Federal Politics


PM's adviser encourages a more co-operative approach

THE Prime Minister's communications director says governments and the public should work together to develop policies that solve society's problems.

John McTernan, who looked at ways to reform the public sector when he was a thinker in residence in South Australia, also called for the development of an ''open data'' approach to government information.

''Adopting an open-data framework to increase transparency, accountability and collaboration would allow the digitally literate public to design innovative ways to use government data,'' he said in his thinker's report, which has been made public.

''It would also stimulate and support service sector entrepreneurs … the synergies with the roll-out of the national broadband network are obvious.''

Mr McTernan said it was a vicious parody to describe government policymaking as ''decide and defend'', something which the South Australian Premier, Jay Weatherill, says his administration wants to avoid.

But he said it was wrong for governments to assume everyone shared a common understanding of a particular problem.


''So the starting point of policy development needs to be, do we agree on precisely what the problem is?'' he said. ''Only then can you proceed to policy approaches to tackle the problem.''

Mr McTernan said governments needed to appreciate they were dealing with a highly educated country, ''one in which deference of any sort has completely disappeared''.

''Everybody in Australia has got two personal researchers - Google and Wikipedia,'' he said. ''So, in the end you need to be clear: this is the problem, these are the facts, this is the way we're going to analyse it, and this is what we're going to do.''

Before becoming communications director for Julia Gillard, Mr McTernan held advisory roles in British politics.