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From Hi-Text to Hi-Touch – The retreat from documentary consultation is not without its problems

One of the most obvious trends in public participation is the movement away from the traditional form of written consultation.

Time was when the consultative process meant one of two things – a committee or a big fact document. There were good reasons for this. Joint Standing Committees meant what they said; they were Joint in that they represented different interests; they were Standing in that they were there on a continuing basis – available as a means of dialogue to consider a range of issues that could be predicted to require consultation. Other types of committees perform similar functions. A Liaison Committee is often code for consultation. Advisory Committees likewise.

Machinery of this kind is often perceived as remote and bureaucratic; the old joke that they spend hours and take minutes is not too wide of the mark. In practice they often become just another phase of a documentary consultation process. A big fat paper is tabled, discussed, endorsed or amended and then goes somewhere else ……


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