Australian MP floats 'Deliberation Day' idea to energise voters

Officials count votes during last year's Australian election Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Officials count votes during last year's Australian election

How do you get disillusioned voters to re-engage with the political process?

An Australian MP has floated the idea of introducing a national holiday - "Deliberation Day" - before significant elections.

Andrew Leigh said the concept, taken from two US academics, would create a designated day for people to discuss issues that concerned them.

The federal MP described the idea as "an exercise in realistic utopianism".

Political scientists Bruce Ackerman and James Fishkin first wrote about the concept in 2004, proposing holding Deliberation Day one week before elections.

Ex-attorney general Lord Goldsmith also suggested a version of the idea in a review of British citizenship in 2008.

Social benefit

"The day might start with some sort of awareness raising issues, presentations by local experts, and then small group and larger group discussions about the issues that matter for the community," Dr Leigh told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

"It builds off the notion of town hall meetings which have seen an upsurge in attendance in the United States recently."

It would also address social inequality by allowing "people of modest means and of affluent means" to discuss issues together, he said.

Last year, a major study found that dissatisfaction with mainstream politics was on the rise in Australia.

However, it concluded that dramatic political change was less likely in Australia than other nations due to factors including compulsory voting.

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