Falklands : The Hon Mr Michael Poole, MLA Portfolio Report and Debate
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 07.02.2014 (Article Archived on 07.03.2014)
Thank-you Mr Speaker. My portfolio is Policy and Public Diplomacy so it is quite wide-ranging and includes the Policy Unit, the Environmental Planning Department – I also Chair the Tourist Board at the Moment and Public Diplomacy obviously as well.
The Hon Mr Michael Poole, MLA Portfolio Report and Debate
MP: Thank-you Mr Speaker. My portfolio is Policy and Public Diplomacy so it is quite wide-ranging and includes the Policy Unit, the Environmental Planning Department – I also Chair the Tourist Board at the Moment and Public Diplomacy obviously as well. With this being a new element to legislative Assembly, I think it will develop over time, however, we can approach these briefings.
As with everybody’s portfolio, there’s a lot going on – lots of moving parts at the moment. I think it would be impractical to cover everything so I will limit myself to key areas at this stage.
I will begin by noting that in Executive Council this week approved this Government’s broad approach to public diplomacy for the next four years. And I think we are committed to continuing the excellent work of previous governments in this area by getting our message of self-determination out to a wider audience overseas and inviting people in as well to see what the Falklands are about. I think a lot of it is just a continuation of what has gone on before.
There are a couple of key changes. Firstly people will see advertisements in penguin News and other areas inviting a wide range of the community to get involved in public diplomacy – to put their name forward to be part of a list to be held in Gilbert House to become involved in overseas trips, for helping with invited visitors as well.
And I think the second kind of change to the strategy – to the broad level is that yes, we are getting our message of self-determination out to a wider audience but we are also looking at wider areas of business interests, commercial interests – we are looking at creating educational links – that kind of thing. It’s really quite a broad programme and it’s not solely about getting that single message out.
The second area I would like to cover briefly is really the policy element of my portfolio responsibilities. We are currently updating the Islands’ Plan, as some people may have heard. Some may roll their eyes at this but I personally feel it is a fundamentally important document. It is a great mechanism for agreeing priorities as a government and getting them out there to the public. The Islands’ Plan has been around for quite a number of years now in different formats and different looks and feels to it. And I think that the broad approach to agree to an Islands’ Plan is that yes we need to look 10 years, 20 years out to achieve a broader vision but we also need a practical element to that. We’ve got four years as a government and we need to achieve things we want to so the final document we hope to publish this year, hopefully before the 1st of July and it will contain some longer term aspirations, also a practical focus that we can be held to Government as well, so the public can see that and hold us to account at the end of each year.
A piece of work that really links into the Islands’ Plan that has come out in some way is that is that we formally agree that we should review the Economic Development Strategy for the Islands. The Policy unit will be kicking that work off shortly. The EDS was only completed relatively recently but you are allowed two or three years on things have changed. The oil industry is in a slightly different place. Other industries have moved on as well. Whilst I think we did a lot with the Economic Development strategy, I think there is a lot we still should be following. I think it’s always worth refreshing that piece of work. And that’s what we intend to kick off shortly.
And finally I would just like to thank the Environmental Planning Office for their work across a number of areas currently. Public consultation will shortly commence on some proposed changes to the planning ordinance. And these changes include giving people the right to speak at the Planning and Building Committee and also to speak at EXCO as well if there is an appeal or if there is a need to. In addition some wording is due to be included in the ordinance giving the Falkland Islands Government the scope to potentially introduce development contributions and also environmental impact assessment for certain types of development as well. This leads to our discussion and I would urge the community to take a look at this once it is published to give us input.
I would also commend the Environmental Planning office for a recent move to remain open over occasional lunch hours and also later into the day and into the evening as well. They are not the only Department that does this. I think it is really good practice to try and make themselves as accessible as possible to the general public and that’s a really good step for them, so thanks to them for that.
On that positive note I shall wrap up. Thank you Mr Speaker.
PR: Thank you very much for that report. I found that very interesting particularly on the Public Diplomacy part. I would very much welcome the approach to look for special advisors that might travel with us overseas. I think it is really critical that we spread the load. I really don’t feel that 8 of us can do justice to the amount of work that’s required there. And I think we should be targeting all ages. We have looked at younger people but I think we are looking for all ages across the spectrum of people that can contribute and accompany MLAs overseas.
And I would just like to ask My Honourable Colleague, just when is that advertising process going to take place.
MP: thank you Mr Speaker. The advertisement should be in the Penguin News next week. Some of the paperwork has already gone out to students and to the schools and to a couple of local organisations as well but the intention is very much to advertise it publically but also send it through to organisations such as the Chamber of Commerce, the Rural Business Association, etc. So I think it will be widely distributed by the end of next week.