The cost vs outcome of inquiries… Is it the government’s most wasteful expense? 34



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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.

60 minutes_investigation

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?

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?


Rebecca Wilson

Rebecca Wilson is the founder and publisher of Starts at Sixty. The daughter of two baby boomers, she has built the online community for over 60s by listening carefully to the issues and seeking out answers, insights and information for over 60s throughout Australia. Rebecca is an experienced marketer, a trained journalist and has a degree in politics. A mother of 3, she passionately facilitates and leads our over 60s community, bringing the community opinions, needs and interests to the fore and making Starts at Sixty a fun place to be.

  1. Some time an enquiry can be a lesson in what can happen if secrecy and cover up is allowed. The current enquiry into child sexual abuse shows this. Despite this the Australian people are standing back and allowing cover up and secrecy to become entrenched in several areas by our current government refugees in detention centres and the stopping the boats are the main area. The proposed Ag Gag laws that will stop the disclosure of things like live baiting in the greyhound industry and animal abuse in agriculture and possibly the horror that is many puppy farms. Instead this government has had its politically motivated enquiry into the pink bats scheme, expensive but finding nothing not found in previous enquiries. The enquiry into the trade union movement showed its bias in the terms of reference. If a dodgy business man or company is found ignore them, just go after the Labor supporting union officials.

  2. There is only one form of enquiry with which I concur; that is, any enquiry which has its sole objective to learn the lessons from the situation which is the subject of the enquiry
    Enquiries to lay blame are a waste of time and money- as the recent Queensland Flood Enquiry highlights.
    Learn the lessons, implement the necessary protective changes and move on.

  3. Could not agree more Judy, have seen very, very few positive actions ever taken from these so called “enquiries” by any political party. ICAC in NSW is a joke for instance.

  4. So many of these inquires come to nothing, but the Royal Commission Julia Gillard started into child abuse is long long overdue. Instead of demanding Pell come back to Australia and give testimony, Abbott has chosen to come out and defend him..not good enough

  5. Enquiries do just that……enquire. The real poser is the response to the issues raised. What constitutes a positive response? Is it the result of the enquiry or a predetermined outcome couched around the wording of the enquiry?

  6. Many of these enquires are just a total waste of tax payers money, look at the Royal commission into the Unions, it was an obvious attempt to get Julia Gillard and it failed dismally and look at the high cost to that taxpayer that little act of vengeance cost. The only Royal Commission we have had of late that is reaping results in the enquiry into child abuse started by Gillard

  7. It’s not just Governments, half the time we don’t even get a result. It’s the outcomes we need to know more about

  8. No enquiries needed, fix the problem, rather than being “seen to be doing something” at such a great expense to the “dwindling” taxpayers’ money!

    1 REPLY
    • Too true, how many enquiries do we need on some issues. Nothing actually ever happens to change anything. Enquiries into the tax system, the health of the River Murray, The money spent on the enquiry would be better spend addressing some of the issues raised in the previous half dozen related enquiries.

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