Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Real People’s Assembly

While some might be tiring of the ongoing federal election saga, the fact remains that this is an almost unique situation. It is so long since there has been a hung parliament in Canberra that to all intents and purposes the situation is unprecedented. While some have suggested that the campaign has been boring and that the outcome a reflection of that, the fact is that there is drama and irony to be seen at every turn. While many might be concerned that this period of political uncertainty may be harmful to business and community confidence, the fact is that the outcome of Saturday’s election also provides a unique opportunity for political parties to re-examine the way thewy conduct themselves, and to consider how to improve the parliamentary process.

One of the reasons that Kevin Rudd fell out of favour with his own party was that he somehow managed to lose touch with his own colleagues. It has been widely reported that Mr. Rudd effectively ran the entire government as part of a gang of four including himself, Julia Gillard, Wayne Swan, and Lindsay Tanner. Apparently, when things started to go wrong, he found himself with a shortage of friends within his own party. This could be seen as indicative of the broader political process where politicians generally have been seen to be out of touch with their constituents, and the executive out of touch with the parliament. In effect, so much power has been concentrated at the top that the lines of communication through the cabinet, through the parliament, and out into the community, have been cut off.

In the wake of the election result, it would seem that it has now become necessary for all the politicians to actually talk to each other again. It has become necessary for the politicians to actually listen to the concerns of the constituents of independents and minor parties. It has become necessary for the process to become collaborative rather than combative. It presents an opportunity to reform the parliamentary process to permanently encompass the role of parliamentarians as representatives of the people by removing some of the power from the executive and restoring it to the floor of the parliament. Before the election Tony Abbott criticised the Government’s proposal for a “People’s Assembly” because we already have such an assembly and it is called the Parliament.

This election seems to be offering us the opportunity for that to actually be the case.

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