Quelle surprise

Okay – so government can get away with extraordinary behaviour during a crisis – after all if the government doesn’t do activity x then eleventy million people will die – die I tell you – and the public health system will be overwhelmed.

But as Milton Friedman told us:

Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.

So it turned out – as I expected – that the unconstitutional, so-called, National Cabinet will be made a permanent feature.

Scott Morrison has signalled his preference for the national cabinet to become a permanent decision-making body to manage the federation, with West Australian Labor Premier Mark McGowan arguing the COVID-19 leaders’ model should replace the Council of Australian Governments.

The Prime Minister said that through the national cabinet — formed in response to the coronavirus pandemic — the “federation had been more responsive and more co-ordinated than we’ve seen in many years”.

Please note, unlike COAG – a glorified talking shop – this is to be a “decision-making body to manage the federation”.

Yet, we already have a decision making body to manage the federation. It’s called the federal government. The executive is formed by commanding a majority in the lower house of the Parliament.

Let me again draw attention to the Australian Constitution:

61. Executive power

The executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Queen and is exercisable by the Governor-General as the Queen’s representative, and extends to the execution and maintenance of this Constitution, and of the laws of the Commonwealth.

62. Federal Executive Council

There shall be a Federal Executive Council to advise the Governor-General in the government of the Commonwealth, and the members of the Council shall be chosen and summoned by the Governor-General and sworn as Executive Councillors, and shall hold office during his pleasure.

63. Provisions referring to Governor-General

The provisions of this Constitution referring to the Governor-General in Council shall be construed as referring to the Governor-General acting with the advice of the Federal Executive Council.

64. Ministers of State

The Governor-General may appoint officers to administer such departments of State of the Commonwealth as the Governor-General in Council may establish.

Such officers shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General. They shall be members of the Federal Executive Council, and shall be the Queen’s Ministers of State for the Commonwealth.

Ministers to sit in Parliament

After the first general election no Minister of State shall hold office for a longer period than three months unless he is or becomes a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.

Now the PM may take advice from whomever he pleases – the PM has no authority to modify the Constitution to create new decision making bodies. Section 62 of the Constitution creates a decision making body and section 64 requires them to be members of the federal Parliament.

As it stands there is not accountability mechanism that constrains the so-called National Parliament and there is no democratic control over that institution.

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41 Responses to Quelle surprise

  1. Roger

    Scott Morrison has signalled his preference for the national cabinet to become a permanent decision-making body to manage the federation…

    Absent a national emergency that won’t fly.

    The HCA will shoot it down if given the opportunity.

  2. Bdf

    When does the HC challenge start?

  3. H B Bear

    Democracy and the rule of law is such a drag.

    Let’s just have a telephone hook-up and tell them what we are doing on TV.

  4. Crossie

    Our politicians really despise democracy and if I were the conspiracy theory type I would say that this crisis may have been manufactured for the purpose.

  5. Roger

    I wonder if SloMo asked Christian Porter to look at his trial balloon before he released it aloft?

  6. Dr Faustus

    All we need next are 200-odd UN-style ‘Committees of Experts’ to advise National Cabinet, plus a rotating Prime Ministership – and, bingo, a $170 million saving on an unnecessary Federal election every four years.

    We’re all in this together.

  7. Terry

    There is probably a great national conversation to be had about how our constitution/s (States and Federal) serve us as Australians in modern times and whether any changes, small or large, might enhance our nation.

    If so, then have it. Don’t arrogantly attempt to usurp the people and their authority. That’s simply Treason (and lazy) and should be punished as such.

    Make your case and if it is convincing the people will approve by referenda. You do not decide, the people do.

    Well past time that our politicians, bureaucrats, and police were reminded that they answer to the people – not the other way around. I don’t mind if those that have forgetton need to re-learn the lesson from the Centrelink queue or a prison cell, if they won’t take the hint.

  8. stevem

    I must say I wonder if this, in reality, is a COAG meeting several times a week.

    If COAG is constitutional, why wouldn’t this more frequent meeting be constitutional as well?

