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

parliamentary supremacy + political corruption « Previous | |Next »
June 3, 2010

A.V. Dicey formulated the comprehensive theory of the concept of parliamentary sovereignty or supremacy that we have inherited from the UK. In Dicey’s view, parliamentary sovereignty is a two-pronged concept.

It means first, that Parliament may make or unmake any law whatsoever; and secondly, that the law does not recognise any other person or body as having the right to override or set aside that legislation. To say that the Parliament is sovereign implies that it is above the other branches of government, moving towards the concentration of political (not corporate) power in a single authority.

One problem with the concept of parliamentary sovereignty or supremacy inherited from the UK is its lack of limitations on legislative power and the lack of accountability of Parliament itself. To whom is parliament accountable in Australia? Its self-regulation. Parliament regulates itself.

The defenders of parliamentary sovereignty refer the doctrine of separation of powers, and say that the government of the day is very accountable to the people. We can toss them out in an election if we don't like them, or think that their standard of conduct is low. Elections are the ultimate test of accountability.

This, however, doesn't address the problem of the corruption of the political process and MP's that goes beyond the fiddling of their individual expense accounts. Victoria and NSW shows branch staking, vote buying, MP's in the pocket of special interests, payment for access to ministers, lobbying, MP's using their position to cut financial deals on the side. Peter Martin, in reviwing Jeffrey Ian Ross's The Dynamics of Political Crime says:

political corruption, which "usually includes accepting or soliciting bribes (i.e., usually money or some other economic benefit, like a gift or service)." The reason that this is a political crime is that "The citizen's trust has been violated," with citizens being the ultimate victims. The three main groups involved in political corruption are politicians, police and government regulators, but others such as judges can participate too.Political corruption is damaging to public trust because it means that the people who are passing and enforcing laws are the ones who are breaking them

Victoria and South Australia are currently the only two states in Australia without an independent corruption commission, and Brumby and Rann's intransigence on this is leaving them increasingly isolated and vulnerable to opposition claims that they must have something to hide. They do. They are protecting their corrupt MP's.

Brumby has backflipped and established a Victorian Integrity and Anti-Corruption Commission (VIACC). As Peter Faris points out in The Australian:

It seems the VIACC cannot investigate corrupt politicians or their staff: this is to be dealt with by yet a new person, the Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner, who reports upwards to (you guessed it) politicians in the form of the Parliamentary Privileges Committee.Brumby has been avoiding corruption reforms because most of the public corruption (apart from the police) involves Labor politicians, local councillors and their staff. It is obviously important to protect the Labor pollies before a tight election. This has been done by excluding politicians from investigation by VIACC. VIACC cannot choose to initiate any such investigations. This has been left to the PI Commissioner who, if he chooses, may refer serious allegations to VIACC.

So we still have self regulation.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:18 AM | | Comments (1)


That's a fine comment, Gary.
God knows where the clean up should start from, but you get the impression that a dinkum clean up might take a while.
Has been a bad week for politics, the hopes of renewal from 2007 now look dead in the water both in Australia and offshore.