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The Future of Democracy

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The Future of Democracy from Eidos Institute on Vimeo.

 

Something unforeseen has happened to Western democracy in the early decades of the 21st century, and professors and pundits around the globe are struggling to make sense of it. Seven years after the empty democratic promises of the Arab Spring, a bleak Occidental Autumn has settled over the landscape. Populism is on the rise. And the political class – statesmanship itself – is on the nose.

The future of mainstream politics may depend on its capacity for renewal and reform, a point Luca Belgiorno-Nettis is keen to drive home. His ambitions are focused on reform of the system from the outside.

"When I say to people that a lot of political debate seems quite shallow and self-interested, that it's more about winning the daily news battle than the long cycle of policy formulation, that it's about cheap point-scoring, they begin to see the need for an alternative. Our democratic structure is sub-optimal. We can do better. But unless you can provide an alternative as robust as the present model, they think you're talking hot air."

Based on a national survey of 1071 people, taken for newDemocracy in March, in which 54 per cent agreed that the current political system is broken and isn't working. 71 per cent felt that everyday people should play a bigger part in government decisions that affect their lives.

These question we are seeking ideas and contributions to is simply: Can democracy be done better?

 

 

Hivers and event attendees shared their thoughts and lived experiences with Luca Belgiorno-Nettis on 27th July at Parliament House, Queensland, Australia.   

 

Challenge Opened: 02:41 AM, Thursday 20 July 2017
Challenge Closes: 04:30 AM, Wednesday 30 August 2017
Time to go: Closed

 

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The context

Since 2004 Eidos has engaged with national political, corporate, government and public leaders on the single issue: better policy, better Australia. From his lived experience as an Australian Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, we are continually inspired by Terry Moran’s throughout the years of Eidos’ work:

  • ‘… there are important elements, such as a measure of shared responsibility for the wellbeing of all in our community and the social cohesion it promotes that are not readily tradeable in a market place’ Terry Moran, ‘The Quiet Revolution — Observations on public policy’, IPAA Seminar (May 2005)
  • ‘the engagement of citizens is ‘not only the right thing to do but will provide a rich new source of ideas to government’…‘that ‘we need not only to consult citizens, but invite them to collaborate in the design of services and of policy. Citizen engagement in service and policy design is not only the right thing to do but will provide a rich new source of ideas to government’  Moran, The future of the Australian Public Service: challenges and opportunities, CPA Australia's 2010 Neil Walker Memorial Lecture, 13 October 2010 , viewed 6 February 2011, http://www.dpmc.gov.au/media/speech_2010_10_14.cfm
  • ‘that ‘new technologies are creating opportunities for government to improve the services it offers to citizens’; and that ‘collaboration with the public, industry, academia and other governments will be needed to identify the best solutions’ APSC, Empowering Change: Fostering innovation in the Australian Public Service, 2010, p. ix, viewed 10 December 2010
  • ‘the times have changed. The needs and expectations of the Australian people have changed. And the public service must change with them. ...  It must deliver better services for citizens and better policy advice to government. And it must renew its commitment to putting people first. ... As our reforms propose change not simply to structures and procedures but to practices, attitudes and minds, they will take time to be embedded.’T Moran, ‘Ahead of the Game: Moran’s mixed reviews’, The Public Sector Informant (Canberra Times), 6 April 2010, pp. 1–5.

It’s for this reason that Eidos seeks to deepen the discussion by inviting New democracy’s Luca Belgiorno-Nettis AM to Brisbane to share his thoughts on the Future of Government in Parliament House on 27th July, 2017. Luca is Managing Director of Transfield Holdings and many of its subsidiary companies, as well as a Director of Sydney Harbour Tunnel Ltd. Luca holds a Bachelor of Architecture (UNSW), a Graduate Diploma in Urban Estate Management (UTS) and a Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Western Sydney University. He also held a number of positions on not-for-profit boards and committees, including Chairman of the University Art Committees at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) and Western Sydney University. Luca also chaired the Biennale of Sydney from 2000 to 2014. Luca was made a member of the Order of Australia in 2009 for service to the arts and to the community through a range of philanthropic endeavours and executive roles.