  9. MatrixTransform

    Let’s just have a telephone hook-up

    telephones are sooo last millennium, we should use Zoom

  10. Struth

    The Prime Minister said that through the national cabinet — formed in response to the coronavirus pandemic — the “federation had been more responsive and more co-ordinated than we’ve seen in many years”.

    Surprising how responsive and co-ordinated you can be when you ditch democracy, the rule of law and are the only ones with the guns.

  11. candy

    “National Cabinet” sounds more newsworthy and powerful than COAG.

    PM Morrison is a marketing man, after all, with a good sized streak of authoritarianism and ambitions of control and deciding what is good for folk. perhaps Pentecostalism type values.

  12. teddy bear

    Sinc your final sentence spells out in exactly what it is about, our corrupt elite are forever looking for ways to eliminate any and all accountability all the while grabbing more power for themselves.

    Though I don’t think it’s all bad as in the end the bolder they get the faster their inevitable doom approaches.

  13. Ellen of Tasmania

    “The great ideological crusades of twentieth-century intellectuals have ranged across the most disparate fields—from the eugenics movement of the early decades of the century to the environmentalism of the later decades, not to mention the welfare state, socialism, communism, Keynesian economics, and medical, nuclear, and automotive safety. What all these highly disparate crusades have in common is their moral exaltation of the anointed above others, who are to have their very different views nullified and superseded by the views of the anointed, imposed via the power of government. Despite the great variety of issues in a series of crusading moments among the intelligentsia during the twentieth century, several key elements have been common to most of them:

    1. Assertions of a great danger to the whole of society, a danger to which the masses of people are oblivious.

    2. An urgent need for action to avert impending catastrophe.

    3. A need for government to drastically curtail the dangerous behavior of the many, in response to the prescient conclusions of the few.

    4. A disdainful dismissal of arguments to the contrary as either uninformed, irresponsible, or motivated by unworthy purposes.

    When their agendas fail to deliver on promises, they always respond “where would we be if we didn’t have these programs in place? How much worse would it have been?”

    In short, no matter what happens, the vision of the anointed always succeeds, if not by the original criteria, then by criteria extemporized later—and if not by empirical criteria, then by criteria sufficiently subjective to escape even the possibility of refutation. Evidence becomes irrelevant.”

    Sowell, The Vision of the Anointed

  14. MACK

    A fundamental flaw in democracy is that it encourages politicians to raise taxes to buy votes. One of the few antidotes is competition between countries and States. Collusion among Australian States is extremely dangerous.

  15. Roger

    If COAG is constitutional…/em>

    COAG has no constitutional or statutary basis.

    It was created by fiat by Paul Keating as an aggrandizement of the Premiers’ Conferences, which were an ad hoc means of coordinating government action where necessary. At least minutes were kept of those conferences, which were subsequently available for public scrutiny; COAG, whose discussions take place behind closed doors, merely deigns to release communiqués reporting its decisions. As ill served as our democracy is by the semi-secret functioning of COAG, its replacement by a so-called “national cabinet” is ominous.

  16. Roger

    Ugh…formatting fail. As it should have appeared:

    COAG has no constitutional or statutary basis.

    It was created by fiat by Paul Keating as an aggrandizement of the Premiers’ Conferences, which were an ad hoc means of coordinating government action where necessary. At least minutes were kept of those conferences, which were subsequently available for public scrutiny; COAG, whose discussions take place behind closed doors, merely deigns to release communiqués reporting its decisions. As ill served as our democracy is by the semi-secret functioning of COAG, its replacement by a so-called “national cabinet” is ominous.

