THE PROBLEM: The population of Australia is under-informed and under-engaged with the complex issues impacting the nation.
We as a population are responsible for the nation of Australia, with a government and public service that works for us – or at least on our behalf – to manage and deliver the future Australia we desire.
However, for many of us there is very little public engagement with the question of Australia’s future, or what country we want. Most Australians have virtually no opportunity to consider, or platform to express, the kind of Australia they want to be working toward.
We are responsible for this country, and yet our contribution to its direction is usually limited to voting for a preferred candidate in an election.
The government has access to those sorts of planning processes, as do many corporate entities, where they work with specialists to visualise their preferred future and how they might achieve it, but these do not usually include the public.
As a population, we are not always equipped to be able to tell whether the government is taking us towards or away from the future we want, because we do not have a picture of that future or metrics to measure progress toward it, nor are we often prompted or provoked to.
In addition to being under-engaged, the news available to most Australians about the problems facing us is low in information content and often distorted by partisan media bias. It is not always possible or practical to sort the signal from the noise.
As a consequence, the Australian population tends to be ill-served by media and consequently uninformed, particularly with regard to complex and interlinked crises such as climate change.
Not only are there insufficient platforms for most Australians to engage with the broader issues facing the country, we are not equipped to take advantage of those that do exist.
Topics such as vaccines, genetically modified food, nuclear power and climate change are examples of areas where ideology rather than evidence tends to drive discourse.
Climate change in particular has been drastically polarised in the media. As futurist Ken Eklund puts it, climate change has become ‘a scorched earth war of talking points with no safe place left for the common person to venture hopes or fears or express what they know.’
The power to make decisions for the country, and the critical tools to make sense of these choices, rests with a vanishingly small subset of the population.
In the long run, this is to no-one’s benefit.