Posts Tagged ‘Constitution’

DIY Republic

Over at Public Polity, Sam Clifford has opened a discussion of preferred model(s) for a Republic. Check it out and feel free to weigh in with your own views.

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Brendan was here

He did say he would look into it:

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Planet Janet is in complete agreement with me:

As those of us in NSW are left to wonder about the future of this state, the Federal Opposition leader popped up on Sunday with a suggestion. Appearing on ABC’s Insiders Brendan Nelson suggested that given the calamitous state of NSW under Labor, we might need to look at the constitutional options. When asked what he meant, he refused to elaborate.

[Note to Nelson: if you want to look like a serious ideas man, when you raise a novel idea, run with it, explain it. If you drop it as fast as you raise it, it looks like the idea is so novel you’ve got no idea what you’re talking about.]

By constitutional options, presumably Nelson meant to point us to section 24B of the NSW Constitution Act 1903 which lays down the circumstances in which the NSW Legislative Assembly may be dissolved during its four year term. Subsection (5) of section 24B says “This section does not prevent the Governor from dissolving the Legislative Assembly in circumstances other than those specified in subsections (2)-(4), despite any advice of the Premier or Executive Council, if the Governor could do so in accordance with established constitutional conventions.” In other words, the Governor can dissolve Parliament in line with constitutional convention at any time during its four year term.

A nice idea if we can find a constitutional convention to warrant such action. NSW may be on the rails with its AAA credit rating in question, but this is no Whitlamesque scenario. Putting constitutional fine points to one side, sacking the NSW Labor Government is pointless. Let’s say this one more time in the hope that it will sink in at Liberal Party HQ: we have no effective Opposition in NSW to make an early election worthwhile. Which leaves us to an unfortunate fate of crossing our fingers, hoping for a most unlikely outcome where Rees, a man from Labor’s Left, takes economically responsible decisions by confronting the rot within his own party.

Well, we agree about the silliness of Brendan’s hare-brained and unworkable proposal to sack the new NSW Government. And we agree that there is still a lack of genuine opposition in the state – the Big O has certainly moved the Libs, in the right direction, but they are just as prone to factional self-destruction as the ALP. We differ entirely on what the best solution is – I am hopeful that Rees can turn things around, while Janet thinks Teh Left is the last thing the state needs.

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Brendan is looking into an early election in New South Wales. Apart from the obvious barriers that might keep him from bringing this about (e.g., the fact that he isn’t a member of the NSW parliament, and that his party is in Opposition in that state), there are some extra issues.

Following a successful referendum in 1995, New South Wales became the first state to have fixed electoral terms. This means that an election is not due to be held until March 2011. The Constitution Act 1902 (NSW) s 24B sets out the circumstances in which the Legislative Assembly can be dissolved during the 4 year term. The possibilities it sets out that might apply in the current circumstances are:

  • Passage of a no confidence motion, with a motion of confidence not being passed within the subsequent 8 days;
  • Failure of the Legislative Assembly to pass a supply Bill “for the ordinary annual services of the Government”; or
  • Other circumstances that would allow the Governor to dissolve the Legislative Assembly in accordance with established Constitutional conventions.

The ALP holds 52 of the 93 seats in the Legislative Assembly, so for any move against the Government to pass would require at least six of their number to join the Coalition and independents. As much as the NSW Labor Party might be self-destructing, I find it difficult to imagine that any of them would throw their entire Government off the cliff by passing a no confidence motion in the newly-minted Rees Government or blocking appropriations. Even if Labor loses its seats in the upcoming by-elections, they will still retain their majority.

This means that an early election would probably require the Governor to exercise her reserve powers based on some established Constitutional convention. This is complicated by the fact that such conventions are unclear and far from well-established – these powers have been used rarely (the two examples in Australia being the dismissals of Jack Lang’s Government in NSW and Whitlam at the Commonwealth level) and have retrospectively been evaluated by many as not being justified by Constitutional conventions.

Given Brendan’s impotence in everything else, it strikes me as odd that he hopes to be capable of triggering a constitutional crisis. As much of a shambles as the New South Wales Government appears to be in, I don’t imagine that he is going to manage to contribute to a solution.

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and not one of them has read the Constitution. Bolt has managed to drum up all of his monkeys into a genuine tizzy by tangling together some of their nastiest boogeymen – a strong woman (who doesn’t hunt moose), judicial (or, in this case, executive) activism, “contemporary values”, and Teh Left. So, they launch into a scathing critique of our new Governor-General – starting with Andrew himself, as he stoops to new levels of idiocy.

By the way, Andrew – I don’t want to scare you even more, but this is wrong:

Actually, the only promise Bryce is called upon to make as Governor General is to be faithful to the Constitution, of which he or she is the ultimate guardian.

The ultimate guardian of the Constitution? I would argue that it’s these folks over here – even this one. Try to keep your head from exploding.

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