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Monday, July 27, 2009

Australian Parliament among weakest in the world

The long-time Clerk of the Senate Harry Evans, on the verge of retirement, reflected on the operation of our institution of representative democracy in Canberra on Friday in this address Time, Chance and Parliament Lessons from Forty Years.

The mainstream media doesn't find it interesting, with the Canberra Times the only paper reporting the speech.

For all the talk about reform and good governance, Evans says we "still have one of the weakest legislatures of the democratic world, especially compared with our great and powerful friends. The Parliament here is under a degree of executive domination that would not be tolerated elsewhere, even at Westminster."

And this on access to information, accountability and parliament generally:
"More than ever before, independence in the legislature depends on the ability to obtain information that governments would rather conceal. Knowledge has always been power, but the management of information has become the key to government. The executive wants the public to receive only the information favourable to it, and strives to manage the release and the presentation of unfavourable information, and to keep much secret. A functioning legislature is essentially an instrument for breaking down that information management in the interest of the public's ability to judge governments. It is in this role, however imperfectly, that the Senate, with its committee system and its culture of independence, has performed. At the 2020 Summit I suggested 20 parliamentary reforms, none of which was adopted by the government. Perhaps the most significant was for an independent body to finally determine government claims to keep information concealed from Parliament. It was the proposal most decisively rejected."
How about Evans, Independent candidate for the Senate at the next election?

On reflection he probably knows too much about it all and is sure to have other important things to do. Thanks Harry for a wonderful contribution to the Parliament including plenty of truth to power over 40 years.

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