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Comments on Senate Reform « Previous | |Next »
October 11, 2003

Cartoon10.jpg I see that Paul Kelly would like to skittle the Senate. His is an anti-democratic and anti-federal voice that disguises itself by wearing a democratic mask.

Speaking in the language of democracy is the only way that an anti-democratic voice can appear to be legitimate. The debate has to take place within the political form of democracy because the old class based aristocratic-conservatism, with its strong anti-egalitarianism and deep antagonism to democracy, has no purchase these days.

What has purchase is the anti-democratic hierachical business model of organization. Hence John Howard is the CEO of the government.

Kelly is quite hostile to the Senate. He talks in terms of the government:


"....pushing the public interest, against the special interests enshrined in the Senate voting system.... [Howard's] argument is well-based since the parliamentary system is too weighted against a government's mandate in favour of minority interests...Howard's critique of Senate obstruction....The Senate does pose a serious problem for Australian governance. The Senate as a chamber rejects any idea of a government mandate. Its voting system means no government is likely to control the Senate again. The bills the Senate has denied are substantial and Australia will need more of these sorts of reforms in the future, not less. The lawyers who reject Howard's reforms operate with total disregard for the national challenges Australia faces over the next generation."


This is an apologist talking. The Senate is without redeeming features on this account. Considerations, such as the Senate acting as a house of review of the Howard Government's and legislation or Australians voting to place roadblocks in the path of governments they have elected, are not even mentioned.

Why is Kelly's an anti-democratic voice? As Brian Costa observes:


"....'it is clear that a cohort of electors differentiate between the upper and lower houses in deciding which party to support. There is no doubt that the majority desired the return of the Howard Government in 2001, but a slightly different majority didn't want it to "control" the Senate."'


It is not just a case of the executive being peeved at not being able to bend the legislature to its will: it is the assumption that the Senate should be subordinated to the House of Representatives. Behind that assumption sits the view that, since the Executive controls the House, the executive should rule and democracy is limited to voting in elections.

Any deepening or broadening of democracy should be resisted because it is a constraint on the will of the executive.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:54 AM | | Comments (0)
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