On 21 May 2009, APSC Commissioner, Lynelle Briggs gave a speech to the John Curtin Institute of Public Policy. Entitled All those who stand and wait — putting citizens at the centre, the speech raises some vitally important issues on open government and engagement with the public. I’d like to recommend you read the speech in full.
Commissioner Briggs’ conclusion says it all:
We cannot serve if we just stand and wait — the mountain certainly will not come to us — and we must be strategic in how we get to its summit. I believe that in Australia we have a sound base camp from which to launch the assault.
We need to be cognisant of the issues and understand the key drivers. These need to be brought together with a clear set of values into a single policy statement, to guide our future service endeavours. We must ensure we then have the architecture in our systems — be it structural, operational or even electoral — to facilitate change, and that our human capital accepts that change is coming.
To paraphrase Susan B Anthony, “cautious careful people do not bring about reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the estimation of others, and bear the consequences”. The participants in this new environment — our public servants, our politicians, and our public — need to grasp what that means for all of them and to act accordingly. To do so, our dialogue needs to move from being one about citizens, to being one with citizens.
The speech looks pretty thoroughly at issues of consultation, openness, evidence-based policy and meeting the needs of citizens when and where they wish to access government services.
I think the content, which I am yet to digest comprehensively, is incredibly important as a base position from the APSC. My only fear is that agencies and agency staff will only be made aware of it through luck. Much of the well thought out material from agencies such as the APSC seems to struggle for awareness in many agencies.
I recommend you make your colleagues aware of it whether you are working in a federal agency, or in state or local government.