Citizens Jury Process for the South Australian Premier

By newDemocracy, May 11, 2013

On Wednesday (May 8), SA Premier Jay Weatherill announced that newDemocracy will be conducting a Citizens Jury process on the topic of how to create a safe and vibrant Adelaide nightlife. This explores the policy issues around alcohol-linked violence and crime which affects how people enjoy the city. A deliberative process is ideally suited to questions which can fall victim to the vox pop (“tough on crime”, “creating the nanny state” or “not protecting our children” are familiar phrases), issues which have powerful lobbies and activist groups, and issues where the question is one of tradeoffs. It’s a great topic, and a very substantive one to hand to a jury of everyday people.

We will randomly draw a jury of 43 citizens who will meet in person for over 40 hours across 4 months, with access to information and expertise of their own choosing. The emphasis is on seeking to find common ground rather than simple floor votes which you might see at a town hall meeting. Importantly, the Premier has granted the authority that the jury’s recommendations will be taken to Cabinet and then tabled in both Houses of Parliament. Verbatim.

For most citizens, community engagement involves departments showing draft documents, with feedback going somewhere into an administrative void. In this case, there is no draft: participants start from a blank sheet of paper, and whatever they choose to convey to the government will be aired for discussion on the floor of parliament – quite a step forward.

The Premier has asked for a process that changes how we do government. The visibility of this exercise is the best way to advance this.

* The newDemocracy Foundation is an independent, non-partisan research organisation aiming to identify improvements to our democratic process.

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