Re-Form

TAFKAS has written many posts on this site about constitutional reform.  And the sum total of his ideas taken up is about the same as the sum total of skin in the game that Australia’s health bureaucrats have.  And that would be a grand total of NIL.

But TAFKAS persists.  Ideas and discussions have value in of themselves.  Perhaps something that is written on the Cat is discussed somewhere within earshot of someone who might mention it to someone else.

So here he goes again.

US Senator Ben Sasse is one of the more brighter representatives in the US congress and last week he had an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal on the subject of Senate Reform – Make the Senate Great Again.

Obviously Sasse was writing about the US Senate, but given that the Commonwealth Senate drew some inspiration from the US (giving Australia our silly form of Wash-minster government), there are no doubt some lessons available to Australia.

If you have a subscription, please read it – and note that subscribers to the Australian get a freebie subscription to the WSJ.

But to Sasse’s list TAFKAS would add the following – ban Australian Senators from holding positions in the Executive Council.  That is – no minsters from the Senate.  If they want to be in the executive, they should run for the house of reps and deal with actually constituents.

Here are 2 Sasse proposals that TAFKAS would support any and every day:

Cancel re-election. One of the biggest reasons Congress gives away its power to the executive branch is that it’s politically expedient for both parties to avoid the decisions that come from the work of legislating. Lawmakers are obsessed with staying in office, and one of the easiest ways to keep getting re-elected is by avoiding hard decisions. We ought to propose a constitutional amendment to limit every senator to one term, but we should double it from six years to 12. Senators who don’t have to worry about short-term popularity can work instead on long-term challenges.

Sunset everything. For decades Pennsylvania Avenue has been a one-way street, as authority flowed from Congress to the executive branch. When the unelected bureaucracy gets power, it doesn’t let go. We ought to end that by having the Senate create a “super committee” dedicated to reviewing all such delegations of power over the past 80 years and then proposing legislation to sunset the authority of entire bureaucracies on a rolling basis. Does, say, the Health and Human Services Department ever answer for its aggressive regulatory lawmaking? Of course not. Sunset all its authority in 12 months and watch lawmakers start to make actual laws.

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28 Responses to Re-Form

  1. stackja

    FDR created this problem.
    Truman, JFK LBJ continued.
    Carter, Clinton, BO continued.
    Now Trump is trying to make a difference. Which is why the Democrats have fought back with the chaos now in the USA.

  2. nb

    ‘Senators who don’t have to worry about short-term popularity can work instead on long-term challenges.’
    Perhaps. Or sit there for twelve years doing nothing other than lining up lucrative post-12 year occupations.

    ‘sunset…’
    It’d be good to have this discussion with a member of parliament and others with practical experience. On the face of it, sunsets are a good idea.

  3. sfw

    A start would be for both state and commonwealth govs to review all existing laws and if there’s been no prosecutions for 5 years get rid of them. Like you say same with all future legislation or a sunset clause.

  4. Bruce of Newcastle

    Nop, I don’t agree. Strongly.

    The current Presidential two-term limit is as good a compromise as you can get. Senators must not have a 12 year term as once they get elected they’d know they’d have free rein. It would be corruption heaven.

    The advantage of a two term limit is they have to behave well enough in the first term to be granted a second one by the voters. That limits the damage they can do.

    What I would include though is a recall provision for the second term. That way there’s a control to the free-rein danger of the second term where the pollie will be tempted to go all out to amass as much grift as possible. A recall special referendum reduces that possibility somewhat.

    Recall provisions for Australian Senators would be a nice option. It’d be fun!

    I like sunsetting everything though. The only danger with it is the purple party principle, where the main parties do a deal to roll over any sunsetting laws. This has been happening with Congressional budgets lately.

    Unfortunately Keating was right about never standing between a pollie and a bucket of money. But no one should make it easy for them.

  5. Pyrmonter

    Starting from what I think are similar premises to those TAFKAS holds:

    – term limits mean there is a definite final round to the principal-agent problem as between voter and representative. What discipline will the representatives face?

