Let’s see. What have been the great political reform proposals of late? The 2 main ones offered up most recently and most frequently have been to neuter the Senate and to extend parliamentary terms from 3 to 4 years. Gee. I wonder who comes up with those? Could these grand ideas have come from incumbent politicians?
The pattern is predictable. Increased centralisation of power. Increased ability to pass legislation. Increased power of the executive. Increased disenfranchisement of minor parties. The cherry on top being, not surprisingly, bipartisan support of the major parties for these great ideas.
How about a quick quiz for the Cats. Which areas of public policy will almost always gain bipartisan support:
- Increased remuneration for politicians.
- Increased entitlements and fringe benefits for politicians.
- Increased public funding of political parties.
- Increased resources for politicians.
- Increased powers for politicians.
- All of the above, any time, any day, any how. Not matter the state of the budget. No matter the state of the economy. No matter the view of the citizenry.
When it comes to political reform, it never seems to be about improved accountability or efficiency or effectiveness. Nope. The political reform proposals from politicians seem to always be about systems and rules to get the annoying citizens out of their way. You see, politicians need to be comfortable and ensconced in their gated, secure and very well catered nirvana so that they can more easily take the liberties and assets of citizens. For whose benefit is it to have a shining city on a hill with a giant steel fence around it to keep the unwashed masses out.
What about some reform to return power to citizens or to reduce the size and scope of government? What about a proposal to reduce parliamentary member numbers or to introduce a house of repeal or to have citizen initiated referenda or to have recall elections or policy by citizen juries? But such ideas aren’t to the benefit of the political class, which is why they never speak of them.
Ok. That’s not entirely correct. Former Senator John Madigan introduced a private members bill for Citizen Initiated Referenda, but should it not surprise Cats that both Senator Madigan is no longer a Senator and the bill has disappeared. But also, the Australian Conservatives have a policy proposition to reform parliament:
We support the introduction of term limits for all politicians and restoring the principal role of the Senate as the States’ house. Australian Conservatives support Senate reform including: having Senators sit in State instead of party blocks, having no Senators form part of executive government and constitutional reform to resolve deadlocks without recourse to a double dissolution election.
If nothing else, preventing Senators from being part of the executive would spare Australians of the “executive” skills and wit of Senators Brandis, Wong, Birmingham, Carr, Dastyari, Cormann, Payne and Gallagher. If they want to be in the executive (or shadow executive) let them run for a lower house seat.
Political reform should not about protecting and further embedding incumbents and reducing political competition; because like every other anti-competitive marketplace, what happens is that prices (cost of politicians and cost of government) goes up and outcomes go down (educational performance, health performance, energy, NBN, I can go on for pages here).
Where once blaming the message (and not the policy) was the last refuge of a failing government, it seems that now the last refuge is blaming the citizens. We, the politicians, cannot implement the agenda we want because you, the citizens, are clearly too stupid to give us unfettered legislating majorities and longer parliamentary terms. We, the politicians, know what is good for you and you, the citizens, need to get out of the way so that we can give it to; and give it to you nice and hard.
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