‘Let’s put the people back into politics’ says The New Democracy Foundation, an organisation that believes political reform starts with the people. They have won a $300K federal government grant to look at ‘Creating And Analysing A Citizens’ Parliament: Exploring The Public’s Deliberative Capacity’ – how we might have democracy without political parties?
I recently heard Luca Belgiorno-Nettis of Transfield Services interviewed by the ABC’s Jon Faine. He and his wife have personally put $750,000 into the project. Luca says,
“As a director in a private company, I was regularly set upon by the political parties to contribute to their electoral campaigns.
What became increasingly apparent was how similar they all sounded. There was little real policy difference…I became perplexed by what appeared to me to be wasteful debate, unnecessarily polarising the community in the process.
At one function in challenging a Parliamentarian that there must be a better way, I was shrugged off as if there could not possibly be any.”
Replying to PWF’s Weak Democracy…Citizens have No Real Role Ian Plowman (University of Queensland School of Business and Online Opinion writer ‘Why would people speak up if they’re only going to be ignored?) states that he has investigated innovation within organisations and found that hierarchy naturally and automatically blocks information flows upwards.
Those in leadership positions are driven by ‘need for power’, a neurochemically-underpinned condition that blocks creativity in self and others. The creative wisdom that organizations require tends to remain unheard within the ranks. He quotes his research:
“Leadership is a two-edged sword. It is an act of civic responsibility. It is also an act of denying someone else the opportunity to gain civic experience. The more that civic experience is shared, the healthier and more innovative is the community’
To free up those creative voices, I have developed a process of social dialogue that is as counterintuitive as it is effective. Based on evolutionary psychology, ‘Meetings without Discussion’ enables respectful dialogue to occur between any number of people, from two to hundreds. It is great fun, delivers participation, understanding, ideas and commitment, in substantially less time than most meetings we attend.”
Is this similar I wonder to the ‘dialogue without debate’ process used by the fledgling Australian Study Circles Association?
There IS a lot of talk about deliberative democracy at the moment – maybe the time has come to ‘tweak our democratic process’? Criticism of hidden power and how it is wielded – or NOT wielded – is making its way into the public arena. For example:
1. Our Pollies Are Gutless On Obesity says Professor Ilona Kickbusch, a public health consultant to the Swiss Government, ‘Thinker in Residence’ and guest speaker at the Tipping The Scales Against Obesity Conference in Adelaide.
Ilona was highly critical of our politicians’ approach to obesity, which is set to affect four in 10 children by 2025, and found the lack of commitment surprising as Australia was seen as a world leader in tackling smoking and tobacco advertising.
Last month Labor dumped proposals to ban junk-food advertising and stop the use of movie and television characters to promote fast food, reportedly after industry lobbying. The decision brought the party in line with Coalition policy. Ilona says,
“Childhood obesity is increasing by 1 per cent a year, which means that by 2025 at least 40 per cent of all children in Australia will be obese.
The health consequences are enormous – diabetes, chronic fatigue … and for the first time in the last 150 years, it could mean a reduction in life expectancy.
There is already significant action taking place overseas and Australian politicians could build on that…
If Pepsi is not selling sweet drinks in schools in the United States, then we expect Pepsi not to sell sweet drinks in schools in Australia. That would make a significant difference (here).
I’m very surprised, because in a number of other countries politicians are much more courageous than that, particularly in relation to fast food and soft drinks…”
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger pressured US soft-drink companies with regulation to make them remove drinks from schools and British television regulator OFCOM has ruled that no fast-food advertising targeting children under 16 should appear on television.
2. The Right To Know Report has found the flow of information is
“blocked by a growing culture of secrecy, defensiveness and mutual mistrust within government is whittling away press freedom in Australia and denying the public access to crucial information.”
The Right To Know coalition of leading media outlets representing print, radio and TV commissioned the research.
We have one comment on participative democracy, what do you think about the ‘public’s deliberative capacity’?