The future of mainstream politics may depend on its capacity for renewal and reform, a point Luca Belgiorno-Nettis is keen to drive home. His ambitions are focused on reform of the system from the outside. Something unforeseen has happened to Western democracy in the early decades of the 21st century, and professors and pundits around the globe are struggling to make sense of it. Seven years after the empty democratic promises of the Arab Spring, a bleak Occidental Autumn has settled over the landscape. Populism is on the rise and the political class – statesmanship itself is on the nose. The future of mainstream politics may depend on its capacity for renewal and reform, a point Luca Belgiorno-Nettis is keen to drive home. His ambitions are focused on reform of the system from the outside. Here’s his most recent thoughts for consideration in preparation for a lively discussion on the 27th July in Brisbane:

Thank you Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, Deans, Staff, distinguished guests, graduates and your families and friends.

In the beginning, eons ago, before graduations, sex and comedy, there was sound – a Big Bang apparently - and probably some malodorous gases. But there was no one to hear, nor smell. Today we have music, talk and Real Housewives of Sydney. In this fine country, we’ve made great advances: we’ve got a Reality TV show fusing comedy and tragedy, without even knowing it.

Australia was a special place when my parents arrived from Italy in the 50’s. It still is, but there are ominous signs of decline. Just one viewing of Real Housewives reveals a creeping malaise. It’s our duty to fight back against bad makeup and fashion. I’m sure our fashion undergraduates here tonight are onto it.

Also as a sophisticated and well travelled audience, you’ll all appreciate the need for good design. My father, loved industrial design, and Italy still surprises. One invention of theirs may be a small, but it brings great happiness.

The French have a word for it: they call it ‘the little pony’, and it’s the Italians who have universally hopped onto it. However, there are very many countries - and I’m sorry to say Australia is one of them - which have been slow to mount the pony. We think we’re living in the first world, but let me tell you something. A few weeks ago, my family and I were with with my Italian father-in-law…. my wife is here in the audience to attest …well, we all travelled to London, to give him a treat for his 90th birthday. He’d never been to the UK before, and he was simply shocked to see how incomplete his hotel bathroom was. You don’t have to be a clinical psychologist to appreciate how convenient the bidet is over showering.

Well, this may appear to be a bit rambling so far… but I am trying to cover off all our fine graduands here tonight. It’s not easy, it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

Seriously, what I really want to focus on, in the few minutes that I have, is the question of choice. Life is as much about choices, as anything. Some personal, some public. It’s our lot…we can’t escape having to make choices. In a real sense, it distinguishes us as humans. We choose to do this, that or the other. One might say chance plays a role, but that’s not really up to us. Often the art is in making the right choice when the chance presents itself.

In 1951, my father, as a young engineer had the opportunity to come to either Australia or Argentina. At the time, my mother advised him that Australia would be a better choice. Italy had just come out of a military regime, and it wasn’t such a good idea to go into another. And so they chose to come here. That was a great chance and a good choice. It was also a fortuitous time, as Australia was embarking on its biggest ever resource infrastructure program, and my father, and the company he was about to establish, rode that pioneering wave.

I was born lucky. I’ve been blessed with building a career around that successful family business. I graduated as an Architect, and then came to UTS to do a postgraduate in Urban Estate Management. Now, after 30 years in business, together with my brother, I look after the family investments, as well as my own private ones. But it was in the course of doing large infrastructure projects with government, that I started to get interested in how public choices are made. And how the political machinery worked. I was regularly approached by political parties to donate to their election campaigns. And that got me thinking: Why support one party, and not the other? And I often saw how good projects became sidelined because of political expediency. For example, a new road project wouldn’t proceed in a particular location, as it was in an opposition electorate. That wasn’t often, but I thought that should never be part of democratic, public decision-making.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well I don’t know how to tell you anything tonight, or how to even pretend to give advice, without uncovering my own lived experience. And perhaps my experience, and my thinking, might give you some insight. Just perhaps!

When my parents settled down in Australia in the 50’s, Robert Menzies was Prime Minister. He was like a good sofa, not just part of the furniture, he was the furniture: comfortable and reliable: the longest serving Prime Minister ever. Back then, we respected our politicians. Now, it’s completely changed. When Australians are asked today whether ‘People in Government can be trusted’, barely 25% agree. Correct, only a quarter of us trust our politicians. But we’re not alone. In virtually every country, survey after survey, politicians don’t rate much higher than car salesmen. Plumbers are more respected. Doctors and nurses remain the most respected. Even though politicians are hard working and well meaning, we still don’t trust them. Why?

