Geoff Gallop: listen to citizens to solve reform stalemate


March in March Political Protest Melbourne

The insiders just want power, the outsiders can’t agree … so how can anyone get anything done? Start by listening to the people, the former Western Australian premier says.

The distinction between the global and the local is collapsing under the pressure of climate change, economic restructuring, global migration and jihadism on the one hand and the populist and information technology revolutions on the other. Australian politics is not immune from any of these pressures — and nor is the democratic capitalist world. Economic growth is much harder to find and structural change beckons, but vested interests big and small stand in the way.

Our representative democracies are best suited to meeting the needs of electors today; when it comes to the bigger and more challenging issues they struggle to deliver. As American political theorist Benjamin Barber put it, contemporary democracy is “a long-distance runner with a heart condition”.

We’ve seen this in Australia with respect to economic and budgetary reform, carbon policy to address climate change, social reform to reduce inequality. Labor’s success at bringing these three concerns together and winning parliamentary support fell afoul of the 2013 election and the Coalition’s hard-right alternative is struggling to gain any traction.

Only on national security has there been a significant degree of elite consensus. This raises the question as to what the elections of 2010 and 2013 were all about. Was it leadership or policy or trust or all three?

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