I attended the Chamber of Commerce lunch yesterday when the guest speaker was Deputy Robert Duhamel, Minister for Planning and Environment and the title of his presentation was "Balancing the Environmental, Social and Economic Needs of the Island."
But there wasn't a lot of balance there. He spent about 5 minutes of a 20 minute talk going over fishing, and whether Jersey should accede to EU rules on fish stocks or manage our own, and then a number of other environmental issues cropped up, including, not surprisingly, wind farms, and green weed, and the possibility of recycling it.
There was a very sustained diversion about Malmö and its waste management system, doing away with dustcart collection and making use of refuse chutes from houses for waste disposal. (In fact, these have now been closed and today all inhabitants leave their waste for recycling at the recycling houses instead). In other words, all the environmental enthusiasms and wide reading of Deputy Duhamel on environmental matters were showcased whether or not they had much immediate relevance to Jersey. It was an environmentalist version of "Tomorrow's World", but without the fun gadgets.
However, there was little on the economic needs of the Island and planning matter, and the hoops that people have to jump through with an ever expanding number of planning protocols. One questioner said that it was now expanding well past a single IXL ring binder, where the trend in other countries had been to reduce the paperwork and simplify forms. Deputy Duhamel simply countered this by giving examples of other countries where there are even more forms to fill in. In fact there was very little about planning in his talk, or indeed little evidence that his talk had been planned, although he did mention a Green paper due out on appeals, which presumably is the same one mentioned in June 2012, and again in September 2012.
Even in replying to questions, Deputy Duhamel was far from succinct, and we were subjected to the kind of meandering reply that Minister Jim Hacker used to give when questioned by Ludovic Kennedy. It was no wonder that Senator Philip Ozouf, who was sitting a few seats away from me, was almost continually shaking his head while Deputy Duhamel replied. At one point, he actually buried his head in his hands, a gesture that spoke volumes. Deputy Andrew Green, who was sitting next to Senator Ozouf, also began to shaking his head in despair.
It didn't help, perhaps, that Deputy Duhamel is not the most charismatic of speakers. Despite several people asking him to speak up, his voice became lower in a very short space of time. I wished in vain for a speaker like Deputy Roy Le Hérissier, described recently as "the only States member who is quieter WITH his microphone on".
And the presentation ran to a mere three PowerPoint slides. This wasn't death by PowerPoint; it was dearth of PowerPoint, just when a few pictures would have at least enlivened his presentation a bit more.
One slide was the headline of his talk. One slide was Archirondel, and there was some joke about "Archie Rondel" which I didn't quite hear, which was probably fortunate. And the final slide showed some sea, an aerial view of Jersey, and a picture of the Weighbridge, which if you looked at it (and there was plenty of time to do so) turned out not only to have buses parked where they were before Liberation Station, but also the old harbour, before the underpass and land reclamation in that area, and the old Tourism Office. Deputy Duhamel has been in the States for a long time, perhaps too long, for he has evidently forgotten that the Weighbridge has altered out of all recognition since that photo was taken. He didn't refer to the photo during the course of his talk either; it just sat there, a gratuitous anachronism.
In summation, there was also an incredible amount of waffle, and a lack of focus. It reminded me of the Imperial Functionary, Lord Dorwin, in Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" series, where all the utterances by Lord Dorwin are subjected to logical analysis to ensure that they can eliminate "meaningless statements, vague gibberish, and useless qualifications - in short, all the goo and dribble". The result is that "in five days of discussion, [Lord Dorwin] didn't say one damned thing, and said it so that you didn't notice."
Deputy Duhamel wasn't quite as bad as Lord Dorwin; he did have something to say, but he just didn't really know how to say it well. "Be clear, be concise" would be a good maxim for him to learn. It's a good job no one raised the subject of bore holes.
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