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Julia Gillard's climate change policy and citizen juries

July 23, 2010

By Julia 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.

Comments (24)

  • Caz

    Jul 23, 2010 at 11:36 AM

    I agree we need swift action and wish it were possible. Unfortunately swiftly banging against a brick wall with a feather duster doesnt produce and effective results. And tho I believe a majority of us do get that climate changes have come about through human actions there is a significant and powerful minority that opposed any action been taken. That is why we need to achieve an overwhelming consensus across all parties. Get rid of Tony, do some sound legwork in convincing the community etc then we will be armed with sledgehammers and make some real progress.

  • vote none of the above

    Jul 23, 2010 at 11:39 AM

    Besides having one of the most boring voices on the planet Gillards climate change policy speech represented nothing more than a tirade against Abbott and a typical ALP ploy to delay any action until after the election. In other words the speech was a total fraud.

  • wilful

    Jul 23, 2010 at 11:46 AM

    What a shocker. we signed the UNFCCC in 1992, which was about the time to have this level of debate.

  • Christo

    Jul 23, 2010 at 11:59 AM

    Whenever I hear or read the words we in discussion about climate change such as the opening comment by Caz, I get the feeling I am being rail roaded by the holier than thou brigade, who have the affrontery to assume they are some sort of we know it all majority and need to sort the rest of us out when in reality there is plenty of international evidence that they are just plain wrong. My peers, as myself, are aware of emissions and pollution, just not ready to return to the dark ages at the behest of the (self) chosen few.
    Vociferous lot they are.
    Rational discussion involving all of the Australian people other than these few is a good starter.

  • Lorraine

    Jul 23, 2010 at 12:05 PM

    Recent polls show that there is still a large majority in public opinion supporting an ETS.

    Really??? A poll ENTIRELY about the ETS??? Give details please. Who was polled? How many in the poll? When was it released? Im astonished!

  • Karan

    Jul 23, 2010 at 12:09 PM

    Is it just me or does the "community consensus" sound a bit like the 2020 summit? Looks more likely to be a fig-leaf covering the process of hammering out an agreeable compromise for those with real lobbying power.

    Did anything actually come out of the 2020 summit?

  • Lorraine

    Jul 23, 2010 at 12:31 PM

    Recent polls show that there is still a large majority in public opinion supporting an ETS.

    If this were true there would be no need for all this shilly shallying about citizens committees... They would run on the ETS with full details OF WHAT IT WILL COST voters disclosed NOW. In the absence of an answer to my question above I suspect you are being creative with poll results to suit your own argument.

  • Rorbert

    Jul 23, 2010 at 12:48 PM

    Lorraine, the information was available in the CPRS white paper. If youre earning less than the median income, it would have cost you zero, as you would have been compensated by tax cuts and increased benefit payments. If you earned more than that, there would have been a very small cost that would have been dwarfed by the average annual rise in real incomes.

  • Lorraine

    Jul 23, 2010 at 12:53 PM

    Then I can only repeat that, if this is true, why is their a perceived need for all this shilly shallying about citizens committees? Can you explain, please? The ALP seems less convinced about the MAJORITY support for the ETS than you are.

  • Soraya

    Jul 23, 2010 at 01:07 PM

    Indeed I am inclined to agree that this just another part of small target delay tactics. However it might provide an opportunity to begin long overdue discussion in Australia about how we actually facilitate PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY. What is a citizen panel and why would it be better than a series of local discussions - eg. facilitated through local government appropriately resourced with all the necessary information on the options - which have a REAL input into the decision-making process ?

  • thomond

    Jul 23, 2010 at 01:21 PM

    I hate the idea of having to do this but wonder whether this move is more about political manouvering - if labor announce a set policy the libs will spend the next 4 weeks running the mother of all scare campaigns that the economic sky will fall in..... labor sticks its neck out over environment policies and regularly gets hammered (remember the tasmanian forests, the mining tax, and even the ETS) - nothing is ever good enough for the greens, the coalition scream tax, tax, tax, and the media roll out 10 sceptics for every environmentalist and a raft of daft opinion writers. Labor took the ETS to the Senate 3 times, if the greens get the balance of power in the Senate at least the libs cannot block legislation like they have over the last 3 years.

  • jim

    Jul 23, 2010 at 01:27 PM

    This does not address the damage by population. It has been stated as a corporate welfare package tied in with elitism and new world orders,global governments and corporation opportunism and the wests spreading of business and authority. Mainly in the area of strong right tendencies.
    There is the ability to further damage our environment, the real issue that is not being addressed. The movements of the last few decades show opportunistic piggy backing of public rights out the door to benefit the institution markets of insurance, health ,dental and legal matters and global trade opportunism.
    I have not seen any addressing of this matter or any explanations.