  17. Ellen of Tasmania

    “As this great pandemic scare crests and winds down, it is my conviction that we are going to be involved in one of the most important debates of our generation. That debate is going to be all about the need even to have a pandemic post mortem. And in that debate over whether we can have a debate, we need to be insisting that we be shown the game film, and allowed to comment on it. We must be allowed to ask “what just happened?” and in the provision of answers there must be voices other than those parroting the Official Version of Events. In the array of answers offered, there must be an actual array. …

    Insist on a debate. Insist on a fiery debate. Insist on a review of what was done, and by whom. Insist on accountability for all decisions, and have that be an accountability with sharp teeth.”

    https://dougwils.com/books-and-culture/s7-engaging-the-culture/this-shambling-and-shameful-and-shambolic-shamdemic.html

    We don’t want a “more responsive and more co-ordinated” federal approach. We want competition, debate, choice, alternatives and more direct accountability. They don’t even seem to realise how totalitarian they sound.

  18. Crossie

    Struth
    #3410513, posted on April 14, 2020 at 9:34 am
    The Prime Minister said that through the national cabinet — formed in response to the coronavirus pandemic — the “federation had been more responsive and more co-ordinated than we’ve seen in many years”.

    Surprising how responsive and co-ordinated you can be when you ditch democracy, the rule of law and are the only ones with the guns.

    In very short order we saw what absolute power does to those inclined to exercise it. You step out of line and we will fine you $1600+ or even jail you, comply and you will get $1500 a fortnight from the government. Why does it feel as if we are no longer people but mice in a maze looking for cheese?

  19. feelthebern

    Awwwww Sheeeeeit.

  20. feelthebern

    COAG has been the single biggest impediment to competition in Australia.
    Now it’s being replaced with a bigger, uglier beast.
    FFS.
    ScoMo has lapped Rudd.
    Now he’s trying to go full Obama.
    ScoMo, never go full Obama.

  21. Infidel Tiger King

    Never waste a fake crisis.

  22. NoFixedAddress

    Ellen of Tasmania
    #3410544, posted on April 14, 2020 at 9:55 am

    We need More States.

  23. feelthebern

    A national cabinet is a statists wet dream.

  24. J-man

    By that logic, Sinc, the Prime Minister is unconstitutional as the position is not mentioned anywhere in the The Constitution.

    All decisions flowing from any decision-making body would still need to be passed by both Houses of Parliament and receive Royal Assent. Nothing changes.

  25. Roger

    By that logic, Sinc, the Prime Minister is unconstitutional as the position is not mentioned anywhere in the The Constitution.

    The office of the Prime Minister exists under the conventions of the Westminster parliamentary system which we inherited from Britain.

  26. Sinclair Davidson

    By that logic, Sinc, the Prime Minister is unconstitutional as the position is not mentioned anywhere in the The Constitution.

    I hear this argument all the time – but I’m calling ‘Bullshit’. The PM isn’t a constitutional position. The PM is the chair of the Executive Federal Council. That position doesn’t need to be specified – and isn’t. The PM is simply first amongst equals. By contrast, however, the existence and composition of the Executive Federal Council is spelled out in considerable detail in the Constitution. The ‘National Cabinet’ simply does not comply or conform to the Constitution.

  27. Cynic of Ayr

    More flying. More salaries. More meetings. More staff. Probably another building. More expenses!
    BIG government. That’s what labor has always wanted, and stupid Morrison is giving it to them.

  28. twostix

    All decisions flowing from any decision-making body would still need to be passed by both Houses of Parliament and receive Royal Assent. Nothing changes.

    Garbage.

    By this logic the National Cabinet could agree with each other to outsource all decision making in the country to the Chinese government and that would be perfectly constitutional.

    Any constitutional democracy is 10% constitution and 90% tradition – the pact between the government and the people is that the government will stay inside what is acceptable and not play silly games trying to do things like this.

    Otherwise we end up with the UK/EU situation or worse.

  29. twostix

    Nobody ever agreed, or even imagined that in this country the state premiers and prime minister will go on to form a new secretive governing body, deciding how to run the country behind closed doors.

    It’s a complete end-run around by the executive power around our parliaments who are currently literally obsolete – an attempt to cement some form of the current state of unlimited power and zero accountability in forever.

    It’s a new level of government, it is 100% political and is 100% affected by political machinations. For instance who gets to decide on what it does? Do they all vote? Is it 50% bare majority? Are there political alliances at work? Are Vic, QLD and WA working together inside the Cabinet to out vote or fillibuster the other states? Do larger states get a bigger representation in the discussion or is it simply who is better at working the room? Does the federal government act as a moderator or a political player?

