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The Risks to Australia’s Democracy
Police officer speaks to a motorists who is entering Queensland from New South Wales through the border checkpoint on December 21, 2020 in Coolangatta, Gold Coast, Australia
Photo by Regi Varghese/Getty Images

The Risks to Australia’s Democracy

John Lee

Executive Summary

Australians are proud that their country is one of the first genuine liberal democracies in the modern world. Its democratic institutions and practices have been hailed for its robustness, adaptability, functionality, and resilience. Indeed, Australia has been leading the world when it comes to a public conversation about protecting liberal institutions from subversion and interference by entities linked to foreign governments and passing legislation to deter and prosecute such activities. The ease with which foreign governments, especially the People’s Republic of China, have been able to infiltrate, disrupt and/or influence Australian decisionmakers and institutions are of the highest concern. But Australia is making good progress in managing these activities.

As important, but less appreciated, are domestic challenges to the country’s democratic institutions, practices, and governance in the context of a global pandemic and the national health emergence which continues to unfold. It is in this context that longstanding complacency with respect to governance standards, deep public ignorance about the proper workings of institutions, and arguable overreach by various levels of government without accountability for such overreach is worryingly evident. How the country assesses and responds to these governance failures, albeit at a time of immense stress brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, will determine whether Australia will emerge as an even more robust, adaptable, and functional democracy when the health crisis is over.

Read the full report in Brookings

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