More citizen juries in Australia

The newDemocracy foundation has recently been managing the citizen jury process in regards to the South Australia nuclear waste dump proposal. Now it has been hired to manage another citizen jury process – this time in Victoria:

Jay Weatherill has issued an “I told you so” over his oft-criticised Citizens’ Jury model, after it was adopted by the Victorian Government as it seeks to mop up in the wake of its dramatic sacking of the Geelong Council.


Sacked Geelong Mayor Darryn Lyons outside the Victorian Parliament.

The Government in April moved to dismiss the entire council – including colourful mayor and notorious former paparazzo Darryn Lyons and his deputy Bruce Harwood, the father-in-law of former Adelaide star Patrick Dangerfield – after an inquiry found it had become so dysfunctional and riven with internal conflict and a bullying culture that it could no longer govern properly.

Fresh elections won’t take place till October next year, with an administrator overseeing the region in the interim.

But Premier Daniel Andrews has announced the formation of a Citizens’ Jury to help set the parameters of an overhaul of the next council’s governance structure – to be overseen by Sydney-based newDemocracy Foundation, which selected the 50 jurors involved in this month’s Adelaide forum on the merits of a high-level nuclear waste dump.
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Smith and Dumienski: Citizens’ juries could reduce Auckland’s democratic deficit

Nicholas Ross Smith and Zbigniew Dumienski of the Politics and International Relations Department at the University of Auckland write at the New Zealand Herald, New Zealand’s largest circulation newspaper, arguing that using randomly selected juries to make some council-level policy suggestions may be a good starting point for organically growing a more democratic governance system:

A report by Bernard Orsman published in the New Zealand Herald on the state of Auckland City Council found that 88 of the 99 positions in the council’s boardrooms and executive teams were filled by “white men from wealthy suburbs.”

The reported demographic composition of the decision-making bodies in Auckland Council suggests that we are facing a potentially harmful democratic deficit. Yet, before anyone suggests quotas or other bureaucratic mechanisms aimed at diversifying the Council’s management structure, it would be good to consider a very different and far more democratic approach currently tried by our friends across the ditch: citizens’ juries as bodies that could breathe new, more democratic and vibrant spirit into our city’s old structures.

The democratic deficit evident in Auckland City Council is part of a broader trend in democracies worldwide, both at the local and national levels, which are increasingly seen as departing from the core democratic principles that they are supposed to uphold. Meaningful deliberations and political equality are the soul of democracy.

Increasingly, our electoral system is virtually devoid of the former and its outcomes suggest the erosion of the latter. Interestingly, such an outcome would have perhaps been predicted by the founders of democracy in classical Athens who were concerned that elections and campaigning contains in themselves anti-democratic and oligarchic seeds.
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Nicholas Reece: The momentous success of radical democracy

Nicholas Reece writes in The Age:

Experiment pays off: Melbourne People’s Panel produces quality policy

Citizen juries are one of the most promising innovations to emerge in the conversation about democratic renewal.

Melbourne’s radical experiment in democracy has reached a momentous conclusion, with the City Council announcing on Friday it will accept nearly all the recommendations of a 10-year financial plan developed by a citizens’ jury. That a group of 43 randomly selected Melburnians meeting over six weekends developed sound policy that is now being implemented is a profound result for anyone despairing at the state of our democracy. And it invites the exciting question, what’s next?

It turns out that having a plan “developed” over 6 weekends to guide the expenditure of billions of dollars over 10 years is considered a momentous success of radical democracy. What’s next, indeed.