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Democrats release 30-point plan for more honest, open and accountable Government



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Senator Cheryl Kernot Australian Democrats , Parliamentary Leader

31 January, 1996 MEDIA RELEASE 96/63

DEMOCRATS RELEASE 30-POINT PLAN FOR MORE HONEST, OPEN AND ACCOUNTABLE GOVERNMENT

Australian Democrats’ Leader and Queensland Senator Cheryl Kernot today released the party’s 30-point charter to reform government processes.

The Charter for Reform draws together urgent and practical accountability measures in six key areas which the Democrats believe can and must be implemented during the next three years.

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Senator Kernot said: “It is an ambitious plan, but it is achievable. And very, very much in the public interest." .

She said at the Sydney launch of the Charter that recent actions by state Premiers Jeff Kennett and Bob Carr highlighted the need for more accountable government at all levels.

Senator Kernot said Mr Kennett's plan to scrap state by-elections was “a blatant abuse of democracy". ,

“Here in New South Wales, we have a government which is preventing the democratically elected Parliament from debating a major change to the structure of government in this state,’’ she said.

“In both cases, we’ve got governments prepared to stomp on democracy.

“We also have a Labor Prime Minister who calls the Senate 'unrepresentative swill’ when it questions secret actions taken by his government.

“The common thread between Carr, Kennett and Keating is that they will get away with what they can. Where they are able to abuse notions of democracy and accountability they will.

“That is why it is important to have structures in place to guard against, as far as is possible, such abuse.

“In the past 15 years, the Senate has emerged as the last defender of the citizen against the excesses of government.

“As former Auditor-General John Taylor described it: 'The reason for the unpopularity of the Senate with the executive and sections of the bureaucracy is plain - the Senate is independent, not a rubber stamp nor rotten borough, and when it wants to be, very effective'.”

Senator Kernot said: “It has been the Democrats, holding the balance of power, who have made the Senate effective. It is the Democrats who drive the ‘House of Review’.

“The Charter for Reform reasserts our determination to continue our push for government accountability."

A U S T R A L I A N

Keep the Bastards Honest 'RAli

D E M O C R A T S

Senator Cheryl Kernot Australian Democrats Parliamentary Leader

31 January, 1996 ___ _______________________________________________ PAGE -2-

The 30-point Charter fo r Reform includes:

* Improving the accountability of politicians: * immediate adoption of a Code of Conduct for Parliamentarians and the establishment of an Ethics Committee (with community representatives); * the independence of the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate should be improved;

* Improving the financial accountability of government: * establish an independent Parliamentary Budget Office to, among other things, independently cost election promises and report on and cost major economic proposals between elections;

* Improving the accountability of Cabinet Ministers to Parliament: * “Jobs for the Boys". All prospective candidates for Board memberships and statutory senior officer appointments should be vetted by an independent Commissioner for Appointments, appointed by Parliament; * Treaties. The Government should not be able to ratify major treaties or conventions until Parliament has approved the treaty or convention, and conducted a public inquiry where necessary;

* Improving public service accountability and independence: * Whistleblowers must be properly protected by legislation to ensure that bringing government misdeeds to public attention does not end their careers;

* The Right to Information: * Freedom of Information legislation should be strengthened with the right of the public to information enshrined in the Act, the classes of exempt material reduced (particularly under the classes of Cabinet documents), secrecy provisions reviewed and application and appeal costs cut; * Government advertising to be restricted to information about government programmes and entitlements rather than political advertising; * Establish a register of Cabinet decisions to allow public access, at least in broad terms, to the decisions of Cabinet; * Truth in Advertising. Ban political advertising which is untrue;

* Constitutional changes to Improve accountability through the Senate: * Fixed terms to be introduced for both Houses of Parliament to prevent political manipulation of the electoral cycle; * The Senate’s power to block supply to be scrapped, but its power to scrutinise

new spending and taxation decisions to be explicitly recognised.

To arrange comment, contact: Cheryl Thurlow 0418 630 137.

Keep the Bastards Honest A U S T R A L I A N

D E M O C R A T S