What are the two issues relating to democracy that needs public traction? (The Main Question After the 20th of March 2019 Meeting)

I would like to know before setting up the next Designing Open Democracy meetup.

What are the two issues relating to democracy that needs public traction?

Throw in your ideas and we can use that to shape the next meet!

Kenneth Coghill (Via email)

  1. Submission to APS Review responding to “Priorities for Change”, advocating stronger commitment to civil society engagement.

  2. Submission to Open Government Forum urging implementation of Commitment to civil society engagement.

Carol Campbell (Via Meetup. Slow internet)

  • The effect of Trump on truth, and the knock on effect to true informed Democracy

  • Particularly trust in democratic perticipation having any effect on society

Well, maybe I’m too blinkered; however, until we have a Universal Basic Income, the rest is just costly wasteful window-dressing. Political parties (all - Labor and Greens and Liberals and Nationals), GetUp, Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS), Council to Homeless Persons (CHP), Single Mothers and their Children etc. should be lobbied.

As some of you know, I am researching preferential voting. I do wish to gain public support (I presume this is what “traction” means) for my findings – but not until my work is finished.

This research has already led me to the surprising discovery that certain VEC workers committed criminal offenses during our recent State election. I have indisputable proof, and have referred it matter to Victoria Police. This has general significance, because it reflects a general lowing of standards in the conduct of elections in recent years.

Thirdly, and most important, I wish to gain ‘traction’ with other members of this group. At our recent meeting I mentioned ideas coming from psychologist Albert Ellis about faulty emotions which, in my opinion, routinely undermine political work. Look for things which must be done, and you will surely fail. Look for things which can be done, and success is inevitable.

If this little group can make even the tiniest change to our society then we have truly done something magnificent. Then one success will lead to another.

Okay to translate Paul Ross and Robert Crouch’s comments. I think these are the potential questions/issues needing traction that can be derived from what they said. Again this is just my interpretation:

Paul Ross

  • What will block democratic reform?
  • What are the effect of poverty and inequality in democratic civil engagement?

Robert Crouch

  • Improving the public trust on the integrity of election oversight processes and audit process. (Who watches the watcher?)
  • How does public emotions effect election outcome? Can this be mitigated?

Brian Khuu

I’d like to see the power of the political parties reduced, especially in choosing their candidates. In safe seats, that amounts to appointing people into parliament. I’ve posted some thoughts on how this could be done.

A couple of questions. Where is this group based (if anywhere)? Do Brisbane folk ever get together?

This group mostly has their meeting in Melbourne and occasionally other states. Currently we have two upcoming event.

If you want to help out with the Brisbane effort, please let me know your email via PM. We want to reach out to more speakers and get more journalist to attend this major event. It will have multiple minor parties and also democracy experts talking in it.

Brisbane: New Models of Democracy

Melbourne: What are the issues relating to democracy that needs public traction?

  1. Australia has been suffering with stagnant wages for the past decade. Economic growth has been overwhelmingly channeled to capital, instead of wages. This situation not only aggravates our inequality problem, but it is already affecting Australia’s economy (low salaries = low buying power). The best way to counter this situation is to make our unions stronger. Australia has one of the most rigid industrial relations laws among the OECD countries. The current Unions campaign called “Change the Rules” is about this. They need public support to change our industrial relations legislation.

  2. Australia is dumping our recycling into landfill because China and other countries are not taking our recycling anymore. We need a sustainable solution for this.


Thanks Fernandalila. The question is specifically asking about specific issues that effects our government ability to decide on all these issues (such as recycling policy). So given your answer is about a specific policy, I will need to take it as a comment rather than a response.

However there can be an argument that strengthening unions can at least address the aspect the economic democracy aspect of a democracy. I do ask if you have also though about co-operatives corporate structures as well and if promotion of co-operative companies is another way to address this as an alternative or in conjunction with unions.

What do you think?

Co-operatives would never replace unions in this matter. We need unions to defend the interests of the working class. Unions are necessary to level the democratic playing field which always tips towards the side with more money.
Union membership in Australia is in its all time low. Much lower than any other OECD country. There is a very strong correlation between union membership and wages / working conditions. Even the IMF (where neoliberalism goes to 11) has been issuing some reports now that recommend the revitalisation of unions as a political force. It is a really important issue and Australia’s laws put ridiculous and abusive limitations to unions.

On another note, I didn’t realise the issues needed to be specifically related to democracy. I had understood that any relevant issue needing traction could serve as an experiment (laboratory) for us to try to mobilise and engage people into democratic participation.


Not a problem. I do know there is a lot of relevant issues that people are passionate about and thus your contribution is still valuable in that angle.

However the philosophy of this group is that without a level and fair playing field for ideas, then good ideas will just die or get strangled by the current politics of the day.

So it is in this group incentive to remain focused on the goal of a fairer and better democracy, which would require bringing together people from opposite spectrum of politics (e.g. anti-unionist and pro-unionist); And bringing them to push for a common and more fairer game.

Think of pushing for better sportsmanship in a footy game after multiple matches of crappy referees and dirty sports tactics on both sides.

So with that angle in mind, do you have two issues relating directly to the health of democracy that you need traction on?

I think Peter Howard has misplaced his comment. This is what I think he is trying to say (compressed to fit into the lecture slides).

Peter Howard

  • Education focused on the possible alternative democratic approaches. The ongoing research on the level of trust in systems of government around the world shows the Australia has very low levels in trust in particular with our political system. The aim should be to enable people to see alternative ways in which their views could be truly represented.

  • Engagement could be focused on the major issues facing the country. And the technology is available by which everyone in the country could be engaged with a high level of confidence and security. I would also propose using our national broadcasters (ABC and SBS) in a formal role to facilitate the rich conversations on policy.

Happy with this refinement of my words.