[LINK] AIIA raises concerns on Tanner and Conroy blog
Tom.Worthington at tomw.net.au
Thu Dec 11 10:41:38 EST 2008
At 04:51 PM 10/12/2008, Bernard Robertson-Dunn wrote:
>AIIA raises concerns on Tanner and Conroy blog ... Trevor Clarke 10
>December, 2008 10:45:00
This article raises some interesting issues.
AIIA CEO, Ian Birks is quoted as questions if the process can be manipulated:
> "There is quite a lot of potential for input to policy development
> to be influenced and/or manipulated by anonymous contributors whose
> knowledge base and motives may not be entirely transparent. ...
Of course the same criticism could be made of face-to-face
representations made to government by organisations such as AIIA.
Parliament House is equipped with technology to record meetings.
Perhaps there should be a legal requirement that all conversations
between lobbyists, such as those from AIIA, and government
representatives be recorded and made available immediately online,
with a text transcript, in the interests of transparency, so that
policy is not manipulated by secret contributors. ;-)
More seriously, Mr. Birks makes a good point: how exactly will the
blog be used in policy consultations? When I was an IT policy maker
in government, my practice was top take a conservative approach and
expand whatever the procedures were in the paper world to formulate
policy for ICT systems. As an example, I wrote the Defence
Department's e-mail use policy based on that for long distance telephone use.
In the case of policy consultation, it should be easy enough to take
whatever the government policy is on consultation and adapt it for
online consultation. Obviously the volume of material which might be
received would be a challenge. However, it is more likely that the
lack of any consistent, workable procedures for handling old
fashioned paper and face-to-face consultation will be a bigger
challenge. I suspect there are no workable, widely implemented
procedures in place now for policy consultation and so the problem
will be to invent some from scratch.
When asked about providing online consultation I have suggested to
government agencies and politicians that they avoid doing it. Instead
I suggested they get independent organisations to do it. This is
already done with policy advice, where government funds "think tanks"
to comment on policies such as defence. The problem is that the job
of a government agency and a government minister is to first to
support whatever government policy already is, formulating new policy
is a lower priority. Therefore it will be hard for anyone to believe
that government is really accepting advice as to how the policy
should be changed.
If an independent body, such as a think tank, a government research
agency, or event the parliament, is hosting the policy input, then it
will be seen as more independent. The policy makers can observe the
online discussion and take the bits they like to include into policy
proposals and ignore the ones they don't like. I suspect this mailing
list and my blog are used that way on occasions, with policy makers
picking the bits they like (and I occasionally write policy proposals
to them via these media). This would be the way to incorporate online
consultation into the current political system.
It is open to criticism that all views will not be treated equally
with an online policy consultation grafted onto the current
unaccountable manual system. Some may wish to take the opportunity to
create a more participatory online democracy, but will have
difficulty getting the established political system to endorse its
There are some subtle twists in how to go about consultation. As an
example: who can be consulted? Should the government accept comments
from non-citizens on the other side of the world who have never been
in Australia? Should it accept comments from people who are not
alive? That may sound odd, but non-alive people, who non-citizens,
get to vote in some Australian elections. As an example, land owners
and rate-paying lessees in the City of Sydney can vote, even where
they are foreign companies or governments:
It would therefore be reasonable to allow these corporations and
governments to comment on policy which effects them, in the same way
as other Australian voters.
AGIMO has put out some guidance on online policy consultation:
* "Better Practice Checklist - 12. Online Policy Consultation, May
* Australian Government Consultation Blog
* Principles for ICT - enabled citizen engagement:
Tom Worthington FACS HLM tom.worthington at tomw.net.au Ph: 0419 496150
Director, Tomw Communications Pty Ltd ABN: 17 088 714 309
PO Box 13, Belconnen ACT 2617 http://www.tomw.net.au/
Adjunct Senior Lecturer, Australian National University
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