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.
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.