Queensland Economic Advocacy Solutions

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The Queensland Productivity Commission - unloved or just underutilised?

I currently liken the Queensland Productivity Commission (QPC) to a team’s star player who is being forced to sit on the sideline as the big game unfolds.

The QPC is the State's independent economic review body established by former Treasurer, Curtis Pitt, in 2015 to review complex economic and regulatory issues and propose policy reforms to government. The Commission has a fairly broad mandate including:

  1. to undertake inquiries about matters relating to productivity, economic development and industry in Queensland as directed by the Minister;
  2. to receive, investigate and report on complaints about the alleged failures of government agencies to comply with the principle of competitive neutrality; and
  3. to conduct research and analysis of, and to make recommendations about, regulatory matters as directed by the Minister; 

Whenever I visit the QPC website I am always impressed by the calibre and professionalism of their work.  This week I checked in with what the Commission has been up to and to be blunt they are being massively underutilised at present.  You only have to look at their current inquiries to see that they are far from overworked:

Under the QPC Act, the Queensland Government has up to six months to provide a response to these reports. I am in particular looking forward to the State Government's response to the Manufacturing Report that is due by the end of this month.

In short, there are no active inquiries that the Commission has underway.  The QPC is instead having to resort to conducting training and writing staff research papers to keep themselves occupied. If you do find the time, check out their excellent research papers: Queensland Productivity Update 2016-17 and Housing in Queensland: Affordability and Preferences.  So here’s the rub, there is a vast difference between producing work that is ‘interesting’ such as these research papers (albeit of very good quality) and work that is ‘useful’. 

I find it incredulous the QPC is not being properly put to use at present.  In 2016–17, the Commission had 22 staff and a total expenditure of $4.0 million, with wages and salaries being the largest component (72 per cent).  That is a lot of money sitting around idle but more importantly that is an incredible amount of human talent not being put to good use.

Fact of the matter is there are numerous pieces of legislation before the Queensland Legislative Assembly that would benefit from QPC involvement particularly when key Bills are unaccompanied by a Regulatory Impact Statement.  Examples include:

Another example is the recent decision by the State Government increasing the 3% transfer duty surcharge applied to foreign buyers of Queensland property to 7% (raising $99m over 3 years) and a new land tax category for 850 large property holdings greater than $10m (raising $227m over 3 years).  These policy decisions would have benefited substantially from QPC's robust assessment rather than their development as part of politicking.

In closing, the Queensland Productivity Commission is being forced to sit on the sidelines and I would love to see them enter the game to value add to policy development in this State.  

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