Connecting citizens to legislative deliberations: public engagement in committees

Authors: Carolyn M. Hendriks, The Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU and Adrian Kay, The Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU


Many parliaments around the world are undergoing a ‘participatory makeover’. Legislative institutions are opening their doors to the public through open days and communicating the latest ‘parliamentary updates’ via websites and social media. Many of these ‘community outreach’ activities may make parliaments more informative and publicly accessible, but their impact on democratic renewal is likely to be minimal.

This paper argues that more meaningful steps towards ‘participatory parliaments’ could be made through improving the way legislative committees engage with the public. Drawing on insights from democratic theory, this paper argues that deeper more inclusive forms of public engagement in committees would help improve the epistemic, representative, and deliberative capacities of legislative committees (and hence the larger Assembly). More sophisticated approaches to engaging affected publics would enable committees to access relevant views and information and to better represent broader public interests (beyond their own constituencies and special interests) in their deliberations. Such qualities would enhance the public legitimacy and democratic effectiveness of committee procedures and their outputs. A number of strategies are put forward for how committees might broaden and deepen public engagement in their work

Paper for presentation at 2015 Australian Political Studies Association (ASPA) Annual Conference

Full paper can be downloaded HERE

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