Because, I think, in the past, Politicians were more like Patricians. Today it’s a continuous election contest, a never-ending Punch and Judy show. And people are sick and tired of it. Real Housewives is better viewing.

There is so much media, so many voices, that the power has dispersed, and there is limited space for political elites. And because they’ve lost the capacity to collaborate (if they ever had it) there is just so much more disillusionment around politicians.

So with a few other sick and tired friends, we set up The newDemocracy Foundation. We wanted to see if democracy could be done better, and we really think it can. We think it’s the system, not the politicians, who are generally good people, stuck in a fight club.

I wouldn’t have gotten that interested in politics if it weren’t for my career in public infrastructure, and the support of the big family business. So how do we think the system can be fixed?

Democracy, when it was originally conceived, never had elections. Yes that’s right, elections are a recent device. The genius of democracy was that it encouraged social cohesion. And Elections do the opposite: they divide and conquer. I know this sounds like blasphemy. Every book on democracy has as its first chapter: ‘Free and Fair Elections.’

The Council of Athens was randomly selected, like a jury, from the citizens at large, rich and poor. We use it everyday in our criminal courts, over matters of life and death. Many European city states, during the Renaissance, used it to determine their governing class. But for a peculiar set of circumstances - mostly to do concentrating power – it fell out of favour. But there is a growing sense that the time is ripe again for citizen juries.

The Irish used it in 2012 for their Constitutional Convention, where most of the delegates were randomly recruited. That Convention was the one that agreed to proceed on their marriage equality referendum. And in South Australia last year 350 citizens deliberated on, and determined not to proceed with an international high level nuclear waste facility.

I won’t labour on…for now. I just want to say that there are proposals in several countries to trial a third house - a Citizens’ Senate - like paid national service.

So that’s my career.

I thought some insights might come out for you.

I’m hoping one of you clinical psychologists can counsel me after this.

As well as the comms graduates.

I’m sure this speech could do with some serious editing, if not a total re-write. My wife would probably agree.

What can I say by way of conclusion. Each of you will have your own trajectory, your own passions. I hope that you all prosper and find fulfillment.

We are a lucky, lucky country…

…and before planet earth dissolves into malodorous gases again - taking Australia with it...

...before we drown in plastic, and Reality TV...

...before we get dispirited by bad design and fashion...

We have choices to make.

Thank you Chancellor.

Luca Belgiorno-Nettis

 

Hivers and Attendees share their thoughts and live experiences with Luca at Parliament House on the 27th of July. 

 

Challenge Opened: 02:41 AM, Thursday 20 July 2017
Challenge Closes: 04:30 AM, Wednesday 30 August 2017
Time to go: Closed

Do you want to contribute to this challenge?

Challenge Activity

Challenge Activity

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Dion McCurdy is now contributing to this challenge The Future of Democracy

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Anna Willis is now contributing to this challenge The Future of Democracy

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Robert Lamb is now contributing to this challenge The Future of Democracy

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Robert Lamb commented on the challenge The Future of Democracy

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/may/23/transfield-boss-says-political-donations-bought-access-to-mps

The managing director of Transfield Holdings, Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, says his company made political donations because “it was fairly plain that that bought access” to politicians and created opportunities to influence events.

Belgiorno-Nettis told Monday’s Four Corners program political donations were like the Latin saying Do Ut Des, “You give in order to have given back.”

“I think it was fairly plain that [donations bought access in terms of the ability to simply be able to knock on the door and make the phone call and have the meeting with the political masters to voice whatever concerns that we might have, or indeed just to explore further relationships and further potential opportunities,” said the prominent businessman, who has now renounced donations and founded the newDemocracy foundation.

Unless Australia reforms political donations, the trust deficit will grow.

He also told the program it would be “difficult to deny” that the company’s political donations helped the company gain an unsolicited contract worth $750m to build the harbour tunnel in Sydney.