    This is a political governing body and is completely unacceptable.

  30. candy

    Are there political alliances at work?

    I think that is a problem.
    Premier Andrews is perceived as a strong, reliable, on top of the issues type leader. He has a presence. He appears to have a large swathe of support in Victoria, despite the socialism, the corruption of the Red Shirts, the demonisation of Cardinal Pell, the bullying of conservatives, massives fines for people less than 1.5 metres apart. He can do no wrong (for now – things change).

    I don’t know whether PM Morrison is scared of him or trying to emulate him and lead us to socialism.

  31. flyingduk

    Surprising how responsive and co-ordinated you can be when you ditch democracy, the rule of law and are the only ones with the guns.

    They ain’t the only ones with guns 😉

  32. nfw

    National Cabinet? How war like sounding is that? Typical of tin-pot dictators. Morrison doesn’t want to face facts and see this for what is: yet another con. He’s loving being on TV every day. Bloody idiot who’s greatest claim to fame is what? The “Where the Bloody Hell Are You” cringe commercials. If we’re all in this togther let’s see some politician pay cuts. As if.

  33. Suburban Boy

    I don’t know why I keep wasting my breath, but here goes (again):

    1. The “National Cabinet” is a political committee formed for the purpose of co-ordinating the policies of the nine governments concerned. The National Cabinet has exactly zero power to enact laws of any kind, and zero power to compel compliance with its decisions. Constitutionally it is neither a legislative body (as in Chapter I of the Constitution) nor an executive body (Chapter II).

    2. Decisions of the National Cabinet are given legal force by the individual heads of government acting with their own Executive Councils or Parliaments. Morrison might announce decisions that affect the lives of all Australians, but his pronouncements have zero legal effect. But it is only reasonable that he inform us of the decisions that will be given legal effect by the Commonwealth, State and Territory Executive Councils (or Parliaments) shortly after he announces them.

    3. The Prime Minister is not the chairman of the Federal Executive Council. The chairman (called President) of the FEC is the Governor-General. No meeting of the FEC can take place with him (or the Administrator, when the GG is out of the country). Often the FEC meets with the PM present, but just as often it doesn’t, because he is not essential to the process.

  34. FelixKruell

    They will simply meet to make decisions within each of their powers. Just like COAG.

    And just like COAG, it will revert to a talk fest once there is no urgency or emergency.

  35. Richard Bender

    Ah…there is absolutely no requirement for a member of the Executive Council to be a member of parliament. That requirement only applies to ministers, who become members of the Executive Council upon first appointment.

    Strictly speaking, John Howard, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull, and every other living person who was ever a federal minister, are members of the Executive Council. By convention, they do not participate in meetings.

  36. Rohan

    So in other words, this “National Cabinet” is our Enabling Act.

    Can’t wait for when da Glowbull Warmening becomes our Reichstag Fire Decrees.

  37. Rohan

    2. Decisions of the National Cabinet are given legal force by the individual heads of government acting with their own Executive Councils or Parliaments. Morrison might announce decisions that affect the lives of all Australians, but his pronouncements have zero legal effect.

    Ah good. As no state or federal government has passed even one law in parliament after thorough debate on any measure proposed by this national council, I don’t have to follow the enacted state of emergency measures such as social distancing, nor pay any fines or face gaol for alleged breeches thereof. Because all decisions have “…zero legal effect”.

    Brilliant.

  38. Squirrel

    Political self-interest will almost certainly see an end of the “National Cabinet” once the worst of the health crisis has passed, and particularly when it comes time to work out how to pay for all the emergency measures which have been taken, and those yet to come.

    Constitutional niceties aside, that’s a shame – the fiscal challenge will be absolutely monumental, and a number of sacred cows, including the massive amounts of bureaucratic duplication/triplication and overlap will need to be slaughtered if we are to have any hope of managing the remaining bucks. The level of collegiality on public display from the NC could be very handy in that regard.

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