NSW Government Hires Spin Doctors to Flog Flawed Planning Laws

The NSW government is gearing up to flog its proposed new planning laws to the public.

Two posts were advertised over the weekend, one a Director of Public Affairs or ‘Spin Doctor‘ to sell the fatally-flawed planning system,  and the other Director of External Engagement or ‘Spin Doctor‘ to create ‘engagement strategies’ to make it look as if the public has been involved in the early stages of the planning process so that the government can say ‘the community was consulted’ before it is virtually shut out of the planning process while the big developers have a field day with little restraint.

Note the advertising and closing dates for both posts, one is 13 days and the other 9!!!  Could it be that they already have some folk in mind for these posts and are just going through the motions. 

Advertisement for Director of Public Affairs

Advertisement for Director of Public Affairs in this weekend’s Sydney Morning Herald (7 Sept).  Note the statement “Ideally you will have a solid understanding of the NSW planning system and the current reform agenda” but it looks as if doesn’t matter if you do because of the qualifier “ideally”!

What’s disturbing about the first spin doctor role is that it is not necessary for the person to have any knowledge of the proposed new planning system.   All you have to be is a good spin meister!  Wow!  Style over substance?  Definitely reassuring for the public.  He knows nothing about the planning system but by god he’s good at selling it!  Perhaps we’re missing something here?  I would have thought it was ESSENTIAL that you had a first rate understanding of what you were selling unless of course it doesn’t matter as the government is planning to do as it pleases which mayvery well be the case as the Minister has given himself extraordinary plannings powers to override virtually anything in the public economic interest.

And then there’s the spin doctor for External Engagement, a job allegedly set to deliver effective engagement strategies for the community in the planning process.  This will be the most difficult of jobs as you will be dealing with an already cynical public which is sick to death of failed planning processes and promises.   In VWD’s view the job is more about creating a public narrative about engagement with some accompanying PR so that the government can say it has engaged the public in the planning process when the wheels fall off the system.  VWD can hear it all now. ‘We put in place a robust engagement strategy to plan for the future….blah blah blah.    It’s a pity that only three people became engaged in the whole State! We really tried’

Some serious reality testing is needed here.  The flawed planning system is based on a model which assumes that the world is static and never changes.   Planning is a dynamic process with constant change occurring.  It is a nonsense to assume that once a plan is put in place it will be able to cope adequately with a changing world and new demands and that the public will no longer need to be consulted or involved.  The new planning system is a recipe for public dissatisfaction because the public is effectively shut out.


Director External Engagement advertised in the Sydney Morning Herald on 7 September.  Note the closing date 16 September, nine days after the advertisement!!!!! I wonder if they already have someone in mind for the job.  What’s interesting about the position is that it is “subject to the new executive structure and employment arrangements for the NSW public sector”.  Senior folk are no longer assigned to a particular job but rather will be hired to a certain level or band where they can be moved around to serve the purposes of the government.  One day you are in charge of flower arrangements for government offices and the next day you are the person in charge of probation reform implementation for the prison service or water delivery.  This is a concept which frequently fails to take account of the skill set and expert knowledge required to do a senior level job.  It is based on the faulty assumption that if a person is well trained as a ‘manager’ they can manage anything.  Not so.  Many senior positions require specialist training and experience in order to be able to make informed decisions.  The public domain is littered with the corpses of bad decisions made by technically incompetent managers.

It will be interesting to see who is appointed to these two posts and what they do.  Trust me, I’m here to help you!!  And will they sing for their suppers because they are on contract?!

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