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HEALTHY PARLIAMENT MEASURING A received in a timely manner


Healthy Parliament: • Government responds to all com- mittee reports within a reasonable timeframe (e.g. three months) and the Legislature has mechanisms to deal with a lack of a response; and • Where governments don’t agree with recommendations, adequate explanations are given.


Unhealthy Parliament: • Government doesn’t respond to committee reports, or to only a very few; and • Government responds to commit- tee reports, but instead of agreeing or not agreeing to recommendations, the response is that the recom- mendations are “noted” without a reasonable explanation given.


Opportunities for the Executive to be asked a number of questions without notice


Healthy Parliament: • There is an opportunity to scrutinize the Executive by asking questions without notice; • There is sufficient time for a large number of questions to be asked of Ministers during the questions with- out notice period by non-government Members; and • Ministers are asked, on average, at least one question per sitting week.


Unhealthy Parliament: • The time for questions without notice and the number of questions allowed are small in number, resulting in many Ministers never being asked a question without notice by a non- government Member.


Parliamentary sitting time devoted to non-government business


Healthy Parliament: • There is sufficient time and opportunity for Members to raise matters, move motions and introduce and debate legislation.


Unhealthy Parliament: • There is little sitting time devoted


to non-government business, and there is thus little opportunity for Members to raise matters of concern.


The number of non-government chairs of parliamentary committees and the level of autonomy of committees


Healthy Parliament: • Oversight committees provide meaningful opportunities for minority or opposition parties to engage in effective oversight of government expenditures. Typically the Public Ac- counts committee will be chaired by a Member of the opposition party ; • Committees can self-refer inquir- ies (within their terms of reference) without approval of the executive or there are adequate opportunities for Chairs/Members to propose motions of referral in the plenum.


Unhealthy Parliament: • There are no non-government committee chairs; • The only inquiries committees can undertake must first be approved by the executive.


Representation/Accessibility The Legislature has a large number of interactions with constituents, including witnesses/submissions to committee inquires and Members following up on constituents representation.


Healthy Parliament: • Parliamentary committees get significant involvement in inquiries from community groups/constitu- ents; and • Members follow up constituents concerns and make themselves accessible.


Unhealthy Parliament: • Committees do not advertise inquiries and hardly interact with the community; and • Members do not make them- selves available to see constituents to hear their concerns.


Conclusion There will no doubt be discussion on


whether there is value in reducing the value of a Legislature’s work to 10 measures. In proposing a new methodology for assessing parliamentary performance I refer to Osbourne’s Of the People by the People – a new history of democracy which cautions:


...yet when we try to pin down exactly what democracy is, we find ourselves chasing rainbows. The problem is that every time we get near to a definition, or compile a list of conditions that only democracy must fulfil, we find examples of fully functioning democracies that do not comply, or of societies that are not regarded as democratic but never the less fulfil some of the criteria.”


Is the “10 measures for a healthy Parliament” methodology I propose nothing more than chasing a rainbow? I don’t think so. To complement the reams of authoritative and factual information we all publish in words, sounds and


pictures, let us look in the era of 24/7 to new ways to capture the people’s attention.


Figure 1 conveys the results of how the 10 measures were put to the test against my own Legislature – the ACT Legislative Assembly.


Endnotes


1. Osborne, R. Of the people by the people – A new history of democracy, Random House, London, 2012, pg 1. 2. Crisp, L.F. Australian National government, 4th edn, Longman Chesire, Melbourne, 1978, pg 250 3. Rawlinson, M. ‘The House of Representa- tives’ in Lucy, R (ed). The Pieces of Politics, Macmillan, Melbourne, 1975, pg 379 4. CPA/WBI/UNDP Recommended Bench- marks for Democratic Legislators, December 2006, para 2.5.2 5. Ibid, paragraph 6.3.1 6. Ibid, paragraph 3.2.1 7. CPA/WBI/UNDP, para 2.4.2 8. CPA/WBI/UNDP, para 7.1.1 9. CPA/WBI/UNDP, op cit, para 7.2.2 10. Osbourne, R. op cit, pg 2


The Parliamentarian | 2013: Issue Three | 189 Figure 1: Parliamentary Performance Report Card


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