Australia is making political history next Wednesday. The People’s Question — crowd sourced and voted on through OurSay.org — will be asked by Adam Bandt directly to the Prime Minister.

Ella Ridd’s winning question looks at euthanasia, a issue that major parties are “grossly out of step with the community on”. The question marks a huge milestone for OurSay and a small step forward in our vision for citizen engagement in parliament.

OurSay is an independent apolitical organisation run on a shoe-string budget with one full-time employee and a network of young, passionate unpaid staff. We have been working on the concept and roll out of The People’s Question project for nearly 12 months.

After one too many unbearable question time sessions rife with political point scoring, the OurSay crew developed The People’s Question in a pub over a beer. We came up with an ambitious plan that would lead to a top question on OurSay.org asked in to question time. We spoke to our immediate networks and received an overwhelming response: everyone was sick and tired of the games and were excited at the prospect that OurSay could change what had become the norm.

Many months were spent seeking the participation of MPs from across the political spectrum, from the major parties to the independents. The idea, which would see risk-averse politicians take on a large amount of “unnecessary” risk, didn’t phase Bandt and his office. They were genuinely interested in approaching representative politics from a new perspective.

Sophie Black, Bernard Keane and the Crikey team were also incredibly supportive from the start, helping us deliver and cover the project online. Their support has made The People’s Question incredibly successful with just under 2000 votes cast and 50 questions posted, which have covered a wide range of issues.

OurSay’s biggest ongoing challenge is showing people what is possible. People are rightly sceptical about their ability to impact decisions made by our political leaders. Australia has just witnessed another leadership battle within the Labor Party. While that issue may now have been put to rest, it has only made Australians more cynical about the relevance of decisions being made in Canberra and its impact on their day-to-day lives.

OurSay is trying to change this by strengthening public involvement in politics. Increased public participation will provide our elected representatives with the political capital and citizen support to make courageous decisions. The People’s Question will be the first of many, as we attempt to shift the political agenda to be focused more on the issues that matter to you.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter or watch the stream to hear the question and response next Wednesday.

We would also love to hear from you. What did you think of the project? Was it a success or pointless? How can we make the next one better? If you are an MP and would like to be part of a future OurSay People’s Question, contact us.

Peter Fray

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