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Michael Young is now contributing to this challenge The Future of Democracy

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Greg Ireton is now contributing to this challenge The Future of Democracy

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Alex Freeman is now contributing to this challenge The Future of Democracy

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Lillian Tiddy is now contributing to this challenge The Future of Democracy

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Bill Wyatte commented on the challenge The Future of Democracy

Without any change, our existing democratic institutions have the capability to do much better and much worse.   The difference between the two results is us.

Our social contract is premised on the fact that we are generally good.  A better democracy is therefore achieved by identifying then negating those things that would have us be less than our best.  That would have us being good people doing bad things.

This is already reasonably conceived and is there to build upon.  Examples. 

-No ideal is so important that it justifies evil action. 

-Demeaning or de-humanising our opponents is a first step towards denying them the rights or benefits we willingly accord others.  

-Success leaves us prone to judging our own transgressions less harshly but judging others' failings more harshly. 

There are many such factors.  How we deal with them in our individual behaviour will impact the quality of our democracy more profoundly than institutional reform.

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Anthony Welch is now contributing to this challenge The Future of Democracy

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Anthony Welch commented on the challenge The Future of Democracy

The point about how our politicians are selected is a valid one - the last thing we need is a cohort of professional pollies, from a very narrow set of backgrounds. 

More broadly, the erosion of democracy has been fostered by the Neo-Liberal project in recent decades, that, while increasing wealth overall, has widened the gap between haves and have nots. Nor can this process any longer be seen just in national terms - (economic) globalisation has widened and sharpened these gaps both within and between nations. Just read Hillbilly Elegy, on the effects on the working class in the Appalachians etc. Here, the effects are mitigated somewhat by a better public health system etc., but the fissiparous effects are still troubling, and show no sign of ending. 

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Saleena Ham is now contributing to this challenge The Future of Democracy

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Saleena Ham commented on the challenge The Future of Democracy

The erosion of democracy is in three areas:

1: the corrosive effect of donors.  The big money, the vested interests are polluting the vision and motivation of those who are elected representatives.  There is no transparency but it is a poisonous and powerful influence.  The public would be shocked. (or maybe not).

2: the erosion of integrity in the Political parties.  The internal factional fighting means that people coming in with fresh ideas and new blood, are crushed, contained or corralled into leaving or joining The Game.  This is all parties.  Young hotshots who become addicted to the adrenaline of the zero-sum issue of the day, or cynical participants involved for personal gain...either way, the roost is ruled by a small number of men.  No one with ambition argues with them. You are with them or you are in a war with them or you are out.  This impacts pre-selections.  They exclusively decide who will get the votes of a very small number of party folk, who are given voting instructions by one side or the other: they decide who will stand and in what seat.

3: apathy of the general public.  too busy, too bored, too cynical, too apathetic to get involved at a community level, an industry level, a regional level to make their voices matter.  Voices outside the party processes are powerful - far more powerful than voices inside the Party.  Until we rise up as people to take political action, we will be at the mercy of the extremes, those who WILL join a political party and wear the gag, take instruction, sip the power-aid of the party men.  There are some community advocacy organisations that give some structure for this, Get Up, Sporting Shooters Assn, Solar Citizens, ACOSS and others.  They have power when the community gives it to them.

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Bohdana Szydlik is now contributing to this challenge The Future of Democracy

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Bill Wyatte is now contributing to this challenge The Future of Democracy

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Iain Walker is now contributing to this challenge The Future of Democracy

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A new solution was published The Future of Democracy - The King With No Clothes

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Ryan Menner commented on the challenge The Future of Democracy

Wayne Sanderson Was a pleasure to meet you yesterday, your thoughts on a QLD being a fertile ground for Civic-Innovation e.g. citizen's assemblies, citizens juries etc. was particularly interesting. I also enjoyed our conversation after the event on Youth justice, and some of the innovative working being led in that space. Would be great to hear some more of your thoughts and perspectives here, and of course please share any articles, reports etc. that I can upload into the library section of this challenge. 

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Ryan Menner is now contributing to this challenge The Future of Democracy

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Ryan Menner commented on the challenge The Future of Democracy

Luca Belgiorno-Nettis  Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experiences yesterday at Eidos Conversations. It was excellent to hear the diversity of thoughts and perspectives from a highly-stimulated audience. If there are any further reports, articles, blogs etc. to share please let me know I will put them up on the library. 

