Page 2796 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 17 August 2005

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We have had a number of instances of this in the very near past. The first example of the breakdown is the government’s decision to close down a number of schools in the Ginninderra region in order to justify the formation of a new super school, after which the government decided to conduct community consultation. Next is a lack of clear and concise communication with community organisations currently located at the Griffin Centre over their future housing and fitout, as well as the government’s reneging on promises the community sector believed had been negotiated in good faith. We know there are some attempts at the moment, some running around to repair that damage, but the fact is that that damage has been done.

There is also the disbandment of the Ministerial Advisory Council on Multicultural Affairs. The minister said that he could be more efficient in talking to people one-on - one. I fear that his efficiency measures could involve not talking at all or only talking to some people and not talking to other people. There are many, many dangers in this kind of process.

There have been ongoing negotiations between the ACT government and the ANU over the Civic West area, with minimal consultation with the community and arts organisations involved over the future housing. The community and arts organisations have not been allowed to join the precinct committee. We see the outcome of that attached to one of Mr Corbell’s call-in justifications yesterday. What we will have is a less than desirable building, a major building, the first major building in that precinct that will far from meet the government’s own objectives of a lively, innovative city. So, disappointment!

My final example is the central Canberra task force. It is looking at the future of City Hill and Civic. I wonder if the government realises that the only way that the community can submit ideas on the future of these sites is via a Terry Snow and Canberra Times competition.

The worthiness of a community engagement strategy is nil if the government is unwilling to implement it. Where the government does actually engage with the community before making the decisions, it often fails to follow through or recognise what the community has asked for. It is time to remind the government that it was elected by the community to hear and facilitate community opinions and ideas. To say, as one government adviser did, “We will listen to the community, but we will not be dictated by them,” is not good enough. Listening and acting usually come together. For it is a community that has the expertise in what is affecting their lives. Government cannot make a show of listening to the community and then decide to ignore what it has said just because it thinks it knows better than the community. I must say there is quite a degree of cynicism in the community about the government’s consultation processes. I think there is a lot of work to be done here to regain any faith.

Evidence of the government’s conduct in these areas can well be seen in the advice and recommendations presented to them by constituents, community organisations, commissioners, fellow members and their own backbench. For some reason the government’s reluctance to take on good ideas from other people is very evident. It operates on the assumption that, if the policy idea comes from within their ranks, it might be considered, but if it comes from someone else they will refuse it outright. There is no

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