Press Release

David Sless's Soap Box

David Sless’s Soap Box

Poor Form Behind $60 Billion Jobkeeper Bungle Avoidable

The error by the government estimating jobkeeper numbers could have been avoided had the Government not used a poorly designed form. This is the view of Professor David Sless, Director of the Communication Research Institute (CRI), an international not-for-profit based in Melbourne, and a leading expert in public document design: those forms, bills, notices and statements that we all reluctantly put up with.

Professor Sless said, “There is a growing number of government agencies that should be embarrassed and held to account for their poor public document design. This is not just poor administration, but millions of people are routinely disadvantaged and traumatised by poorly designed public documents”

“Australia used to be a leader in good public document design, but it is now rapidly deteriorating as shown by recent high-profile examples that shame us all”, said Sless today.

Through its International Communication Benchmark program, CRI researches how these documents are designed and regulated around the world.

Sless stresses that there is a better solution within our reach. “Our Institute has set up standards and procedures which when used result in effective forms. These give you the right information first time, every time. This makes it easier for consumers to fill them out and provides government with accurate information, with far less taxpayer dollars being lost due to error,” he said.

But Sless notes that international standards are being overlooked as forms get developed without the proper checks and balances.

The ABC 7:30 report on the Federal Government’s redress program for survivors of sexual abuse said that the 72-page form the survivors had to complete was described by a traumatised form-filler as “like being raped again”.

The ABC also reported that a farmer and bushfire victim in the Bega Valley said it took five or six weeks to assemble all the paperwork he needed for an application for bushfire relief.

“These are common experiences” said Professor Sless. “Ask anyone who has to fill out a Centrelink form. And public documents extend into many government-regulated areas like medicine, financial services, food, and farm and garden chemicals, whose information on packaging and labelling are heavily regulated by government.

“In all these areas we are seeing either no improvements or a serious decline in the quality of information people have to put up with in daily life. Overall, this reduces the quality of life for everyone. It’s a choice between the traumatising dead hand of bureaucracy and the sharing hand of democracy.”