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Kevin Mulvogue is now contributing to this challenge The Future of Democracy

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Kevin Mulvogue commented on the challenge The Future of Democracy

The obvious answer to the question is yes. Virtually anything can be done better. Is Australia democracy in dire need of improving though? It seems so of late. Yet I cannot recall a time when our politicians and politics in general were held highly. Certainly not in the past 50 years. And Menzies had many detractors, so too Chifley before him. Apparently many people distrusted ministers and their departments before Federation even.

It's as if we are inclined to abuse if not despise those in power, not because they are in power, but because we continue to perceive that there are problems in trusting them with power. In much of our short history we have witnessed many examples of poor decision making, with consequent poor outcomes - hence we throw up our hands in disgust whenever another issue or decision appears grossly wrong. Like climate change or our handling of the Great Barrier Reef.  If anything can be done to make democracy better then would not our trust in politicians and political procedures be a good place to start?

The comments above certainly address means to a better end. Media accountability, choosing our parliamentary representatives so that they are truly representative, speed of decision making while also incorporating a diversity of views (beyond the close-minded interest groups and focus groups still in sway), and other fine overseas observations - all these would make a difference towards trusting political processes and those involved in them. There is just such a backlog of discontent - I wonder if we will ever feel/believe we are well served by our democracy.

Nonetheless, listening to a range of voices, reading the media less as fact than as one of those voices, having fixed term parliaments, a great deal more bipartisanship on critical issues such as health (surely a key area to address) and quality of debate that abolishes personal abuse and other forms of point scoring, are all very worthwhile courses of action. Can I just finish with one further way to gain citizen trust, one based on experience: public servants are the face of contact with government for many people using government services. A visit to government welfare servants in the past was one of assistance - they helped you get what you were entitled to if you were in need of help or advice. You were not badgered for information and disputed with re your needs, nor were you subjected to harsh waiting periods before you received deserved aid - it's as if we are not believed or trusted to be honestly deserving. Media perception is one thing, actual harsh treatment by our government towards those deserving a fairer chance for a decent life can only lead to further dismay with government.

Beginning at the grassroots as others here have asserted means more than dialogue - it requires of government the treatment of its less affluent citizens with decency, valuing their place in a democratic society. To that end we ought reassert the value of a truly public service, one that of serves those in need of it, not cajoles them.

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A new solution was published The Future of Democracy

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Lindley Edwards commented on the challenge The Future of Democracy

It is easy to see how government is letting us down, not in the day to day structures, processes and affairs - we have an orderly country which is in the top quartile on  most well being, affluence and quality of life  global indicators.  

Where the current political situation lets us down is in the strategic areas that debate, look at and create a sense of mapping out what it is that Australia needs to embrace, do, encourage, come to grips with, deal with that ensures that we hand on a good quality of life to future generations.  There is too much political point scoring, short termism and discussion based on rhetoric and ideology.  This crowds out the logical reasoning, the common sense, the wisdom of the crowd, intelligent disruption, innovation and the ability to together, truly deal with underlying matters/issues and wicked problems that we face.  

80% of the government time should be spent on the important issues, which are impacts of environmental degradation, future of our work force and skilling/education required (due to changes from robotics, AI and automation) ,  our role in globalisation and security (with our own sovereignty not caught between US and China interests as an example), ageing population (and what that requires), affordable housing and keepinga  fair, equitable and decent social fabric that recognises and promotes the rights of others  (not just ourselves) in our society are fundamental to a decent democracy.  

I personally find political posturing annoying and find that much of what is being talked about and debated are not the real issues - they are often not even side issues - but political point scoring or artificial differences.  I think its a wasted opportunity that we do not have key bipartisan policies that are stable for long term matters that require stability and multi year investment.   

A good democracy does require citizen participation and also that this participation is recognised and acted on by the representative of those citizens in government. I see little evidence of true representation by politicians - especially if it doesn't accord with party policy. 

Good democracy requires a dialoguing, listening, communicating with people with different views.  This requires that we hold the dialectic intelligently and respectfully.  The most that we have to learn is from people with different view points and to see that there is often not one right answer but many.  Instead of having politicians grandstanding or shouting each other down (like in the Q&A clip) or disagreeing just because they come from a different party (or the same party as recent 'spats' and leadership spills attest), we need to ask questions and find out why there are different views and what is informing them.  We have lost the ability to have respectful disagreement and to display the qualities of a first class intelligence, as described by F Scott Fitzgerald and hold opposing ideas without making one right or wrong and continuing to function.  (Actual quote is "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function".)

