Independents’ Charter Victoria – 1999

This is the full text of the Independents’ Charter released in Victoria following the 1999 state election.

The election unexpectedly resulted in a hung parliament and ultimately led to the defeat of the Kennett government.

The independents who held the balance of power were Russell Savage (Mildura), Susan Davies (Gippsland West) and Craig Ingram (Gippsland East).

Full text of the Victorian Independents’ Charter, 1999.

Victorian Independent MPs Russell Savage, Susan Davies and Craig Ingram have released copies of their Charter.

They will be asking leaders to present their party’s written response to the Charter by Tuesday 12th October.

Independents will announce their position after the declaration of the poll at Frankston East.

A copy of the 5-page Charter will follow.

Independents’ Charter Victoria 1999

Russell Savage MP Mildura,

Susan Davies MP Gippsland West,

Craig Ingram MP Gippsland East

The aim of this Charter is to provide for stable, open and accountable government, which is able to work productively for the people of Victoria.

We Independents are determined to maintain our Independent status. We will not become a formal part of any government.

However we agree that to provide stability we will vote with the government on:

  1. Appropriation and supply bills
  2. All motions of No Confidence unless there is evidence of fraud, misappropriation or illegal activities.

We will not support any government, and will remove our support from a government which:

  • Demonstrates mismanagement or misuse of public finances,
  • Is shown to be corrupt, which supports any practices which are corrupt or which violates accepted standards of public probity.
  • Abuses the spirit of democratic parliamentary practice and procedure.

We are willing to support a government, which publicly undertakes to:

  1. Promote open and accountable government
  2. Improve the democratic operation of parliament
  3. Establish clear plans, strategies and targets to address the urgent needs of Rural Victoria
  4. Offer assurances of increased levels of co-operation with Independent Members, and improved codes of conduct between government and all other Members of Parliament.

1. Promoting open and accountable government

This can be demonstrated by undertakings to, within the next sitting of Parliament:

1. a) Restore the role, function and resources of the Auditor-General by repealing the Audit Amendment Act 1997.

b) Have future appointments to the position of Auditor General be made on the recommendation of the joint Parliamentary Public Accounts and Estimates Committee.

1.2 Rebuild F.O.I. legislation to give full and proper access to government documents by:

a) Reducing the restrictions on access to documents on the grounds of “cabinet confidentiality”

b) Removing restrictions based on “commercial confidentiality” (to the extent of the NZ Act),

c) Removing obstructions such as excessive costs and appeals against document release

d) Reducing time-gaps permissible before providing documents.

The spirit of FOI legislation should be adhered to as well as the technicalities.

1.3 Ensure that budget documents are properly comparable from one year to the next, by including parallel information in both formats where a format changed is deemed desirable.

1.4 Adhere to the ideals of freedom of speech by;

a) affirming the principles that debate and dissent are legitimate aspects of a democratic political system

b) removing restrictions on the freedom of speech of those employed under government contract or as public servants

1.5 Clearly establish the independence of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Police Commissioner.

1.6 Establish a Judicial Inquiry into the ambulance contracts/ Intergraph issue.

The Terms of Reference to be agreed to by the Independents after consultation with Government , Opposition and other interested groups

1.7 Consult with interested parties within the community before developing new legislation.

2. Improving the democratic operation of Parliament

This can be demonstrated by undertakings to, within six months of the commencement of the 54th Parliament, :

2.1 Reform the Legislative Council;

a) Abolishing the current 6-8 year terms, so that all Members face 4 year terms.

b) Adopting a proportional representation voting system.

c) Establish standing committees to review legislation and the operation of government (similar to the operation of the Senate)

2.2 Revise both sessional and standing orders of parliament to allow for:

(a) a requirement that Ministers actually answer questions during question time

(b) a minimum number of sitting days per year

(c) more questions on each sitting day, (a minimum number of questions instead of a time limit on question time)

(d) more grievance and ‘issues of public importance’ debates

(e) the opening up of opportunities to debate private member’s bills and petitions.

2.3 Alter the constitution so governments serve fixed four-year terms unless interrupted by a vote of no confidence. Elections should be held on a fixed day every four years (eg 1st Saturday in March or the like)

2.4 Establish a Victorian Constitutional Commission to conduct a thorough review of the Constitution and Parliament with the aim of presenting a constitution to the Victorian people through a referendum.

3. Establishing clear plans, strategies and targets to address the urgent needs of Rural Victoria

This can be demonstrated by government making commitments to, throughout the life of this Parliament:

3.1  Improved rural and regional employment opportunities.

a) We wish to see evidence that Government is prepared to intervene in the public interest to encourage the growth of rural and regional employment opportunities. Public interest should prevail over National Competition Policy.

3.2  Improve rural infrastructure such as roads, rail, water, power and gas.

We do not expect infrastructure improvements to be based on the profit potential, or opportunities for cost recovery of the provider, but want government to provide evidence that it accepts its basic responsibility to provide such infrastructure.

3.3  Rural health, education, police, emergency, environment and human services.

We wish to see evidence that government accepts its basic responsibility to provide services.

b) The measure of government’s satisfactory performance is not to be the dollars which have been handed over, but the extent to which people are able to access the service, and the equitable distribution of such services across all areas.

c) We wish to see a multiparty review of contracted out services, to report within six months as to whether the system should continue or be wound down and abolished as contracts expire.

3.4 Improving the relationship and consultative mechanisms between State government and local Councils and communities.

a) We wish to see evidence that government recognises that Local Government is a separate, democratically elected entity which is responsible primarily to the community it serves. This could include undertakings on planning controls, employment of CEOs and choosing levels of tendering out local services.

4. Assurances for Independent Members

Improvements in this area can be demonstrated by immediate commitments to:

4.1  Treat all members of Parliament, including Independent Members, with courtesy and respect.

4.2  Allocate Independents a higher level of staffing and resources, in order to assist them in dealing with their significantly greater level of responsibility.

4.3  Allocate a senior member of the Premier’s staff with the responsibility for ensuring that Independents have access to Ministers, key public servants and the Premier.

4.4  Construct an ongoing consultative mechanism with Independents to inform, discuss and negotiate on any planned legislation which may require their agreement in the Parliament.

4.5  In return, the Independents would undertake to inform government of any intention to vote against planned legislation.

5. Privatisation

The Independents seek an undertaking that Government will permit no more privatisation of public assets at least until after a full independent inquiry has reported to Parliament on the social and economic costs and benefits of planned and existing privatisations.

Conclusion

The Independents do not wish to control the government’s program or policies.

Rather, we wish government to acknowledge the need for substantial reform in certain, particular areas of government practice and to provide us with evidence that they are both willing and able to address these needed reforms.

We will maintain our right to vote on all legislation according to the needs of our electorates and our consciences, but undertake to involve ourselves in negotiations with government before exercising that right.

Above all, we hope that the current situation of a very finely balanced Parliament in Victoria can be utilised to improve the democratic principles and practice of our State as well as providing a framework to move us all forward in the spirit of balance and co-operation.

……………………………………… Russell Savage MP

………………………………………. Susan Davies MP

………………………………………. Craig Ingram MP

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