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The Importance of Strategic Planning


by John Alexander OAM, MP

On the eve of Parliament’s return the Prime Minister summoned her caucus to gather around some butchers paper, pencils at the ready, to develop policy for our nation’s future.
One can only marvel at the thoughts that must have been passing through the minds of her enthused backbenchers. From the party that “lost its way” they have built on the “year of decision and delivery” and now have the butchers paper that will lead them through 2012.
To keep some perspective, let’s take a moment to contrast how others go about their business of strategic planning. In the corporate world the development of investment strategies is partnered with intensive due diligence, as expert decision makers analyse the direction the company is going to travel. At the centre is fiscal prudence and responsibility to shareholders, checked by an assortment of banks and accountants to independently scrutinise every last dollar.
Smaller companies will take great risks and often fail in proportion to those risks. Larger organisations are more conservative, more responsible and more accountable, using their vast resources to perpetuate their success.
It seems the biggest business of all, the one that runs our country and answers to over 22 million shareholders, operates a little differently.

This group with the butchers paper, whose record of investment includes flammable pink batts, unwanted school halls, the NBN and $900 gifts to dead people. These were such good ideas they didn’t even need butchers paper, they were created on the back of a beer coaster at 30,000 feet.
As a first-term backbencher one of the most gratifying aspects of this new career is involvement in a serious process of policy development. In my maiden speech to Parliament I spoke
of the need to master plan our nation’s long-term growth. Subsequently I was assigned to chair a Coalition Sustainable Cities Policy Taskforce in collaboration with Jane Prentice.
This role has revealed some surprising results. Most Australians were astounded to learn that Sydney’s real estate prices are second only to Hong Kong, whose high costs are understandable: lots of people and not much land. We have boundless plains and a small population. Land is our biggest single asset.
This confounding scenario has developed without intervention. In the absence of any national plan of development the symptoms of serious illness are appearing. A principle that unites my current role and previous business career is that there are few things more regrettable than opportunities missed and potential unrealised.
The cost of housing in our major cities has many flow-on effects that conspire to negatively impact on our productivity and international competitiveness, not to mention our quality of life.
Simply put, our cost of living is accelerating at the rate that our quality of life is decelerating. Poor planning and a lack of investment in infrastructure have led to the gross levels of congestion that are on daily display in my electorate of Bennelong.

Infrastructure must be coupled to all plans of future development so as not to repeat the sins of the past. Genuine policy development will arise from due diligence, serious analysis involving academic and industry experts, and based on the need for long-term planning and financial responsibility. We are entrusted to govern not just for the current electoral cycle, but with a view towards 2020, 2050 and 2100. What future do we want to give our future generations, and what planning do we need to initiate now to ensure we get there?
As the glow of camera flushes subsided from the Prime Minister’s butchers paper, our team returned to Parliament determined to realise our opportunity and prosecute
the case for a stronger future for our nation.

Through robust and well thought out policies that offer hope to the neglected mums and dads in our community, and reward for hard work to the struggling small business people, we will reclaim the responsibility of governing for our nation’s long term future.

Appeared in The Party Room, Issue #9, Winter 2012.