It’s been barely a brief moment figuratively, since the Federal Government announced that it would bring forward $3.8 billion in infrastructure spending, in a desperate bid to help kick start our struggling economy, promising at least $1.8 billion to be released in the next two years.

This indeed proves my earlier predictions of last year rather prescient.  But it’s still good to see that the government is finally discovering, albeit to their amazement and chagrin, that there is a real cost to constant delays and crippling red tape. The business community has suffered with these inhibitors for too long and the cost is stifled growth here in Australia – a country that has defied the odds of western hemisphere growth, with 27 continuous years of GDP expansion.

And of course this is all done with the very best of intentions – as Alexander the Great once quipped: “I am dying with the help of too many physicians”.  Every year we see more rules and regulations to help us do better and go faster.  Except we do worse and go slower.  Those of us in the urban development industry, have long come to understand the intricate complexities of an antiquated system that is trying to deliver.  But we have stopped complaining because what we thought was slow ten years ago, is now considered “lightning fast”.  And though we have all come to be conditioned so as to dread the “unregulated” world, having a DA for a complying project take 24 months and a rezoning stretch to 3 years, cannot be in anyone’s best interest – unless I am mistaken.

That has to be, by anyone’s standard, “snail’s pace”.  Now when you consider that the average garden snail crawls along at around 0.05 km/h, and assuming he travels for 16 hours per day, the snail could within 24 months, travel around 584 km.  That is the equivalent of crawling from the Sydney Opera House, to Parliament House in Canberra, and back before the DA is approved.

And it’s all in the name of equity and good governance.  Yet the effect of such stifling complexity and tortuous red tape, is to hurt the very people it has been designed to help…industry, first home buyers, investors and the common man.  They all do badly out of delays and complexity because the economy suffers and the home price just gets less affordable with increasing costs.  So, nobody wins…not the economy, not the developer, not the new home owner, not even the government seeking re-election.  It’s like the farmer who exhausts himself in filling up the bucket with fresh milk, only to discover that the bucket is filled with holes on either side and hardly any milk gets to the farmhouse.  And it’s not that anyone has benefitted from the exercise – it’s just “spilled milk” wasted along the journey.

Wise decision and quick action is all that may be required from those who govern, and yet both concepts allude us today.  To not progress and grow is to be left behind.  And that should never be allowed to occur because if there is only one rule that one has to remember, it is what Justice Sutherland once said: “Salus Populi Suprema Lex Est” – the welfare of the people is the supreme law.  And I say that the welfare of the people today has to be more progress at faster than snail’s pace…could it one day be “cheetah?”. 

Here’s to aspiration.