by Democratic Audit Australia
The latest update from the Democratic Audit program at Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, on how our democracy is working.
Papers from the Challenges of Electoral Democracy workshop
Convened by Audit members Joo-Cheong Tham (Melbourne Law School), Graeme Orr (Queensland University Law School) and Brian Costar (Swinburne Institute for Social Research), this July 2011 workshop was hosted by the Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies, Melbourne Law School, and sponsored by the New South Wales Electoral Commission and the Victorian Electoral Commission. The papers are now available online.
APSA papers available
The Australian Political Studies Association held its annual conference at Old Parliament House in September. A number of papers dealt with democracy and electoral issues; they can be viewed here.
NSW campaign finance reforms
The NSW premier, Barry O’Farrell, introduced the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Amendment Bill 2011 into the Legislative Assembly on 12 September 2011. The bill seeks to “ban donations from other than individuals.” Law academic Anne Twomey discussed the ramifications and constitutional uncertainties associated with the bill on Radio National’s The National Interest.
Compulsory and “automatic” enrolment
Out of the clash of interests in federal parliament in 1911 came an enduring electoral reform, compulsory enrolment, writes the Audit’s Brian Costar in Inside Story. He argues that an update of that part of electoral law is long overdue.
The Australian Voter
Ian McAllister’s new book, The Australian Voter: 50 Years of Change, was published by UNSW Press in July. Among many interesting findings is the fact that “Australians most value integrity and leadership skills in their leaders.” Norman Abjorensen reviewed the book for Inside Story, and Professor McAllister discussed the book with Peter Mares on Radio National’s The National Interest.
Women in government
The NSW Parliamentary Library Research Service has released a report by Talina Drabsch on Women in Politics and Public Leadership. It considers women in positions of leadership within the public sector and those serving on government boards and committees. The debate surrounding the use of quotas to improve gender equality in the composition of boards and committees is also briefly discussed.
Committee examines government advertising bill
Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration has released its report on the Government Advertising (Accountability) Bill 2011, introduced by Senator Nick Xenophon, which aimed to prevent governments from using taxpayer funds to pay for the advertising of a policy not yet enacted in legislation. A majority of the committee concluded that “the current guidelines for government advertising adequately cover many of the issues raised by submitters relating to government advertising” and recommended that the bill not proceed. Although the Coalition senators did not agree that the current guidelines for government advertising adequately address these concerns, they agreed with the recommendation that this bill not be passed. Senator Xenophon took the contrary view to the majority.
2011 NSW election report
The NSW Parliamentary Library Research Service has released an analysis of the results of the 2011 New South Wales election. The report provides summaries of the elections for both chambers, analysis of Legislative Assembly results both before and after the distribution of preferences, as well as a summary of the Legislative Council election.
Recognition of local government
An expert panel, appointed by the federal government, is examining whether local government should be recognised in the Australian Constitution. The chair of the panel, former NSW chief justice Jim Spigelman, writes about the inquiry here. The panel released a discussion paper in September.
The professionalisation of the Liberal Party
Back in 1961 the distinguished journalist Don Whitington provided an alternative explanation for Liberal Party’s electoral hegemony in the years after 1949. This essay was first published in Nation in October 1961 and republished in Inside Story.
Electoral Commissioner’s determination of membership entitlement in the House of Representatives
The number of members to be elected to the House of Representatives at the next federal election will remain unchanged at 150 following a determination by the Australian Electoral Commission.
Local government probed
The Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government has released Unfinished Business?, a survey of the evidence and findings presented in inquiries into local government over the past decade.
Victorian rights charter review report
The final report of the review of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 was tabled in the parliament on Wednesday 14 September 2011. “In essence,” write Sarah Joseph, Julie Debeljak and Adam Fletcher from the Castan Centre for Human Rights, “the majority of the Committee recommends stripping most of the operative provisions from the Charter, leaving only the Executive and Parliamentary scrutiny functions.” The initial reaction to the report by Premier Ted Baillieu suggests that little radical change to the charter is likely.
2010 federal election inquiry
The report of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters’ inquiry into the conduct of the 2010 Federal Election was released in July. Among its important and contentious recommendations was the introduction of a form of “automatic” enrolment and savings provisions for some categories of informal votes (based on the South Australian House of Assembly ticket voting provisions).
2010 Victorian election report
The Victorian Electoral Commission has released its Report to Parliament on the 2010 Victorian State Election. The election produced a change of government from Labor to the Coalition, and the proportion of informal votes for the Legislative Assembly rose again to 4.96 per cent. A series of technical recommendations appears in the report.