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More power to the people, not the Prime Minister.

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Senator Andrew Bartlett Leader of the Australian Democrats October 9, 2003 MEDIA RELEASE 03/723

More Power to the People, Not the Prime Minister

A binding plebiscite so the Australian people can deliver a verdict on disputed legislation forms the centrepiece of the Australian Democrats’ model for Parliamentary reform.

Democrats’ Leader, Senator Andrew Bartlett, told the National Press Club today, the model would give power back to the Australian people to decide on disputed legislation.

“For seven years the Coalition have run a constant, brazen campaign to falsely paint the Senate as obstructionist. They have run this campaign flying in the face of the facts, their own history and the Australian Constitution,” Senator Bartlett said.

“Yesterday the Prime Minister released a flimsy, poorly-argued discussion paper in the latest instalment of his cynical Senate-bashing exercise.

“The Democrats welcome the opportunity to discuss how to improve the way Parliament and politics works - but we will only entertain changes that give more power to the Australian people, not John Howard’s plan to concentrate more power in the hands of the Prime Minister and his Executive Government.”

Under the Democrats’ reform model, if the two Houses of Parliament cannot agree on legislation it can be resolved through binding plebiscites, asking the opinion of the nation.

“If the Prime Minister genuinely wants a mandate, then put the legislation to the voters,” Senator Bartlett said.

“If the Government wants to argue it has the support of the people to implement major reforms, it should be prepared to prove it.

“Any legislation that is the subject of a protracted dispute between the Senate and the House of Representatives could easily be put to the Australian people for a yes/no vote at a normal election. Unlike the Mr Howard, we trust the people.”

Other proposals in the Democrats’ model for Parliamentary reform include: ELIMINATING the Senate’s ability to block supply; FOUR year fixed terms; PARLIAMENTARY approval required for going to war; IMPROVEMENTS to the regulation of political parties and rules to cap donations and stamp out donations that have strings attached; MORE accountability measures for Ministers and staffers to combat government secrecy and abuse of power; and REFORMS to the House of Representatives to inject more accountability.

For interview with Senator Bartlett contact Katrina Beikoff on 0419 867 649 (Copies of Senator Bartlett’s speech are available on the Democrats’ website from 2pm)