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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

limits on executive government « Previous | |Next »
July 19, 2009

Jack Waterford's comments on the limits of executive government at the Canberra Times are interesting in the light of this argument about authoritarian capitalism.He says that there are those including me who:

would like to see some circumscription of a constantly expanding range of executive power as against the parliament. One might argue that parliament is the author of its own misfortunes in this regard, given that it has been prepared to hand over some of its most important functions to ministers, and to rubber-stamp whatever they do. Yet one might have expected that the judiciary, as the third arm of constitutional government, might be a little more willing to put some limits on the incestuous affair, if only on behalf of a citizenry increasingly being trampled by the descent into discretion, arbitrary power, and an effective power of dispensation from the rule of law.

Federalism, under the Australian Constitution, implies the distribution of powers between Commonwealth and States and between the three branches of government. That, in turn, implies limits on executive government.

There needs to be limits on executive power othrwise we are drifting towards authoritarian capitalism behind the veil of 'emergencies', 'crises', 'dangers' and 'intense difficulties', of 'scourges' and other problems that relate to things as diverse as terrorism, water shortages, drug abuse, child abuse, poverty, pandemics, obesity, and global warming, as well as global financial affairs and which require, so the public is endlessly told,that 'wars' must be waged, 'campaigns' conducted, 'strategies' devised and 'battles' fought.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 5:01 PM | | Comments (4)
Comments

Comments

How can we limit executive power while we have a system with such inter-party discipline? I fear that in practice, limiting executive power from gathering around the Prime Minister's office is as pointless as resisting gravity.

Brent,
under federalism the countervailing centres of power to a dominant executive are the Senate, the states and the judiciary. How effective these are is another question.

There seems to have been a pretty much concerted and coordinated attempt to subvert the underlying principles of law over recent decades as neo conservatism and neoliberalism with their Hobbesian thru to pragmatist expediency based "whatever it takes" mentality has gained traction with capitalists and politicians.
The Howard era, building on aspects tinkered with around the edges back in the Hawke Keating era, launched an overt attack on public service and judicial independence.
But the underlying thrust has involved a desperate attempt to undermine the basic underlying underpinnnings of justice; habeas corpus, presumption of innocence, public trials and testing of evidence. This has been in concert with a parallel movement in the same direction from technocrat ALP state governments.
Much has been made of the arbitrary nature the processes in play re Stern Hu, but as Hugh White pointed out on Lateline last week, the example of Hicks( Haneef? ) proved that Stern Hu is within what global technocrats regard to be desirable, rather than a third world exceptional.
As the thread lead-in observes, the other factor is the tabloid MSM and opini-formation within the context of an increasingly historically and politically illiterate Western community, from Murdoch's hysterical support, ultimately for venal reasons, of Bush's Iraq war, to the current paroxyms over Afghanistan and the Djakarta bombings.
On a related note, one observes the likely example of Gerard Henderson attempting another probably jaundiced, "Culture Wars" spin in the SMH today.
Have not read it yet, but would not be surprised if it was yet another attempt to justify authoritarian neocon policies over the last fifteeen years, whilst smearing progressives and moderates.

Parliament is just a ritual. Real politics happens elsewhere, and real decisions are made elsewhere.