Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Conroy and Tanner want your advice … seriously

Posted by Dave Bath on 2008-12-09

Senator Conroy wants our help… (no, not on his censorship plans), but to test and give feedback on his blog, which is a trial run of a prototype component of a suite of improvements to mechanisms allowing two-way consultation between government and citizens.  (Full details in the notes over the fold at the bottom of the post)

Indeed, the more you want to be able to criticize (and make suggestions to) government, the more important it is to help get these incoming tools sanity-checked, by as many eyes as possible, before the tools are set in stone, rolled out across all agencies, and we are stuck with something awful that allows governments to ignore us (or even have deniability that they can hear us).

The good news is that the agencies (it’s not just Conroy’s) watching this trial know that it is pretty much a first draft, and there are lots of tricky bits (not technical, but legal and administrative) to work through.

With any luck, the little hints of open-source philosophy emanating from Canberra (in this case "release early, release often") are real.  This would be a Good Thing, and the more constructive (not necessarily positive) feedback we can give, the more Good Things might happen.

So, if you folk don’t participate now, and things end up all half-arsed, with the citizenry’s voices and intelligences stymied between elections, you’ve only yourselves to blame.

Apart from Jacques Chester of Club Troppo, Robert Merkel of Larvatus Prodeo, and myself, none of you were aware enough of an inquiry last year by AGIMO on how government could make better use of the internet to consult with the people… or you were too apathetic to comment when it mattered.  (And a hat tip to Gary Nairn, then responsible for AGIMO, for letting the inquiry happen.  Another hat tip to Lindsay Tanner for keeping the process going.)

Here is your chance to redeem yourselves, as individuals, and as a community of net-savvy politically-aware netizens.

It’s easy to be cynical, but I know that there are "Hollowmen" in Canberra now that are reasonably switched-on and idealistic… not just the permanent public servants who’ve had trouble getting good reforms past politicians and staffers.  Indeed, on the issue of improved consultation, some "Hollowmen" have even chased me down after my submission to the 2007 AGIMO inquiry, wanting to brainstorm with a non-party-political agenda.  Now that’s a breath of fresh air!

Personally, I don’t care whether you are on the right or the left: if we get this right, the responsiveness of governments in Oz to the citizens will be improved, and with enough involvement by us, over time, things can only get better.  It’s not just Canberra that will be improved – those states that are less inclined to openness will be shamed into lifting their game.

What’s to lose?  Nothing but a few minutes of your time.

What’s to gain?  A participatory democracy, not tomorrow, nor the day after, but within our lifetimes.

Notes/See Also:

  • Lindsay Tanner’s Area:
  • Previous notes by me:
  • Related Posts by Oz Bloggers:
    • glog (2008-12-10) at Public Opinion – post by Lyn Calcutt (and a GREAT pun title Lyn!!)
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    11 Responses to “Conroy and Tanner want your advice … seriously”

    1. renniek said

      My comment for Lindsay’s blog:

      More consultation is obviously a good idea. Effective use of the internet is the way to go. So enough discussion about whether we have a discussion. Some suggestions for a trial:

      * focus on one specific issue or policy area
      * link to important documents, videos and sites
      * explore some proposals for action
      * develop these through a forum with registered participants
      * ensure that there is ongoing response to the feedback and commentary
      * use video, basic or otherwise
      * build in some timelines such as comprehensive responses
      * have a ‘political’ presence, not just PR or public service people
      * smile a little

    2. Dave Bath said

      * “develop these through a forum with registered participants”
      Yep. In the original consultation, they specifically asked about even making some registered (and well behaved/qualified) non-government participants as moderators. (See my submission p12.

      * link to important documents, videos and sites
      Yep… that’s another thing they have been talking about internally…. even possibly for senate inquiries… e.g. including links to recent studies by unis and agencies.

      * build in some timelines such as comprehensive responses
      Yep. This is tricky… the whole “responsiveness” thing is the subject of internal discussion and they’ve given thought to what metrics are appropriate, whether different agencies should have different metrics (e.g. ASIO inquiries might be unresponsive but not get slapped for it!). My suggestions (in a face to face) included publishing results of draft metrics (it’s easy to develop a metric that is counterproductive) for a year or so, fine tuning the ways the metrics are calculated, and then developing guidelines on an agency by agency basis. If you’ve got interest in and ideas for this sort of thing, I’ll forward your name to the relevant guys in finance and dbcde.

      * have a ‘political’ presence, not just PR or public service people
      There will possibly be a BIG problem convincing some parliamentarians they should do this… some don’t like saying anything unless written/vetted by minders. However, publishing metrics on the interactivity of parliamentarians would be VERY interesting!

      * focus on one specific issue or policy area
      I think that is in the longer term basket. I agree. If they use AGLS/AGIFT keywords and metadata before creating an integrated site, then finding the appropriate forum is less of a problem…. and remember, the most important issues often CROSS domains. Yeah, and involving states in a federal forum on a particular issue is another thing likely to meet resistance (but not from netizens)

      * smile a little
      Tricky… let’s hope they’re not the vulpine grins we see at question time, or merely lots of smileys!

    3. Thanks for pointing this out, Dave.

    4. Dave Bath said

      Hmmmm. So many comments to one post – and on so many topics.

      Looks like there should be a couple of features added:
      * Ability to get all the published comments in one page – printer friendly (for easy saving)
      * Possibly allowing “tags” to comments if the scope of the original post is wide.

      Hmmmm. Given how many are anti-censorship, and there is a specific post on that coming along soon, the “off-topic” comments could usefully be moved to the relevant post when it appears. But would that be kosher without at least an email to the commenter about the move?

      Hmmmmm again. Looks like a list of “standing topics” (preferably AGLS/AGIFT/DIRKSy if you know the geekese) could be useful for commentators to tag comments with that were unrelated to a specific “post”. This would probably mean a dropdown list. (Hmmmmm, a firefox plugin that looks up a locally cached list????)

    5. renniek said

      With 500+ comments you have to question whether anyone will consider individual contributions. I wonder what they will do with all this democracy.

    6. Dave Bath said

      KR: (500+ comments)
      Yep,… maybe more than one original post, that was always gonna happen. I’d have been tempted to put up about half a dozen… a “welcome” (like the one they had), and a few more on other topics that would have directed the anti-filter brigade (me included!) into one area.

      Given that the focus of the first post was process, breaking it up into different aspects of the process, possibly taking extracts from the original AGIMO discussion paper and the AGIMO overview of responses, might have directed the ire into areas more specific and allowed more useful feedback.

      And imagine what would have happened if LP hadn’t gone belly up today!

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    8. Lyn said

      Opposition to the clean feed comments are strangling all three posts. The obvious thing to do is provide a specific post for those, even if it’s as simple as “unload your bile here”.

      On the other hand, that probably wouldn’t work either. So I don’t think the multiple posts thing would have worked. Maybe a guest post from someone opposed to the clean feed would at least have let people know they’re aware it’s a problem?

    9. zombinol said


      500 comments its starting to sound like half a Gab Fest and that had less than 2020 vision with no actual report materialising before our eyes in November.

      They very well might want our advice and if that is a good thing then it would be more excellent IF they also used our advice.

      I see another baleful deception where receiving our advice is antithetical to taking it.

    10. […] 2008-12-28 — Dave Bath The aborted attempt at glogging by Conroy’s was a welcome move, but premature: something more important and less risky should have been done […]

    11. […] the indefatigable David Bath comes word that Lindsay Tanner has taken up blogging in limited form. Right now it’s a bit […]

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