Thursday, July 14, 2011

Guest post: Are Australian politicians really comfortable with Gov 2.0 and social media?

Steve Davies posted a very interesting piece on OzLoop last week, which with his permission I've posted below.

The original, including comments from one of Australia's Senators, is available at

Are Australian politicians really comfortable with Gov 2.0 and social media?

I thought a lot about this post. On the one hand it is political, on the other it is about how the community and politicians talk and listen to each other. The essence of Gov 2.0 if you will.

So my focus in this post is on the dynamic we have all witnessed. The politics and issues associated with the example I use - climate change and the proposed carbon tax - are being chased around the back garden by my dogs. That should keep both those elements in check.

The contrast between members of the Australian Government and the United States Government could not be more stark.

In the United States we see Townhall @ The White House. In Australia we see a very traditional and controlling approach over Climate Change and, more specifically, the proposed introduction of the carbon tax. If ever there was a case for early discussion and engagement with the whole community using social media the carbon tax was it.

Instead, what we see is a flurry of political activity and committee work, a poor flow of information and, of course, the media making a lot of commentary. Sitting somewhere in the middle of all this activity is the community.

What is challenging, however, is that if the essence of Gov 2.0 is talking and listening then it seems pretty clear that we have to ask questions about the behaviour of our politicians.

We all know there are politicians who are passionate advocates of Gov 2.0. However, the fact that we see nothing like the Townhall @ the White House and see such a traditional approach to the question of climate change and the proposed climate tax is a clear indication that most of our politicians (and their advisors), are locked into a set of behaviours that are, well, very Gov 1.0.

While it is the job of politicians to be political over questions of policy and direction, the time may now be with us when our politicians need to be un-political about when and how they talk and listen to the community. So the bottom line is that for Gov 2.0 to really work the quality of the talking and listening needs to improve between members of the community, public service and politicians.

For many of our politicians that probably means a changing professional practices and habits built up over years. So no, at present many of our politicians are not comfortable with Gov 2.0 and social media.

Wouldn't it be nice to actually sit down over coffee with a few and explore how to improve the quality of listening and talking and take it from there. The vast majority are great face-to-face. Just like the rest of us.

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