Cheap stunts get your attention?
Politics has become less about the needs of everyday Australians and instead is increasingly shallow, tribal and ineffective.
Think climate change, tax, immigration and welfare. Complex issues simply aren’t being addressed.
The need to win elections incentivises all the things we don’t like about politics. Donations, lying, avoiding blame.
But that’s because it’s a politician’s job to get elected. The problem is that what wins elections is what damages our democracy.
Instead, we can have a better system by adding people like you, who are free to actually listen, learn, and work with each other to address our issues and agree on solutions.
What does all this mean?
Watch our explainer.
We can choose people from all walks of life by democratic lottery to form citizens’ assemblies to help politicians make decisions that everyone can trust.
Citizens’ Assemblies bring a mix of people together by lottery and give them all the tools, information and time to properly have a say on the important issues that affect our everyday lives – like the economy, education and the environment.
We can have a better system with people like you free to actually listen, learn, and work with each other to address our issues and agree on solutions.
This isn’t just an idea either. They’re increasingly being used all around the world to find solutions for complex problems – like climate change, budgeting and housing.
They’ve been used by Presidents in Denmark, France, Ireland & Germany. And, the OECD & United Nations Democracy Fund endorse them.
Do you support the use of
citizens’ assemblies in Australia?
We need as many people as possible to say yes to prove to politicians that people want change.
Now you might be wondering…
What happens during a citizens’ assembly?
They take a representative mix of everyday people, chosen by lottery and bring them together for 40-50 hours over the course of a few months to address a specific challenge posed to them by the government. They’re asked to consider a lot of information from a wide range of sources, discuss that information with expert speakers and among themselves. They work together to find common ground around trade-offs and proposals that address their problem, ultimately finding agreement on recommendations they write themselves and handing those to decision-makers with supporting evidence and rationale.
What is a democratic lottery? How are people chosen?
Democratic lotteries are a method for fairly choosing a mix of people to participate in an assembly. We can’t invite everyone to deliberate so to fairly narrow down the group to something like 40 people, we use a computer to generate a list of names or addresses and send out invitations. From those that accept the invite, we do another computerised draw that matches the group to the wider community. This means the group will be broadly representative of the wider population by a few important measures like age, gender, education, and location. This ensures fair representation for everyone.
Can anyone get selected for a citizens’ assembly? Or would there be qualifications and prerequisites?
The only people ineligible to participate are those who are already professional politicians.
What if ‘bad’ or ‘stupid’ people get selected?
We hear you, your neighbour can’t get their recycling right so you’re worried about us putting them in charge of budgeting for the whole State.
This really doesn’t happen. Citizens’ assemblies have shown again and again that when given respect, responsibility, and a chance to listen and learn from one another, people selected by democratic lottery are sensible and civil. They tend to think passionately about what’s best for everyone and have all the right incentives to find common ground with the help and assistance of wide range of experts.
Wait, what about voting?
We can still have some of that. Voting should still be used to select our professional politicians. Making use of citizens’ assemblies will unlock many of the issues that vex our parliaments and has the potential to revitalise electoral politics – placing the emphasis back on solutions and away from political spin and empty promises.
But don’t we need professional politicians to represent us?
From city councils to Parliament, lawmaking bodies deal mostly with questions of morals, values, and priorities. How do we want to live together? How should we spend our hard-earned tax dollars? What kind of future do we want for our children?
The people best suited to make those decisions on behalf of all of us are people exactly like us. Everyday Australians with the same hopes, dreams, and concerns as us.
When it comes to executing policy and running government day-to-day, we do need professionals, that’s why we recommend making use of citizens’ assemblies alongside elected officials to help address the issues politics-as-usual isn’t well suited to.
Has this really been proven to work?
It has. All over the world citizens’ assemblies are increasingly being used to find solutions for complex problems like climate change in France; city planning in Toronto, Canada; waste management in Fortaleza, Brazil; COVID-19 in Michigan, US; and city budgeting in Melbourne.
In 2020, the OECD documented 289 citizens’ assemblies or similar bodies taking place around the world between 1986 and 2019. That number is rapidly increasing as governments steadily learn about and take advantage of the many benefits they provide. Paris has just recently established a permanent citizens’ assembly with 100 Parisians selected by democratic lottery.
Who or what is Change Politics?
You can think of Change Politics as the public awareness operation of The newDemocracy Foundation. newDemocracy is our parent organisation, they’re a registered charity here in Australia working on demonstrating and researching different ways of doing democracy.
Overall, the broad aim for both organisations is to see citizens’ assemblies permanently incorporated into how we do politics in Australia. You can think of newDemocracy as the “practical project and direct advocacy” to elected representatives arm of this – working to show and convince politicians that this is a complementary mechanism that can help decision-makers. They’ve had lots of success and are viewed internationally as a global leader in citizens’ assemblies and deliberative democracy.
Change Politics is the people-facing arm that is focused on awareness-raising and education – the more people that know and endorse the use of citizens’ assemblies, the more natural their use will feel to the communities involved and the politicians using them.
In terms of who, you can read all about Kyle and Polly over on the about page.
What are you trying to do?
To get more politicians across the line we need to convince them that citizens’ assemblies aren’t a risky endeavour for them. While we can do lots of explaining that shows them past processes, evidence from overseas, and walk them through the overall experience from start to finish (after all, newDemocracy has been running projects for years). At the end of the day, politicians are best swayed by seeing a vast sea of juicy voters holding a particular view.
What does this mean for what we’ll be doing? We’ll be firmly focused on visible numbers that show public support for citizens’ assemblies. Whether it’s people who have signed the petition or people who have watched our videos, each little data point is an angle we can use.
What are your long-term goals?
Overall, we want to see citizens’ assemblies permanently incorporated into how we do politics in Australia.
There are a few different ways this might come about:
- A third chamber of Parliament that houses a citizens’ assembly.
- The institutional use of citizens’ assemblies to complement parliamentary inquiries or the conduct of parliamentary committees.
- Regular rolling citizens’ assemblies that address matters handed to them by Parliament such as those seen in Ireland.