Why is regulation associated with domination? Why do people see regulation as a cost or burden? Why isn’t regulation seen as something that improves the quality of life? The broad aim of this project is to explain why we often waver in our trust in regulatory systems and to consider what is needed in the way of dialogue to establish respectful relations with communities and improve regulatory effectiveness.
This project investigates the argument that communities expect government to put in place regulatory systems that protect and offer benefits; they expect justice in regulatory goals and practice; and they expect regulatory systems that display integrity and affirm integrity, strengthening moral codes of conduct. Regulatory systems, however, sometimes fail to meet these expectations. Most notably, regulatory systems don’t always make sense to people and also sometimes fall short in delivering desirable outcomes. When regulation seems pointless and ineffective, implementation of and compliance with regulation become unwelcome impositions. Rules may be subverted – sometimes overtly, more often covertly; and in the process communities distance themselves from the regulating authority. With this distance comes cynicism in the form of loss of trust and hope. As a result, community members are reluctant to step up to the mark to offer cooperation to authorities. The result is that authorities have difficulty mobilising social and human capital in the regulatory process.
The project tests the propositions of this argument at 8 different ‘hot-spots’ where government is using its authority to shape the behaviours of citizens. The regulatory efforts at these hot-spots are designed to deliver: (a) quality hospital care; (b) economic and social well-being through income management for Indigenous Australians; (c) more efficient and equitable taxation for small business; (d) economic well-being for older Australians through superannuation; (e) prevention of school bullying; (f) higher quality schools through public rankings of school performance; (g) environmental sustainability through better water management in rural Australia; and (h) social cohesion in the resettlement of humanitarian refugees.