How could community participation within a representative democracy system work?

posted in: Views 0

Peter Tait

Looking at the issues confronting us at present: climate action, jobseeker rate, NDIS, infrastructure development, urban planning, asylum seekers and immigration, defence budgets, and many others, how might community members work with their elected representatives to look at managing them?

This isn’t actually new; France tried it with climate change and the Irish have done it with same sex marriage and abortion law reform. Multiple other examples are at Participedia. Participatory budgeting is used extensively.

What is different is about CAPaD’s approach is that this is done at the electorate level, with MPs and a collection of constituents working together.

Here I outline some ideas about how it might work rather than prescribe what will happen. It is broad brush, as each electorate group will need to define for themselves actually how they will go about the doing.

Options include: the MP assembles a group of community members to hold an assembly, with expert input available, to answer a question such as what do you want me, your representative, to do in the parliament to take action on whatever the issue up for discussion is. Members of that assembly might be randomly selected from the electoral role, recruited by calling for volunteers and randomly selecting from amongst them, plus of minus seeking input from groups within the electorate who seem to be unrepresented by those selection processes.

Alternatively, if an active electorate action group exists, that group and the MP could work together to design and recruit to such an assembly.

If a community electorate group is active, the MP could report back to that group what proposals are on the parliamentary agenda, and what inquiries and committees are seeking input on relevant issues. The group with the MP might then seek input from the broader communities within the electorate to make a formal submission to any inquiry or committee, or come to an electorate position for the MP to take into party and parliamentary deliberations. Of course, the MP would be expected to report back to the electorate group what the outcomes from those inputs were.

On topical and possibly controversial issues as those listed at the beginning of this piece, the MP and the electorate group could hold deliberative forums to seek input from the electorate community to arrive at a collective position that the MP would take into committee and parliamentary debate and votes. The tension here of course is how the individual MP will act on behalf of their constituents where their electorates position differs from their party’s. How they manage that will be interesting to watch.

The views in this piece are those of the author not CAPaD.


Leave a Reply