To bring experts, community stakeholders, and the resources of government together to solve entrenched or ’wicked’ problems, strengthen our fraying public policy infrastructure, and help restore trust in government, a new whole-of-government advisory architecture is proposed. The proposed structure is centred on a National Reform Council drawing together expertise from government, business, unions, community and environmental perspectives and respected independent experts. This would be supported by a fixed number of expert Commissions tasked with solving whole-of-government policy challenges such as income inequality and poverty, full employment and digital transformation. This new advisory structure would replace the Productivity Commission.
This new whole of government architecture must be supported by commitments to amplify, rather than stifle the voice of civil society, in particular the organisations and groups representing the people and communities that are most marginalised in our public debate. This means restoring and improving funding for peaks and advocacy organisations and also an end to the gag clauses and advocacy bans that form part of our legal and policy framework.
- A new standing advisory body – a National Reform Council – should be legislated to advise government on long-term whole-of-government policy challenges, integrating economic, social and environmental goals and perspectives.
- The Council would draw together expertise from government, business, unions, community and environmental perspectives and respected independent experts, and encourage all sectors of the community to work together with government to find practical solutions to these challenges.
- It would collaborate with a First Nations Voice on challenges facing First Nations communities, the relationship between them and the wider community, and include representation from that body.
- The Council would seek input from the community through discussion papers, reports, and an annual public forum.
- It would be supported by a fixed number of expert Commissions tasked with solving whole-of-government policy challenges such as: income inequality and poverty; full employment; digital transformation; a robust, fair and efficient public revenue base; climate change; economic, social and cultural engagement with our Asian neighbours; affordable, efficient and liveable cities and regions; and the provision and financing of care for older people, people with disabilities or chronic illness.
- The Commissions would draw, in a flexible way, on expertise across sectors, governments, academia, and the experience of people affected by public policies.
- There would be a fixed number of standing and fixed-term Commissions.
- Each would formulate policy missions informed by expert, stakeholder and public input, incorporating goals, strategy and evaluation.
- These new whole-of-government advisory bodies would replace the Productivity Commission (and other whole-of-government advisory bodies, as appropriate) and supplement Ministerial advisory bodies such as the proposed Social Security Commission, National Housing Council, and Human Services Partnership Forum.
- In addition, we recommend that the Commonwealth restore and lift funding for peak bodies and advocacy organisations so that marginalised voices are heard in public policy debate.
- This must also involve a commitment to end gag clauses and other barriers to civil society and organisations representing marginalised people and groups participating in national debates.