Tom Burton: Why Dr Karl did Treasury a big favour


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Dr Karl went rogue this week, upsetting Treasury’s first big foray into digital engagement, but injecting some much needed real opinion into the Challenge of Change campaign. Is this an engagement lesson that departments can learn from?

Joe Hockey’s conversation about our economic future went off script this week, when Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, the ABC science boffin fronting the Challenge of Change campaign, decided it did not talk enough about climate change.

The ever colourful Dr Karl had been hired to help get the public engaged in Federal Treasury’s latest Inter Generational Report — the 40 year outlook document that seeks to make sense of the larger demographic and economic trends shaping the nation.

But by weeks end Dr Karl had donated his earnings from the engagement to a school, declaring it had all got too nasty in the social media chat rooms.

This in turn prompted another round of left/right, green/brown, ABC/News Corp missives about the rights/wrongs of Dr Karl’s public utterances and the ubiquitous Challenge of Change bus posters, TV ads, and You Tube videos and associated website and social media sites.

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  • Louise

    I’ve found the challenge for change campaign very interesting ever since I saw the first YouTube ad. I agree that it’s encouraging that Treasury have started to adopt digital, even if they weren’t really ready for two way communication. What I am also interested in now is the role of spokesperson in a digital campaign. Here we see Karl ask people to form their own opinions, but he was criticised heavily via social for his involvement. Will any public figure, wanting to remain apolitical, be able to put their name to a report without seeming like they are aligned to the Government of the day?

  • Alun Probert

    This is such a well written piece

    Aside from the discussion of the ad campaign, it gets to the real nub of the open engagement question, which is that public organisations world wide are learning that they are participants (ideally) not governors in discussions on their activities.

    Interesting to see Obama’s team release data about web visits but wouldn’t it be so much better to make government accountable for improvements in service delivery? Never mind the interrogation of back end data, tell us exactly what did the investment in digital channels achieve? faster? cheaper? better? Are we learning for the future?

    Ultimately whether enabled by digital or not, isn’t that always the end goal? Improvement in the delivery of services?

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