What is a good decision?…#afoi

Over the past few years I have chronicled the dilemmas of individuals and communities who are living with government decisions that are impacting on their environment and lives. Therefore it was with much interest I approached this Festival of Ideas session on How do you get good decisions?

The panel consisted of Amanda Vanstone, Grahame Morris, Lyn Carson and John Williams to discuss how government can come to decisions that work positively for our communities.

Amanda optimistically believes that not all decisions government makes are bad and that we are better off than other democracies. Yet we do need to remember that time is not on their side, meaning they need to make quick decisions and can’t always be able to ponder for long. But with a first class public service information is key and available.

As for Grahame – well any decision he makes is a good one.

Lyn was the most enlightening in this discussion as she believes our decision making process is failing us and is concerned about the negative discourse in our parliament. She advocates for a collaborative government made up of 50% of interest groups and experts and 50% of ordinary people randomly selected.

Meanwhile John sees public hypocrisy in our decision-making process when time and information is not on our side. Sitting on the fence he believes no matter what the process is you will get both good and bad results.

John also investigated water law for the Murray Darling Basin and can give a contemporary view on community impact from decisions government makes. Yet that went un-discussed.

The debate here is whether our current decision making process is allowing us to make good governance. Now let’s be honest right now our parliamentary system is not making decisions but engaging in a tit for tat spat. Admittedly Amanda declares she loves a bit of a biff yet she would advise Abbott to stop this negative dialogue and disagree on key issues and agree on the rest. At the moment we are only focusing on what they disagree with and that is all.

Coupled with Grahame’s view that we are going through an awful phase where politicians are reliant on focus groups they both did not instill much faith in our system. However Lyn gave some hope by exploring the notions of a system where  ‘ordinary’ people can come up with sound decisions we can all live with.

She is an advocate for typical citizens to make decisions for the entire country taking deliberation on a pure democratic level. However these people we bring together must know their decisions are going to have some impact.

So how do we make our current system work effectively for us? Unfortunately it took us 45 minutes to get here and one question from the floor to unravel it. Both Amanda and Lyn agree government needs to move to a four year fixed term so they can plan for the longer term.

However right now while we can try to make that system work for us we are stuck with politicians who are more engaged in focus groups and headlines rather than governing.

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