    – while it would be no problem in NSW or Vic, all of the other states have at some stage in the last 30 years ‘thrown all the bums out’ – had complete or near-complete victory for one party. TAFKAS’s proposal that ministers only be drawn from the HoR means any intending, quality candidate could expect to lose in a smaller state at some stage, and mean that senior pols would be likley to be drawn from safe seats in Melbourne and Sydney. Is that what you really want?

    – constant re-legislation makes all settled rules unsettled. It would enhance, not remove, the tendency to log-rolling, and increase the demand for, and influence of, the extra-parliamentary operatives usually derided as ‘lobbyists’.

  6. sabena

    If we are reforming the Senate,lets stop the practice of casual vacancies occurring and being filled by the party’s nominee.If a senator wants to resign let his seat remain vacant until the next election.

  7. John A

    I agree with Bruce that long terms for untouchable “representatives” would be a dangerous idea. Witness the parlous condition in the PDR of Viktoriastan. Due to the fixed term of the Parliament (4 years with the first 3 years unassailable because no Confidence Motion can be moved against the government), Diktator Dan can do what he damn-well pleases.

    And I agree with the idea of a recall system, close to a CIR which others have suggested. Minimum number for a recall, say 1000 across at least two electoral boundaries (States for something Federal, Wards/ridings for local government). Definitely NOT a percentage of the electoral roll, but enough so that the issue clearly affects more than “me and a few friends.”

    I would also recommend (as I have said before) a minimum age (40) and life experience qualification for all candidates. I don’t care if some brilliant genius emerges at 20, s/he cannot have any sense of the long-term implications of their ideas or their decisions until they have lived more of life. Suggestion: married (legally, not de facto), preferably with family, grown-up enough to see how their parenting practices worked out, and either self-employed or worked in private industry for at least 10 years before standing for pre-selection. Specifically excluding public servants and other government employees (no hiding in qango’s thanks).

    Salary recommendation: the equivalent of the dole, but fixed for their time in office (not just the current parliament).

    Maximum term: two parliaments.

  8. rickw

    Australian Second Amendment – A2A

    The underwriter of everything else.

  9. John A

    Oh, and the recall to go to the Governor-General, State Governor or Minister for local government (as appropriate) with a constitutional/legislative compulsion to act upon the petition publicly and promptly with reasons.

  10. Roger

    Senators who don’t have to worry about short-term popularity can work instead on long-term challenges.

    12 year terms. Is he serious?

  11. Roger

    I’ve got a reform for you:

    Let’s ban political parties from the senate.

    Make it the peoples’ house of review.

  12. H B Bear

    If we are reforming the Senate,lets stop the practice of casual vacancies occurring and being filled by the party’s nominee.If a senator wants to resign let his seat remain vacant until the next election.

    Yep. And if they resign/are expelled from a political party they cannot sit, vote or draw a salary unless and until re-elected at the next election. In the HoR – immediate by-election.

  13. Spurgeon Monkfish III

    The Australian senate is an abomination in desperate need of root and branch reform.

    None of which will occur in any of our lifetimes.

  14. Steve

    Speaking of reform….of the worst type? Arent most houses now close to 1 million bucks?

    The Socialist state of Tasweennya….

    https://www.afr.com/policy/tax-and-super/death-taxes-stamp-duty-cuts-head-reform-blueprint-20200908-p55tm2

    “Death taxes, stamp duty cuts head reform blueprint

    “John Kehoe Senior writer
    “Sep 16, 2020 – 12.00am

    Inheritance taxes would be introduced for deceased estates worth more than $1 million, property stamp duty abolished and payroll tax simplified under reform options proposed by economist Saul Eslake for the Tasmanian government.

  15. Adelagado

    Let’s have a minimum age for all state and federal politicians. I’d say 35 at least. This would force them to seriously think about doing something useful with their lives and getting some experience in the real world before they seek election. The current system produces Premiers that have never done an honest day’s work in their lives. (Exhibit A. Dan Andrews. Elected at 30).

  16. Just old men yelling at the sky.

    It’s all over, our yoof are determined to have their go at getting socialism to work. They teach it in schools.

