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Mike Rann's big policy idea « Previous | |Next »
November 24, 2005

The Rann ALP in SA continues it's long march to the right.

Atkinson.jpg
Achinson

The latest tactic is to emulate the Queensland of yesterday and move to abolish the Legislative Council on the grounds that the upper house of state parliament is a relic of a time long gone. The Premier says:

I think it's time to modernise our parliament so it reflects the demands and expectations of a confident state as it prospers and grows into this 21st century. Let's face it, in my view the upper house has become a relic of a time in our democratic history that is long gone. It is past its use by date. It's not a bear pit, it's a sand pit.It's become a circus of smear, a den of petty game playing. Like many other South Australians, I do not believe this house of parliament serves the people as best it could or should. Now, people want to use the chamber as some form of smear machine. It has become a petty, partisan circus.The Legislative Council has lost its way."

The assumption is that the ALP in SA is a modern reformist party and that the reactionary upper house is obstructing good reforms These assumptions are false.

The Rann Labor government is right of centre, deeply conservative, and forever attacking the judicary in the name of being tough on law and order. The Legislative Council is nicely balanced. Of the 22 Legislative Council members in the current parliament the Liberal Party holds nine seats, Labor seven, three are held by the Australian Democrats, two are independents and one seat belongs to Family First. Pretty democratic. It is likely the Australian Democrats will lose two seats in the March election--to the Greens?

Has the Legislative Council lost its way? What is the Rann Government's argument? He says that the Labor ministers are especially angry that key legislation - including changes to development laws, stiffer penalties for aggravated assault, and child protection laws – have been either held up or amended by the Upper House. They also are angry at the way the chamber has established a series of select committees to examine issues such as electricity, the stashed cash affair and the Ashbourne affair.

Isn't amendment of legislation and select committees the way liberal democracy functions in Australia? So the Rann Govermment is making a bid for more power, for executive dominance. Business SA is all for abolition. Murdoch's tabloid Advertiser talks in terms ot being high time to burn down the Legislative Council. Democracy needs to be replaced by strong leadership is their motto.

I hear fascist resonances in that.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 1:19 PM | | Comments (4)
Comments

Comments

Parliamentary systems have poor seperation of powers anyway, mixing legislative and executive in the executive cabinet. Throw in how party discipline is enforced in Australia, and a Joh lurks round every corner. The upper houses are one of the few checks we have on the executive running rampant over parliament.

Cameron,

My memory is that it is traditional ALP policy to abolish what it quaintly calls 'the upper house'.

What they should be doing instead of tilting at windmills is reforming the Legislative Council--by removing the anti-democratic remnants--eg. reducing the 8 year terms, moving to proportional representation---and strenghtening the legislative review process---giving more resources to the committee system.

Rann is about a power grab to achieve executive dominance,to trash the rule of law and impose censorship. The SA Lberals are very weak, have no money in the bank to fight the forthcoming election, and lack policy credibility.

Rann will win the election and probably be able to a govern in his own right in the lower house. What is required is a Legislative Council that will improve his legislation.

Gary, Removing the upper house used to be Labor Policy, but I think they dumped that in the 50s (or 70s as part of Whitlam's modernisation). Then again the upper houses used to be malapportioned and for the old squatocracy. Which is probably why Labor was against them as it fitted the old style of class warfare.

The Legislative Council's have been way behind the times at the state level too, NSW only got a popularly elected Upper House in the 1970s. A remnant of Wentworth thinking the political system went King, Lords, Commoners. Western Australia still has malapportionment problems. Then again SA had malapportionment at the Assembly level too until Steele Hall removed it, at cost to his government.


Cameron,
I'm not sure that:

Removing the upper house used to be Labor Policy, but I think they dumped that in the 50s (or 70s as part of Whitlam's modernisation).

is the case, given Rann's outburst. Sure the old ALP continues to view the upper house as malapportioned and for the old conservative squatocracy.

That account has little accord with political reality wher the Legislative Council has been to the left of the ALP.

True the ALP was against the upper case because it fitted the old style of class warfare, but the 1970s Whitlam modernization was about centralizing power in Canberra (undermining federalism) and crippling the constitutional powers of the Senate (enhancing executive dominance).

Rann is about executive dominance.The support to abolish (burn) the Legislative Council in SA from Business SA and Murdoch's Advertiser is about strong leadership and rolling back democracy. What you see surfacing here is political conservatism that is deeply anti-democratic.