My recent trip across Europe made me reflect on the value of war in forging unity and national identity, and on how we depict that identity in our urban spaces.

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I am an Australian but have not always been. I am part Polish, part English, mostly European and — more recently — a Secret Asian Man. I don’t have a strong sense of belonging to any particular nationality, but am faintly proud to be associated with a country that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is a long way from the border disputes that bedevil most other continents.

Australia is a nation of creeks, paddocks, beaches and bush (rather than bushes). We are suburbs and country towns and lots of empty space. We have only been invaded once and solemnly remember both our military victories and our defeats. We celebrate our sporting legends, fair play and mateship. We revel in our musical and artistic talent, and make the occasional award-winning movie. We don’t have a national dish, or anything edible which would carry a restaurant anywhere in the world. We export dairy products, education and stuff that we dig up. We share part of our flag with tax havens and our Queen with fifteen other countries. We see ourselves as the good guys, and perhaps we are. …


If you haven’t read the earlier parts, you may want to do so: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

tldr

  • elections alone have not prevented democratic decay
  • we are in a crisis
  • democra.me’s BeatJosh injects truth back into politics
  • how to help

Who should I vote for?

Politics is not a public relations exercise. It is fundamentally a contest of ideas about what best serves the national interest. It is the ability to evaluate competing visions of the common good that marks out a truly great people.
John Howard
- Australian prime minister, 1996–2007

We decide who to vote for based on what we know of the candidates and their parties. In Australia we must vote, but there is no need to know. Since a significant number of us have little time for — or interest in — politics, tools such as the ABC’s VoteCompass are great time saver. They ask us a series of questions on contentious political issues — immigration, abortion, funding for healthcare and so on — and then tell us which party our views correlate with most closely. Internationally, isidewith.com is equally helpful. Here, for example, I can look at the range of opinions across the United…


If you haven’t read Parts 1 and 2, I recommend doing so. See you back here in a few minutes.

tldr

  • civics education should be extended to everyone
  • direct democracy is intriguing but embryonic
  • politicians should engage more closely with their constituents
  • citizen orientation would benefit all electorates
  • citizens’ assemblies work around institutional inertia
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So what’s to be done?

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Some of these claims get recycled to support even more outlandish and less accurate positions. Some of these can even end up part of major political speeches and policy commitments. Managing public expectations starts with a trusted, reliable base of information that is credible and neutral.


If you haven’t read Part 1, I recommend it. See you back here in 5 minutes.

tldr

  • the internet has forced news organisations to build new business models
  • the people we live with are less likely to consume the same news as us
  • trust in news and politicians is at an all-time low
  • how do we progress without a clear understanding of the truth?

Senator, we run ads

I was still explaining to people on election day that there was no death tax.
It was really hard to convince them. They’d seen it on Facebook.


Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four.
George Orwell

tldr

  • Australians are unhappy with their democracy and politicians
  • Big hairy issues are not getting tackled
  • Dishonesty can be a helpful political strategy

Canberra to Cambridge

The Museum of Australian Democracy at the Old Parliament House in Canberra has just launched a new exhibition on the topic of ‘truth decay’. According to the Canberra Times, it focuses on the importance of journalism in holding governments to account. Given the results of recent polls, it is timely.

The ABC’s Australia Talks survey — which has been completed by 54,000 people and is still running — tells us that 90% of Australians don’t trust politicians to tell the truth. Admittedly such surveys are likely to appeal primarily to the frustrated and the digitally savvy, but it’s a shocking outcome. …

About

Marcus Crowley

Father, husband, founder of democra.me

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