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Duty Of Care


So it’s the morning after the afternoon before. The decisions of the independents has come and now begins the understanding of what they have achieved and have really done.

I am reminded of what I saw that day the Independents arrived in Canberra. I remember hearing them speak at the National Press Conference where they openly announced the allegiance right from day one. There has been no duplicity here from any of them. People in their own electorates knew from the start which way they will go. And yes, those in Kennedy knew that Bob Katter would not back the ALP from the moment the election began.

So why did the Independents wait to announce their decisions? And did the prolonged process change or affect their final decision. I think not. It may have allowed them to deeply evaluate each parties policies, but the main goal was signed on the Monday afternoon before the decision and celebrated with a group hug.

THAT was what all this was about. That was what it was always about. The Independents only ever wanted names on a document that will, I hope, change the way things work in parliament from now on. In fact, the UK electorate, after voting in its own minority government will now go to a referendum to decide on what these men have delivered the nation. Yes. The Westminster System is due for reform, but we got it in Canberra first.

Think about this people of Australia. Why did Bob Katter not make his decision known before hand? He could have easily done so, especially after Andrew Wilkie came into the ALP fold. For over two weeks, the man refrained as did Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor. They did so because of one thing.

They had a Duty of Care.

And not just to his electorate, or to friends and colleagues, but to the parliamentary process itself. These processes will benefit the country in the long-term by bettering the way we are governed Federally. It allows voters to no longer be swayed by the thought that an Independent is restricted to get policies through. Yes any member of parliament can make a private members bill. But without the privileges of government or even opposition; without access to cost these policies or the ability to debate them, they rarely survive. I believe only 19 such bills has been passed since 1901. The old system forces the minor parties to ally with one of the bigger players to get anything done. And when they get something in, it is watered down by party ideologies. The new system removes that restriction.

It is not only about an independent speaker, or limited times to questions and answers. It’s about bipartisan committees that can come together, call in expert opinion and the chance to work out good solid policies in the very first release of these policies. We have been subject for the last 40 odd years of one party coming in and changing or tweaking or abolishing policies strictly for political points. It is why the GST took over a decade to finally get through.

The parties had forgotten about their Duty of Care.

Yes, this new way of doing things will take longer to get legislation in due to this debating and committee process, but once in, it will more than likely stay in tact. The process length may double or even treble, but it will not take 4 elections and two governments to get things through.

The reforms do not in any way spoil an oppositions ability to criticise a government or its policies as it sees fit. It does however allow those in opposition to reform the legislation with their alternative opinions. Thats right! Those in opposition will actually have to come up with an alternative. And be prepared to debate them rather than tack them on as some kind of electoral promise come the next election. It will mean that those in government have to do a hell of a lot more work. But it will also impose the same detail and preparation onto the shoulders of those in opposition.

We are told by both major parties that they wanted to get these reforms in for years. They also came up for excuses as to why they did not. This election result forced them to finally concede to these reforms and the playing field has now changed although many do not know how it will affect the way things are done. It WILL change the way things are done in federal parliament. It WILL change the dynamics of how legislation is imposed. And it WILL balance the system away from party power to the local members if they choose to seize this chance.

We could see the next election stomp all over these changes in the years to come. But the groundwork has been put in place. Party politics will continue to exist, however local MPs can no longer return to an electorate and say they tried to do this or try to get that in. No more. Now they have been given the tools to do better than just try. The are obligated to do so not because they just have an obligation to a party. It is because they now have a direct obligation to their electorates.

It is now a clear matter of Duty of Care.

 A. Ghebranious    2010                                   All Rights Reserved

PS: Yeah I know I said I would shutup. But damn if this blogging thing ain’t addictive!

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