Page 2287 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 1 August 2017
that one of the many things a re-elected Labor government would deliver was better, more representative consultation. In the 2017-18 budget, we funded a community engagement reform project to deliver on the commitment and to drive this change across government.
Work has already begun on fulfilling this promise. These reforms will ensure that the government is able to reach a representative sample of Canberrans so that our decisions reflect what the community really thinks.
This government has been clear. We do not believe that, just because you are too busy to directly engage with the process, or are put off by the conflict or are simply relaxed about what is proposed, your opinion does not count. This government wants to hear from a wider range of people, and that is what the reforms will ensure.
That means looking at different ways to engage so that someone is not excluded because they are too busy with family responsibilities, work or study when public meetings are traditionally held. It means ensuring that people will not be left out because they find a confrontational town-hall meeting intimidating. It means ensuring that people’s voices are not muted because they do not have the time to submit detailed written submissions as part of a formal process. We want these people still to have their say. It means ensuring that we do not give undue weight to some in the community simply because their representations are noisy enough to grab media attention.
We want more Canberrans to be able to play a role in shaping their city every day. This is not necessarily about doing more consultation; rather, it is about doing it better and smarter. We have also heard from the community that in some areas they feel over-consulted. In the past two years, the ACT government consulted the community on more than 570 issues or topics. That is almost one government engagement for every business day. Lack of consultation is not the problem. What we need to think about is the way we consult; at what stage in the development of a project or policy it is most appropriate to engage people, and how we do that.
The government’s reforms are about changing the nature of the conversation we have with the community and when we have it. What we are talking about here is practical engagement. We will be clear with the community about what is open for debate, so Canberrans will know how their feedback will influence a decision. We will also be clear when we are sharing information to keep the community up to date on the implementation of key policies we took to the election.
To support this change we need to invest in training and new staff to build expertise in community engagement within government. A new team in the Chief Minister’s directorate will look at building this capability and better coordination across government so that across directorates there is a joined-up, consistent approach to community engagement, so that, instead of different directorates consulting over the top of each other, we are planned and coordinated in our approach. The team will support directorates by creating the guidelines and tools they need to better gauge the opinion of the entire community.