David Williams

Interviewed by
Chris Salisbury and Peter Spearritt
May 21 2014
David Williams
Time Summary Keywords

David Williams discusses his early life in Wales and on the Channel Island of Guernsey, and later his studies and work in several different countries. He tells how his desire to play rugby led him to arrive in Brisbane in the mid-1970s, where he quickly became CEO of the Sports Association at the University of Queensland.

rugby union, school teacher, Sport, University of Queensland, Wales

David Williams describes how he accepted a position in 1985 as head of the Department of Sport & Recreation in Tasmania under Liberal premier Robin Gray. He recalls how he had gained a reputation in sports management after involvement in the staging of the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games and on the committee organising Brisbane's bid for the 1992 Olympics.

Brisbane, Commonwealth Games 1982, Olympic Games bid, Robin Gray, Sport, sports management, Tasmania, university games, University of Queensland

David Williams outlines his return to Queensland in 1989 to head the new Queensland Events Corporation for the state government, by then led by Labor premier Wayne Goss. He describes the state government's eagerness to capitalise on successful events such as the Commonwealth Games and the 1988 World Expo. He explains that within four years he had been appointed as a Director General in the public service.

Brisbane, Commonwealth Games 1982, Expo 88, infrastructure, Queensland Events Corporation, Southbank, tourism, Tourism, Sport and Racing

David Williams discusses working in government in both Tasmania and Queensland during the 1980s and 1990s. He compares the large number of departments in Tasmania's bureaucracy with developments in Queensland where the state government had begun the process of corporatising agencies and offices. He adds that events agencies were a relatively new initiative operating in only a few states.

Ahern Government 1987-89, Fred Maybury, Goss Government 1989-96, Indy Cars, Keith De Lacy, motor racing, Queensland Events Corporation, Ron Richards, Tasmania, Western Australia

David Williams talks about his role as head of the Queensland Events Corporation, including how he dealt with lobbying by interest groups from different parts of the state. He mentions the secrecy of some of the agency's negotiations in the competitive arena of events bidding and planning, and how some events were 'poached' from other states. He also discusses the agency's funding arrangements and budgetary planning for events such as the Indy car race.

Adelaide, Bernie Ecclestone, Gold Coast, Grand Prix, Indy Cars, Keith De Lacy, lobbying, Melbourne, Queensland Events Corporation, Treasury

David Williams describes how governments use events and tourism campaigns to shape public perceptions of particular places. He notes the growth of intense competition between cities and states to attract events that help create a certain image of different locations. He reflects on the short and long-term economic benefits of hosting events and attracting tourists, and how political leaders have used this to the state's advantage.

Alice Springs, Art Gallery, Brisbane, culture, Gold Coast, major events, media, Peter Beattie, Queensland Art Gallery, Ron Richards, Sport, sports legacy, tourism, Victoria, Wayne Goss, World Masters Games

David Williams comments on the challenges of stepping into the role of Director General from the Events Corporation. He recalls his surprise at the professionalism and intellectual rigour within different levels of the public service. He speaks of the importance of administrative processes and personnel management in handling his department's different portfolio areas.

Beattie Government 1998-2007, Bob Gibbs, gambling, Goss Government 1989-96, ministerial briefings, privatisation, Queensland Turf Club, racing industry, TAB Queensland, Tourism, Sport and Racing

David Williams reflects upon the introduction and growth of online gambling in Australia, and the negative impacts of online sports betting. He recalls its beginnings in Tasmania (although he later notes it was first introduced in the Northern Territory in 1996) and how state governments elsewhere were quick to allow its establishment.

gambling, gambling revenue, Northern Territory, sports betting, TAB Queensland, Tasmania

David Williams talks about his working relations with different Ministers and dealing with changes to the structure of government departments. He comments on how public service executives can have to prove themselves to new Ministers. He describes the period of administrative transition after the Borbidge government came to office, and appointments to the boards of GOCs.

Bob Gibbs, Borbidge Government 1996-98, Bruce Davidson, departmental advice, factions, Government Owned Corporations, John Jamieson, public service contracts, Queensland Events Corporation, Tom Burns, Tourism, Small Business and Industry, Tourism, Sport and Racing

David Williams recalls his move back to the role of Director General after the Beattie government won office in 1998. He speaks about additional administrative changes and the positioning of agencies in his department's different portfolio areas. He mentions how having a new and junior Minister later impacted upon his role.

Beattie Government 1998-2007, Bjelke-Petersen Government 1968-87, Bob Gibbs, departmental advice, Frank Moore, Government Owned Corporations, Merri Rose, ministerial advisers, Sunlover Holidays, Tourism Queensland, Tourism, Racing and Fair Trading, Tourism, Sport and Racing

David Williams describes his part in the state government's decision to renovate the football stadium at Brisbane's Lang Park. He notes that, despite controversy surrounding the decision, it was a more cost-effective option than alternative proposals such as redevelopment of the RNA showgrounds near the Royal Brisbane Hospital.

Beattie Government 1998-2007, Bob Gibbs, Brisbane City Council, infrastructure, Jim Soorley, Lang Park, RNA showgrounds, rugby league, Sport, sporting stadia, Terry Mackenroth

David Williams outlines the performance-based contracts that public service heads were signed to under the Beattie government, describing the expectations that he and other senior executives faced. He speaks about how his department supported the government's agenda.

aviation, Beattie Government 1998-2007, employment growth, Industry Development, Innovation, Smart State, technology, tourism

David Williams recounts his departure from the public service in 2003 to become CEO of a new government-owned events agency in Scotland. He describes his deliberations over the decision to leave, and how the operations of the Scottish agency differed from his work in Queensland.

Edinburgh Festival, Events Queensland, Industry Development, major events, Merri Rose, Rachel Hunter, Scotland, Sport, tourism

David Williams details how major events help locations to refashion their image and rejuvenate infrastructure. He cites Brisbane's example in discussing changes underway in both Glasgow and the Gold Coast in preparation for hosting the Commonwealth Games. He adds that the Gold Coast faces particular challenges to incorporate cultural elements into its Games program.

Brisbane, Commonwealth Games, Commonwealth Games 1982, culture, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Gold Coast, Gold Coast City Council, heritage, infrastructure, major events, public transport, Scotland, sporting stadia

David Williams recalls writing consultant reports for the state government after his return to work in Queensland, including an independent review into the cancelled A1 Grand Prix car race on the Gold Coast in 2009. He comments on how his background as a senior executive in the public service assisted him in writing such reviews.

Auditor General, Bligh Government 2007-12, Gold Coast, Grand Prix, Indy Cars, major events, motor racing, Phil Reeves, Terry Mackenroth, Tony Cochrane, V8 Supercars

David Williams outlines the highlights and major achievements of his time working in government. He notes that the portfolio areas for which he had responsibility were more measurable in terms of success than other areas of government. He states that, while having no regrets, there were decisions about particular events that might in hindsight have been reconsidered.

Beattie Government 1998-2007, confidentiality agreements, Goodwill Games, hotel industry, liquor licensing, major events, Scotland, Ted Turner, Tourism, Sport and Racing, World Masters Games

David Williams reflects again upon how a major event can transform a location's popular image. He notes that major events are drivers of tourism, investment and population growth. He comments on the investment by many cities into convention centres and associated tourism services.

Brisbane, Commonwealth Games, Commonwealth Games 1982, convention centres, hospitality industry, hotel industry, London, major events, Olympic Games bid, tourism

Interview ends