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Politicians, Process & Procedure

September 24, 2021
Dianah Walter

This is about process and procedure.

I can’t shake these words uttered by Frank Pangallo MLC from my head.  When you read to the very bottom of the Hansard Transcript, in the second to last paragraph of the third reading of the ICAC (CPIPC Recommendations) Amendment Bill, it reads, “I do not know whether the commissioner has seen the raft of amendments that we have moved tonight. She may have a different point of view after viewing these as to what we are doing.”

Surely consultation with the person who would probably understand the existing Act better than any sitting politician, (apart from maybe the Attorney-General who has been largely silent on this), should have had the opportunity to review the document and its amendments?

This morning, Commissioner Ann Vanstone still hadn’t had an opportunity to review the bill, now Act awaiting Royal Assent. 

In an interview on ABC Radio Adelaide with David Bevan the Commissioner noted that it is very difficult for the public to understand the extent of the changes, “it’s not about maladministration and  misconduct or investigations, it’s the decimation of the corruption jurisdiction that I’m most concerned about.”

The full definitions of corruption, misconduct and maladministration in public administration are provided in the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Act 2012.

I can understand the outrage from the community at the speedy, unanimous passing of the bill.  Especially so when other bills languish for months, years or are prorogued.  Prorogation ends all business remaining before the House. Everything on the Notice Paper lapses, and any sessional orders cease to have effect.  When the new parliament sits, the process starts again.

This, for me, is as much about the process and procedure as it is about the impact of the legislative changes.

Generally speaking, when a bill is brought to the parliament there is a raft of consultations, briefings, news releases and other communications that ensue.  There are deliberations and negotiations.  A Private Members Bill, by its very nature, struggles for breath, but in this case, it was fully oxygenated and given ample “government” time to be aired, ignited, and then set to rest.  

My question is how many of the MPs that cast a vote actually read the bill and had time to digest the amendments? I mean, actually read the bill and understood it?  What briefings were they afforded; what questions were raised? If questions were raised, who addressed them?  Were the responses satisfactory?

Can each and every member of both Houses put their hands on their hearts and state truthfully that they were fully briefed and understood what was before them?  After all it is their job to act with authority and understanding.

If each member cannot affirm their informed and educated decision making as part of this process, then therein lies the problem. 

If some members simply voted as directed by their party leader, along party lines, unquestioning, of a Private Members Bill, freely given Government time, what faith does that give their constituents in their law-making abilities?  Particularly so when some members have challenges in completing travel allowance claims and correctly stating their home and email address.

Process and procedure, and so it goes.

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