|Webdiary - Independent, Ethical, Accountable and Transparent|
Time to rebalance people power in OUR Parliament
Both federal Labor and Liberal Governments have shown that looking after mates and party politics is more important to them than ensuring that Ministers who mislead the Parliament, and therefore the Australian people, must resign. Without that sanction for democratic breach of trust, Ministers find it easy to lie or mislead or pretend to know nothing and that the public service let them down. The funny thing is that no public servants resign for not telling the minister. Instead the minister pats the back of public servants who've taken the fall. Political corruption and the triumph of spin over substance is the inevitable result.
In the absence of a commitment from either big party to restore the health of our democracy, the only place on the people's side is a Senate not owned by either of the big two parties. That way, a government which backs liars or incompetents as ministers faces Senate inquiries and Senate orders to produce relevant documents. Plus, a Senate not owned by either big party means Senate Question Time becomes a place for real questions, requiring relevant answers.
At this election, Canberra voters have the power to re-empower our Senate and our democracy by electing Kerrie Tucker to the Senate. As today's letter to Australians by former Prime Ministers Mr Whitlam and Mr Fraser calling for a return to ministerial accountability shows, this issue is above party politics. An historic choice by Canberrans to replace the Liberal Senator with Kerrie Tucker on November 24 will tell both parties that Canberra voters expect something better from both of them, for all of us.
Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser unite to demand the return of ministerial accountability, by letter to major newspapers today.
No matter how grave their failings may be, ministers no longer resign.
This principle is the bedrock of responsible government. In its absence, the capacity of the parliament and the people to hold a government to account for its actions is substantially weakened.
It is 31 years since the last official inquiry regarding the principles of ministerial accountability at a federal level. That inquiry framed the doctrine for simpler times. It could not anticipate the major changes in governance that have occurred since then.
These include an enormous growth in the powers of the executive, the now pivotal role of ministerial advisers, the outsourcing of many crucial governmental functions and the expanding influence of the lobbying industry.
The Freedom of Information Act, an important safeguard introduced in 1982, has also been undermined significantly by the practices of recent governments and restrictive interpretation by the courts.
The Canadian and British governments (of different political persuasions) have recently taken steps to strengthen ministerial accountability. They have recognised its fundamental importance and the need to re-evaluate and fortify it so that the representative democracy may function as it should.
We believe it is critical that this issue is addressed in the forthcoming national election and then acted upon by whichever party forms the new government.
We take this opportunity to urge all political parties to commit to the establishment of an independent and comprehensive review of the operation of ministerial accountability so as to modernise and strengthen it.
This is a matter that transcends party politics. It goes to the very heart of the way we are governed.