Issue No. 62 - December/January 2011
by Professor Richard Blandy
Mike Rann became Premier of South Australia when the ALP won the State election in March 2002. He resigned as Premier on 20 October after being tapped on the shoulder by his own party, his victory in the 2010 State election notwithstanding.
How is history likely to judge his period of government?
Traditionally, the main task for every SA Government has been to try to rid the State of its longstanding Cinderella status, seen by South Australians as a situation where their children and grandchildren have to go somewhere else to find jobs – a situation that they do not like.
Mike Rann liked to talk about his Government’s innovations in process - the State Strategic Plan, nonpoliticians in Cabinet, the Thinkers-in-Residence program, and so on - but these innovations cut no ice with the citizens unless they translate in some fashion to faster economic and employment growth. Similarly, the Rann Government’s achievements in meeting various green objectives - more wind energy than the rest of Australia put together, for example - or maintaining a AAA rating with Standard & Poor’s, do not matter much to SA’s citizens unless these achievements are consistent with meeting the State’s number one goal.
It is appropriate to evaluate the Rann Government by looking at its economic and employment outcomes, therefore.
As Premier, Rann had the assistance of Kevin Foley as Deputy Premier and Treasurer throughout his term of office until Foley’s resignation in February this year.
Foley is entitled to a share of whatever economic assessment may be accorded his Premier.
SA has a difficult economy. After an initial burst of wealth in the 1890s, based on easy access to vast tracts of land suitable for farming, and a few fortuitous mineral discoveries, SA settled into a growth trajectory slower than Australia as a whole. This state of play was briefly disturbed by an artificially-induced, post-WWII manufacturing boom under Pr...