Our lives were transform by the COVID-19 pandemic earlier in the year. Our political leaders joined forces and stated that we were all in it together. We saw glimpses of a new kind of politics for a time.
As things became more difficult, the National Cabinet became less cohesive. Blame game and politics-as-usual took over, distracting from the real work of finding solutions to difficult problems.
The country is facing uncertain economic prospects. The University of Sydney’s Policy Lab brought together community, climate, unions, and business groups to develop strategies for creating a new way of making policies and building a new economy. This product is the Real Deal report that we released this week. The Real Deal is not a policy document that promises to solve all the problems created by the pandemic.
We attempted to move beyond the failed ideologies and battlegrounds of the past century. We are not calling for free markets and big welfare states or simple solutions such as budget surpluses and endless stimulus packages. Instead, we call for a new relationship between markets, government, civil society. We are advocating for more collaboration and mass participation in public life.
How Do We Accomplish Pandemic This?
Collaboration is possible when multiple groups have the power and ability to reach agreements. This was evident during the second wave in the Victoria pandemic. Members of the United Workers Union at a Coles distribution warehouse were able quickly to push for their workplace to be more COVID-safe using the Occupational and Safety Act. Management made a number of changes.
These workers managed to reduce the spread of the virus in comparison to places like Cedar Meats warehouse. They also secured better deals for their families and helped keep food on the shelves at supermarkets.
When unusual partners work together, innovative solutions are possible. For example, in Queensland, a diverse group of unions, religious organizations, and community organizations called the Queensland Community Alliance worked with researchers to develop a strategy for tackling loneliness.
The solution was not about spending lots of money. It was about transforming the way people use the state’s health system. A new role in the health department, call link worker, was create to help people navigate the mazes of services that are available to them. This could save time and money.
Includes The Participation Pandemic
A policy that includes the participation of all citizens is better. Local unions, environmental groups and community members have formed an unusual alliance in the Hunter Valley, Australia’s largest region for coal mining. They are trying to find solutions to the region’s declining economy due to the closing of mines because of climate change.
The new group met with residents and asked their opinions. They proposed new industries and jobs that would create economic security.
Participatory policy-making such as this works better when the government considers people co-producers and not just observers and barriers to change. It is most effective when it is base on the live experiences and needs of those who will be affect.
This weakness was evident during the pandemic, when policymakers fail to consider how different groups would be affected by their policies, such as people with mental illness, residents of Melbourne’s public housing towers, or temporary migrants.
Effective policy-making places affected people at center of these discussions. This is similar to the way that the disability sector has advocated for a nothing but us without us approach.
Five Benchmarks To Help Us Choose The Right Solutions
These ideas were put into practice when we created the Real Deal Report. We started our research with real-life experiences of civil society leaders listening to their stories, and then responding to the problems they were facing.
This research was presented to an international panel of economists and academics. Then, we began the slow process of creating a new framework. We looked for case studies, real solutions that were tested in the field by our colleagues like those outlined above.