Public Discussion Policy

Civil Society Australia aims to provide a voice for civil society in Australian public life. This is our Public Discussion Policy.

Please feel free to comment on this policy. We would like to hear your views.

Public debate in Australia is dominated by vested industry interests. Corporate, provider and professional interests and their lobbyists and think tanks exercise a near-monopoly over public policy discussion.  This is as true of health, education and service delivery industries as it is of banking, retailing and gaming industries.

Civil society is without a vested industry interest. It is relational, associational and voluntary. It does not have commercial or career interests in any public policy matter; it's interest is in the protection and enhancement of relationships, social bonds and freedom of association.

Civil society has an interest in the removal of vested industry interests from domination of public debate. This interest will be championed by Civil Society Australia. For far too long, civil society has been absent from the public arena, and has allowed vested industry interests to prevail in public discussion and shape public policy.

To this end, Civil Society Australia will participate in public discussion through traditional media, social media, face-to-face forums and public events to convey the following two requirements for the removal of vested interests from public debate:

1. Organisations which have a vested industry interest in a matter of public policy should either disclose this interest in public discussion or withdraw from public discussion about the matter. An 'interest' here means a business or industry advantage or benefit that would accrue as a result of a particular public policy measure or public funding arrangement.

2. Individuals who have a vested industry interest in a matter of public policy should either disclose this interest in public discussion or withdraw from public discussion about the matter. An 'interest' here means a financial or business or career advantage or benefit that would accrue from a particular public policy measure or public funding arrangement, or from association with advocacy of a particular public policy or funding measure.

Organisations and individuals with vested industry interests will frequently claim that their 'motivations' are noble. We do not confuse 'motivations' with 'interests'. This policy is concerned only with interests.

Civil Society Australia will seek broad society-wide support for these two measures as essential requirements for reform of public debate and creation of a level playing-field for civil society.

Organisations which hold vested industry interests, and which are accustomed to advancing their interests in public debate, will not like this stance of Civil Society Australia. They will say it is 'unfair' and infringes their 'freedom'. It does not. It simply requires disclosure of vested interests in public discussion so as to create a level playing-field for consumers, families and carers, communities and volunteers, family businesses and mutuals, and voluntary associations.

Individuals who hold vested industry interests, and who are accustomed to advancing their interests in public debate, will not like this stance either. They will say it is 'rude' and 'uncivil' to be asked to disclose their interests. This is particularly the case in social services and NGO affairs, where individual employees and consultants will insist that their 'motivations' are noble. This policy does not concern itself with motivations, it is only concerned with interests.


Further information:

Vern Hughes
0425 722 890
vern@civilsociety.org.au

 

  Civil Society Australia 2015