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The senate and parliamentary accountability

Evans, Harry

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The framers of the Australian Constitution adopted a set of institutions which they called responsible government. At that time, this meant that the executive government, the cabinet, was responsible to the lower house of the legislature in the sense that the executive could be removed from office by that house if that house considered that the executive no longer merited the house’s confidence. Even at that time there were dissenting voices who warned that responsible government no longer...[Show more]

dc.contributor.authorEvans, Harry
dc.date.accessioned2003-04-24
dc.date.accessioned2004-09-28T04:00:18Z
dc.date.accessioned2011-01-05T08:31:51Z
dc.date.available2004-09-28T04:00:18Z
dc.date.available2011-01-05T08:31:51Z
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/1885/41941
dc.description.abstractThe framers of the Australian Constitution adopted a set of institutions which they called responsible government. At that time, this meant that the executive government, the cabinet, was responsible to the lower house of the legislature in the sense that the executive could be removed from office by that house if that house considered that the executive no longer merited the house’s confidence. Even at that time there were dissenting voices who warned that responsible government no longer worked as supposed. Since then, we have become familiar with their thesis in an updated form: the executive controls the lower house through a disciplined party majority, and the house no longer removes governments or installs new ones, except in times of great political crisis involving splits in the government party which are now highly unlikely to occur. Responsible government has disappeared, or at least developed into something different. We now no longer speak of responsible government in that sense. Instead, we settle for something less, called accountability. Governments should be accountable to Parliament, that is, obliged to give account of their actions to Parliament and through Parliament to the public. Governments are then responsible to the electorate at election time. The problem with this picture is that the system of government has continued to develop, and has moved on again in a way which requires a further reassessment. Governments now expend a large part of their time and energy suppressing parliamentary accountability, seeking to ensure that they are not held accountable by Parliament, that old accountability mechanisms do not work and that new ones are not introduced. Just as the party system developed to ensure that governments formed by the majority party are not responsible to Parliament, so that governments are never overthrown by Parliament, the system has developed further to ensure that governments are not held accountable by Parliament, so that they are less likely to be overthrown by the electorate at the next election.
dc.format.extent38026 bytes
dc.format.extent351 bytes
dc.format.mimetypetext/html
dc.format.mimetypeapplication/octet-stream
dc.language.isoen_AU
dc.subjectgovernment
dc.subjectparliamentary accountability
dc.subjectsenate accountability
dc.subjectAustralia
dc.subjectSenate
dc.subjectParliament
dc.titleThe senate and parliamentary accountability
dc.typeWorking/Technical Paper
local.description.notesThis Discussion Paper was originally prepared as a public lecture which was delivered on 12 April 1999, as part of the series on Democratic Governance: Improving the Institutions of Accountability organised by the ANU Graduate Program in Public Policy. The series involved public presentations on a number of Monday evenings from March to June 1999.
local.description.refereedno
local.identifier.citationmonthmay
local.identifier.citationyear1999
local.identifier.eprintid1202
local.rights.ispublishedyes
dc.date.issued1999
local.contributor.affiliationGraduate Program in Public Policy, RSSS
local.contributor.affiliationANU
local.citationDiscussion Paper no.65
CollectionsANU Research Publications

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