The Australian Council of Social Service is calling on the federal government to embrace the capacity that civil society brings to public policy debate.
In the aftermath of a divisive federal budget, ACOSS is bringing together civil society groups to discuss the importance of community advocacy in setting future policy directions at its annual conference in Brisbane.
‘ACOSS has long argued that the quality of our democracy requires governments to engage in meaningful dialogue with all key stakeholders, including civil society organisations and the broader Australian Public. However, this is largely absent in the current approach,’ said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.
‘It is disappointing that the voices, experiences and ideas of the community are going unheard, leading to an erosion in confidence in public institutions and our democratic systems.
‘Since its election, and particularly through its first budget, the government appears to have taken the view that supporting the legitimate advocacy activities of civil society is not an appropriate role or responsibility of government.
‘At the same time as it delivered a budget that will severely hurt the people who are the most vulnerable in our community, the government has de-funded a number of organisations representing politically marginalised groups: young people, refugees and asylum seekers, people affected by drug and alcohol addiction and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
‘We were deeply disturbed with the recent comments made by Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, a Senior Cabinet Minister, that “It’s not the government’s view that taxpayers’ funding should be there to support what is effectively an advocacy group”.
‘ACOSS strongly rejects this view. Good public policy relies on the informed and meaningful engagement and input from affected stakeholders and the broader community.
‘Australia’s civil society organisations are already working in close partnerships with business groups and others on the best policy solutions for our nation. It’s time the government worked with us and not against us.
‘A good starting point would be for the government to urgently establish an open and transparent community advisory council to the prime minister to provide high level expert advice on the national challenges we face.’
See more on the ACOSS national conference at conference.acoss.org.au