By Alexander Corne
Accountability almost appears to have become a dirty word in both government and within the ballooning public servant ranks.
Witness that in Victoria, triggering a death toll three times that of the road toll doesn’t stimulate real apology, or even an acceptance of responsibility, by anyone.
Yet, we, the citizens, are constantly bombarded by ‘public safety’ messages from government, reminding us of our ‘responsibilities and the fact that we need to be constantly monitored to ensure compliance with many and various rules. Funnily enough, no such campaigns trumpet the need for political accountability.
“Catching you before someone gets hurt,” the TAC billboard sternly threatens.
Seriously, how mind-bogglingly arrogant are these desk-driving wonks?
And why is the focus solely on road-related deaths?
Are the police and heroic emergency services personnel not also sick of scraping suicide victims off the roadway, or attending yet another distressing domestic violence scene.
Funny how you never see billboards accusing the populace in general of being inherently suicidal or intrinsically natured to beat the living daylights out of their family members. Although, in the latter case, some of the ‘public awareness’ campaigns have got perilously close to demonising all members of one gender.
Of course, it may have something to do with the measurability and predictability of vehicle-related offending.
Some bright spark created a notional maximum speed for each stretch of road and another sparkie ordered a speed measuring device, and, given that you need a driving license and are allowed a randomly determined 12 points leeway before being drummed off the road, it’s quite simple and profitable to allocate points and issue fines to those breaking the road rules.
It’s not so simple with more complex areas of personal and public behaviour.
For example, thus far, the protectors of the public haven’t tumbled to the concept of modifying the marriage license for regular Joes and Jolenes so that it comes with a built-in demerit system. But just imagine if they did …
Say you get another 12 points system. A few bitchy words in the morning would be worth a single demerit point and $50 fine. A slap is three points and $150, and so forth, right up to injury occasioning death being 12 points with an immediate loss of license and, deservedly, an extremely lengthy term of imprisonment.
This is not meant in any way to trivialise the scourge of domestic violence, which is abhorrent in all its forms, but to illustrate how problematic it is to apply broad brush, penalty driven ‘solutions’ to serious community issues. The frightening bit is that in 2021, with the increase of data gathering and routine surveillance, it would not require too much of an extension of government intrusion into daily life to make such a ludicrous proposition a reality.
Remember the CovidSafe App? No. Me neither, but there’s already a SmartSafe+ app that helps victims of domestic violence, so with a bit of tweaking and integration with a smart watch…
Such punitive approaches are far easier to sell to the masses than the much more difficult and longer-term educational, and structural issues that need to be dealt with. After all, if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear. Right?
So, we citizens are expected to be responsible and held to account, even continually monitored, for fear we let our base nature loose.
Imagine if the populace were to hold politicians to a similar level of account?
When you arise to the lofty levels of government, perhaps you deserve a license along with a 12-point demerit system? Inappropriate contact with interns is worth a single demerit point and a reduction in your re-election budget, an on-going office affair earns three points, while actual sexual assault gets you six to 12 demerit points.
Naturally, being merely accused of some heinous sexual activity, many decades before, while a teenage pratt and under the influence of alcohol, is a 12-point hanging offence, leading immediately to a lifetime ban from civil society.
And if so, what of ‘forgetting’ or being ‘not aware’ of vital information that leads to catastrophic outcomes. What punishment awaits those who can’t recall who instituted policies that lead to the death of 800 innocents?
Oh yeah, that’s pointless.
Because the deaths of 800 persons, in one state, in the course of one year, three to four times the State’s road toll, is not worthy of any state government action. No TV campaigns. No billboards. No demerit points. No accountability required at all.
Funny that. Not.
Business does not enjoy such immunity. Have a quick look at Victoria’s new Industrial Manslaughter laws, which, as it happens, came into force on 1 July 2020 (timing is everything).
Perhaps if politicians applied the same standard they expect of businesses to themselves we might see a return to a greater sense of accountability of our ruling classes and, dare I say, see them leading by example. Maybe that could reduce the need for the constant behavioural lecturing of the populace? One should not hold one’s breath.
From a business standpoint the responsibility is all yours. What’s more, given the level of formal and informal monitoring of everything your business says and does, you had better believe you will be held accountable. Being seen to be responsible and accountable is now an essential part of sustaining any business of even moderate size. Our political masters may shirk that responsibility, for now, but business can ill afford to.
RMK+A is experienced in developing and implementing actions that assist businesses in communicating their responsibility and accountability processes to key stakeholders and in managing issues emerging from events for which businesses may be held accountable.