YourSay connects government directly with voters, short-circuits traditional media

Genevieve Jacobs 3 July 2019 25
Chief Minister Andrew Barr

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has actively sought new ways to communicate with voters besides traditional media models. Photo: George Tsotsos.

The ACT government’s search for new ways to both talk to voters and short-circuit their contact with traditional media has taken a new step with the YourSay community panel launch this week.

The panel is a further attempt to connect directly with voters, part of a long and sometimes tense stand-off between the government and many local media outlets.

In 2018, Chief Minister Andrew Barr said that he “hated” journalists and had little time for Canberra’s traditional mastheads, which he believes appeal mostly to older consumers. The speech, made privately, was secretly recorded and then published in the Canberra Times.

Mr Barr later apologised for the vehemence of his statement, which made news headlines nationally. But he’s been firm about his intentions to resource and deliver communications change inside the government.

Mr Barr said at the time that he wanted to communicate directly with voters, “not through the filter of journalists, and particularly through the filter of print journalists, which is a dying industry”.

Mr Barr also called for more video and creative content to “completely sweep aside the reputation that Canberra has for being bureaucratic and dull”.

The government’s argument is that in a relatively small city, some voices are heard more clearly than others, distorting communications between the government and its citizens. Mr Barr has said repeatedly that the ability of some sections of the community to organise and protest outstrips a more evenly balanced viewpoint from the city as a whole, particularly with regard to development and change.

The Opposition has countered with assertions that the government seeks to avoid being held to account by local media and would rather avoid scrutiny.

There is an existing YourSay online engagement platform where Canberrans share ideas and can have their say on ACT Government projects and initiatives. The YourSay community panel expands the concept: the government says “it will also allow us to test new ideas with a statistically representative sample of the Canberra community”.

Participants will be emailed on what the government says is an occasional basis, asking if they want to participate in an online survey or discussion. The government says they want as many Canberrans as possible to join the YourSay Community Panel “to ensure our community’s diversity is reflected in the feedback we hear.

“Input we receive through the YourSay Community Panel will help shape the policies, programs and services that make Canberra a great place to live,” a statement says.

“We want as many Canberrans as possible to join the YourSay Community Panel, to ensure our community’s diversity is reflected in the feedback we hear.”

The panel is open to any ACT resident aged 16 years and over and requires users to volunteer demographic details. There’s a carrot in the form of a chance to win one of five $100 e-gift vouchers each time a panel member participates.

The demographic details turn out to be a fairly lengthy series of questions, ranging from age and suburb to whether you have interacted with the government in any way during the last 12 months, what best describes your gender, your current living arrangements, a description of your employment, whether you own a business, what your income range is, whether you have always lived in the ACT, where you lived before and your areas of interest (although there is a “prefer not to say” option for each).

You can sign up for the YourSay community panel at

Will you share your information with the government?

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25 Responses to YourSay connects government directly with voters, short-circuits traditional media
Lucy Baker Lucy Baker 8:09 pm 04 Jul 19

The “privacy” policy specifically allocates to the Chief Minister’s ALP staff the right to access your personal information even after a Singapore company, Vision Critical, has had its staff “remove any identifying markers from that information”. The privacy policy says that “Following the process of de-identification the information will no longer be personal information for the purposes of the Information Privacy Act” but then specifies that “designated CMTEDD staff” (doesn’t say who, or how junior, whether permanent staff, PR staff, political staff, election researchers) will however continue to have access to personal information stored by Vision Critical if it is required for the purposes of administering the YourSay Community Panel.” (Doesn’t put limits on what ALP political activities and research this “administering” might entail.

Also worryingly, the “CMTEDD will *generally* not disclose personal information to an overseas entity without your consent.” Obviously that leaves it wide open to the Chief Minister’s Office to do just that. And “All personal information stored on servers in Singapore operated by Vision Critical will remain under CMTEDD’s effective control”. What does “effective” control mean? Again, wide open to CMTEDD handing over “control” to another party – as part of partisan electioneering research?

In other words, this project has anyone who signs up ripe for the plucking. This “Vision Critical” outfit is a purely commercial “customer research” not “stakeholder” or “community” research expert.

How will we all feel when it turns out that Andrew Barr has been sharing our information with, say, Geocon?

A Nonny Mouse A Nonny Mouse 4:50 pm 04 Jul 19

I think many are being overly cynical. My experience both personally and as a member of an interest group has been entirely positive.
For example, I responded when a major piece of legislation was being reviewed and now there is a section in the relevant act which addresses the issues I raised.
I am part of an organisation that submitted advice on how a particular government policy might be implemented well or less well depending on certain details. We were invited to a meeting with officers from the relevant directorate and it was clear they were keen to benefit from our experience and advice. They got back to us recently to further check on a few details.

Wade Bermingham Wade Bermingham 10:28 pm 03 Jul 19

I might just

Gabriel Spacca Gabriel Spacca 9:21 pm 03 Jul 19

It’s all well to have a feedback website, but unless there is evidence that the comments are evaluated and addressed then it’s just a PR exercise with no substance.

