Deliberative Constitutional Change in a Polarised Federation
TOMORROW'S FEDERATION, P. Kildea, A. Lynch, G. Williams, eds., pp. 350-370, Federation Press, 2012
21 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2012
Date Written: February 1, 2012
Citizens’ Assemblies are innovative deliberative democratic processes that recommend constitutional or other key legal reforms. They are formed from 100-plus randomly-selected citizens who convene over several months to learn from experts in a particular area of public policy, and thereafter to recommend a specific law reform. In the 2010 Australian general election, the incumbent Labor government’s promise to create a Citizens’ Assembly attracted strongly unfavourable popular media responses. In contrast, this article reports empirical data showing generally high Australian levels of trust in Citizens' Assemblies and deliberative democracy. The article also engages in further analysis to search for signs that such trust varies with social demographics; marked demographic cleavages could potentially be fatal to the success of reforms. In a first set of results, the article finds surprisingly uniform trust in deliberative democracy across most demographic groups (eg, defined by age, sex, educational achievement, political party and region). However, trust in Citizens’ Assemblies, while still generally uniform, is subject to more variation, including intriguing regional, populist and other distinctions.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation