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The Australian Citizens' Parliament and the Future of Deliberative Democracy

LYN CARSON
JOHN GASTIL
JANETTE HARTZ-KARP
RON LUBENSKY
Volume: 8
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5325/j.ctt32b9zd
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  • Book Info
    The Australian Citizens' Parliament and the Future of Deliberative Democracy
    Book Description:

    Growing numbers of scholars, practitioners, politicians, and citizens recognize the value of deliberative civic engagement processes that enable citizens and governments to come together in public spaces and engage in constructive dialogue, informed discussion, and decisive deliberation. This book seeks to fill a gap in empirical studies in deliberative democracy by studying the assembly of the Australian Citizens’ parliament (ACP), which took place in Canberra on February 6–8, 2009. The ACP addressed the question, “How can the Australian political system be strengthened to serve us better?” The ACP’s Canberra assembly is the first large-scale, face-to-face deliberative project to be completely audio-recorded and transcribed, enabling an unprecedented level of qualitative and quantitative assessment of participants’ actual spoken discourse. Each chapter reports on different research questions for different purposes to benefit different audiences. Combined, they exhibit how diverse modes of research focused on a single event can enhance both theoretical and practical knowledge about deliberative democracy,

    eISBN: 978-0-271-06246-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VIII)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. IX-X)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. XI-XII)
  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. XIII-XVI)
    Lyn Carson, John Gastil, Janette Hartz-Karp and Ron Lubensky
  6. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-10)
    Lyn Carson, John Gastil, Janette Hartz-Karp and Ron Lubensky

    Democracy remains the aspiration held by governments the world over. Newly minted nations typically build popular sovereignty into their constitutions, and those nations with long-standing traditions of self-governance continue to amend their own distinct methods of assembling, informing, and aggregating their many publics.

    At the same time, many critics have decried the emergence of a “democratic deficit,” wherein representative government resists more direct forms of public involvement. Though representative institutions have endured for decades or even centuries in some countries, they have tended to concentrate power, particularly in those groups with particular vested interests. Citizens have been relegated to voters,...

  7. PART I: DELIBERATIVE DESIGN AND INNOVATION
    • 1 ORIGINS OF THE FIRST CITIZENS’ PARLIAMENT
      (pp. 13-20)
      Lyn Carson and Luca Belgiorno-Nettis

      In this chapter we take a look at the origins of the Australian Citizens’ Parliament (ACP) in the same way it began, with a casual conversation. This happened years before the ACP itself. The two people involved, Lyn Carson and Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, recall both their first meetings, the fateful conversation, and the events which followed. In the spirit of deliberative democracy, the chapter takes the form of a conversation, recorded at the office of the newDemocracy Foundation (nDF) with the assistance of nDF’s executive director, Iain Walker. In the spirit of conversation, the transcript below lists both persons by their...

    • 2 PUTTING CITIZENS IN CHARGE: COMPARING THE AUSTRALIAN CITIZENS’ PARLIAMENT AND THE AUSTRALIA 2020 SUMMIT
      (pp. 21-34)
      Janette Hartz-Karp and Lyn Carson

      Australia is one of the world’s stable liberal democracies. It has a history of democratic innovation.¹ But the “Democratic Audit of Australia” and other studies tell a story of falling confidence in our political system.² Symptoms include low levels of citizen engagement, apathy and cynicism toward politics, declining membership in and public support for political parties, and growing numbers of young Australians seeking to avoid mandatory voter registration.³ Some observers trace the malaise to a “democratic deficit”—institutional arrangements and conduct that appear at odds with the normative ideals of democracy, including factionalism within parties, the intentional polarization of issues...

    • 3 CHOOSE ME: THE CHALLENGES OF NATIONAL RANDOM SELECTION
      (pp. 35-48)
      Ron Lubensky and Lyn Carson

      A legitimate public-deliberation process must inclusively represent the population that it serves.¹ Logistically, a deliberative process cannot deliver the whole population to the discussion. Instead, a microcosm that mirrors the full diversity and features of the public at large,² commonly referred to now as amini-public, accepts the responsibility to deliberate in the common interest. The mini-public should be small enough to be organized into small groups that can deliberate together effectively.³

      In establishing a mini-public, a public-engagement convener asks not just how many people should be involved, but also how they should be invited. Some conveners prefer to open...

