The impact of public consultation in Australia is scrutinized by Kerley and Starr (2000). The authors acknowledge that the new concept of public consultation is an overseas trend as implied by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). There are six benefits or values of implementing public consultation in Australia (Kerley & Starr 2000). The six benefits propositions include quality regulations, increased options, lower costs, concurrence and compliance, responsive to change, and credibility and legitimacy. The authors’ primary objective is to assess whether public consultation add value or acts as a hindrance to implementation of policies.
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The authors evaluate the consultation process by implying the importance of technology in executing the same. However, the importance of consultation processes seems to benefit private organizations compared to public institutions. The impact of small business organizations in manipulating government sponsored consultation are depicted as a strategy of initiating partnership between the two systems.
The development of consultation processes especially within the public realm is traced back in the 1980s and 1990s. Influential lobby groups such as the Small Business Coalition and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry are an example of how public consultation developed into a political mechanism.
The increased influence of public consultation by lobby groups is now part of the decision-making process at the federal, state and local government levels.
In essence, public consultation has a positive impact on how government involves the population by sharing of information and ideas. The increased public confidence in the Australian government is due to inclusive consultation in critical departments.
However, there are concerns that public consultation has a negative impact especially on how government execute orders. The need to include the public in decision-making processes is exhausting. Secondly, public consultation attracts the interference from organized interest groups with unpopular agendas.
In recent years, the Australian government has engaged the public in matters of policies through parliament. Irrespective of the current strategy of engaging the public in consultation processes through parliament, the need to reform the same mechanism is critical. In this regard, the public consultation must add value to the societal development and not act as an impediment.
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The article by Kerley & Starr (2000) on public consultation is interesting and resourceful. The authors’ views of public consultation generate interest from the audience. However, the topic is critical and requires extensive research. The authors use factual information on how public consultation has generated interest from various organized groups of interest in the last few decades.
However, I feel that the authors do not provide enough information about the history of public consultation in Australia. Instead, the authors refer to the development of the concept in other foreign countries. I agree that the authors’ arguments provide an additional source of information that is consistent with current public policies in Australia and other countries. For example, the inclusion of public interest in decision-making processes through a political platform such as the parliament explains the current global trends on matters related to public policies.
Kerley, B & Starr, G 2000, ‘Public Consultation: Adding Value or Impeding Policy’, Agenda, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 185-92.