Julia Gillard's climate change policy and citizen juries
July 23, 2010
ByJulia Gillard has just announced her climate change policy in a speech in Brisbane, but details were leaked to the media overnight.
Early reactions have focused on the mooted creation of a citizens assembly to build public consensus and provide advice to the government. Its of a piece with Gillards desire to present her government as one which will govern in a consultative way (unlike Kevin Rudd) and which will take the public with her.
In principle, citizen juries are a good thing. Theyre one of the tools of deliberative democracy. The idea is that randomly selected citizens are presented with evidence, and can employ the practices of public reason to come up with ideas which may have eluded experts. The idea is also to circumvent vested interests.
The problem with a climate change jury is that its far too late in the game.
Swift action on climate change, surely one of the standout Labor policies of the 2007 campaign, failed to eventuate precisely because of the power of vested interests to distort the debate. There was tons of consultation. Polluting industries had a seat at the top table, and when they didnt get their way, a megaphone through the media.
Recent polls show that there is still a large majority in public opinion supporting an ETS. In a democracy, thats more than enough public support on which to predicate reform. A deliberative assembly will contain - just by virtue of being representative of all shades of public opinion - some who are climate skeptics or who dont believe human action has contributed to global warming. The media will seize upon this. Any dissent will be trumpeted as evidence that consensus has not been reached.
A citizen climate jury will see the debate re-opened, rather than consensus built.
Politically, its more of what weve had so far from Julia Gillard PM - a holding action rather than a genuine way to "move forward". The true consultation will be with the corporate interests who were able to load the CPRS with so many giveaways it became a policy instrument incapable of achieving its stated aim.
Consensus is never achievable in a democracy. This announcement, I fear, is a recipe for real inaction rather than moving forward.
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