Rex Patrick: has the Australian Senate lost its mojo? – Michael West

 

Senate. Rex Patrick“Powerful” or “piss-weak”? The Senate has greater powers than a royal commission yet in recent years its authority has declined amid refusals by the likes of the Defence Department, the Tax Commissioner and the government itself to cooperate with Senate orders. Former senator Rex Patrick on responsible government.

Mojo lost

We often hear people call for a royal commission to get to the bottom of something. This is a strange call for two reasons. 

Firstly, a royal commission is established by letters patent issued by the governor-general on the advice of government. Royal commissions are always for investigations in which the government is interested, not the people.

Secondly, the Senate has greater powers than a royal commission.

People either subconsciously or consciously turn away from the Senate because they know it is weak. They know it has lost its mojo. And governments and bureaucrats know this better than anyone. So, it’s a vicious cycle in which the authority and power of the Senate continues to decline.

Its weakness is not the fault of the government and it’s not the fault of the Senate staff who do their best to support inquiries. It is exclusively the fault of senators.

The powers of the Senate have been established by convention. Unexercised, those conventions will turn into points of interest for historians. That would be a tragedy, because securing accountability of government is the very essence of responsible government.

Source: Rex Patrick: has the Australian Senate lost its mojo? – Michael West

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