    • 4 GRAFTING AN ONLINE PARLIAMENT ONTO A FACE-TO-FACE PROCESS
      (pp. 49-62)
      Brian Sullivan and Janette Hartz-Karp

      The Australian Citizens’ Parliament (ACP) organizers faced several significant challenges. Among them were the geographic distance between participants living in a vast continent and the commitment to let the participants themselves shape the direction and design of the ACP. To address both these challenges, an Online Parliament was introduced. Whereas chapters 7 and 11 look at the deliberation that occurred online, this chapter provides the larger context for understanding the Online Parliament. Herein, we explain why online deliberation was grafted onto the ACP’s face-to-face process, why the CivicEvolution platform was selected, the role it played, the participation process and rates...

  8. PART II: EXPLORING DELIBERATION
    • 5 LISTENING CAREFULLY TO THE CITIZENS’ PARLIAMENT: A NARRATIVE ACCOUNT
      (pp. 65-80)
      Ron Lubensky

      Deliberative public engagement is not yet a topic that is well-known outside its academic and practice communities.¹ Invariably I have to explain what it is before talking more about it. Sometimes I try to describe the Australian Citizens’ Parliament (ACP) project, which I helped organize and study. It is rarely an easy task.

      My explanations about the ACP often degenerate into defenses of public engagement as a whole. I face oft-told stories about the democratic deficit and voter ignorance, although not always using those terms.² In response (and sometimes preemptively), I have paraphrased the survey comments of participants after the...

    • 6 DELIBERATIVE DESIGN AND STORYTELLING IN THE AUSTRALIAN CITIZENS’ PARLIAMENT
      (pp. 81-94)
      Laura W. Black and Ron Lubensky

      Over the past decade, several deliberation scholars and practitioners have discovered the importance of personal stories in public deliberation.¹ Stories describe experiences that relate to some kind of problem. They are told through the eyes of a character, who typically is both the protagonist and the storyteller. When people tell complete stories, their tale has a clear beginning and end, plus something in the middle, like a surprising turn of events, that makes it seem worthwhile to the listeners, who derive meaning from its telling.

      The Australian Citizens’ Parliament (ACP) provides a special opportunity to examine the role of storytelling...

    • 7 WHAT COUNTS AS DELIBERATION? COMPARING PARTICIPANT AND OBSERVER RATINGS
      (pp. 95-107)
      John Gastil

      As a matter of convenience, commentators often refer to events like the Australian Citizens’ Parliament (ACP) as exercises in “democratic deliberation.” This parallels the casual way we use the word when we say a jury has left the courtroom to “go deliberate.” A more careful use of terms, however, leads us to ask whether, in fact, the jury will deliberate, or just reach a verdict hastily, without discussion or reflection. Likewise, one can ask whether the ACP—and the Online Parliament (OP) that preceded it—produced a fully deliberative process, let alone a democratic one.

      To answer those questions, I...

    • 8 HEARING ALL SIDES? SOLICITING AND MANAGING DIFFERENT VIEWPOINTS IN DELIBERATION
      (pp. 108-119)
      Anna Wiederhold and John Gastil

      In any complex deliberative process, a tension exists between welcoming new and different ideas and maintaining a clear focus on the problem at hand. When faced with this dilemma, organizers of the Australian Citizens’ Parliament (ACP) hoped to err “on the side of breadth” by privileging varied perspectives, divergence, and innovation over consensus. They hoped to reach a certain level of convergence by its end, but only if that agreement reflected a “collective intelligence” emerging out of rich discussions.¹

      Deliberative scholars and activists contend that public discussions between diverse publics can lead individuals to develop greater empathy with one another...

    • 9 SIT DOWN AND SPEAK UP: STABILITY AND CHANGE IN GROUP PARTICIPATION
      (pp. 120-130)
      Joseph A. Bonito, Renee A. Meyers, John Gastil and Jennifer Ervin

      Public forums such as the Australia Citizens’ Parliament (ACP) have the potential to engender personal transformation, group learning, and social and political change, but that potential is realized only if participants actually deliberate. More precisely, deliberation does not work (and, in fact, is not reallygroupdeliberation) if only one or a few participants monopolize a discussion.¹

      Like most large-scale deliberative events, the ACP used a mix of plenary sessions and small-group discussions. In the plenaries, all participants gathered together in the Members’ Dining Room to hear a small number of individuals—such as policy experts, public officials, or selected...

  9. PART III: THE FLOW OF BELIEFS AND IDEAS
    • 10 CHANGING ORIENTATIONS TOWARD AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRACY
      (pp. 133-145)
      Simon Niemeyer, Luisa Batalha and John S. Dryzek

      The Australian Citizens’ Parliament (ACP) addressed a single broad issue—the nation’s political system. How did participation in this unique event influence participants’ orientations toward that system?

