Accountability: why do we need it and how do we get it?

Co-presented with the Power and Accountability Network in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and Sydney Democracy Network


5 November, 2015

When we hear the words ‘power’ and ‘accountability’ our thoughts may go first to high-stakes political and legal realms. Edward Snowden’s recent actions, whose global consequences are still playing out, were motivated by his dismay at the ‘divorce of power from accountability’ in state-sanctioned behaviour.

Our simplest moral intuitions tell us that it is wrong to operate freely without ever having to reveal or explain one’s reasons for action. This is true not only at large scales of history and state, but also in realms of human agency at all levels.

Who should be accountable, for what, and to whom? Why is there a moral intuition that with power should come accountability? In short: What is accountability? Why do we need it and how do we get it?

On the panel for this discussion are Associate Professor Susan Park, School of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney; Charles Firth, member of The Chaser and editor of The Chaser Quarterly; Dr Aim Sinpeng, Lecturer in Comparative Politics in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney; and Dr Angela Daly, Faculty of Health, Arts and Design, Swinburne University of Technology.

Hosted by Professor Nick Enfield, Chair of Linguistics, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney.

About the speakers:

Susan Park




Susan Park is an Associate Professor in International Relations at the University of Sydney. She focuses on how state and non-state actors influence international organizations, particularly the Multilateral Development Banks, to be greener and more accountable. Susan is currently co-investigator of a research project on Accountability in Global Environmental Governance.



Charles Firth



Charles Firth is co-founder of the comedy team The Chaser, and editor of The Chaser Quarterly – a satirical journal that is everything you want it to be, and nothing you don’t. Charles's TV credits include The Roast, The Chaser's War on Everything, CNNNN and Mr Firth Goes to Washington. Charles is author of American Hoax (2006).


Aim Sinpeng


Aim Sinpeng is a Lecturer in Comparative Politics in the Department of Government and International Relations. She is fascinated by how ICT advancement shapes state-society relations in Southeast Asia. Specifically she is interested in digital activism for social and political change. Her current research examines online political opposition in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. She blogs regularly on issues of online activism, Southeast Asia politics and cyber governance.


Angela Daly is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Swinburne Institute for Social Research (Australia), primarily conducting research on the legal and social implications of 3D printing, and is also an affiliate of the Swinburne Law School. Her specialties lie in the field of communications and media law and policy, particularly privacy, free expression, data protection, intellectual property, and competition and regulation. She has expertise in European Union law and EU Member States' domestic laws (especially the UK and France), US law (she was a visiting researcher at Stanford Law School in 2012) and Australian law on these topics.