LISTEN UP: Governments should be serious about proper community consultation.
LISTEN UP: Governments should be serious about proper community consultation.

OPINION: Don’t just pay lip service to community consultation

FIVE MINUTES WITH FIELDING

COMMUNITY consultation is a favourite buzzword of governments of all types but is it really anything but lip service?

Before it foisted the Cashless Debit Card on Hinkler, the Federal Government did minimal community consultation despite its claims.

It held closed door sessions with a bunch of people who agreed with the card, and certainly not anybody who would be on the card.

More recently Gladstone Regional Council held community consultation about a proposed road link between Agnes and Baffle.

But only if you handed over your name, email address and other personal information.

Respondents were asked, among other things, if they have a disability, whether they identified as indigenous and what year they were born.

Of course, you could attend a public meeting to have your say, if you were available when they were held and you were willing to publicly reveal your thoughts.

Anyone handing over private information including their email in this day and age should do so with caution.

What would the council use this information for?

I asked the council why it felt the need to collect such private information in order for people to have their say about an important issue.

Its feeble response was that the council wanted to communicate with respondents.

“Using the email address of those who have participated, council is able to provide direct feedback, seek more details and send updates as the project moves forward,” a spokesman said.

That’s fine – if it’s optional.

In this case it wasn’t.

The council also confirmed it wouldn’t destroy people’s personal information once the issue was resolved. Why?

Community consultation is essential but only if it is real consultation that accepts the opinions of everybody who wants to have a say without handing over private data.

Governments should not use it as a method of collecting favourable opinion, placating others and then a weapon to foist their ideas on the public.



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