      We begin by describing our approach to measuring attitude change—involving an extended version of Q methodology. We then identify the basic orientations that Australians have toward politics and examine how those changed over the course of the ACP. We find that participants’ orientations changed significantly, most notably through increased contentment with Australia’s liberal democracy. This finding is perhaps a bit surprising in the context of a process that subjected aspects of Australia’s...

    • 11 STAYING FOCUSED: TRACING THE FLOW OF IDEAS FROM THE ONLINE PARLIAMENT TO CANBERRA
      (pp. 146-160)
      John Gastil and John Wilkerson

      There exist many successful examples of public deliberation engaging groups of lay citizens, but questions remain about the extent to which deliberation can flourish online and how such discussions can be merged with more traditional public meetings.¹ Previous deliberative efforts have built online and face-to-face deliberative meetings in parallel, or they have integrated small-group deliberations into plenary sessions during a single-day event.² The 2009 Australian Citizens’ Parliament was the first event to really make it possible to test those questions.

      The deliberation process began in late 2008 with the Online Parliament (OP), which chapter 3 describes in more detail. The...

    • 12 EVIDENCE OF PEER INFLUENCE IN THE CITIZENS’ PARLIAMENT
      (pp. 161-174)
      Luc Tucker and John Gastil

      Deliberative democratic theory presumes that people influence one another through interaction. To move to the more nuanced questions addressed throughout this book, scholars generally take that presumption for granted. But the necessary assumptions underlying much of the work on deliberative democracy must, at some point, themselves be scrutinized, lest we build a tower of theory on a hollow foundation.

      The Australian Citizens’ Parliament (ACP) provides a special opportunity to examine this bedrock assumption of deliberative-democratic theory because of the richness of its data and the special properties of its design. Because the ACP organizers wanted the Citizen Parliamentarians (CPs) to...

  10. PART IV: FACILITATION AND ORGANIZER EFFECTS
    • 13 THE UNSUNG HEROES OF A DELIBERATIVE PROCESS: REFLECTIONS ON THE ROLE OF FACILITATORS AT THE CITIZENS’ PARLIAMENT
      (pp. 177-189)
      Max Hardy, Kath Fisher and Janette Hartz-Karp

      Facilitation is regularly explained in group-dynamic training sessions and guidebooks, but for experienced practitioners it is often as much an art as a craft. It is one thing to know what a facilitator should do, that is, remain independent while balancing equally important elements: the group process, the task at hand, and the individuals involved. However, knowing what one should do cannot capture the social intelligence and quick wit needed when actually facilitating. The following conversation between one of the lead facilitators (Max Hardy) and the coordinating facilitator (Kath Fisher), with final comments from the other lead facilitator (Janette Hartz-Karp),...

    • 14 ARE THEY DOING WHAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO DO? ASSESSING THE FACILITATING PROCESS OF THE AUSTRALIAN CITIZENS’ PARLIAMENT
      (pp. 190-203)
      Li Li, Fletcher Ziwoya, Laura W. Black and Janette Hartz-Karp

      The use of facilitators is often a taken-for-granted aspect of deliberation, enabling groups to work through public problems in a way that embodies deliberative ideals.¹ Facilitators help frame the issues being discussed, set ground rules for the discussion, encourage equity and respect, and help groups analyze issues and make decisions. In short, it is assumed that facilitators are an important part of what makes public-participation events deliberative (see chapter 13).

      Yet some scholars have raised concerns about the facilitator’s role in the deliberative process.² Facilitators have power in the group and can influence group interactions by shaping which topics are...

    • 15 SUPPORTING THE CITIZEN PARLIAMENTARIANS: MOBILIZING PERSPECTIVES AND INFORMING DISCUSSION
      (pp. 204-217)
      Ian Marsh and Lyn Carson

      From its inception, the organizers of the Australian Citizens’ Parliament (ACP) were conscious of the need to support participants as they explored a complex subject, but in ways that responded to their expressed needs. This was the essence of the project: to analyze the capacity of ordinary citizens to consider a many-sided issue. Too much direction, denying the norm of independent judgment, would have been contrary to the spirit of the project. On the other hand, no access to resources would have hampered deliberation. Thus, one part of this chapter is a descriptive account of how this was done.

      But...

    • 16 INVESTIGATION OF (AND INTROSPECTION ON) ORGANIZER BIAS
      (pp. 218-232)
      Lyn Carson

      Writings on deliberative democracy usually attribute “bias” to poor population sampling, inappropriate framing of the topic being deliberated, or the omission of important perspectives within expert panels or background information.¹ Such situations can be categorized as exhibitingorganizer biassince organizers must ultimately take responsibility for them.