    Unless a significant proportion of the voting public join and become active members of political parties, something like 40%, not 0.04%, nothing will change.

    I just tell my kids “you lot voted for this.”

  17. H B Bear

    The more elections the better. I can see no noticeable improvement in moving from 3 to 4 or 6 year terms. Fixed terms are even worse. Two 6 year Senate terms should be long enough for someone of average ability to achieve something. Particularly if the place is not clogged with time servers. Biden is an example of what you don’t want.

  18. H B Bear

    Forester – it is always the few people who change sides in the marginal seats that decide elections. Most votes and seats are just business as usual most elections. Yes – about as useful as yelling at pigeons at the park.

  19. H B Bear

    Good luck finding a Tasmanian with a $1m estate. Most would be lucky to have a full set of teeth.

  20. Pete of Freo

    FFS, just disolve the fucking Federation, they can’t defend it, the fucking State borders are now closed, it took them 100 years to get the standard gauge railway kind of up, three of the States regularly vote for mendicancy, the National Curriculum is a re-hash of the crap abandoned by Western Australia 10 years ago and now we’re being governed by an unconstitutional national cabinet- a conga line of fuckwits who couldn’t tell shit from pipe-clay, and none of whom is fit to pour piss out of a boot. Oh, and “…the science…”, don’t forget “…the science…”.

  21. Hay Stockars

    I could handle a term in the NSW Upper House. And by being by mature an idle person I wouldn’t do much damage. I would see which party would give me a run but I can’t be bothered. One for the too hard file.

  22. thefrollickingmole

    No delegating powers to pubic serpents.
    If a regulation is needed it joins the cue to pass through parliament.
    This alone would gum up government badly and limit their ability to go off on crusades.
    Anything that lowers the efficiency of government is good. The more constipated with backlogged trivia the better.
    Nothing good will come of making it easier to operate, though sunset clauses and everything passing both houses would cripple the bastards nicely.

  23. faceache

    Geez Pete of Freo! I didn’t think there was anyone like you left in Freo!

  24. PK

    Sunset everything.

    Srongly agree that all statutes should expire in thirty years,
    Two reasons. Firstly consistency with the Jeffersonian (I believe) principle of ‘consent of the governed’. Secondly to give our meddlesome representatives something else to do rather than drafting and passing boatloads of useless legislation, They’ll be too busy renegotiating expired bills.

  25. Cynic of Ayr

    Ol’ Cynic was taught at school – more than a few days ago – that the Senate was a “House of Review.”
    More particularly a House of Revue by the States. That’s why States have pretty close to equal representation.
    Further, the Senators were only interested in legislation that was disadvantageous to their State, as compared to the other States.
    So Cynic has often asked and never got a reply, how can a Senator be a Minister who promotes legislation, then be a Senator who reviews it?
    And, how can a Senator vote on Party lines, without consideration of any disadvantage to their State?
    I suppose it might be in the Constitution, but that matters not, because any old Judge seems to have the power and brilliance to change the meaning at will, due to his/her ability to, “Know what the Founders actually meant, not what they wrote.”
    BTW, definitely not 12 years! Even six is too many.

  26. Archivist

    I love the idea of a sunset clause on all legislation, mandated by the constitution.
    Make it long enough that laws have a chance to work and prove themselves. Thirty years.
    By dint of constitution, all laws expire thirty years after they are passed.
    I’m not even sure that the politicans would be against this. They love being busy, passing bills and so on, and it would give them a chance to bask in the glory of successful or popular legislation from years past, when they stamp their name on the renewal bills.

    For example, they get to re-pass Mabo every thirty years. What prime minister wouldn’t love to re-pass that bill? The only potential losers of a sunset clause provision are (some, but certainly not all) bureaucracies.

    But there would be a suspicion, particularly among progressives perhaps, that hard-won progressive gains could be wiped out. So it would be opposed.

  27. Squirrel

    Another vote for Adelagado’s suggestion at 2.02pm, to which I would add a required break of at least five years between employment as a staffer and pre-selection for elected public office.

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