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Democratic Audit Update July 2009
The latest update from the Democratic Audit program at Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, on how our democracy is working.
The state of Australian democracy
The major Democratic Audit publication, Australia: The State of Democracy, by Marian Sawer, Norman Abjorensen and Phil Larkin, has been published by Federation Press. You can read the introduction here (PDF) and view publication details here (PDF).
The Australian Electoral Commission has published the Report of the Redistribution Committee for Queensland: 2009 Proposed Redistribution of Queensland into Electoral Divisions. Antony Green looks at the implications here.
Harry Evans on 40 years of parliament
Harry Evans, the retiring Clerk of the Senate, reflects on changes in the parliament over the forty years of his association with it.
Audit speaks to MPs’ interest inquiry
The Audit’s Director–Swinburne, Brian Costar, and Jock Given from the Institute for Social Research, appeared before the Victorian Parliament’s Law Reform Committee during public hearings for its review of the Members of Parliament (Register of Interests) Act 1978.
Electoral reform continues… slowly
On Inside Story Audit contributor Peter Brent examines the recommendations of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters from its inquiry into the 2007 federal election. He argues that while the proposed reforms are a step in the right direction, the adoption of new technologies and approaches continues to be perplexingly slow.
Victorian by-election inquiry
The Parliament of Victoria Electoral Matters Committee has called for submissions to its inquiry into the 2008 Kororoit District by-election. The inquiry is examining allegations that electors were deliberately misled in a pamphlet authorised by the Secretary of the Australian Labor Party, which claimed “A vote for Les Twentyman is a vote for the Liberals”, which contributed, in the opinion of the Victorian Electoral Commissioner, to “an undesirable trend for candidates to take advantage or build on community misunderstandings of preferential voting with confusing statements.”
ACT campaign advertising inquiry
Audit members Kathleen McDermott and Director–ANU Marian Sawer gave evidence to the ACT Legislative Assembly Select Committee on Campaign Advertising on 2 July. Read the transcript here (PDF).
Review of secrecy laws
In this discussion paper the Australian Law Reform Commission considers the best legal arrangements to ensure a balance between the need to protect some Commonwealth information and the need to maintain an open and accountable government through providing appropriate access to information. The ALRC has identified and considered 507 secrecy provisions scattered across 175 pieces of legislation, including 358 distinct secrecy offences carrying a wide variety of criminal penalties... [click to continue…]
Victorian information inquiry reports
The Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee of the Parliament of Victoria has released its report, Inquiry into Improving Access to Victorian Public Sector Information and Data (PDF), which discusses the benefits and costs of maximising access to and use of government information for commercial and non-commercial purposes and calls for improved access to Victorian government information. The Committee’s key recommendation is that the Victorian government establish an Information Management Framework, with open access to government information at no or marginal cost as the default position.
JSCEM election reports released
The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters has released its Report on the Conduct of the 2007 Federal Election and Matters Related Thereto, which contains a series of recommendations largely consistent with the Audit’s submission and oral testimony to the inquiry, although a number of key Audit recommendations were not addressed. JSCEM also released its Advisory Report on the Commonwealth Electoral (Above-the-Line Voting) Amendment Bill 2008.
In The Dilemmas of Engagement: The Role of Consultation in Governance, published by ANU E Press, Jenny Stewart maps out the principal approaches used by governments to consult with and engage affected communities of interest. Governments well understand that policy occurs in a highly contestable environment in which there are multiple, and often competing interests... [click to continue…]