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Centralisation is hampering Victoria’s pandemic response

Bringing people on board and giving them a seat at the table is essential for the Andrews government to build broad public confidence in its pandemic strategy.

27/09/2021 3:14:00 AM

Centralisation is hampering Victoria’s pandemic response. If you don’t give people a stake in your decision-making, they are more likely to drive a stake through your decisions | OPINION auspol covid melbournelockdown roadmap

Bringing people on board and giving them a seat at the table is essential for the Andrews government to build broad public confidence in its pandemic strategy.

AdvertisementIf you don’t give people a stake in your decision-making, they are more likely to drive a stake through your decisions.While public attention this week was on the violent protests which stained Melbourne’s streets and some of our most, one of the more significant revelations was a fracturing around the state government’s inner and outer decision-making.

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Victoria Police members arrest a protester along the St Kilda foreshore on Saturday.Credit:Justin McManusIn a crisis such as a pandemic, any government will struggle if it cannot become, and remain, a trusted source of information and direction. For that reason,

a report earlier this weekthat there is mounting division within the Andrews government over the interpretation and application of health advice was significant for two reasons.First, that among the crisis cabinet of eight ministers there was disagreement is likely to be understating the potential division across the full cabinet and indeed throughout the Labor caucus. headtopics.com

Secondly, that competing voices within the upper echelons of the government are briefing alternative narratives, is poison for any cabinet.This points undeniably to a lack of contestability to date within the broader councils of the government. The normal co-ordinating processes between ministers and stakeholders do not appear to be working as well as they should.

So much was evidenced, for example, by the scathing responses from industry groups to last week’s road map, which looked like a belated response to escalating anger across the community at the absence of any pathway back to normality.Paul Guerra, the chief executive officer of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, coined the phrase of the week when he said that, “Victorian businesses wanted a pathway to prosperity, but instead we got a road map with roadblocks.”

AdvertisementAs incisive as this comment was, what struck me about this remark was that a key industry stakeholder would typically only respond in this manner to such an announcement if it had not been properly consulted.When other stakeholder groups like the Australian Retailers Association and the Australian Hotels Association aired similar grievances, it became clear that the government did not consult very widely.

Melbourne in lockdown.Credit:Luis AscuiJust why not is hard to comprehend but easy to explain. You sense that the government simply relented to intensifying criticism over the lack of a plan to recovery that it decided it had to rush something, anything, out. headtopics.com

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Plainly though, the centralising tendencies of the government during this recent phase of the pandemic is drawing much heavier fire now, just when its aim should be to work closely with every stakeholder organisation and group it can engage.Bringing people on board and giving them a seat around the table might militate against every political instinct the government possesses, but it is essential if it wants to build, or salvage, broad public confidence in, and a consensus around, its pandemic strategy.

But contestability is not only achieved through wider consultation as important as that is. Its benefits are also realised when checks and balances in our system operate as they should.Take, for instance, the judicial branch of our government. It is constitutionally independent but has largely accepted the impositions that public health orders have imposed, even on its own operations.

But to test public health advice is not necessarily to doubt it. It is to ensure that the government and authorised health officers are exercising power proportionately, consistently and soundly on the best data and information available.This is Parliament’s role too. But it has been muzzled to a significant extent and the reports which the government has tabled on the impact of public health measures on basic rights and freedoms are so general that they shed little light on whether the principles I’ve mentioned are being faithfully applied.

Our judiciary, as a separate branch of government, can and should satisfy itself that public health measures which affect its own independent operations acquit these principles.Ro Allen, head of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission. headtopics.com

Credit:Justin McManusWhen recently, the respected head of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, Ro Allen, was asked on ABC Radio about the impact of public health measures on human rights, the commissioner’s response was, in general terms, that a balance needs to be struck in these situations.

This, of course, is very true. But the Commission has an important opportunity here. It can scrutinise closely who is making significant decisions to encumber basic rights and freedoms and whether such decisions are directly based on health advice while also being proportionate and consistently applied.

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Increasingly, broad public acceptance of ongoing restrictions is giving way to criticism, and not just because of the duration of ongoing impositions that are keeping loved ones apart, students at home and businesses shuttered.LoadingIt’s the many disparities and selectivity of restrictions that can no longer be rationalised, if ever they could be.

Consultation and contestability are two key ways to temper the government’s instinctive orientation towards centralisation. And doing so will give the government the best chance to reverse the currents of recent weeks and build on that unity of purpose our overall response needs.

John Pesutto is a Senior Fellow at the School of Government at Melbourne University and was Victoria’s shadow attorney-general from 2014 to 2018. Read more: The Age »

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Oh no an article from the opposition who we all know we're always inclusive in decision making hahaha, Jeff Kennet who sold our state to all his corporate buddies in a fire sale and all Victorians are still paying for with with higher and higher prices for the essential services JohnPesutto what a load of BS, you keep trying but it’s not working.

But THIS 👇 is OK? JohnPesutto Driving LiberalVictoria’s credibility even further down the gurgler than anyone thought possible. What a beat up lol Centralisation is “Socialism”. Wake up people. What? See how the narrative is leading toward rounding up all ani-vaxxers and tying to a stake. Another example of ‘wrapping its arms around’ Victorians? This piece of Dan bashing makes no reference to the decentralization of the public health system last year, or the massive use of CALD community leaders 1/2

We have elections to decide to whom we delegate running the state. That is where everyone has a stake. But riddle me this: where was this dedentralisation around the east-west link? ...and again You must be joking.

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🤔- The moniker DictatorDan was coined for a (very good) reason. His is the most centralised, tightly controlled government in the history of a democracy; certainly in the history of what used to the great state of Victoria - sadly no longer thanks solely to him!!! The pride and joy of NSW GladysB and Liberals achievement. That face of satisfaction and pride tells it all. For LNP another 12 deaths is just a number.

There is no parliament in Victoria. There is no government of the people. Parliament has been shut down. Think about that. Never before even in the middle of the world wars. Why? And as govt is an essential service, why are vaccines not mandatory for politicians? I will wait. JohnPesutto My experience with Vic Govt is a culture of imposing its will onto others. It is poor at listening and the pandemic response has lacked nuance. At least you write reasonably John and make an argument - this has been sorely lacking from the opposition.

Remorseless negativity from For sanity, don’t buy or read The big hitters. A “former, shadow Attorney General”. The current incumbent is Mr Tim Smith so, you know… Normal BS? Just just another suck-up to big business, & tough luck for everyone else. Hardly surprising given the owners of The Age. These “opinion pieces”, whether they’re “written” in Canada, the US, the UK or elsewhere, are the same these days….

To pay-wall or not to pay-wall. It is bashing Labor and written by a Liberal, so I guess it won't be pay-walled 😉 You guys are so subtle. I can feel your arms wrapping stealthily around me in a unsolicited hug. auspol Another 'wrapping of the arms' and localheroes by

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