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Monday, January 07, 2008

Lots of voices out there for making democracy work better

GetUp! the citizen activist group that had quite a bit of impact during the federal election, followed this up with a series of over 320 "GetTogethers" in December during which participants were invited to talk about the most pressing priorities for the next parliament.

Anne Summers provided an overview of the results last week in the Sydney Morning Herald.

No surprise that climate change topped the list and a whole range of issues to do with civil liberties and social justice came in second, followed by concern about the situation of indigenous Australians and treatment of refugees.

But according to Summers, what did surprise organisers was the "huge" desire of participants to improve the process of democracy, including ways to make the political system more transparent.

Greater openness in the conduct of government functions, including Freedom of Information laws that work effectively, is not only necessary for accountability purposes, but also to enhance understanding of issues, and to encourage participation in public affairs. Our democracy is the poorer as a result of the ongoing culture of secrecy that still pervades many areas of government activity.

The lesson for those politicians (read the Rudd Government and the Premiers of Queensland and Victoria) who have spoken about the need for change in this area, is that they should keep moving to translate words into action; and for those political leaders satisfied with the status quo (read the other state and territory governments with a particular mention for NSW and SA) that they need to listen more closely to the voices for change.

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