Consultation on consultation

johnboy 28 July 2008 14

The Chief Minister has announced that he’d like to hear what the community want by way of consultation in the future.

He’s also promising to think about opening the doors on FOI.

Should be all sorted out and everybody happy some time after we re-elect him?

UPDATED: Zed has sensed a degree of community cynicism here and is putting the boot in.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jon Reynolds sent in the following on this issue:

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – even if it takes 6 years to get there…

The ABC News online has an article continuing on with the theme of Labor overhauling their community consultation processes to provide residents with more information.

Well blow me down! Something I have been advocating for a long time has finally been adopted!

Back in good old days of February 2002 (when I was involved with the former Gungahlin Equality Party) I put out the following media release (now archived for posterity on the National Library PANDORA Archive):

    Community consultation starts with true accessibility and awareness.

    “The ACT government needs to provide a single, easy to use Internet web site for all advertisements, public notices, and localised letterbox drops from the various ACT Government agencies and departments”, says Party President Jonathon Reynolds.

    The Canberra Community is often frustrated in their attempts to locate ACT Government public notices that advise of current issues and topics. Often these notices are published only once in obscure sections of local newspapers. Alternatively, one has to know exactly what to look for and where to look on the existing plethora of ACT Government web sites. Calling the Canberra Connect switchboard seldom results in a simple or direct response as there appears to be no single centralised register.

    The Gungahlin Equality Party calls on the Chief Minister to give full accessibility to public notices by instructing the ACT Government administration to create a single centralised web site that gazettes, archives, categorizes or otherwise make readily accessible all such notices.

    Having all ACT Government public notices available on-line will make them fully accessible to the whole community, not just those who have purchased or read the newspaper on the relevant day. Additionally given that many of the ACT public libraries now offer free public Internet access, this becomes a cost effective and equitable way of ensuring every member of the community has ample opportunity of being informed.

    “True community consultation and information only occurs if the public is aware that the government is actually seeking feedback or advising on particular topics and issues. One has to wonder whether the way that public notices are currently published is a deliberate attempt by the government to minimise community awareness and involvement”, concluded Mr. Reynolds

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14 Responses to Consultation on consultation
Granny Granny 6:55 pm 26 Jul 08

It sounds great, but I don’t trust him.

In the past he has demonstrated an acute and chronic allergy to public consultation in any way shape or form – especially with people.

diprotodon diprotodon 6:59 pm 26 Jul 08

I picked up a “Community Update” leaflet today on the Upgrade of Lanyon Drive between the Monaro Highway at Hume and Tompsitt Drive in Queanbeyan, an upgrade that “Colonel” Mike Kelly and Annette Ellis promised us North Coomaites at last year’s Federal Election.

According to the leaflet, the upgrade is at the stage of displaying the preferred option for comment. Submissions are being sought from the community by Monday 4 August.

However, if you drive along the Monaro Highway at Hume, you’ll see that Stanhope’s “Build First, Consult when it is too late” approach to community consultation in action. Construction has already started on what appears to be a lame solution that duplicates Lanyon Drive, and whacks another traffic light (aka traffic prophylactic) on the Monaro Highway.

Nice work Stanhope, Iemma and Kelly.

teepee teepee 8:25 pm 26 Jul 08

I am pretty awestruck by the spin in this exercise. Most of the action items are really proposals that options be looked into and found somewhere down the track. And then a couple of other recos are pretty cosmetic – eg: number 5 and 6 – “refresh the website” – ie: jiggle the layout so that people think there is substance.

I see why Mr Stanhope wanted to look more consultative – he has burnt a lot of bridges (Tharwa bridge springs to mind). His forte is strong will, not open ear.

But what really gets my goat about this is that the public service was asked to write this position paper on consultation in the first place. As a public servant my basic views of the role is that the politicians have the foremost responsibility for running consultation and deciding how it is best done and filtering out what gets listened to.

It can be a great joy for those of us in the ACTPS when the government decides to “farm out” responsibility for making policy proposals – that’s what we like and prefer from them. But when they abrogate responsibility for making the calls on consultation – what is left for them to do really?

I’m not surprised some colleagues of mine came up with such jargon-laden hollow twaddle. This area is neither their realm of expertise or responsibility. I just wonder when I will see a rip of this on Hollowmen?

pelican pelican 9:38 pm 26 Jul 08

It is interesting to note that terms like consultation and transparency, access to documents under FOI etc only come up prior to an election. Stanhope has a poor record for community consultation. Consultation is not much good if the participants have not power to veto a harmful development proposal.

Underselling publicly owned land in Fyshwick
The Caravan Park sale fiasco
Tharwa Bridge
Power Station in Macarthur
School closures

are some examples.

Remember the consultation we had with two referendums about self-government. Both times we voted NO and look at us now. Shades of Humphrey Appleby. 🙂

caf caf 10:18 pm 26 Jul 08

Wasn’t the original caravan park sale (to Koomarri) something that predated this government?

Anyway, I disagree with the idea that a consultation is only meaningful if those consulted have a power of veto, and I disagree strongly that such a thing would be desirable. The government is elected by the entire electorate, and therefore has a much stronger democratic mandate than the (much) smaller group that is arcing up about a particular proposal.

sepi sepi 10:26 pm 26 Jul 08

The libs sold the caravan park to koomarri for a dollar.

