Talking about democracy

Talking about democracy

02 May 2017 

“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time,” British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once told the House of Commons. Churchill recognised the frustrations and failures of democracy as a system of government, but asked “what else is there?”.

Today, very much in the spirit of Churchill’s quote, many are asking another question: “Is democracy broken?”

It is not a new question, having been asked many times throughout modern history both here in Australia and elsewhere in the world. Today, though, it seems particularly pertinent as populism and tribalism are on the march again across the western world.

“Is democracy broken?” is the topic for my next Conversations with the Archbishop, to be held at Deakin Edge in Federation Square on 17 May. I’ll be joined once again by Labor great and public commentator Barry Jones, as well as President of the Law Council of Australia Fiona McLeod in what I’m sure will be a captivating discussion on democracy today. Former ABC presenter John Cleary will also return as moderator. Please find the full event description and details below, and I hope to see you there.


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Only 60 per cent of Australians believe democracy is the best political system, according to a 2012 Lowy Institute poll. Mainstream political parties in Australia and around the globe are in crisis, with membership, public engagement and trust all plummeting. It seems populist parties are rising fast, but they failed two recent tests – Pauline Hanson in Western Australia and Gert Wiilders in the Netherlands.

What is going on in our democracies? Is there any way back? Can there ever be consensus? Must public policy now focus only on short-term solutions? Living National Treasure, Labor great and public commentator Barry Jones joins rights advocate Fiona McLeod, President of the Law Council of Australia, and Melbourne Anglican Archbishop Philip Freier for the first of the Archbishop’s Conversations for 2017 at Federation Square to discuss these questions. The conversation will be moderated by former ABC presenter John Cleary.

Wednesday 17 May 2017 at 7.30am (morning please note)

Deakin Edge, Federation Square – ADMISSION FREE

Bookings are not essential, but you may RSVP here.