Are elections the best way to express our desires?

As Australians are bombarded with the familiar events and announcements of the now ritual federal election campaign, four international scholars will discuss the alternatives being pursued by other countries at a special event organised by the Whitlam Institute.

The public conversation, Democracy Today with an Eye to Tomorrow, is organised by the Whitlam Institute within the University of Western Sydney, Catalyst and Unions NSW, and will take place on Monday 19 August 2013 at the Trades Hall Auditorium in Sydney.

Australia's democracy is now over a century old, and elections are familiar for the customary signposts that mark their progress, starting with the first televised leaders' debate, leading through the party launches to the final destination, polling day.

As a representative democracy, Australians elect their chosen candidates to act in federal parliament on their behalf to vote on laws governing the nation.

Yet some academics question whether democracy can truly flourish when it is bounded and framed by the constitutional state, and a wide range of contemporary movements are testing these limits by pushing for 'direct' democracy through a variety of innovative plebiscites.

To discuss these and other issues, including how the rise in social inequality is impacting on democracy, are four respected leaders in their fields.

  • Martin Loughlin, Professor of Public Law at the London School of Economics & Political Science, is recognised as one of the leading contemporary thinkers and writers on public law and constitutional theory.
  • Peg Birmingham, Professor of Philosophy at DePaul University, has carved an international reputation for her work on contemporary political thought, ethics and human rights.
  • Michael Goodhart, Professor of Political Science at the University of Pittsburg, is breaking new ground on the interplay between democracy, human rights and globalisation.
  • Anna Yeatman, Professorial Fellow at the Whitlam Institute within the University of Western Sydney, leads the Institute's premier public policy program, Human Rights and Public Life.

Members of the public and the media are invited to 'Democracy Today with an Eye on Tomorrow'.


14 August 2013

Contact: Mark Smith, Media Officer

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