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Bottom line triples in new century

CHANGE is certain – progress is not according to a statement made by British historian EH Carr in the middle of last century.

Wise dude. When we look at the changing role of governments – local, State and Federal – we see heaps of change and comparatively little progress.

The heaps, or perhaps leaps, of change in the role of government reflect even greater leaps of change in both our corporate and community sectors.

Perhaps the largest shift in the world of business, and also in the minds of ordinary folk, is the realisation that long term survival requires balancing the costs of the triple, not the single, bottom line in all we do.

While the financial bottom line still drives much day to day decision-making, and all Jurassic thinking, the environmental bottom line and the social bottom line are gaining credence with everyone concerned for a healthy long haul, be it for business or society.

A quick check of government balance sheets, if using the triple bottom line accounting practice, shows a rather dismal decision-making performance.

To mention a few, the Feds seem to ignore Australian’s wish for our own sovereignty and Her Royal Majesty’s strong hints in her Christmas message that, from where she sits, it appears Australians want their own head of State.

While we are on the subject of sovereignty, much of our multicultural society is aware that the manner in which our troops went in to save East Timor was as an, ahem, invading force. On both counts, the social bottom line remains clearly in the red.

Closer to home, the State government apparent disregard for our changing social attitudes shows red faces over such moves as attempting to increase the starting age for school children, the re-re-re-design of Leighton Beach development, the mandatory sentencing legislation and, looming on the political bun fight horizon – the hush-hush proposed entertainment cum sports cum convention cum TV network centre.

Pay attention Mr Moore and State government leaders: the people of this city and this State care very deeply that this mega-building in the heart of Perth must be something we can be proud of for decades to come.

Expedient arguments based on short term financial implications are no longer as important as the social and environmental long term implications of how this huge structure will look and work, regardless of which TV baron might move to Sydney if pending decisions do not favour his team.

Local governments still struggle with working to a financial bottom line, so adding environmental and social bottom lines makes life uncomfortable for most well-intentioned but often underskilled local authorities.

Whether we are dealing with old growth forests, nuclear waste or renaming Subiaco Oval, voters will demand that decisions demonstrate long term social and environmental value: triple or nothing.

• Ann Macbeth is a futurist and principal of Annimac Consultants.

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