The former Minister of Finance, Lindsay Tanner, wants Australia to become a politicians’ republic. But is he or is the republican movement at all interested in improving the governance of Australia, especially in making government more transparent and accountable?
One of his last acts as Minister for Finance before the 2011 election was to attend a meeting of the Federal Executive Council on 29 June 2010.
What he advised the Governor-General to do there gives us an idea of what government would be like in a politicians' republic.
Mr. Tanner advised Her Excellency the Governor–General Ms. Quentin Bryce to make a regulation. (In the ultimate analysis, after posing any relevant questions, the Governor-General was correct constitutionally in following that advice.)
This she did in these terms:
I, QUENTIN BRYCE, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, acting with the advice of the Federal Executive Council, make the following Regulations under the Public Works Committee Act 1969.
Dated 29 June 2010
By Her Excellency’s Command
Minister for Finance and Deregulation.
….government in a politicians’ republic…
The regulation does not seem to do much.
But when you consider it, it will give you an idea of the standards of government we can expect in a politicians’ republic.
It inserts in Schedule 3 after ‘26AA’ the following words:
‘26 AB NBN Co Limited’
This is the company the government established to plan, rollout and operate the $43 billion dollar National Broadband Network.
The effect of the regulation is to exempt the company from any scrutiny whatsoever by the Parliamentary Public Works Committee.
This regulation was not tabled in the Senate until 28 September, after which either House can disallow the regulation in pursuance of a motion of which notice has been given within 15 sitting days after that day.
….Sir Henry Parkes reforms..
Professor Henry Ergas writes in The Australian (21/10) that
…the requirement that significant government projects be subject to ongoing control by a parliamentary standing committee on public works goes back to the great reforms Henry Parkes introduced into the governance of NSW in 1888.
In the previous decade, easy access to foreign loans had led to the abandonment of the longstanding criterion that public works be of "manifest utility".
The result was pervasive waste and pork-barrelling. Parkes sought to bring a return to effective fiscal disciplines, not least through the glare of publicity.
He also criticised the government for proposing to amend the Trade Practices Act. This would provide that the agreement between the NBN and Telstra to scap the existing network at the taxpayers' cost and for Telstra not to compete with the NBN on wireless transmission wouldl escape ACCC action.
The ACCC is at present empowered under the Act to grant an authorisation, but only after a hearing where it emerged that the public benefits of the agreement outweighed any competitive harm. This could be subject to an appeal.
..Mr. Tanner’s great blow for republicanism… ( continued below)
Mr. Tanner was determined while in Parliament, to achieve a great victory for republicanism. This also gives us an idea of parliamentary standards in this republic.
According to my negotiated statement published in Hansard, 4 September, 2008:
On 13 February 2006, Mr Lindsay Tanner MP, the Member for Melbourne, alleged that Australians for Constitutional Monarchy (ACM) had “engaged in a brazen tax scam” and that the association between ACM and the Constitution Education Fund Australia (CEF-A) was a “fraud on Australian taxpayers,”
He offered no evidence nor had he contacted either ACM or CEF-A beforehand.
However he urged ACM ‘to make use of their right of reply in parliament’ to provide an explanation of the circumstances. In referring to me as the national convenor of ACM, there was an implication that the allegations Mr Tanner made applied to me in a way that adversely affected my reputation.
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) conducted a comprehensive and lengthy audit of CEF-A, and substantial costs were involved in satisfying the requests of the ATO.
The audit resulted in no finding of any breach of the tax laws. Although requested, Mr Tanner has not withdrawn his allegation.