The cost vs outcome of inquiries... Is it the government's most wasteful expense?

To what end do we investigate with taxpayer funds the things that have been done in the past, for which the circumstances are unchangeable, and unfixable? And why do we continue to pin hopes on these investigations telling us something new that may mystically make the tragedies and traumas all better? When we think about how much money, resources and hope we pour into significant investigations by government and officials surely we have to stop and wonder why we are investigating, what the investigation needs to achieve, and whether the people undertaking the investigations the right ones to be doing so.

This week we’ve seen the Queensland Flood Enquiry of 600 pages of reports, countless hours of investigation, and years of emotion yield a very clinical answer, that no one could be held responsible for the terrible cost of life in the destruction of the town of Grantham. Yet in just fifteen short minutes of media, Channel 9’s 60 Minutes tore the report apart, finding discrepancies right throughout it in timing of the floods, and obvious mis-reporting of the evidence on which the conclusions were drawn. Fact is, nobody really can do anything about the horrible event. The 12 lives are lost, the town, which has largely recovered from the devastation in 2011 has rebuilt, and people have moved on. Sure, laying blame makes everyone feel a little better, but when the reports and investigations can be so easily stripped of authenticity we begin to wonder why we spent the money on the bureaucrats to begin with.

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At the same time, the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse is underway, and whilst the schedule says it hits critical milestones at the end of June, it seems interminable, drawing our public funding into a giant witch hunt that hooks back over decades and decades of pain.   Many many people who certainly do need the self-healing moments of having a voice and standing up for the damage done to them by countless government and non-government bodies are lining up day after day to bear witness the awful actions that frankly cannot be repaired through public agony, surely. But it continues and likely will go on for years in one form or another. What end it is to achieve can only be known to the lawyers and the sufferers, for apology after apology will not fix the problems caused, and some of the people being investigated are dead.  Sure we need to help create closure and learnings, but are we taking things too far?

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Entertainingly, in the media, in the same week, we’ve seen parliamentary investigations into the Iron Ore Price that have been “backed down” on after considerable activity. The cost of scrutiny of one of our nations’ largest export industries, and the pain being placed on it by downwards pressure on pricing has hushed even the most cautious from any discussion or debate.  Suspicious considering how eagerly we chase other investigations

Every year or two we roll out an enquiry into petrol prices, seemingly unfair supermarket practices and a whole host of other subjects, at taxpayer expenses, rarely do any actually yield results that constituents can see and touch.   Do investigations of such mass scale and lack of purpose seem appropriate to you and how could we ensure they yield results instead of just bureaucratic expense?