Policy Briefing Day

After doing the group work for the policy brief I am reflecting on the six points raised by Gabrielle Bammer
1.Taking a systems view
3.Boundary setting
4.Problem framing
5.Taking values into account
6.Harnessing and managing differences

I think that in the process that the whole group took on China relations and our smaller group took on environmental relations with China succeeded fairly well in working to this framework. We tried to fit our piece of the puzzle into the broader system of political and regional relationships. We carefully chose which parts of the problems we thought we could have an effect on (environmental management skills, photovoltaics, carbon capture and storage) and from there we set boundaries. We tried to frame the problem positively recommending a positive and collaborative relationship with China while considering the interest and value that Australia has from its own context. As much as I really don't like group work I have begun to feel, towards the end of semester the process of harnessing and managing differences has become more effective and I have learnt a lot from my colleagues.
The parliament house exercise was a lesson in learning that things will never go as planned. However, I think that through missing out on the session with the policy advisor we gained a lot talking to specialists at ANU. Our adaptability came to create something positive out of a negative situation.
The policy briefing day was a good exercise but it also felt frustrating having to minimise such complicated problems to the scope of the exercise. Despite the frustration I suppose that it garnered empathy for the pressures faced by policy makers and politicians who need to deal with such issues on a day to day basis. I felt that for every piece of information I read there was so much more I could and should know.

For all the complicated issues that we talked about on the day I was immediately struck by a very simple failing. The arrangement of the room made it incredibly difficult to pay attention to the information that was being made by the student 'think tanks'. Although this is quite insignificant in the scheme of things I think it is metaphorical of the thing that I keep getting stuck on: Complex problems are often complicated by issues in communication and the perceptions of the invisible stakeholders, the public.

I was impressed by the group that were dealing with the balances between corporate interests and population health. I thought that the recommendations that they offered took small parts of the problem and offered measurable, practical solutions that communicated appropriately with the audience. I.e. The red-orange-green traffic light system was something that would not achievable.

This same results driven approach was employed by the refugee group who focused on the economic positives of humanitarian migration rather than framing the problem with a scare tactic approach.

Once again the importance of communication was shown with the group who addressed the aging population. Their presentation was obviously very well researched with a basis of solid evidence but the way in which they presented it obfuscated their message. They often swapped speakers and had people standing up and sitting down. This was accompanied by a very detailed powerpoint presentation. There was so much stimuli that on reflection I have no memory of the facts that they presented.

The pretend PM reiterated Jamila's point of talking at a level and manner appropriate to your audience. As well we were all criticised for not considering economic information carefully enough. This was true but we found that the information was incredibly hard to find with the resources available.

I think the exercise was effective. I started with no real knowledge of the China-Australia relationship other than what I had gleaned from newspaper headlines. By the end of the fortnight I felt like I had an insight and opinion on the problem and that I had benefited from the knowledge of my student colleagues.