Lack of trust between community and politicians driven by lack of narrative and vision

“One of the reasons for the lack of trust is because the politicians have difficulty constructing a narrative which encompasses everything they’re trying to do,” GRA Partners Chairman, the Hon. Eric Ripper AM has told a CEDA audience at the Perth Economic and Political Overview.

“Even if they’re good enough to construct a narrative, they have difficulty in communicating that narrative and preparing people for some of the decisions they might take.

“The emphasis is on theatre, not on policy, not on vision.

“That is one of the principle tasks of politics, to actually communicate a vision, a plan or a strategy so people are prepared for what’s going to happen and therefore expectations aren’t disappointed.

“What’s happened in the last four or five years is wages have stagnated, and you can tell people as much as you like that the economy is performing well but if their living standards have stagnated then they’re not going to believe you. Moreover, they’re going to say you’re out of touch.

“Both sides of politics have decided that the market is the best way to promote economic growth and that means people are exposed to the vast and personal forces of the market, increased by globalisation.

“Quite a few of them would like politics to step in. The politicians aren’t doing that and that leads people to have less trust.

“What influence do they have? How can they be protected; how can their security be protected against these…forces?

“Quite frankly a lot of people in our community still expect that that’s the role of government and government has retreated from that to a certain extent.

“With the additional element that WA people have been experiencing a more difficult circumstance than the rest of the country so if anything, feelings are a bit more bitter and strong here than what they are in other parts of the country.

“I actually think the political class in Australia hasn’t done a bad job.

“We’ve gone more than quarter of a century without a recession – we’ve avoided at least three recessions that have occurred in other advanced democracies and we’re immeasurably more prosperous than we were 25 years ago, so I would say that’s not a bad outcome.”

gtmedia Managing Director, Gemma Tognini said “it’s the disengagement as much as trust – that’s the issue.”

“You kinda go ‘oh I’ve had enough of listening to this’.

“Trust is long-built, eroded over a long period of time and once it’s gone it’s kinda gone.

“If you put it into context: Back in the day we voted for Rudd, got Gillard. Voted for Gillard, got Rudd. Voted for Abbott, got Turnbull. Voted for Turnbull, got Morrison.

“If you look at it that way it shouldn’t be a surprise there’s a lack of engagement, it shouldn’t be a surprise we have a problem with trust.

“I think the thing that’s missing so far in terms of the trust conversation is the environment in which we’re communicating with each other – by that I mean the lack of communication from the big institutions to the people they’re supposed to serve and supposed to be there for.

“There’s a gap between what they’re actually promising and what they’re delivering.”

Discussing the current media environment, 6PR Radio Presenter Gareth Parker said a lack of diversity in media consumption had contributed to this feeling of mistrust and disengagement.

“I think it’s more about the way that modern digital media environments allow people to choose their own adventure when it comes to their media consumption habits,” he said.

“You need never confront an opinion you disagree with should you choose not to.

“There is value in being presented with an editorially curated selection of views that you agree with and disagree with, that force you to confront facts that are both supportive of what you believe and confront what you believe.”

Mr Parker also highlighted that Julie Bishop’s recent retirement from politics was a loss for WA in terms of someone ‘sitting at the cabinet table’ for the state.

Also speaking at the event was Western Australia Police Force, Commissioner of Police, Chris Dawson, who discussed the priorities for the WA Police following Premier the Hon. Mark McGowan’s whole of government target program to help deliver real outcomes for the community. Mr Dawson said these:
  • Reduce the over representation of Aboriginal people in custody;
  • Reduce youth offending; and
  • Reduce illicit drug use.
Speaking on drug use, Mr Dawson said that over the past decade, the number of detainees at the Perth lock-up who had meth in their system had risen from approximately 15 per cent in 2009 to more than 70 per cent today.

“In Perth, through wastewater testing, we are estimating between 27kg and 30kg of meth is consumed every week,” he said.

“That is what is costing us as a community – apart from the human misery and harm – (there is) about $27 million spent on the consumption of meth in Perth city alone every week.

“One of the strategies we are using is to follow the money. This must be a methodology that will continue.”

Mr Dawson said that initiatives aimed at reducing the over representation of Aboriginal people in custody included those aimed at repairing trust and community relationships such as an apology from the Commissioner of Police and flying the Aboriginal flag on site. Other initiatives include:
  • Cultural training;
  • Aboriginal Cadet Traineeships; and
  • Recruitment and promotions.
Chamber of Commerce and Industry – Western Australia, Chief Economist, Rick Newnham presented an economic overview for the state.

“It’s a stop and start recovery for WA,” he said.

“Unemployment has risen to 6.8 per cent which means that there are now more than 97,000 West Australians who want to work and are unable to do so.

“WA’s road to recovery is proving to be rockier than expected. We began 2019 with most indicators looking positive. Consumers are more positive about the future of the economy but continue to report difficulties in their personal finances.

“Businesses are more confident about the future of the economy but expect a decline in profits in 2019 due to high operating costs including wages, and weak demand in growth.”

External risks for the state included the trade tariffs on China, the state’s biggest trading partner he said.
“A one per cent reduction in Chinese GDP growth is associated with a half a per cent reduction in WA mining gross value added growth. It means that WA’s economy is intrinsically linked to China’s,” he said.

“In the long-run, no one wins a trade war. Especially not Western Australia.”

Also speaking at the event was Australian Office of Financial Management Chief Executive Officer Rob Nicholl and Commonwealth Bank Chief Economist and Managing Director, Economics, Michael Blythe.

Mr Blythe was a contributing author to CEDA’s Economic and Political Overview. Watch his address presented at the Brisbane Economic and Political Overview here.

CEDA’s Economic and Political Overview is an annual report and event series, bringing together political, economic and business leaders providing business intelligence on the environment they will be operating in for the year ahead. Download the 2019 report here.