How to talk about the Framework for a Fair Democracy

The policy detail that sits under each issue covered by our Framework is very complex, but the principles are not. Here are some tips for communicating effectively when you’re talking about the Framework for a Fair Democracy – all these reforms are common sense changes that anyone can explain. 

Start with your why

We want these reforms because we all want a healthy democracy that puts people, planet and future generations at the heart of every decision. 

Our democratic process is how we make the most important decisions, that effect our lives every day. 

Make it personal and use real life examples: what is something you care about that is stymied by the influence of big money over politics? Why do you personally care about having a government that works better for everyone?

Use the Vision, Problem, Solution method

A powerful way to talk about change is by using the ‘Vision, Problem, Solution’ method. 

Whenever possible, start with the vision of what we want: Our democracy works best when the people we elect to parliament, listen to and represent the values and concerns of their community.

Next, introduce the problem that is preventing this vision: But right now, big corporations are using our weak integrity laws to gain an unfair amount of influence and access to our elected representatives, influencing decision making in their own gain, rather than what’s in all of our best interest. 

Then, articulate a clear and believable solution: That’s why we need to introduce simple, commonsense reforms that bring greater integrity back to our political system. 

This method works for any problem you are trying to adress. The more specific you can be, the better.  

Use the language of state or corporate capture

When we don’t have words for something, it’s hard to talk about. Using the language “state capture” or “corporate capture” gives us all a framework to understand the thing that most of us already know in our gut – our democracy isn’t working for us, it’s working for the powerful few.

Organise conversations about policy around our three pillars

Our three pillars – Stamp out corruption, End cash for access, and Level the playing field in election debates – are great shorthand for a big suite of policies, and we’ve tested this language and know that it makes sense to people even if they’re not that politically engaged. So the pillars are always a good place to start. 

Talking about the Framework’s pillars

Pillar 1: We need to stamp out corruption in our political system

This means a powerful federal integrity commission, like Helen Haines’ model. We also need an enforceable code of conduct for our politicians, just like most professions have. Without these measures, there’s no accountability for people who do the wrong thing. But a national integrity commission by itself won’t fix politics: we need to improve the laws that the commission would enforce. 

Pillar 2: We need to end cash for access

When money can influence policy outcomes, our democracy is in trouble. Cash for access is one of the main ways that corporate capture stops our elected representatives from really representing us. We need to cap political donations to a modest amount, and make it easy to find out who is giving money to what political parties and candidates. We need to make lobbying transparent too – no more secret backroom deals. Finally, we need to stop the ‘revolving door’ between industry and politics so that we can clearly see where private interests end and our government begins.

Pillar 3: We need a level playing field in elections

Unlimited election spending means that corporate powers can attack a political party that doesn’t do what they want, destroying careers and changing election outcomes. That’s not how our democracy should work. We need to cap election spending per electorate so it’s fair for everyone, and introduce enforceable requirements for politicians and candidates to be truthful.

The Reforms

Stamp out corruption

  • Create a strong federal integrity commission
  • Introduce an enforceable code of conduct for politicians
  • Independent funding of the Audit Office and Information Commissioner
  • Introduce a merit-based process for appointing government advisors

End cash for access

  • Create a public register for lobbyists and publish ministerial diaries
  • Impose a three-year mandatory cooling-off period for ministers and staff
  • Ban large donations to politicians altogether
  • Declare all political donations over $2,500 publicly and in real time

Level the playing field in election debates

  • Limit how much anyone can spend on trying to influence an election outcome
  • Limit the amount candidates and parties can spend on election campaigns
  • Penalise politicians and campaigners who clearly and deliberately

What do we want? The one minute version

We need a strong Integrity Commission, but we also need to have strong laws for that Commission to enforce. Australian integrity laws are worse than America’s. We need transparency for political donations, and a ban on large donations altogether, so it’s harder to buy political outcomes. We need to cap election spending too, so that people compete with their ideas, not their cash. We need to make sure that Ministers  can’t leave office and walk straight into a fancy job in the industry they were just regulating, and open their diaries so we know who they meet with. If we do these things, we’ll already have made a huge step towards a political system that works fairly for us all. 

Keep solutions oriented

Yes – the Framework is a very ambitious set of policies, but there’s no reason we can’t legislate all of them – the only missing ingredient is political will, and that’s something that we can create together if enough of us work together to make it happen. 

All parties and candidates should commit to legislate these policies

Without these reforms, the disappointing politics we see in our newsfeeds every day will just roll on. Every party and candidate who wants to be elected to represent our communities should be ready to commit to legislate this Framework.