The unfolding of recent global issues alongside political party shifts and a push for gender balance in parliament has given Rob much to analyse in his capacity as a politics and policy expert and Associate Professor within Flinders University’s College of Business, Government and Law.
“Both COVID and climate breakdown all seem to require a different magnitude of required political thinking and resources,” he says.
“The kind of existential crisis of climate breakdown is probably one of the greatest challenges to democratic institutions around the world. It requires a new kind of thought leadership and a new set of political institutions to meet that kind of change, and the concern is that the political class is not responding in the way it needs to."
In the shorter term, COVID has upended some of the traditional policy responses of major political parties.
"You find right wing parties doing left wing things and you find left wing parties doing right wing things. It's changed the order," he says.
"So, there's a question there about when will politics return to ‘normal’.”
With communities around the world adjusting to a ‘new normal’ following the outbreak of COVID-19, Flinders researchers are seeking fresh insights into the Australian public’s perception of politics.
Alongside Flinders colleagues Professor Andrew Parkin and Dr Josh Holloway, Rob is leading a democratic audit of South Australia’s political system as part of a wider national audit.
Led by a team from the London School of Economics and the Museum of Democracy and with input from various universities, the Democratic Audit of Australia is set for release in 2022 and will identify the strengths and weaknesses of the political landscape in Australia.
One of the most likely outcomes? A downtrend in the public’s political trust.
“In terms of Australia, the big story is the kind of declining levels of political trust," Rob says.