In praise of the Senate

Michelle Grattan reminds us today (Saturday 13) of the great value of Senate Committees in scrutinising the executive of government, 50 years after they were introduced. And she should know having reported on politics and the Parliament for almost as long.

Here’s a taste:

While there are significant committees with representation from both houses – the joint committee on intelligence and security is the most important example – in the main it’s the Senate committees that are the real parliamentary watchdogs.

They are where the bureaucrats are regularly grilled, with officials sometimes finding themselves asked to account for what they told their Senate inquisitors previously.

Michelle Grattan, The Conversation

Grattan also points out that over time, Government has tightened media access to public servants, employed many more spin doctors and obstructed FOI requests making investigative journalism difficult. For these reasons, the Senate is increasingly more important in holding government to account. It also works very hard as these stats show:

Senate committees had produced some 120 reports in the 69 years before the new system and more than 5500 in the 50 years since. Public hearings increased from 500 before the change to more than 7000 since.

Senate President, Senator Scott Ryan

The Australian Democrats initiated, chaired and participated in hundreds of Senate inquiries in their time in the Senate. We want to be back, keeping those bastards honest.

Photo: Aditya Joshi, @adijoshi11 on Unsplash

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