Senate majority exposes flawed Constitution

The Senate majority achieved by the Coalition Government has exposed the Australian Constitution as a deeply flawed document enabling unscrupulous administration without checks or balance.

As correspondent Margaret Morgan writes in the letters page of the Sydney Morning Herald, "[w]e are in a position where the mechanisms to preclude executive corruption no longer exist, and political history has destroyed the possibility of challenge by the monarchical overseer. The system is broken."

Ms Morgan explains that "[o]ur system of government now ensures that the executive - when it has control of the Senate - has complete power over scrutiny of its actions. This has been made clear by the Government's recent refusal to allow public servants to give evidence on the AWB affair to a Senate estimates committee. While many aspects of American democracy might underwhelm us, one thing it has that we sorely lack is potent legislative oversight: the ability of legislators to undertake inquiries with pointy teeth and the ability to call pretty much anyone to give account".

"We know that the Westminster principle of ministerial responsibility is now a mere echo in Australian politics. If there is a debacle within a minister's domain, it seems it can only be the responsibility of the minister if he or she is overtly and demonstrably made aware of the error. The buck doesn't stop with the minister, but with whichever most senior public servant can be shown to have known. Public servants have learned, encouraged by their fragile short-term contracts, to avoid letting ministers know anything that might be damaging. To do otherwise is political suicide. Get too noisy, lose your gig."

"We have a constitutional crisis that would not be obviously identified as such. This is where our constitution and constitutional monarchy become exposed as deeply and terminally flawed. What is the "umpire", the Governor-General, to do? Pragmatically, post-1975 and post-Hollingworth, the answer is obvious. Nothing. The irony is that the umpire's role was created when ministerial responsibility still existed."

The collapse of accountability accompanying the Coalition's control of both houses of Parliament augers the demise of the encumbent Constitution.

The solution is a constitution providing legitimate separation between competing perspectives in the form of a republic comprising women's and men's legislatures presided over by an executive of elders accompanied by courts of women's and men's jurisdiction.

March 9, 2006