More Meaningless Rhetoric on Community Consultation

The Chief Minister’s proposals for the reform of community consultation processes in the ACT amount to more meaningless rhetoric from a Government under pressure.

The Chief Minister is only promising superficial change, not real change. All he has done is to serve up more bureaucratic drivel that fails to deal with the key failures in community consultation.

The big failure of the Stanhope Govt on community consultation has been its use of sham consultations to get a pre-determined outcome. This is what it did in the case of the W. Belconnen super-school and the school closure program. It had made up its mind before the consultations began.

What the Chief Minister has to do to make real change is to commit to full open consultations processes, not sham consultations.

The Government should adopt some basic principles for community consultation.

  • There should be no more “take it or leave it” type consultations as we got with the super-school in W. Belconnen and are to get for the super-school in Kambah;
  • There should be full assessment of the economic and social impact of proposals, not selective assessment of the financial benefits to Government as we got in the school closure program;
  • There should be full disclosure of relevant information, not consultation by mis-information, misleading information and inaccurate information as we got in the school closure program.

These are simple principles but none of them appear in the Chief Minister’s proposals for change. All he has given the community is another set of meaningless rhetoric.

This has been the story of the Stanhope Government on community consultation since it was first elected. It has produced fine rhetoric on community consultation in various protocols and guidelines. Yet, it has consistently failed to deliver this fine rhetoric in practice.

Its new reforms are no different – just more rhetoric and bureaucratic “speak” that fails to identify and address the fundamental issues.  

Trevor Cobbold

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