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A greener alternative? deliberative democracy meets local government in Australia


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Zwart, IC 2003 , 'A greener alternative? deliberative democracy meets local government in Australia', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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In recent decades a search has been conducted among democratic theorists to find a
decision making form that is both democratic, and able to produce outcomes that may
be seen to favour the life supporting capacity of our natural systems. One form of
decision making that has gained considerable interest from green theorists is
participatory or deliberative democracy. It is suggested that compared to liberal
representative structures, a deliberative conception of politics will allow for a more
informed policy process that enables the discovery and support of generalisable rather
than particular interests. As a consequence, citizen deliberation will produce
outcomes that support the pre-eminence of the natural environment, while providing
greater legitimacy and compliance with the agreements reached.
These assumptions about the environmental credentials of deliberative forums are not
entirely theoretical. In recent decades there has been a gradual movement within local
government in Australia towards the use of participatory or deliberative models to
support its existing representative structure. In particular, this has been driven by the
emerging role of local government in addressing environmental issues. It is shown
that despite questions regarding their reliability, many of the assumptions made within
the deliberative democratic literature also exist within local processes to deliver
favourable environmental outcomes. The thesis therefore tests the purported benefits
of deliberative structures. It finds that citizen deliberation can produce more informed
policy processes. However, the notion that deliberative structures will produce both
environmentally favourable and universally legitimate outcomes is dependent upon a
range of contextual factors.
To support this thesis, existing research on public deliberation and two case studies in
Australian local government are presented and examined. The first case study
inspects the use of a precinct system at the Glenorchy City Council to address issues
including waste management, while the second concerns the use of a citizens jury to
address stormwater issues at the Waverley Municipal Council. Although a range of
factors prove to have significant impacts upon the environmental outcomes that were
achieved, the thesis concludes that the deliberative model can facilitate the greening of decision making, and enable a collective realisation of the benefits of active

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Zwart, IC
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