The Sydney Morning Herald: Democracy: now for Plan B

The Sydney Morning Herald writes about newDemocracy, “a mix of business people, academics and former politicians” and its agenda, filling in some interesting information about the founder of the group:

“You can march in the streets and make a noise but that’s not enough,” newDemocracy founder Luca Belgiorno-Nettis said. “You have to show more direction.”

Mr Belgiorno-Nettis, a multimillionaire director of Transfield Holdings whose family is one of Australia’s great migrant success stories, conceived of the research body seven years ago with the idea of improving the democratic process.

Perhaps the most promising idea to come out of the think tank is a proposal to include everyday citizens in forming groups which would consider some of the issues governments wrestle with each day. Known variously as citizens’ juries or citizens’ parliaments, they could make recommendations on topics big and small.

Imagine, for example, if you wanted to extend your home. Instead of lodging a development application with the council, your plans could be assessed by a panel of your peers along with some experts to advise them.

Mr Belgiorno-Nettis believes the application of the citizens’ jury can work equally well on questions of health care, education, tax reform and infrastructure as well as newer concerns such as climate change.

“Perhaps I am being a little ambitious but I would like to get to a point where we could run citizens’ assemblies, parallel to the Senate, in NSW,” he said. “It might sound a far-fetched now but, if there are well-minded people behind it and there is public support for it, well, why not?”