Deliberative Democracy or Discursively Biased? Perth's Dialogue with the City Initiative

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The State Government in Western Australia has portrayed itself as achampion of revitalising local democracy and civic engagement. This can beseen in the plethora of community consultation/participation policy documentsthat have emerged from the Premier’s Citizens and Civics Unit overthe past five years. Dialogue with the City, a major participatory planningprocess that formed part of the development of a new strategic plan—Network City—for metropolitan Perth, has been heralded as an exemplar ofdeliberative democracy. This paper draws on deliberative democratic theory,performative policy analysis and institutional discourse analysis to interrogatethe efficacy of this claim by examining the discursive practices leading up toand including the Community Forum, a major consultative and participatoryevent of the Dialogue Initiative. It is argued that, whilst the Dialogue Initiativewas supported by rhetorical deliberative utterances from political leaders andplanning experts and exhibited, superficially at least, a number of attributesassociated with deliberative democracy, the overall process fell short of thisideal. The primary reasons for this were that the process was scripted andstage-managed and lacked sufficient space and time for citizens to engage ingenuine inclusionary argumentation and social learning. Hence the DialogueInitiative may be viewed as an exercise more reflective of a mix of consultativeand participatory planning conducted widely.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-352
JournalSpace and Polity
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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