What do electoral law, social media, climate change and safe work have in common?
All are prioritized by the Labor government for reform – and all are areas where democratic reform is necessary. In fact, the links between these four priorities provide a unique opportunity for change.
misinformation and manipulation
The speed, targeting and anonymity of digital media has given steroids to the age-old problem of political lies. Propaganda is engulfing democracies around the world – and Australia is no exception.
How to deal with “cheating” [that is] Degrading Our Democracy” Labor’s National Forum commits the government to presenting the truth in political advertising laws. Recently reiterated by Minister of State for Special Dawn Farrell, this pledge should be welcomed. While the truth in political advertising laws must be carefully crafted, there is undoubtedly a need for measures to protect the information environment in which Australian democracy operates.
In fact, the focus of reform should extend to other forms of political manipulation enabled by “big data”. It must contend with the threats to democracy and political autonomy posed by “surveillance capitalism”, including micro-targeting and the “architecture of choice” created by large tech companies. These instruments have fuel (chamber polarization resonate and put a premium on emotional appeal.
A key priority here, which coincides with the government’s data transparency initiative, is “radical transparency”. The second is the coverage of digital propaganda under political finance laws, to which we will return.
money in politics
Labor’s National Forum commits government
To reduce the disproportionate influence of vested interests in the democratic process [including] Through the introduction of spending caps.
Not only has the federal government lagged behind domestically and internationally, as a result of laissez-faire regulation. It has also allowed for excessive campaign spending, particularly by Clive Palmer and his United Australia party, which undermines the fairness of elections. Farrell has reaffirmed Labor’s commitment to “overdue campaign finance reform”.
To be effective, the spending limit must include all digital campaigns (including “cyber military” and the gathering and use of data). They should be accompanied by other measures, in particular:
• A real-time donation disclosure system
• Controlling government advertisements in the lead up to the elections
• Stronger regulation of lobbying.
connecting to climate
Democracy and the climate crisis are linked to money. As David Attenborough has pointed out, powerful vested interests are “the most formidable obstacle” to the switch to clean energy. Australia lays out the truth of this observation: Our fossil fuel industries have blocked climate action for decades. And political funding and lobbying is an important part of their arsenal.
Effective political finance regulation has many benefits: it promotes political equality, curbs corruption and enables climate action.
Read more: Australia has a once in a lifetime opportunity to break the fossil fuel grip on our politics
But there is a deep connection between democracy and the climate crisis. The same features lauded as defining qualities of democracy – popular sovereignty, accountability and accountability of elected officials, public debate and deliberation – can hinder climate action.
In a worst-case scenario, democracy – dominated by inexorable and ineffective decisions, short-lived, and slow, cumbersome policy processes – can seem like a fair-weather regime unable to navigate crises, and especially existential crises such as climate change. For some, “democracy is the planet’s worst enemy”.
The climate crisis will require significant democratic innovation to address the shortcomings in the way our democracy operates. Four pillars of reform are central: a democratic planning state; an ethos of solidarity; active multilateralism; Fair and inclusive politics.
But the conversation has barely begun; Taking this forward should be one of the reform priorities of the Labor government.
World of work
The ultimate priority for electoral reform is to make democracy work – literally.
The climate crisis highlights the importance of democratizing work. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate has stressed that a climate-secure future requires “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”. The International Labor Organization has said that the impact of the climate crisis on the world of work would be “similar to an industrial revolution”.
Important here are “a proper transition of” [fossil fuel] workforce and creation of decent work and quality jobs”, as emphasized by the Paris Agreement.
The International Labor Organization has recognized the voice of workers (through trade unions) as an essential element of a just transition. Labor’s policy forum reaffirms the Paris Agreement’s “need only to have a transition plan involving local communities, unions and industry”.
A manifesto signed by more than 6,000 prominent scholars proposes similar action, including “”[d]democratization of firms; dismantling the work; Stop treating humans as resources so that we can focus together on sustaining life on this planet.”
An equitable transition links the Labor government’s climate action to its Safe Work agenda. Voice protection is an important part of labor protection.
Democracy should extend to workplaces. After all, our working life is an important part of our lives.
Read more: Australia’s next government should start talking about an ‘equitable transition’ from coal. start here
The constitution of labor accepts this fact by calling
Application of democracy in industry to increase opportunities for people to work in satisfactory, healthy and humane conditions; and to participate in and exercise control over the decision-making processes affecting them.
Australia’s democracy faces serious challenges – challenges that present an opportunity to fully realize democracy as a system in which “the will of the people shall be the basis of authority in government”.