In closing this post, one of the most poignant songs written foretelling our inability to really truly value the great social fabric and advantages we have in this country - and therefore protect and maintain it - is the song "Little Kings" by Paul Kelly.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCCdxVQN4e8).  I agree with Luca and other commentators on this post and in other forums politics - democracy as it stands needs an overview.  

 

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Rose Grozdanic is now contributing to this challenge The Future of Democracy

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Kirstie Hepburn commented on the challenge The Future of Democracy

Agree with many of the points raised. A perspective from the UK here:

- representation: very few (if any) Western government bodies bear true reflection of the communities they are supposed to represent. A lack of women, people of colour, different beliefs and ideas. We need to focus attention in making it easier to get involved and campaign - at all levels. Democracy isn't just about being in Parliament, it's about using your voice to make change happen. Political organisations at the grass roots level need to encourage and help those who are interested in standing. Example bodies from the US are: Run for Something, Run to Win (Emily's List), She Should Run, Ready to Run. The Labour Party in the UK does subscribe to Emily's List thinking, but it's not enough. Running for office needs to be made easier, less scary. So that means starting at the lower levels.

- ease of voting: most countries make their voting practices time-consuming. Ballots are on different dates for different things, so it can be hard to keep up (and stay interested). For example, in Scotland, we have had major elections every year (referendum, national elections, UK government elections, Brexit vote etc). There is definite voter fatigue. Turnout for smaller elections such as councils is dismal. So we need to balance raising interest with these elections with decreasing the drain on time for voters. Hard balance to get! 

- the alternative is to promote political engagement as one 365-day a year cycle. This comes from top-down. Developing grassroots campaigners who might one day stand; running better social awareness campaigns. Helping people know how best they can use their vote and their energies. We need to ignite at a grassroots level, then see this engagement carried up the food chain.

- media / colouring view: this was certainly the case in the last UK general election. The media was more biased than it had ever been - and in the end, it didn't seem to make a difference. Media should be obliged to be impartial and deliver facts.

On a personal note, post-Brexit, I'd like to ensure any issue to be voted on that would change our constitution has at least 66% majority to pass.  

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Lindley Edwards is now contributing to this challenge The Future of Democracy

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Tina Connor is now contributing to this challenge The Future of Democracy

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Iain Walker Executive Director
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Bruce Muirhead Chief Executive Officer
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Lindley Edwards Group CEO
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Jim Varghese Chief Executive Officer
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Tanya Smith Principal
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Richard Ferrers Research Data Analyst
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Timothy London Head of Product and Design, MindHive
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Kaerlin McCormick Consultant
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Michael Young CEO
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Anthony Welch Professor of Education
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Ed Bernacki Innovationalist
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Victor Perton Founder
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Bill Wyatte Integrated Criminal Justice Governance and Program Manager
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Tina Connor Manager, Combat Sports, Government Reform
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Griffith University, Queensland, Australia Stenning Professor of Criminology and criminal Justice
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Greg Ireton Senior Business Development Manager
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Kirstie Hepburn Founder
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Timothy Flor Policy Analyst
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Carly Jayet OD Manager, Psychologist - Forbes Shire Council
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Gary Murphy General Manager Lismore City Council
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Lillian Tiddy Director Member Services LGNSW
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Rose Grozdanic L&D Coordinator Wollongong City Council
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Kevin Mulvogue Teacher - semi retired now
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Bohdana Szydlik Senior Community Engagement Officer
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Ryan Menner User Engagement Manager
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Saleena Ham
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Alex Freeman
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Robert Lamb Principal
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Anna Willis Policy Officer
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Dion McCurdy Director
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Documents associated with this challenge

File name File type Date uploaded Size (KB)
What is a Citizens' Jury?.pdf
.pdf
7/20/2017 55
WHY NOT HAVE A RANDOMLY SELECTED CONGRESS?.pdf
.pdf
7/20/2017 1,541
Citizens' engagement in policymaking and the design of public services.pdf
.pdf
7/22/2017 1,072
 

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