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This subject deals with the many ways in which ‘the people’ are or can be involved directly in decision-making on important public issues, rather than through elected representatives. Direct involvement of the people through the use of referendums has been a familiar feature of systems of government for some time. Recently, however, new mechanisms for the involvement of the people have begun to proliferate around the world, including in Australia, of which Citizens’ Assemblies are only one example. This development is one of the most important public law issues of the present time. The subject will examine the features of representative democracy that have encouraged this development to emerge; explore the complex relationship between representation and direct popular involvement; and analyse the range of issues that arise from the use of such techniques including, for example, selection, process and the management of outcomes.
The two instructors in the subject, Tom Daly and Cheryl Saunders, have extensive experience of forms of democracy in Australia and elsewhere and are enthusiastic about exploring the significance and meaning of this emerging new field.
Principal topics will include:
- The scope of the field
- Representative government and direct public participation
- Referendums in all their forms
- Emerging techniques for direct public participation
- The issues, including terms of reference; selection, information, process, follow-up
- Comparative context
- Case studies
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject will:
- Understand the range of mechanisms for public involvement that are currently in use, globally and in the Asia-Pacific region, including Australia
- Have developed ideas about how and why this development has occurred.
- Have a sophisticated appreciation of the relationship between representative and direct democracy, in its many forms.
- Understand and be able to evaluate the history, use, potential and challenges of a referendum process
- Be aware of the many issues raised by the techniques of direct public involvement and be able to contribute to their resolution, generally and in context.
- Have an advanced understanding of the critical debate on techniques of direct public involvement and be able to contribute effectively to it.
- Be able to analyse these developments and the academic commentary on them from a comparative perspective.
Generic skills that will be developed through successful completion of this subject include:
- A capacity to identify, understand and evaluate major new developments in public law
- The ability to think conceptually and analytically about the relationship between institutions in public law
- An appreciation of how principle and practice change over time and the ability to analyse how and why.
- Advanced research skills in understanding and explaining institutional arrangements in sufficient detail to be reliable for the purposes of sustaining an argument
- An ability to think creatively about problems and solutions for institutional arrangements in public law
- Skills in the application of comparative method.
Last updated: 11 February 2021