    The public jury is placative, easily manipulated like movements through the media and its rigging and the people have been bombarded with this type of highjacking and mugging increasingly over the years. In this matter the liberal and labor party are one. Like work choices, it was never meant to last, it was just a vicious intrusion -all knew was going to end -on the working classes and lower by the boom pigfest by those above. An overindulgence. They got away with it. like the health cost hole that benefits some and we are told to bury our dead and move on.
    By not joining this wolf in sheeps clothing, Australia forces the world to be more responsible in the matter of our ecologies and environments,not suffer from it.

    The emission matter is something that could have and should have-APARRENTLY - already been addressed by run of the mill planning and environment matters in this country. Will our resources and lifestyles be regulated and reduced even more by this globalization and global class warfare and welfare attack?
    All ive heard on the matter is platitudes and highly debatable science and watch the public general being manipulated for the top year after year in plunder raids.

  • watty

    Jul 23, 2010 at 01:43 PM

    Moving forward on climate change? Julias solution?

    Create a son (or daughter) of Rudds ego stroking "brightest and best" 2008 gabfest.

    Julia showing as much if not more contempt for voters (whether Global Warming advocates or Warming sceptics) than even her predecessor Rudd displayed.

    "Citizens Assembly" Julias Socialist training showing again?

  • jim

    Jul 23, 2010 at 01:56 PM

    ---"Moving forward on climate change? Julias solution?

    Create a son (or daughter) of Rudds ego stroking "brightest and best" 2008 gabfest.

    Julia showing as much if not more contempt for voters (whether Global Warming advocates or Warming sceptics) than even her predecessor Rudd displayed.

    "Citizens Assembly" Julias Socialist training showing again?"----

    watty, that is nothing but a cheap opportunistic political party attack especially considering the groundwork on this matter and matters by the liberal minded and the powerbank concentration. The continuing excursion into the lives of the public and big agendas are hardly hidden and definitely not by whitewash or media spin psychology and script writers.

  • Tails

    Jul 23, 2010 at 01:58 PM

    This is crazy stuff. The`vast majority of people agree that something must be donne - and soon. So why on earth would you want yet another citizens assembly to talk it over. We elect leaders to... oh I dunno... LEAD! So lead Julia. Stop sounding like a 40-something counsellor conducting a therapy session and say something gutsy for once.

  • Ray Gatiss

    Jul 23, 2010 at 02:12 PM

    After being whipped by the Mining Industrys PR machine on Climate Change and the Resource Rent Tax its understandable that the Labor Government does not want to do anything on climate change before the Election. Has Ms Gillard learnt her lesson and appoint a minister who can bring the population along and out PR the mining industry and the climate change sceptics following the election.

    The rumour that Mr Rudd may receive a top climate change job at the UN is daunting given his inability to sell the changes he passionately believed in.

    I fear for any worthwhile action on climate change in both Australia and the UN after this election

  • greg

    Jul 23, 2010 at 02:24 PM

    Its alright, Labor can afford not to have a climate policy. The frustrated masses will just vote Green and fail to notice that their votes will help Labor to power anyway.

  • Sweeney

    Jul 23, 2010 at 02:36 PM

    What a waste of space and total vacuum this all is. Gillard is just another spin maestro bred in the empty of ideas place called Labor.

  • Icedvolvo

    Jul 23, 2010 at 02:37 PM

    Just another junket for the ALP faithful to do their masters bidding.

    Does anyone really think that such a committee will be made up of independent thinkers? Yeah and porcine creatures with wings are appearing on the horizon at this very moment.

  • Elise

    Jul 23, 2010 at 03:24 PM

    Another bloody Summit - another media circus - lets invite some celebrities too - what a waste of time.

    Hope Julia gets clobbered in the polls for this useless idea.

  • malcolm

    Jul 23, 2010 at 03:26 PM

    I think Gillards idea is good. The climate change denialists created so much confusion in the minds of the public with their lies and pseudo-science that the public cannot be blamed for scepticism. The debate needs to be propperly addressed at the grass roots level and some means of explaining the basic science behind the need for action must be achieved.

    Otherwise we will still be prevaricating in 20 years time while the denialist drones continue to obfuscate.

  • Robbo

    Jul 23, 2010 at 06:44 PM

    Having to create a citizens assembly is a damning indictment of Parliament and the way Parliament is meant to work.

  • Lou

    Jul 25, 2010 at 10:01 AM

    The Citizens Assembly. British Colombia and Canada have used this system,successfully. It is an effective system used to educate the general public,who really don,t understand this very complex issue. Remember, Tony Abbott doesn,t think it exists. Or does he this week?

  • Peter Wood

    Jul 25, 2010 at 04:56 PM

    It would perhaps be more appropriate to have citizen juries when deciding to build a new coal fired power station, coal mine, or aluminium smelter. Where should the burden of consensus reside?

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