      This chapter examines a critical incident that occurred during the ACP when one of the organizers (the author) was privately accused of bias, which led to a public apology and retraction. Revisiting the incident provides an opportunity for reflection on organizer bias that might inform future deliberations.

      A steering committee is typically convened...

  11. PART V: IMPACTS AND REFLECTIONS
    • [PART V: Introduction]
      (pp. 233-234)

      The value of large-scale deliberative events like the ACP depends partly on their longer-term impacts, beyond the more narrow purpose of prioritizing reforms to the Australian political process. Did the ACP change its participants, popular opinion, public officials, or the prospects for a more deliberative Australian democracy?

      Using follow-up survey data collected a year afterward, in “Participant Accounts of Political Transformation” (chapter 17), Katherine R. Knobloch and Gastil find that the CPs still believe their experienced changed much of how they think and act in public life. In chapter 18, “Becoming Australian: Forging a National Identity Through Deliberation,” Janette Hartz-Karp,...

    • 17 PARTICIPANT ACCOUNTS OF POLITICAL TRANSFORMATION
      (pp. 235-247)
      Katherine R. Knobloch and John Gastil

      Political theorist Mark Warren once asked whether participation in democracy can make us “better” citizens. His “self-transformation thesis” pulled together writings by philosophers from John Stuart Mill and Jean-Jacques Rousseau to modern theorists such as Carole Pateman and Benjamin Barber. All of these writers pointed to the same basic idea—that democracy is a complex social process that requires civic attitudes and habits best developed through equally complex experiences.¹

      We now know from a growing body of research that participation in public life can, under the right circumstances, inspire people to return to help tackle future problems in their community...

    • 18 BECOMING AUSTRALIAN: FORGING A NATIONAL IDENTITY THROUGH DELIBERATION
      (pp. 248-259)
      Janette Hartz-Karp, Patrick Anderson, John Gastil and Andrea Felicetti

      One of the unexpected outcomes of the ACP was the emergence of a robust sense of shared identity among the deliberators. Research has shown Australians to be ambivalent about their national identity, making the spontaneous emergence of a common sense of identity unlikely in an Australian setting.¹ Other factors augured against this: the ACP discussion topic was about politics, something Australians generally dislike;² there were limited external rewards, such as remuneration and official recognition; and discourse between diverse others was routinely maximized (see the introduction and chapter 2).

      Since the ACP’s primary research team had no a priori expectation of...

    • 19 MEDIATED META-DELIBERATION: MAKING SENSE OF THE AUSTRALIAN CITIZENS’ PARLIAMENT
      (pp. 260-273)
      Eike Mark Rinke, Katherine R. Knobloch, John Gastil and Lyn Carson

      Most of the chapters in this volume look inside the Australian Citizens’ Parliament (ACP) to study the practical and political challenges of deliberating together in an assembly of ordinary citizens. However, the ACP also created the possibility for a kind of deliberation that can occur only through mass communication.¹ The news coverage of the ACP had the potential to spark amediated deliberation—a process whereby newspapers, online news outlets, and other media help the wider public understand and think through issues in at least a quasi-deliberative way.

      In our view, projects like the ACP succeed or fail not only...

    • 20 HOW NOT TO INTRODUCE DELIBERATIVE DEMOCRACY: THE 2010 CITIZENS’ ASSEMBLY ON CLIMATE CHANGE PROPOSAL
      (pp. 274-288)
      Lyn Carson

      During the 2010 federal election campaign in Australia, climate change surfaced as a major issue. Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced a Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change (CACC) involving 150 randomly selected citizens.

      Those of us who had worked on the Australian Citizens’ Parliament (ACP) one year earlier wondered whether this could be the moment in history when Australian politics took a deliberative turn, perhaps inspired by the ACP itself.¹ That hope quickly faded. This chapter explains why and, in doing so, uses the Gillard case to illustrate seven different one can make when proposing a deliberative political reform.

      On June...

  12. CONCLUSION: THEORETICAL AND PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS OF THE CITIZENS’ PARLIAMENT EXPERIENCE
    (pp. 289-300)
    Janette Hartz-Karp, Lyn Carson, John Gastil and Ron Lubensky

    It was evident from the outset that nothing would go as planned for the Australian Citizens’ Parliament (ACP). When more than a third of those who received an invitation to participate rushed to their phones and computers to accept, the organizers knew the experience would be an exciting challenge for all. In the end, the ACP proved to be an important case study through which core hypotheses and accepted tenets of deliberative democracy were tested, and this book has reported the results of those tests. Its various authors have shown how deliberative exercises can lead to personal transformation and deep...

  13. List of Contributors
    (pp. 301-306)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 307-314)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 315-316)