54-11 54-11 8:41 pm 03 Jul 19

Do the Liberals read this? If so:

For God’s sake, make yourselves electable so we can get rid of this clown!

James Nomis James Nomis 8:22 pm 03 Jul 19

I challenge anyone to attend their next local community council meeting and draw their own conclusions as to whether the assembled few are an accurate representation of the local community. That model is broken. The recent Curtin Residents Group falling on their sword over the shops is a prime example. Anything is better than what we have.

    Martin Miller Martin Miller 3:55 pm 04 Jul 19

    I challenge that and also the main reason of these meetings is to inform the community about issues in the local area. You don't get that from the ACT Government newsletter !

    James Nomis James Nomis 6:40 pm 04 Jul 19

    Martin Miller If only that were the case. My recent experiences watching Fiona C on the microphone was that it was less about information and more about whipping the crowd into an angry anti-gov frenzy.

    Bill Gemmell Bill Gemmell 11:16 pm 04 Jul 19

    James Nomis can I suggest you become involved in your local representation and contribute your views rather than just accepting the views of others will prevail.

Stu McRae Stu McRae 7:51 pm 03 Jul 19

Get their attention. Turf them out at the next election.

bigred bigred 7:04 pm 03 Jul 19

I see some benefits in what the government is trying to do, which is get a broad set of views on issues rather than what they are getting from the usual media and the Community Councils. The traditional media provides the slant of their owners and advertisers. The community councils are a different breed again, funded by government to do work in their local area. However, they are often dominated by people long aligned with influential politicians and barely tolerant of the views of anyone who may see things slightly differently. I have signed up for this experiment and will provide my views into the mix. I hope they are taken into account.

Julie Mylchreest Julie Mylchreest 6:21 pm 03 Jul 19

No, no, no. Just another way to claim consultation while disregarding public sentiment. Past time Canberra commented through the poling booth

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 6:05 pm 03 Jul 19

“The government says they want as many Canberrans as possible to join the YourSay Community Panel “to ensure our community’s diversity is reflected in the feedback we hear.”

Experience would suggest that this government will simply ignore views which it finds inconvenient – certainly on major issues – with, maybe, a bit of movement on marginal issues.

This will basically be about a semblance of consultation and an opportunity to get early warning of potentially potent opposition to proposed policies, initiatives etc. so that counter arguments can be developed and refined.

Roberta Lynne Anning Roberta Lynne Anning 5:02 pm 03 Jul 19

No. Go away Barr.

Margaret Welsh Margaret Welsh 4:44 pm 03 Jul 19

I can see a lot of problems with the current ACT government. However, there are also problems with the filter of journalism, particularly among privately owned media where owners and editors put their own slant on articles and often have significant bias for or against a government of whatever persuasion. So long as the ACT government consults in a meaningful way with the public I agree that direct contact is another means of communication. It shouldn’t be the only means. It would also be wonderful for the ACT to have a viable and strong opposition which represents a large portion of the citizens. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to have that at the moment.

@watson @watson 4:00 pm 03 Jul 19

I signed up.

The way I see it, it’s like voting – you only get to complain about the outcome if you take part.

And to all the replies here complaining about the government not listening: this is them *expressly* asking you to tell them what you think. If you want them to listen, instead of wanting to complain about not being listened to, tell them.

    bj_ACT bj_ACT 12:44 pm 04 Jul 19

    The issue I have is that the ACT Government asked for feedback through their Yoursay on the proposed Bus network and then completely ignored the feedback from areas that didn’t fit their transport plan.

    Let’s hope it’s not just more ‘pretend’ consultation.

Robert Honeybone Snr Robert Honeybone Snr 3:30 pm 03 Jul 19

No I will not give them the chance to roll over people by doing this for there own personal agendas and not consulting the public

Lucy Baker Lucy Baker 3:22 pm 03 Jul 19

Not only journalists- Andrew Barr is on the record despising Canberra’s heritage and gardens.

Tim Mak Tim Mak 3:02 pm 03 Jul 19

Barr: “YourSay, but MyWay”

Trish Roberts Trish Roberts 2:44 pm 03 Jul 19

No. Plus the Chief Minister has said previously he does not want to hear the opinions of old people. So don’t tell them your age!!! Also, from the small amount I’ve heard about it, they don’t want general opinions or comments and only want views on future projects - if that’s correct, you’re hamstrung from the start and have to wade through acres of bumpf.

    June Kirk June Kirk 6:39 pm 03 Jul 19

    Trish Roberts he once told me “no comment only questions” and didn’t give me a chance to turn my comment into a question 😒

    Trish Roberts Trish Roberts 8:16 pm 04 Jul 19

    Surprising, isn’t it, that so few people seem inspired by this?!?

Michael Ahern Michael Ahern 2:27 pm 03 Jul 19

So the voters are expected to be transparent.....

Rob Sanders Rob Sanders 1:18 pm 03 Jul 19

Isn't this why we have local MLAs? Who decides what "community diversity" looks like? Are they going to be transparent with the criteria they use to select panelists? Otherwise it looks like an excellent way to cherry-pick "representation" that best suits the Government or the agenda they have.

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