Senate needs to rise above this squalid dysfunction

June 21, 2018

Conservative Party leader Cory Bernardi says commentator Paul Kelly is right in his opinion piece from Wednesday's The Australian below and there is an urgent need for a principled, credible, supplement to government in the senate.

Paul Kelly writes:

The integrity and judgment of the Australian parliament is on trial over the coming fortnight. Amid the clamour about institutions from the ABC to our universities, a bigger test now awaits — how a discredited Senate will manage its biggest decisions during this term of government.

The onus has fallen on the Senate crossbench. This flows from Labor’s decision yesterday to oppose the $144 billion income tax cut package and rescind in office the bulk of the package in stages two and three.

The future of politics and perhaps of the next election now depends on whether the government can legislate the package.

There are three related issues at stake. The first is whether a government should be allowed to govern by implementing its main policies. The second is the policy dimension itself — the decision of the crossbench will be vital, perhaps for years, for companies, households, global competitiveness, jobs and economic prospects.

The third is the election calculus — a government unable to implement its agenda looks broken and beaten while, on the other hand, a Labor Party pledging to abolish legislated income tax cuts worth about $120bn will be exposed and highly vulnerable at the election no matter what polling leads it enjoys at the start.

Who has the responsibility for such momentous decisions? A bizarre collection of crossbenchers and party-crossing desperates, some diligent, others consumed by a panicked quest for survival. Much of the result will hinge on Pauline Hanson and her much battered and diminished party, reduced to two senators — yet two is still vital.

Since Federation in 1901 there has never been a Senate that has witnessed such individual ineptitude, so many breaches of section 44 of the Constitution, such a huge turnover — with 16 out of 76 senators elected at the 2016 double-dissolution election having departed — such chronic changes and swapping of party allegiances, such corrosive interplay of personality-based minor parties and such sustained contempt for the original expression of voters.

Our democracy has become a sham. The entire crossbench should have obligations to the nation — but it is doubtful if this crossbench can rise above its squalid dysfunction.

Senator Bernardi has told ABC Radio Adelaide the government’s tax reforms need to be passed in full in the best interests of Australia.

To read Paul Kelly's full article, click here.

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