Winston Churchill famously said that democracy was the worst form of government - except for all the others that have been tried. In western countries like Australia the universal good of democracy is simply assumed. But are we assuming too much?
"Democracy Is Not For Everyone" was the challenging proposition debated at the most recent IQ Squared event, held as part of the Festival of Dangerous Ideas. The first debater for the affirmative team was Carmen Lawrence, which, given her experience at democracy's coalface, is rather ironic.
Ambassador M.K. Bhadrakumar is the former Indian Ambassador to Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and Russia, amongst other countries.
He is a specialist in Afghanistan and Pakistan affairs, and writes on energy and security issues for publications including The Hindu and Asia Online.
Professor Greg Craven is Vice-Chancellor of the Australian Catholic University. He is an expert in public law, having published numerous articles and books on the subject.
He is a leading opinion writer and columnist for The Australian Financial Review.
John Keane is an Australian-born British political theorist. Educated at the Universities of Adelaide, Toronto and Cambridge, Keane is currently Professor of Politics at the University of Sydney. He still spends some of his time as visiting professor there. In 1989, Keane founded the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster. In recent years, Keane has held the Karl Deutsch Professorship in Berlin and served as Gavron Fellow of the think-tank, Institute for Public Policy Research.
Among his many books are The Media and Democracy, which has been translated into more than twenty-five languages; plus Democracy and Civil Society; Reflections on Violence; Civil Society: Old Images, New Visions; and the prize-winning biography Tom Paine: A Political Life. Among his most recent works are Global Civil Society?, Violence and Democracy, (with Wolfgang Merkel and others) The Future of Representative Democracy and The Life and Death of Democracy.
Professor Carmen Lawrence is a former Premier of Western Australia. She then served as a Federal Labor politician and became Minister for Health and Human Services in the Keating Government.
She is currently Professorial Fellow at the University of Western Australia.
Dr. Simon Longstaff is Executive Director of St. James Ethics Centre. Simon spent five years studying and working as a member of Magdalene College, Cambridge. Having won scholarships to study at Cambridge, he read for the degrees of Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy. He was inaugural President of The Australian Association for Professional and Applied Ethics and is a Director of a number of companies. He is a Fellow of the World Economic Forum and a member of the International Advisory Committee of the Foreign Policy Association, based in New York.
Amina Rasul is Director of the Philippine Council on Islam & Democracy.
Michael Wesley is the Executive Director of the Lowy Institute for International Policy. Previously he was Professor of International Relations and Director of the Griffith Asia Institute at Griffith University, and a Visiting Fellow at the University of Hong Kong and Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, China.
Prior to this, he was the Assistant Director-General for Transnational Issues at the Office of National Assessments, and a Senior Lecturer in International Relations at the University of New South Wales.
Between 2007 and 2009, Dr. Wesley was the Editor of the Australian Journal of International Affairs and a Chief Investigator in the Australian Research Council's Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security (CEPS). He has served on the Australian Research Council's College of Experts and the Queensland Art Gallery's Board of Trustees. In April 2008, he was Co-Chair (with Foreign Minister Stephen Smith) of one of the ten issue streams at the Australian government's 2020 Summit and gave the keynote speech at the Summit.
His most recent books are Energy Security in Asia(Routledge, 2007); The Howard Paradox: Australian Diplomacy in Asia 1996-2006 (ABC Books, 2007); and (with Allan Gyngell) Making Australian Foreign Policy, 2nd edition, (Cambridge University Press, 2007).
In this panel debate, Lowy Institute Executive Director Michael Wesley explores how advancements in communication technologies have facilitated the spread of democracy globally. "Fatalism is dead," he says. "Democracy is here as a consciousness."