But labour allowed Koomarri to sell it to a housing developer, and did not tighten up the land use clauses. They then pretended to be shocked and surprised when the developer set about evicting all the low income tenants. This despite Deb Foskey having warned them in advance that this would happen. They were not blameless in that whole mess.

teepee teepee 12:16 am 27 Jul 08

I agree mob veto would be a bit wild. But on the ohter hand, Stanhope’s policy of whack first apologise after is cart before horse. The example that springs to mind is hospital pay parking – introduced, machines installed, public outcry, change of policy. The only pay parking initiative to have lost money because consultation was an afterthought.

Civic shopfront closure is the issue that annoyed me personally. You can only get a granny ID card from the Civic library. With high density housing growing around Civic, this is the first place that needs a govt shopfront.

miz miz 10:47 am 27 Jul 08

Consultation, in my book, is asking what people think first, when a policy is mooted, BEFORE having an entire project in the wings and presumably having already wasted resources doing so.

Eg, no fait accompli announcements which have been the hallmark of the Stanhope govt, such as: public services being cut/sold/closed etc, or massive developments going to be built.

It’s especially galling when we are ‘told’ how good these ready-to-go ‘proposals’ are for Canberra.

Clearly their idea of Canberra is different to mine. I happen to like the open spaces, the fresh air, the clean water, and don’t appreciate being done over for urban infill, polluting power stations or loo water in my latte.

bd84 bd84 8:02 pm 27 Jul 08

I’ll give him some public consultation on October 18 🙂

Gungahlin Al Gungahlin Al 9:43 am 28 Jul 08

Indeed Miz – that’s my idea of consultation also.

And to be fair, some sectors of the ACT government can do it fairly well. The Gungahlin Community Council has been involved from the very early master planning stages on the various facets of the college precinct – aquatic centre, shared library, sports fields and the college itself. And I believe that those projects have benefited from our input.

And ACTPLA has been doing a pretty good job via their Planning and Development Forum, which brings community councils and industry together with the planners. Plus Vic Smorhun has been responsive to many other operational suggestions we have made like improving the information provided on the DA notices webpages. And they’ve been endeavouring to share their methods with some other agencies like DHCS and TaMS, with limited success.

But that is pretty much where it stops.

So it was strange to say the least that Mr Cappie Wood put together this entire community consultation plan without so much as a word with us. That’s a good start…

sepi sepi 10:07 am 28 Jul 08

A big problem is that this govt keeps on changing their mind on how to do consultation.

about 10 years ago when Simon Corbell was in charge of planning they sent out surveys to households about what we wanted and valued in our local suburb. These were then ignored (Most of Downer wrote that they valued quiet streets and local parks – the suburb was then zoned for 90% development.)

They set up special groups to lead consultation for each group of suburbs. People did a lot of work, but these were soon disbanded, and replaced with nothing.

Then they set up new groups. but didn’t allow them to consult with the community – like during the northside dragway debacle, the 3 community reps were not allowed to actually consult with the community. They were supposed to represent the community, by being 3 memebers of said community – a representative sample. They themselves were told they were not permitted to disclose any information about the Dragway to the community. Yet in letters to residents Jon Stanhope continually referred to the 3 community committee members as ‘consultation’.

LIkewise, the power station sent a letter to a disbanded tuggeranong group, and then called that their consultation.

Now we have the Northside community council etc. Woden Community council did a stack of work on what they would like to see in Woden town centre into the future, only to be totally ignored, as the govt builds on the old tennis courts, and plans a 12 storey monstrosity that will overshadow the outdoor phillip pool.

I can’t be bothered getting involved in any of the govt’s future ‘consultation’ methods, cos I now believe that as soon as the committee/group/method starts gelling together and forming some opinions, the govt will just replace it with some other form of local group.
And even if they don’t, they don’t actually listen to what the community groups recommend anyway.

Sorry this is vague – I’ve forgotten the formal names of the various forms of community representative groups that this govt has set up over the last few years.

sepi sepi 10:13 am 28 Jul 08

I’ve remembered one of the names of the community groups Simon Corbell set up – LAPACS – local area planning and consultation.

These were then disbanded by Simon Corbell, yet other areas of ACT govt (like ACTPLA) continued to send letters to the former presidents about development in their area.

I wish this govt would have a few ideas and stick to them, instead of continually tweaking round the edges of things.

pelican pelican 2:30 pm 28 Jul 08

Caf, community consultation doesn’t have to necessarily mean a blanket veto but certainly some room for compromise on both sides.

Having a power station in your backyard is an example of where a veto would be valid I would think – not a ‘mob’ veto but democracy in action. The Government seems to be listening to the people in this instance but would they if an election wasn’t looming around the corner.

Governments going into consultation knowing that a decision has already been made is unethical to say the least or going in presenting the worst case scenario as the final product when really it is the fallback position that was the original intention all to ‘spin’ and to promulgate the image of compromise.

Jonathon Reynolds Jonathon Reynolds 3:19 pm 28 Jul 08

“Consultation begins with a decision” – a quote attributed to (then) Minister for Education Katy Gallagher at the first public meeting to discuss the closure in 2005 of Ginninderra District High School.

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