Open letter to Malcolm Turnbull – Deliberative Democracy meets Climate Change

Dear Prime Minister,
Congratulations on your new role. We are very excited and have our hopes elevated by your new standing and leadership role.
This letter is somewhat unusual as it mixes business and advocacy on an issue of great importance! Firstly we want to introduce you to the work of our company and secondly to propose to you an idea we have that will put you on the front foot in addressing climate change, whilst meeting your commitments to maintaining the current policy.
We understand that you are familiar with deliberative democratic practice in part perhaps because your wife Lucy is on the board of The newDemocracy Foundation. Nevertheless a summary about deliberative democratic engagement practice is attached. Our company, Democracy Co is one of very few organisations nationally which like The newDemocracy Foundation, develops strategy for and implements deliberative democratic processes (such as Citizen Juries). We have worked closely with the newDemocracy Foundation in delivering a number of projects. In addition we also help public sector agencies to develop their organisational engagement policies and train public servants in better engagement practice.
The deliberative democratic processes we run have been very successful in gaining extensive positive media coverage and delivering exceptional recommendations, as demonstrated by a high implementation rate. Our work is well known to the Premier and Ministers here in South Australia and we are currently working for the Victorian Department of the Premier and Cabinet. You can read more about us in an article recently published about our company –
We know you care passionately about addressing climate change and that you believe strongly that our political leaders can and should be acting to implement effective policies to address this critical issue. From our own experiences working across multiple agencies here in SA and other states, we also know that climate change is on the minds of many (business, community groups and citizens) – and the complexity in addressing this issue is large, particularly given other (perhaps more pressing) government priorities.
We recognise however that there are significant internal and external political issues for you in addressing this important issue. You are clearly faced with a significant number of conservative members from both the Liberal and National parties who are resistant to effective action. This is in part presumably because they don’t think there is sufficient support for the action required from either their electorates or from the Australian public more generally.
We believe strongly that a deliberative democratic process involving everyday Australians drawn randomly from across Australia (but with an emphasis on recruiting participants from conservatively held seats) could go a long way to giving you the political capital necessary to extend and improve upon the action currently being taken by your government.
We are in no doubt that a deliberative democratic process such as a citizens jury on climate change would recommend that the government take more action to address this issue and would find innovative and politically palatable mechanisms for doing so. It is also highly likely to result in finding things ‘citizens could do’ as well as enabling your government to expand your policy.
Community engagement processes that use deliberative democratic practices are known for producing recommendations that draw heavily on the evidence, data and facts. This is because whilst participants in these processes are randomly selected and hence come from diverse backgrounds and with diverse values – they need to reach agreement on what they are recommending to government (we aim for 80-100% agreement). Getting this level of agreement requires that participants move beyond their own values.
In addition, deliberative processes also assist to change and elevate the public discussion. A strong supportive communication strategy for a deliberative process elevates the conversation from the participants in the room to the community more broadly – enabling a positive conversation about solutions to complex problems in the community at large. The quality and extent of deliberative processes makes them ‘newsworthy’ in themselves – enabling the conversation happening in the room to occur publicly. As a consequence, the process ‘transcends’ the room and plays a major role in influencing the public debate on these issues.
The upcoming focus on climate change created by the negotiations in Paris may give you an appropriate vehicle to announce such an approach.
As two young women running a startup in SA we are very interested in this issue and have a lot of expertise to offer. We have assisted irrigators to manage their River Murray licences by co-designing water allocation plans with government; we have supported natural resources management on a state-wide scale (including marine parks, alternative energy generation, and native vegetation management) and have worked with NGO’s locally to build understanding about global climate change science.
We would be very pleased to talk to you or your staff about this idea – which we feel has huge merit in assisting you to take the next steps in addressing climate change. Of course, we hope you keep our company in mind more broadly if you are interested in using deliberative democratic techniques to address other complex or sticky issues you may be facing.
Warmest wishes and congratulations once again,

Emma Lawson

Emily Jenke

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