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2050: Australian decision making

Defence policy in Australia will have undergone radical change by 2050. AAP

AUSTRALIA 2050 – So let’s imagine it’s the midpoint of the 21st century and Australia is enjoying its third decade as a recognised innovator in democracy.

Australia routinely initiates global conversations, convening large-scale events in various countries and facilitating electronic interactions.

Its most recent initiative has been a Global Marshall Plan and discussions are ongoing to reach agreement about strategic goals.

Public deliberations are an everyday occurrence and these help in the formulation of local, national and global policy-making to resolve challenges that transcend borders. Citizens are motivated to be informed and critically reflective.

Arab innovation

The upheavals of the Arab world in the second decade of the twenty-first century saw a mass of the world’s population seize an opportunity not merely to secure the same freedoms as the western world but to create their own culturally-appropriate pathways to better governance.

They were able to learn from and bypass several centuries of compounded errors that produced an adversarial bear-pit of parliamentary representatives too riven with argument and electioneering, and unable to focus on the noble ideals that drove them to participate in the first place.

In the same way the consumer goods industries skipped generations of old technology in delivering the Third World mobile telephony without building an old copper network first, so the emergent reformers of the Arab world captured an opportunity to build democracy’s second wave.

The Arab world built electoral and parliamentary structures which limited representatives to a single term, and now the vast majority of those in public office are drawn at random from the citizenry.

In so doing, they delivered a parliament with which the people could identify. Free from the need for re-election, there was no need to joust in the media, nor was there a public perception of being at the mercy of one’s donor funders. Decisions are being made that pay careful attention to public interest.


Australia in 2050 has made a transformation of its own – not only absorbing the lessons of Arab innovation but playing to our unique opportunity stemming from being among the world’s wealthiest nations.

Australians have realised the value of disaggregating government, and from a starting point of questioning the value of the states have turned their attention to questioning the value of a federal system.

Our small but flourishing nation some years ago delivered its first trillion-dollar budget. It was rightly observed that government had become too complex for a single elected group to deal with the country’s policy complexities.

Following a multi-year convention not unlike that [held in America in 1787](, decisions were made by the people to create policy offices in 50 distinct areas of government.

This apparently controversial change was made easier by the earlier transition to a modification of demarchy, which replaced the antiquated ideal of single competing policy theories in major areas, to one where a range of choices was able to be selected by an individual citizen.

Old notions of Left and Right were left behind as citizens had the right to choose their own policy path as long as the overarching policy goal was achieved.

Where we are

So it has come to pass that now 15 million of us choose the path of medical insurance through Medicare, 15 million of us choose a savings fund akin to superannuation that we can draw upon as our health fails us, and some of us make no provision, save for a commitment to the state that the cost of our care may be taken from his or her estate upon death.

The real test of a democracy is not whether citizens can overcome their disagreements, but how these citizens conduct themselves in light of those disagreements. This change in conduct has removed much of the adversarialism from public discourse and led to a more mature democracy.

This new method of governance has also permeated defence spending. Old ideological battles have been set aside now that the seemingly optional wars – the wars of subjective morality – are paid for only by those who opt to support them.

They are fought by a subsection of the military who share a commitment to the same values and opt in to units who fight for the freedom of others, not merely the defence of Australia. With war and pestilence solved, other issues pose little barrier.

The same method for policy development is used for the 50 areas of government – education, transport, telecommunications, energy provision, early childhood and aged care, and more. Citizens make policies that guarantee maximum choice.

Australia is a land where government is now truly of the people. Tens of thousands serve in decision-making roles every year, then pass the baton to others, meaning almost all of us take part at some point in our lifetimes.

It is our truest, and now most trusted time of government – a democracy truly of the people.

The partisan and protest groups of the past thought we had all the knowledge to have the right answers on an issue, and we just needed to scream it the loudest. We didn’t. We had too little incentive to acquire knowledge given we weren’t involved in making decisions.

But what citizens did have was judgment. When citizens were given more information, and a reason to consume it, they used that judgment to make trusted, widely accepted decisions.

This is part three of The Conversation’s Australia 2050 series.

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