Wed 5th of March Meeting of 17 Group

The next meeting of the 17 Group will take place on Wednesday the 5th of March at 7 pm in unit 6 at 20 Drury St, West End. It will be about the inauguration of a new progressive Queensland-based thinktank, the T J Ryan Foundation. The speakers will be Professors Roger and Ann Scott, who are both centrally involved in organising this initiative.

Here are some summaries that help to explain the new venture:

On-line think tanks are a burgeoning feature of public policy contestability in Australian life covering the full political spectrum. However, until now there has been no ‘progressive’ think tank specifically focussing on Queensland public policy. The purpose of the Foundation is to provide a reliable and independent source of policy advice, in particular to help fill the void created by the change of government in March 2012.

After the election, policy practitioners who had been the mainstay of progressive policy initiatives were suddenly unavailable – many left the public service voluntarily, others were dismissed and the remainder have conformed to the traditions of the Westminster model and refocussed their efforts to meet different political expectations.
The ALP and the labour movement saw a need for joint action to form the basis for framing new policies and to build links with groups that may have felt alienated by the party when in government.
One idea espoused in principle was announced at the 2012 May Day Dinner which traditionally celebrates the role of trade unions. This was to form a think tank to mobilise contributions from independent policy experts mainly from within the university sector, drawing on the widest possible cross-section of opinion. As someone with long experience of universities and a somewhat turbulent period as a Director-General in the Goss era, I sympathised with this aspiration to reach beyond the ideological confines of the ALP. On this basis, I accepted an invitation to establish the T J Ryan Foundation as a source of policy analysis and independent commentary on Queensland public policy issues.

Emeritus Professor Roger Scott, Executive Director, T J Ryan Foundation

Some further remarks by Roger about the perspectives of the Foundation:
I was invited to head the Foundation by the Leader of the Opposition so that we can provide an alternative source of policy advice based on a progressive perspective. However, we are determinedly non-partisan; this is reflected in the range of views held by the Research Associates already recruited we and hope that members of the Group will find our work of interest to them.

Using crowd-sourcing techniques applied to our academic and public service networks, we have about seventy people who will be willing to provide evidence-based research and independent commentary across the full range of areas. Our opening speakers at the launch reflect this, drawing on expertise in criminology, health services and environmental science. Once the website is on-line, these research associates will be invited to publicise their research, write opinion pieces and act as a “commentariat” on the work of their peer Associates and on external developments.

Our aim is to be a resource centre for those interested in the evolution of public policy in Queensland. We will have links to other groups operating in the public arena within Queensland such as QCCL and the Fabians and to similar bodies operating nationally or in other states.

Here are some biographical notes:
Emeritus Professor ROGER SCOTT was appointed as an Honorary Professor in the School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics at the University of Queensland in January 2010. The emeritus title was conferred in 1987 after a decade of service as the J.D.Story Professor of Public Administration. He studied public administration and ancient history at the University of Tasmania and won the 1961 Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford where he completed a doctorate in industrial relations and African politics. He later held senior appointments within several Australian universities, including the inaugural Vice-Chancellorship of the University of Canberra, and he served as Director-General of Education in the Queensland Government in the early 1990s. He left in 1994 to take a visiting appointment at Griffith University. After that, he held appointments as Dean of Arts and then Professor of Public Management at the Queensland University of Technology. He returned to UQ in 2001. Before joining History to work on an oral history project, he held fractional and then honorary appointments in the UQ School of Political Science and International Studies. He has published extensively across a range of disciplines, including public administration, public policy, education and development administration. The topics of his publications include the Queensland public service in the 1990s, African colonial and post- colonial development, Northern Ireland in the 1970s, education and politics in Queensland in the 1980s, and the changing role of universities.

ANN SCOTT is an Adjunct Professor in the School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics at The University of Queensland. She holds a Bachelor of Education degree and was awarded a PhD in Government from the University of Queensland in 1984. Her doctoral thesis was on the Select Committee on Education chaired by Mike Ahern, MLA, and its role in education policymaking in Queensland. She was appointed to a policy position in the Queensland Department of Education in 1984 which she held until 1987 when she moved to Canberra where she worked for the ACT Government. On her return to Queensland in 1990 she was appointed to the Queensland Cabinet Office, and then to the Public Sector Management Commission in 1992. In 1994 she moved to the Queensland Police Service, where she remained for ten years, becoming Director of the Office of the Commissioner. She was awarded the Public Service Medal (Australia) in 1995, the Queensland Police Service Medal in 2004, and in 2005 was the first recipient of the Queensland Police Commissioner’s Award for Meritorious Service. She was appointed Adjunct Professor in Criminology at The University of Queensland before moving to History to work on the ‘Queensland Speaks’ oral history project. She has also recently written two books:
Ernest Gowers: Plain Words and Forgotten Deeds, ‘Understanding Governance’ Series, Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.
William Richard Gowers 1845-1915: Exploring the Victorian Brain (with Professors Mervyn Eadie, and Andrew Lees), Oxford University Press, 2012.

The usual attempt was made to interest Leon in attending, we tried to explain who T J Ryan was, and had just quoted the inscription on the statue in Queen’s Park,Brisbane, when it became evident that the great cosmopolitan and internationalist could only make one connection with such a provincial place. Perhaps unwisely, one of our delegation described T J Ryan as a man of “clear head and strong character”. It so happened, Leon said, that he had once used those very words, and they happened, he said, to remind him of the only other figure he could place in Brisbane, the former husband of that erstwhile pupil of Somerville House and member of the local bourgeoisie, Nell Tritton. He was referring of course to the ill-fated Kerensky. Soon the great man was quoting from memory the first paragraph of chapter 29 of his History of the Russian Revolution:

“A GOOD deal has been written to the effect that subsequent misfortunes, including the advent of the Bolsheviks, might have been avoided if instead of Kerensky a man of clear head and strong character had stood at the helm of the government. It is indubitable that Kerensky possessed neither of these attributes. But the question is, why did certain well defined social classes find themselves obliged to lift up just this man, Kerensky, upon their shoulders?…” When we left, closing the door softly, he was about half-way into chapter 30. Just on the off chance that he might de-hallucinate afterwards and want company, we left a card with the notice of the meeting on one side and this on the other:

T J RYAN 1876-1921


(text from statue of T J Ryan, Queens Gardens, Brisbane)

A more mischievous member of our group ducked back in briefly (Leon was into chapter 31) and left this cutting from an article:
They arrived in Clayfield, an upper class suburb of Brisbane and Kerensky started sleeping on the verandah next to her bedroom while the nurses cared for her day and night. In February 1946, she suffered another stroke and her speech became slurred and confused .Kerensky interpreted her last weeks as a refutation of Tolstoy’s view of death as presented in Ivan Illych. She died on April 10, 1946….
The episode that acts as a catalyst for this little known event in Australian history and one of the more compelling, is that of Kerensky, one time prime minister of Russia, used to the luxury of the Waldorf Astoria and the culture of Vienna and Paris, one of the unwilling architects of the Russian Revolution, taking a holiday at a summer cubana at Surfers Paradise With his nerves shattered by Nell’s death , Kerensky was invited by Nell’s cousin Corbett (later to become private secretary to Robert Menzies) to recover his health at a family holiday cubana at Surfers Paradise. At a party held in his honour, Kerensky amazed his hosts by telling them that he expected to share Trotsky’s fate and imagined he was being stalked by assassins.

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