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Democratic Audit Update July 2010

by Democratic Audit Australia

The latest update from the Democratic Audit program at Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, on how our democracy is working.


Democratic Audit of Australia Update – July 2010

2010 enrolment controversy
A full system of online enrolment should be a priority for Australia’s new government after the election, writes George Williams in the National Times. Professor Williams discusses the fact that up to 1.4 million Australians are missing from the roll and will be unable to vote next month, and discusses the controversial efforts by the Getup! organisation to recruit young voters. To faciliate enrolments, GetUp! created a website called OzEnrol.com.au, which featured a simple tool allowing people to submit enrolment forms easily online in just a few minutes, signing their form using their computer mouse, trackpad or digital pen. The AEC decided that “digitally constructed” signatures are not valid for enrolment; Getup! disagrees and is considering a test case before the Federal Court. Here, Crikey’s Pollytics blog analyses the potential electoral impact of the decision to close the roll on the Monday after the 2010 election was announced.

Money and politics
Money and Politics: The Democracy We Can’t Afford, a new book by Audit member Joo-Cheong Tham to be released in August 2010, will be launched as part of a public forum at The Melbourne Law School at 6pm on 3 August. The chair is Professor Keith Ewing (King’s College, London) and other panellists include Daryl Melham MP, Michael O’Brien MP, Lee Rhiannon, Joel Fetter and Royce Millar. The venue is Room 920, Melbourne Law School, 185 Pelham St, Carlton; RSVP to (03) 8344 8924.

Electoral reform bills
The Parliamentary Library has released digests of three bills amending the Commonwealth Electoral Act, all of which are likely to be reintroduced if Labor regains government at next month’s election. The digests examine the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (How-to-Vote Cards and Other Measures) Bill, the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Modernisation and Other Measures) Bill, and the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Close of Rolls and Other Measures) Bill (No. 2).

Quotas for the Liberal Party?
Judith Troeth is trying to persuade Liberals that the presence of more women in the parliamentary party will mean a larger pool of talent for ministerial and leadership positions, writes the Audit’s Marian Sawer in Inside Story.

Electorates and the Census
The Parliamentary Library has released Electoral Division Rankings: 2006 Census (2009 Electoral Boundaries) (PDF), a report by Paul Nelson that provides an analysis of Commonwealth electoral division using socio-demographic data from the 2006 Census of Population and Housing. The electoral boundaries used in this paper are the boundaries that will be used in the upcoming federal election, and incorporate the recent redistributions in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania. Sixty tables cover a broad range of census topics and broadly reflect those frequently requested from the Parliamentary Library.

Lobbying proposals
A federal government discussion paper released before the election campaign canvasses possible reforms to the Lobbying Code of Conduct and Register of Lobbyists. The paper includes “several proposals aimed at strengthening and maintaining the integrity of the Register and the Code, as well as addressing the broader issues of openness, transparency and accountability, were discussed at a roundtable meeting of selected lobbyists in March 2010.” Areas of possible reform, some background information and additional feedback provided by roundtable participants are set out in the paper for comment.

Queensland’s parliament, 1957–89
In the new e-book, The Ayes Have It: The History of the Queensland Parliament, 1957–1989, John Wanna and Tracey Arklay examine in detail the Queensland Parliament from the days of the ‘Labor split’ in the 1950s, through the conservative governments of Frank Nicklin, Joh Bjelke- Petersen and Mike Ahern, to the fall of the Nationals government led briefly by Russell Cooper in December 1989. The authors focus on parliament as a political forum, on the representatives and personalities that made up the institution over this period, on the priorities and political agendas that were pursued, and the increasingly contentious practices used to control parliamentary proceedings.

A republican future?
In his new e-book, Fiducial Governance: An Australian Republic for the New Millennium, John Power discusses the challenges of designing governance regimes suited to the new millennium. According to the publisher, “Power’s monograph asserts the need for the reform of Australian governance and charts Australia’s fitful progress towards a republican future. Along the way he sketches a framework for constitutional reform, mindful of the strengths and weaknesses of the current system of government and the contest of ideas about the role and configuration of Australian Heads of State. Long a frustrated Australian republican, Power contends that the republican log jam is due in significant part to a lack of respect shown by the republican policy community to the contribution long made to good governance by monarchical heads of state.”

House committees under review
Building a Modern Committee System, a report from the House Standing Committee on Procedure, recommends a set of measures to strengthen the system of committees in the House of Representatives. According to the report, “Most of these recommendations suggest incremental change, which, in the past, has been the most effective means of bringing about practical improvements.”

Reform by stealth?
In an article for the Australian Review of Public Affairs, Lifting its Game to Get Ahead, Paul ’t Hart looks at efforts to reform the Commonwealth public service since the election of the Labor government in 2007.

Cabinet confidentiality
This new report (PDF) by the Parliamentary Library’s Mark Rodrigues focuses on the confidentiality of Cabinet documents, examining the concept of Cabinet confidentiality, its origins and evolution and contemporary arguments about its application.

Is gender irrelevant now?
Australia has its first woman prime minister. But compared with other countries, our progress in giving women access to political power is patchy, writes the Audit’s Marian Sawer in Inside Story.

Polling places under scrutiny
The Electoral Matters Committee of the Victorian Parliament has released the report of its Inquiry into the Function and Administration of Voting Centres. The report makes a series of recommendations designed to ensure that voting centres – also known as polling places – are well-located and accessible.

Senators and members
In What Lies Beneath: The Work of Senators and Members in the Australian Parliament, the Parliamentary Library’s Scott Brenton “compares senators as a group of political representatives with members of the House of Representatives as another group to assess the similarities and differences between their work, their roles and responsibilities, and their conceptions of representation.” Drawing on surveys of current and former parliamentarians and interviews with prominent politicians, Brenton finds that the profession has changed as a result of technological change, increases in staff and constituent numbers, increased media scrutiny, and challenges to balance work and family.

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More in the breach than the observance


Judith Troeth tries to increase the interest of women in participating within the forums of the Liberal party, at a time when the PM is still copping sexist crap, including in a muted form from a social conservative party leader. This wouldn't go down well with thinking women, surely?

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