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Network Governance and Public Participation in Policy-Making: Federal Community Cabinets in Australia



The Australian Labor Party's (ALP) 2007 Policy Platform asserted ‘Labor will pursue new and innovative measures designed to foster greater participation and engagement of the Australian population in the political process’ (Manwaring 2010). As such they seemed to have a clear commitment to a more participatory form of democracy. This commitment appeared to be reflected in two initiatives they introduced in power: the 2020 Summit (on this see Fawcett, Manwaring and Marsh 2011) and federal community cabinets. More broadly it could be argued that Labor were following a trend identified internationally as a move from government to governance, more specifically to ‘network governance’ (Rhodes 1997) in which governments encouraged greater participation in policy-making, recognising that governments could at best steer, not row. Indeed, as Marinetto contends (2003: 593), this idea has taken on a ‘semblance of orthodoxy’ in discussions of public policy.