How can Australia’s Democracy Deliver? Roundtable




Our roundtable on 10 November asked how can Australias democracy deliver. It formed part of CPD’s 10th Anniversary Series, which has democratic renewal as its centrepiece. It took place a week after former Indonesian Foreign Minister, Marty Natalegawa, delivered CPD’s inaugural John Menadue Oration on the topic: ‘Can Democracy Deliver?’

Speakers: Dr Nikolas Kirby (Research Fellow and Departmental Lecturer in Philosophy and Public Policy, University of Oxford, and Director of the Building Integrity Program at the Blavatnik School of Government), Professor Glenn Withers (Research School of Economics, ANU), Tony Douglas (Director, Essential Research), Dr Heather Smith PSM (Secretary of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science), Terry Moran AC (Chair of CPD & former Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet).

We were delighted to bring together a diverse group of leading thinkers. The agenda was an ambitious one for three hours and over thirty people, but the group rose to the challenge and were equally candid and creative.

Our roundtable delved further into the question of democratic renewal. Democracy and the international rules-based order face profound pressure across the globe. Australia is not immune to this pressure. There is a gap between expectations of government in the community and government’s capability to build and deliver an agenda. There is a question mark over assumptions that have underpinned public policy over the past few decades, such as the nature of growth, economic structure, the role of government, and the delivery of human services.

Broad sections of the Australian community appear to have ‘buyers’ remorse’. CPD’s motivation for holding this roundtable is our belief that successful democracies are stable but not static. We also believe the debate about democratic renewal cannot be resolved by focussing simply on ‘trust’, ‘leadership’, and ‘deliberation’. It requires a deeper discussion about Australian attitudes to democracy and to government, the connection of those ideas and preferences with more effective government, and a clearer shared purpose of what Australia’s democracy should pursue.

Discussion points of How can Australia’s Democracy Deliver:

  • what democracy and the social compact means for Australians today;
  • what the community expects of government (informed by new CPD research on this question) and;
  • what reforms Australia’s democracy needs most – new ideas, structures, institutions and processes.

We were not seeking a communiqué or attempting to reach an artificial consensus. We wanted a frank exchange of views under the Chatham House Rule on the pressure facing Australia’s democracy and new ideas to ensure Australia’s democracy can be fit for purpose.

We are in the process of distilling all the remarks, including the feedback on the discussion paper and the roundtable received after the event. The paper itself will be released next month.

Next year CPD will take forward several of the recommendations that emerged from the roundtable and hope to do so with many of the people and organisations involved on 10 November. We look forward to providing updates about this work in due course.

CPD would like to thank John W.H. Denton and the team at Corrs Chambers Westgarth for hosting the How can Australia’s Democracy Deliver event, and participants who contributed to an engaged and candid discussion.

How can Australias Democracy Deliver

Anna Skarbek – CEO, ClimateWorks

Ben Rimmer – CEO, City of Melbourne

Cassandra Goldie – CEO, Australian Council of Social Service

Craig Emerson – Former Member of the Australian Parliament and Cabinet Minister

David Atkin – CEO, Cbus Super

Fiona McLeod SC – President, Law Council of Australia

Fred Chaney AO – Former Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia

Glenn Withers AO – Professor of Economics, College of Business and Economics, ANU

Heather Smith PSM – Secretary, Department of Industry, Innovation and Science

Helen Szoke – CEO, Oxfam

Holly Ransom – CEO, Emergent

Innes Willox – CEO, Ai Group

Jeni Whalan – Deputy Chair, CPD

John W.H. Denton AO – Partner and CEO, Corrs Chamber Westgarth

John Fitzgerald FAHA – President, Australian Academy of Humanities

John Garnaut – Analyst, JG Global

Kirsten Gray – Senior Adviser to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner

Larry Kamener – Senior Partner & Managing Director, BCG

Luca Belgiorno-Nettis AM – Founder, New Democracy

Mark Birrell – Chair, PostSuper and former Chair, Infrastructure Australia

Mark Burford –  Special Adviser to the Vice Chancellor and President, Monash University

Martin Stewart-Weeks – Founder, Public Purpose Pty Ltd

Matt Garbutt – Chief of Staff, Business Council of Australia

Mia Garlick – Director of Policy Australia & New Zealand & APAC Regional Coordinator, Facebook

Mike Fitzpatrick – Director, Infrastructure Capital Group and former Chairperson, AFL Commission

Nadine Flood – National Secretary, Community & Public Sector Union

Nikolas Kirby – Departmental Lecturer in Philosophy and Public Policy at Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford

Paige Burton – 2017 Australian Youth Representative to the UN

Peter Mares – Former ABC broadcaster and Senior Moderator for the Cranlana Programme

Sarah Alexander – YLab Design Director, The Foundation for Young Australians

Sam Mellett – Director, Susan McKinnon Foundation

Sam Mostyn – Chair, Citigroup Australia and Non-Executive Director

Tanya Hosch – General Manager, Inclusion and Social Policy, AFL

Terry Moran AC – Chair, CPD

Tim Robertson – Executive Director Strategy and Operations, Barangaroo Delivery Authority

Tony Douglas – Director, Essential

Travers McLeod – CEO, CPD

Key documents from How can Australias Democracy Deliver