Monday, July 26, 2010

The citizens assembly

Julia Gillard's announcement of a "citizens assembly" to build consensus on climate change has come in for a great deal of criticism.

One stinging line is "isn't the Parliament just that" - it is an assembly of 150 citizens.

Laurie Oakes writing in News Ltd papers on the weekend said;

She is saying, in effect, that Parliament as an institution no longer works.

Also, by promising that her citizens' assembly would be "genuinely representative of the wider Australian public", she implies that the Parliament is not.

Funny thing is that that is exactly what she is saying - and it shouldn't be news to anyone. Ever noticed that actually without "party discipline" there would have been a majority for the Rudd-Turnbull plan for an ETS? One could get picky and also pint out that it wasn't a majority in the HoR that th ALP was lacking, it was in the Senate.

And for those who want to mount the charge that Rudd should have gone for a double dissolution, the only response is that there were some bad tactics - yes - but not a lack of will. The bad tactics were due to leaving the outcome to eleventh hour negotiation which then collapsed under the coalition leadership change. As a consequence the amended version had not been passed by the reps and defeated by the senate before rising in December.

Labor was then unable to get a vote brought on in February to allow the bill to be rejected to set it up for the next time to get it rejected again. This then hits the wall on the time limit for double dissolutions that cannot be called too close to when a half-senate election can be held.

But back to Oakes, he says.

She may well be right on both counts, but surely the answer is to reform Parliament - not set up other ad hoc bodies to take over its role.

Well, I agree with him on that. The solution is to convert the reps back into an assembly and not an electoral college for choosing the Executive. To do that we need to directly elect the executive.

or that we need a new political party - I want to call it the Australian Republican Party. I bizarrely want it to first campaign for the 2011 State election.

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