Democracy under threat

Two things have happened in the past two weeks that should be of great concern to all Australians.

Craig Hill, National Vice President Australian Democrats @AustDems

First, the Prime Minister established a “national cabinet” for the first time in our history, saying it was needed to coordinate action on the coronavirus outbreak.

Second, the PM shut down Federal Parliament for at least five months, again because of coronavirus.

This puts us in a situation where parliament is no longer in control and the national cabinet, headed by the PM, is running the show. Or is it?

What should have been a coordinated national approach has been fraught. The NSW and Victorian Premiers took decisions at odds with the Prime Minister on schools.  We know this happened but it was behind closed doors so we don’t know why.  

On its one day of sitting the Federal Parliament authorised the Finance Minister to spend $40 billion on ‘unforeseen events’. The Government offered to consult the Opposition on expenditure of more than $1 billion. What about other parties and independents? 

Billions of dollars are being spent with no oversight by Parliament. The budget is put off until October. Why?

The Government must always be answerable to the Parliament. This is the foundation of our system of democracy.

Australia appears to be alone in shutting down Parliament for 5 long months. The UK is closing Parliament for Easter but resumes 21 April, the Canadian parliament returns one day earlier.

The Australian Parliament should sit online as every other meeting in the country is now doing. 

New Zealand continues to show us up, suspending its parliament until end April but adding an extra week because of the seriousness of the situation.

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