The democratic audit of Australia
Australia is a democratic nation with a reputation to be envied. It is one of 87 free countries in the entire world. See Freedom in the World 2011. However, a recent study conducted by Scott Brenton in 2008 concluded that while Australians are proud of the perception of their democracy, they are not all that inclined to engage with it. See Public Confidence in Australian Democracy.
What is the Democratic Audit?
The Democratic Audit of Australia is an annual report card identifying areas of weakness and strength in the Australian political environment. The audit began in 2002 with a team at the Australian National University. Since 2008 the Audit has been based at the Institute for Social Research, Swinburne University of Technology, with continuing input from researchers at ANU and other universities.
The Audit recognises that democracy is a complex notion, and so applies a detailed set of questions which has already been field-tested in overseas countries. The framework was pioneered in the United Kingdom and then further developed under the auspices of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) in Stockholm. IDEA further tested the framework in eight countries including New Zealand. IDEA is currently updating its Audit framework to take account of the experience of further national Audits, including the Democratic Audit of Australia. The Audit benefits from funding under two Australian Research Council discovery grants.
See About the Audit.
The values used as a basis for assessment are:
- political equality;
- popular control of government;
- civil liberties and human rights; and
- the quality of public deliberation.
Contributors to this year’s audit have explored areas as diverse and numerous as the following linked titles suggest:
- Healthy Democracy?
- Operation Sunlight
- Whatever Happened to Frank and Fearless?
- First Moves on Lobbying
- Priorities for Electoral Reform
- Removing Partisan Bias from Australian Electoral Legislation
- Rolling Out the Regional Pork Barrel: A Threat To Democracy?
- The Right To Vote Is Not Enjoyed Equally
- Not Good News
- Watchdog Independence Compromised?
- Question Time - A Failing Institution?
- Political ‘Hitmen’
- Enforcing Party Democracy
- Museum of Australian Democracy Reviewed
To view all contributions to this and previous year’s audits, visit democraticaudit.org.au.
Is the Australian Parliament really a platypus? New fangs for the platy-tiger? The Senate and the Rudd Government in 2008 a paper by Tony Smith.
In an earlier paper, Stanley Bach (2003) used the objective view of an overseas visitor to describe the ‘accidental genius of Australian politics’. He likened the Australian system generally and its bicameral parliament to that unique animal, the duck-billed platypus. The analogy raises some interesting and some disturbing notions. While the hybrid nature of the political system can provide some vigour, the platypus is threatened by loss of habitat. Few Australians have seen one in the wild…
Is there really too much marketing and not enough policy? Marketing Government: The public service and the permanent campaign a paper by Kathy MacDermott.
In this paper MacDermott argues that the marketing of government has invaded the core business of policy development and the everyday work of public servants such that the public service has become part of the ‘permanent campaign’ and that this has put at risk the distinction between marketing and explaining.
See also the recent book by former ALP Government Minister for Finance and Deregulation, the Hon. Lindsay Tanner, Sideshow: Dumbing Down Democracy at Readings.
What was the true cost of the Informal vote at the 2007 election?
Informal Voting at the 2007 Election—some preliminary notes by Peter Brent.
During the 2007 election informal voting dropped from 5.18% to 3.95%. Despite, this (apparent) good news, Brent claims that accidental informal voting remains significant as he goes on to explore the relationships between different voting systems at the state level and non-English speaking voters.