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Australian Citizens’ Parliament and the Future of Deliberative Democracy

by Lyn Carson, John Gastil, Janette Hartz-Karp and Ron Lubensky Penn State University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 336 pages
AU$52.99 NZ$56.52
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Growing numbers of scholars, practitioners, politicians, and citizens recognize the value of deliberative civic engagement processes that enable citizens and governments to come together in public spaces and engage in constructive dialogue, informed discussion, and decisive deliberation. This book seeks to fill a gap in empirical studies in deliberative democracy by studying the assembly of the Australian Citizens’ Parliament (ACP), which took place in Canberra on February 6–8, 2009. The ACP addressed the question “How can the Australian political system be strengthened to serve us better?”

The ACP’s Canberra assembly is the first large-scale, face-to-face deliberative project to be completely audio-recorded and transcribed, enabling an unprecedented level of qualitative and quantitative assessment of participants’ actual spoken discourse. Each chapter reports on different research questions for different purposes to benefit different audiences. Combined, they exhibit how diverse modes of research focused on a single event can enhance both theoretical and practical knowledge about deliberative democracy.



List of Illustrations

List of Tables



Lyn Carson, John Gastil, Janette Hartz-Karp, and Ron Lubensky

Part I: Deliberative Design and Innovation

1 Origins of the First Citizens’ Parliament

Lyn Carson and Luca Belgiorno-Nettis

2 Putting Citizens in Charge: Comparing the Australian Citizens’ Parliament and the Australia 2020 Summit

Janette Hartz-Karp and Lyn Carson

3 Choose Me: The Challenges of National Random Selection

Ron Lubensky and Lyn Carson

4 Grafting an Online Parliament onto a Face-to-Face Process

Brian Sullivan and Janette Hartz-Karp

Part II: Exploring Deliberation

5 Listening Carefully to the Citizens’ Parliament: A Narrative Account

Ron Lubensky

6 Deliberative Design and Storytelling in the Australian Citizens’ Parliament

Laura W. Black and Ron Lubensky

7 What Counts as Deliberation? Comparing Participant and Observer Ratings

John Gastil

8 Hearing All Sides? Soliciting and Managing Different Viewpoints in Deliberation

Anna Wiederhold and John Gastil

9 Sit Down and Speak Up: Stability and Change in Group Participation

Joseph A. Bonito, Renee A. Meyers, John Gastil, and Jennifer Ervin

Part III: The Flow of Beliefs and Ideas

10 Changing Orientations Toward Australian Democracy

Simon Niemeyer, Luisa Batalha, and John S. Dryzek

11 Staying Focused: Tracing the Flow of Ideas from the Online Parliament to Canberra

John Gastil and John Wilkerson

12 Evidence of Peer Influence in the Citizens’ Parliament

Luc Tucker and John Gastil

Part IV: Facilitation and Organizer Effects

13 The Unsung Heroes of a Deliberative Process: Reflections on the Role of Facilitators at the Citizens’ Parliament

Max Hardy and Kath Fisher, with Janette Hartz-Karp

14 Are They Doing What They Are Supposed to Do? Assessing the Facilitating Process of the Australian Citizens’ Parliament

Li Li, Fletcher Ziwoya, Laura W. Black, and Janette Hartz-Karp

15 Supporting the Citizen Parliamentarians: Mobilizing Perspectives and Informing Discussion

Ian Marsh and Lyn Carson

16 Investigation of (and Introspection on) Organizer Bias

Lyn Carson

Part V: Impacts and Reflections

17 Participant Accounts of Political Transformation

Katie Knobloch and John Gastil

18 Becoming Australian: Forging a National Identity

Janette Hartz-Karp, Patrick Anderson, John Gastil, and Andrea Felicetti

19 Mediated Meta-deliberation: Making Sense of the Australian Citizens’ Parliament

Eike Mark Rinke, Katie Knobloch, John Gastil, and Lyn Carson

20 How Not to Introduce Deliberative Democracy: The 2010 Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change Proposal

Lyn Carson

Conclusion: Theoretical and Practical Implications of the Citizens’ Parliament Experience

Janette Hartz-Karp, Lyn Carson, John Gastil, and Ron Lubensky


“From conception to conclusion, this book narrates and analyzes an ambitious experiment in deliberative democracy: the Australian Citizens’ Parliament. Integrating social science analyses of many kinds of data with reflections by philosophers and civic reform–minded public participation practitioners, the volume offers a rich sense of what occurred in the different phases of the ACP process and provides a nuanced assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of this large-scale deliberative democracy experiment. This wonderful case study is a must-read for everyone interested in deliberative democracy.”

—Karen Tracy, University of Colorado, and author of Challenges of Ordinary Democracy

Lyn Carson is Professor in the Business Programs Unit at the University of Sydney Business School and a co-initiator of the Australian Citizens’ Parliament.

John Gastil is Professor and Head of Communication Arts and Sciences at The Pennsylvania State University.

Janette Hartz-Karp is Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University’s Sustainability Policy Institute.

Ron Lubensky is a doctoral candidate at the School of Humanities and Communication Arts, University of Western Sydney.