor’s reforms to workers’ compensation and tort law. On entering government, WorkCoverNew South Waleswas in deficit $3.2 billion, set to rise to $6 billion by June 2007. Even with these ballooning costs, the benefit for the most severely injured had remained static. Our reforms in 2001 achieved three main objectives: the maximum benefit for the permanently impaired was increased from $171,000 to $250,000; two-thirds of injured workers received medical and financial support within seven days; and the WorkCover deficit was cut by half, saving the scheme from bankruptcy. Similar reforms saw the cost of average cost of greenslips drop from $532 in 1999 to $335 in 2005.

My government’s forestry reforms succeeded with the same basic principles being applied in four areas over three terms. The South-East Forest,SouthCoast, North East Forest Icons and the Pilliga were all protected as National Parks. At the same time we made wood supply agreements with industry, providing for reduced allocations in return for longer contract periods to allow for long-term planning, as well as providing industry assistance to companies and workers leaving the industry. From 1994 to 2006, 328 National Parks grew to 770 covering 6,600,000 ha and the overall acreage of protected wilderness grew from 650,000 ha to 2,000,000 ha.

Bob Carr is the longest continuously serving Premier in New South Wales history. He served as Leader of the Opposition from 1988 until his election as Premier in March 1995. He was re-elected in 1999 and again in March 2003 securing an historic third four-year term. He retired from politics in 2005 after over 10 years as Premier.

Thoughtlines with Bob Carr