Government | Regulation

Positive outcomes and communication are key to rebuilding public trust in government

“The real challenge for politics is reconnecting with the community” and working against the growing sense among the public that “politicians are simply there to occupy the crease,” Victorian Treasurer, the Hon. Tim Pallas has told CEDA’s State of the Nation.

“While everyone in public life has differing views about what a future society should look like, no one is there to simply be there,” he said.

“From my perspective, the most obvious way to reconnect with the community is to deliver things that materially improve their circumstances and demonstrate that the political divide is not a chasm that can’t be bridged but a place where ideas can be tested.”

Mr Pallas was joined by the New South Wales Treasurer, the Hon. Dominic Perrottet, who also spoke to the growing sense of disconnect between politicians and the public.

“I think there is a real trust deficit out there,” he said.

“Governments and politicians need to not just tell people what they want to hear. It is about being honest and upfront with the community about what the government is about and what you want to achieve.

“You don’t get in politics just to win elections. The judgement that is most important is 10, 20, 30, 40 years down the track. When people look back on the time that you served and the opportunities you had, you want them to see that you actually set the state up for success."

To do that, Mr Perrottet suggested that politicians and government needed to have “a greater level of risk taking, a greater openness and an ability to take the community with you on what can be difficult policy.”

Picking up on the question of public trust, Mr Pallas spoke to a “myth of infallibility…created by politicians who don’t ever want to admit that they have made a mistake”.

“We (politicians) have to get to a place where we can have a mature and genuine engagement with the community,” Mr Pallas said.

Speaking to their hopes for the future, the two treasurers both focused on their efforts to improve collaboration between governments.

“When our states go well, our country goes well,” Mr Perrottet said.

“One of the things that Tim and I have focused on particularly has been how we build a better Federation. The blame game between the Commonwealth and the states needs to end.

“One of the reasons reforms don’t get off the ground is that you have a Commonwealth that comes up with a theory and states that sit there and say it is too politically challenging – you reach a deadlock.”

Mr Pallas spoke to the role of recently established Board of Treasurers in breaking those deadlocks.

“The thing I really like about this forum is that we are not talking about things that we can’t influence all that much…we do a lot of good policy work and a lot of hard effort is going in to where we want to be and what we can do better,” Mr Pallas said.