|Issue No 2||26 February 1999|
Botsman Shifts North To Tame The Rednecks
By Peter Lewis
Former Evatt Foundation director Dr Peter Botsman is fleeing New South Wales to set up a new Brisbane-based think tank, designed to end Queensland's image as the redneck capital of Australia.
The Brisbane Institute will be funded by an intriguingly diverse group of interests including the Beattie Government, Queensland Newspapers and the University of Queensland.
Botsman says the Institute will have an "open" brief, focussed on positioning Brisbane as "a more mature voice in Australian politics." It is also a response to the success of the Hanson forces and the hangover from the Bjielke-Peterson era.
He says there is a dynamic atmosphere under the Beattie Government with a commitment to progressive ideas which shines in comparison to Sydney "a fickle town where intellectuals play second fiddle to the talkback radio kings" and Melbourne, which is "constipated from its preoccupation with its own inner workings."
Long a figurehead of the intellectual left, Botsman says he has now developed respect for Mark Latham's "Third Way" and will dedicate his efforts to "shifting the public debate into a new arena", where community outcomes carry greater weight than the traditional left-right debates.
"I come from the Left, Mark Latham comes from the Right, but we agree on a whole range of things, particularly the crisis in the welfare state..
"For example, with power privatisation; we need to change the question from one of public versus private, to one which asks: what is the best way to half the power bill for average families,"
Botsman will leave his chair in Public Health at the University of Western Sydney to take up the chair in Public Policy at Queensland University, from where he will be seconded to the new Institute.
He says his two years based in Sydney's west had been the catalyst for his political metamorphosis, particularly his move away from a belief in state-based solution to all social problems.
"I expected people in the public sector to be part of the solution, but often they're part of the problem -- the bureaucracy, the inflexibility, the fact that they put processes above people," Botsman says.
"In the health service alone, three quarters of a billion dollars are spent in south-west Sydney and a lot is spent on the wrong things because people have built their own empires."
"At the same time youl have a mother of a child with an intellectual disability working four jobs to help pay for a private occupational therapist to look after the child, because they don't have confidence in the system.
"This is a horrible contradiction that needs to be addressed, regardless of where you come from politcally."
When the Brisbane Institute gets its webpage up, we'll be linking it to Workers Online, Before then you can contact Botsman on 07 32202198
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005