Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Immiseration of Public Policy - a personal note

In my last post New England and the Immiseration of Public Policy I spoke of the failure of public policy towards New England with a special focus on New England's Aboriginal people. This followed an earlier post Politics, the Media and the Immiseration of Public Policy in which I examined the "policies" being put forward as part of the current NSW election campaign.

In a post on his blog, On not shooting the messenger, Ninglun (Neil) warned about the danger of misreading my posts, concluding "I commend Jim’s posts to everyone’s consideration, suggesting you suspend your fixed positions as you take in what in fact they are saying."

I was grateful to Neil for his support. I was also grateful for the reminder that readers necessarily read my stuff in a context set by their own world views.

I have now written several hundred linked posts across a number of blogs, as well as writings in other fora. This sets my context, but the reader cannot be expected to see this.

In writing at present I am angry, not negative.

I have written a fair bit on this blog about changing Australian approaches to Government and public policy. In doing so, I have tried to outline changes and the reasons for them, pointing to weaknesses in the new approaches.

While my arguments on public policy are general, I also write from the perspective of a New Englander. This is my personal country. Here I see what I perceive to be the general failures in public policy in an on-ground sense, the inability of public policy approaches to deal with, even recognise, long term problems.

My current focus on Australia's Aboriginal peoples sits at the cusp of these two interests.

Government policies towards our Aboriginal peoples are an example of wholesale policy failure. They are a New England issue as well because the Aborigines are an important part of the New England population.

In writing about the Aborigines I keep making the point that I am not Aboriginal and therefore must write from an outsider's perspective. However, I have had more than forty year's experience in public policy, so can bring this to bear.

My sense of anger in all this was ignited by the NSW state election campaign.

At least as I see it, this election typifies all the things that I think are wrong with current approaches to public policy.

This is an election in which neither of the main parties could be bothered having a proper policy launch. This is an election without a single general over aching policy statement setting directions, tieing other things together. This is an election in which discussion is dominated by a smorgasbord of disconnected issues, of activities instead of ideas. In all, this election is a policy free zone, at least as I understand policy.

I said angry, not negative. There is no point in me writing if I cannot put an alternative view forward. It is not sufficient to say what, in my opinion, is wrong. I must also try to present solutions, possible new approaches.

In my next posts I plan to return to the Aboriginal focus. In doing so, I want to try to paint a picture of Aboriginal life across NSW. I have not seen this done before. This may simply reflect my own lack of reading. However, I suspect that it is another symptom of the bitsyness of the current approach to public policy.

Necessarily this analysis will have negative depressing elements. Here I risk falling into the trap that I have criticised in others, the constant focus in discussion on the negatives of the Aboriginal condition.

To balance this, I will use my next post to outline some positives, positives that I think have broader policy lessons.

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