Reforming Our Democracy: Options for Renewing Democracy in Australia

This paper provides a list of reform options to improve Australia’s democracy. We put these proposals to Australia’s political parties ahead of the 2019 election because we believe that democracy matters. Australia’s democracy has been critical to our nation’s success, but it is frayed and public confidence in our system of governance is in worrying decline.

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At various points in our history Australia has led the world in democratic innovation. From the 1850s, our colonial parliaments extended the vote in radical ways and established basic ideals like the Eight Hour Day that influenced global thinking. From the 1890s, Australia led the way with the suffragettes extending democratic rights for women, literally decades ahead of other nations like the United States and parts of Europe. From 1901, our federation model of government was best- in-class, encompassing the best aspects of Britain, the United States and Europe whilst also drawing on local innovations of our own. As a young and growing nation, we need to keep renewing our democratic ideals by making reforms where necessary, and true to our history, we need to keep leading the way.

We believe that each idea in this paper will enhance trust in government decision-making and improve confidence in Australian democracy. We invite you to review the list and indicate which ideas meet with your support. Some of the proposals in this paper are easier to implement than others. Some are very modest. Some measures are far reaching, so a suggested next step is the undertaking of a trial or review. Some could be implemented through the executive, some require legislative change and therefore parliamentary support, some require constitutional change and a vote of the people.

The list of initiatives has been selected because they are practical, realistic and achievable. They will not solve all the problems of our democracy, but they are a set of good “next steps” for the next parliament. The diversity of the political backgrounds of our signatories and the experience of our experts should give you confidence that this is a list of reforms that are implementable.

The approaching federal election presents us with an opportunity to rekindle the spirit of ingenuity that once made Australia a leader in democratic innovation. We would welcome the opportunity to provide more information and evidence to support policy development on any of the initiatives contained within this document.

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