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'Democratic duties' political philosophy forum in Canberra


Wednesday 1 Jan 2003
As Australia approaches a federal election with a changed Labor Party leadership and Prime Minister, Charles Sturt University (CSU) will convene a political philosophy forum in Canberra next week.
 
The forum will examine a range of issues about political rights and responsibilities and grapple with questions like, ‘What's so special about having a democracy?’.
 
Dr Piero Moraro, lecturer in justice studies at the CSU School of Humanities and Social Sciences in Bathurst and a research fellow at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, has convened the ‘Democratic Rights – Democratic Duties’ academic roundtable in political philosophy on Wednesday 3 and Thursday 4 July at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture in Canberra.
 
“Australia prides itself on being an advanced democracy whose citizens enjoy fundamental rights,” Dr Moraro said. “However, we must remember that democracy doesn't work if citizens don't also fulfil duties. But what are these duties?
 
“In this country, we seem to concentrate on only two - the duty to obey the law, and the duty to vote. But could these be the wrong duties to focus on? Couldn't they rather undermine democracy?
 
“Take the case of voting; the coming federal parliamentary election reminds us that ours is one of the very few countries in the world that enforces a duty to vote. Yet, if citizens are careless, compulsory voting makes very little sense. In the lead-up to the federal election, presently scheduled for Saturday 14 September, we can't avoid addressing these issues.
 
“For this reason, academics from Australia and overseas will meet in Canberra for a round-table discussion on ‘Democratic Duties’. Some will argue that a genuinely democratic society shouldn't grant the right to vote to everyone. Others will claim that truly democratic citizens, under some circumstances, should disobey the law.”
 
Other discussion topics include:
what do we mean when we talk about ‘democracy’?
is democracy the right form of government after all?
is there a human right to having a democratic government?
should soldiers fight in an unjust war if their democratic government directs them to?
does democracy allow citizens to say anything?
do citizens have a duty to obey democratic laws?
 
Dr Moraro’s own paper to be presented at the forum takes issue with the idea that every citizen should have the right to vote, and thus indirectly criticises Australia’s compulsory voting system.
 
Participating distinguished academics from overseas and Australia include Professor Tom Campbell, Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra; Dr Christian Barry, Director of the Centre for Moral, Social, and Political Theory at the Australian National University; and Assistant Professor Jason Brennan, McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University (USA), author of The Ethics of Voting.
 
The ‘Democratic Rights – Democratic Duties’ academic roundtable in political philosophy on Wednesday 3 and Thursday 4 July is at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture 15 Blackall Street, Barton, Canberra, and is funded through a Compact Grant from the CSU Faculty of Arts and by CAPPE.

ends

Media contact: Bruce Andrews, 02 63386084

Media Note:
Contact CSU Media to arrange interviews with Dr Piero Moraro.

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