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Friday, August 03, 2012

Democracy-Can we be Optimistic?

I'm on a panel discussing this at the Northside Forum tomorrow with Professor Johnathon Keane of the University of Sydney and Matthew Thompson NSW Editor of The Conversation. Free, at  the Union Hotel Pacific Highway North Sydney 12-2pm if you have the time and interest. 

Should the size of the turnout determine the answer? 

(Update: 65 on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Sydney with lots of competing attractions helps to confirm the topic is of interest.The discussion also confirmed, contrary to the ongoing campaign by Allan Jones, that democracy isn't dead, or at least that's what John Keane and I and most in the audience took away. Matthew Thompson, and I'm paraphrasing here suggested most people just want to enjoy life and democracy doesn't excite or warrant attention unless you live under a tyrant. Hmm..

In brief, my take was
  • our democracy has good bones but could do with a few large transplants and supplements, to mention just two, better rules and more disclosure regarding political donations and lobbying. Despite recent rumblings from some of our home-grown muti-millionaires we're nowhere near the situation in the US where the Citizen United decision seems to open the door to billionaires to do their best to buy the election.
  • democracy is no steady state and needs a lot of nurturing and close attention from an informed and engaged citizenry. Now that's an area where the people need to lift the game. We wouldn't rate too high on John Keane's "monitory democracy" scale.
  • no-one should think democracy automatically produces able, intelligent representatives and leaders. With occasional aberrations in fact, mediocre is the word that mostly comes to mind after running over those mentioned in Nick Bryant's recent article on the Global Mail. (As Bryant points out Andrew Leigh Member for Fraser in the ACT appears to be one of those exceptions. Read this recent speech for clear signs of intelligent, reasoned public thinking The Naked Truth? Media and Politics in the Digital Age.) 

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