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John Howard’s Senate Abuses – The Story Since July 1st

The Federal Opposition has itemised what it calls abuse of process, procedure and convention in the Senate since July 1, the date on which the coalition government assumed a one-seat majority in the upper house.

The ALP leader in the Senate, Chris Evans, has itemised a list of government actions concerning Question Time, censure motions, guillotines, gags and Senate Committees.

The Opposition argues these actions constitute “democratic abuses”.

Text of a media statement Senator Chris Evans, the ALP leader in the Senate.

John Howard’s Senate Abuses – Process, Procedure and Convention – the Story Since 1 July

Since gaining senate control, the Howard Government has rolled out what has become a very long list of democratic abuses. [Read more…]


Apathy And Anger: John Faulkner On Our Modern Democracy

The ALP’s former leader in the Senate, John Faulkner, says Australian democracy is “drowning in distrust”.

Arguing that politics requires commitment, patience, and a sense of proportion, Faulkner criticised Mark Latham’s for young people to reject organised politics.

Faulkner said: “Unless we have mature and realistic expectations of the possibilities of politics and the capacity of politicians, we cannot as a society understand or resolve the real problems within the political system. If our analysis is as shallow as Mark Latham’s complaints that people were mean to him, our solutions will be as self-defeating as his decision to take his bat and ball and go home.” [Read more…]


Question Time: Time To Retire The Rhetoric

An editorial in the Canberra Times has called for a major reform of Question Time in the Federal Parliament.

The newspaper argues that the accountability function of the Parliament is being undermined by government and opposition alike: “Over the years, successive governments have abused their position more and more – but oppositions, and the style of questions they ask, are also responsible.” [Read more…]


John Faulkner: Balancing Government Effectiveness With Oversight And Scrutiny

Senator John Faulkner has delivered a wide-ranging speech on Senate reform to The Sydney Institute.

Faulkner, the ALP Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, said the Senate had evolved into an effective house of review but the task now was to ensure that governments can carry out their electoral promises whilst maintaining oversight and scrutiny.

Transcript of Senator John Faulkner’s Address to the Sydney Institute on Senate Reform.

FaulknerLadies and Gentlemen, in June this year the Prime Minister announced his Government’s intention to reform the “deadlock provisions of the Constitution in section 57.”[1]

For Mr Howard constitutional reform is a newfound interest. For Labor, constitutional reform is a long held conviction, reforms not solely about the moment, reforms not solely about advantaging the Government in power. Unlike John Howard and the Liberal Party, Labor has been committed to restricting the powers of the Senate since Federation. [Read more…]


Democrats Support Breast-Feeding In Senate

Following the controversy in the Victorian Parliament over Labor MP Kirstie Marshall breast-feeding her baby in the chamber, the Australian Democrats have proposed changes to the Standing Orders in the Senate.

This is the text of a media release by Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, Australian Democrats spokesperson for Work and Family.

Standing Orders may allow breastfeeding in the Senate

Senator Stott DespojaBreastfeeding will be allowed in the Australian Senate if a Procedure Committee recommendation, initiated by the Australian Democrats, is adopted by the Senate when it returns this month.

The Procedure Committee considered this change after Senator Natasha Stott Despoja gave notice of a motion to change the Standing Orders.

Senator Stott Despoja’s motion was lodged on March 19 and the proposal to change Standing Order 175 subsequently referred to the President on March 24. [Read more…]


Beattie Provides Support To Depleted Opposition

The Queensland government is to provide additional funding to the Opposition.

Announcing half a million dollars worth of salary support, the Premier, Peter Beattie, said “democracy is improved if a government is constantly challenged and scrutinised by an effective opposition”.

The Queensland Labor government holds 66 of the 89 seats in the single chamber parliament. The National Party has 11, whilst the Liberal Party has 3. There are 9 One Nation and independent members. Under parliamentary rules, the Liberal Party lacks official party status, which means it misses out on additional salaries and access to staff, cars, etc. [Read more…]


Full Text Of Victoria’s Constitution (Parliamentary Reform) Act 2003

This is the full text of the parliamentary reform bill passed by both houses of the Victorian Parliament.

The bill introduces fixed 4-year terms and reforms the Legislative Council by reducing its membership and introduces proportional representation. [Read more…]


Victorian Parliamentary Reform – Explanatory Memorandum

This is the text of the explanatory memorandum that was circulated with the Constitution (Parliamentary Reform) Bill.

The bill involves historic reform of the Victorian Parliament. It reforms the Legislative Council, eliminates the power of the upper house to block Supply and introduces fixed four-year terms for both houses. [Read more…]


Historic Reform Of Victorian Parliament

The Victorian Parliament has passed historic legislation providing for reform of the Legislative Council, fixed four-year terms and the abolition of the Council’s power to block Supply.

The legislation – the Constitution (Parliamentary Reform) Bill – was introduced by the Premier, Steve Bracks to the Legislative Assembly on February 26. It was passed with amendments on March 20 and introduced into the Legislative Council on the same day by John Lenders. The Bill was passed without amendments on March 27.

The bill is the first major reform to be passed by the Legislative Council since the Labor Government secured a comfortable majority in the general election of November 30, 2002.

The bill provides for:

  • a fixed four year parliamentary term, unless dissolution of the Assembly occurs sooner;
  • re-constitution of the Council to consist of 40 members, elected from 8 regions each region returning 5 members;
  • proportional representation with optional preferential voting for members of the Council;
  • the filling of casual vacancies in the Council;
  • the President of the Council to have a deliberative, but not casting, vote;
  • recognition of the principle of Government mandate;
  • removal of the ability of the Council to block supply (Annual Appropriation) Bills;
  • a dispute resolution process for deadlocked Bills;
  • the entrenchment of certain legislative provisions.

The legislation fixes the last Saturday in November every four years as the election date. The Legislative Council, a bastion of conservative domination for over 150 years, is to be reduced in numbers from 44 to 40. Proportional representation will mean that the ALP will likely lose its majority at the next election, with the balance of power going to minor parties and/or independents.

 


British Reforms To Parliament’s Sitting Times

Sitting times for Britain’s House of Commons will change from early next year.

This article is extracted from The Backbencher email newsletter published by The Guardian.

The Guardian’s political editor, Michael White, hopes he is wrong to be sceptical about the reforms to parliament’s working hours.

Today was the last prime minister’s question time to be held at 3 o’clock. It’s difficult to remember now, but five or six years ago prime ministers used to arrive on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3.15pm for two sessions a week – two different accountabilities, as opposition and backbench MPs might put it. Tony Blair unilaterally changed it to one session of 30 minutes: the same amount of time but only one period of accountability. It annoyed quite a lot of people, but we have got used to it. [Read more…]