The Common Wealth – Contributions from the forum

The Centre for Policy Development has embarked on a project to articulate a set of values that should underpin policy development in Australia. The Common Wealth is the first articulation of these values. It identifies six values: Community Engagement, Equity, Fairness, Freedom, Stewardship, and an Ethical Culture. Several responses have been published over the past few weeks and there has been debate in the forum. Today we will give you some extracts from contributions made to the forum. Please consider making a contribution yourself either to the forum or in the form of an article (to be sent to

Most of the responses have recognised the importance of developing policy that is underpinned by values rather than taking an ad hoc approach. Bob Crombie commented on this:

This is a great start toward a discussion that should interest everyone. Without some framework of evaluation, it is easy to get lost in the media reports that relate to policy formation and implementation. The public presentation of the IR debate for instance is cynically lacking in substance; a rather patronising claim of it'll be good for you without any definition of what 'it' is – rather like that old-fashioned dose of cod-liver oil – and without being informed of what the illness is! How is 'informed choice' to be made without information?

That lack of information points to weak values underpinning the policy – indeed the lack of input by the stakeholders (all citizens according to Kevin Andrews) points to weak values. This new project for a set of values, established by democratic discussion, would neatly complement the Bill of Rights already being debated in the Centre for Policy Development forum. Together they provide potential for an agreed standard of interaction at all levels of societal engagement from parliament to the most basic exchange. With a trajectory toward enhanced sharing and caring, we may not even need anti-terrorism laws. We may even get a policy regime that properly reflects the meaning of democracy.

Others have questioned whether the focus is correct. Sean wrote:

I had a look and think this is a valuable addition.

However in the age of global capital and globalisation I find it very "Australian-centric". I mean really are the big issues in society in Australia? I mean I watched kids in India living in rubbish heaps, drinking from sewers. My partner spent time in the Congo and other African lands where this is even more brutal.

I understand that Australian politics is interesting and we "hate" Howard and many of his policies, but really couldn't there have been more commentary on the value of breaching inequality in developing countries as the the biggest problem facing humanity.

Is beating Howard's values in Australia more important than getting those kids in India off the rubbish heap?

No way!

We would also like to know whether we have left out any values or articulations of values. Bill Ford commented on absence of any reference to life long learning in the Common Wealth:

Congratulations on the development of the Centre for Policy Development's 'The Common Wealth'. The one key concept that is missing is 'Life Long Learning'. In dynamic environments, it is necessary to ask the question, how do individuals, communities, organisations, institutions and governments learn? Eg. Leading enterprises see the concept of a learning enterprise as critical to their response to dynamic multi-dimensional environments (economic, demographic, organisational, environmental, technological etc.)

The concept of 'life long learning' is particularly critical for sustaining the values of equity. Simplistic policies of 'retraining' and 'recurrent education' have proved inadequate for maintaining many individual and communities living standards and opportunities over a life time. Even our intellectual capital is inadequate to meet the needs of life long learning. The Japanese for example are committing large research funds for brain research to better understand how an aging work force learns.

You can download the ‘Common Wealth' here (pdf) or (Word). Please let us know your response to this document. We intend to refine it and then use it as the foundation for all of our future policy work.

The Centre for Policy Development

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