31 May 2022

Probing the polls: independent votes and transparent government decisions

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Chief Minister Andrew Barr MLA. Photo: Michelle Kroll Region Media

How long should we see wait to see ACT Cabinet papers and minutes? Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Independent David Pocock is all but certain to take the ACT’s second senate seat.

Not only does this mean that the Liberals won’t have any federal representatives, but it’s also the first time an independent has represented the Territory at that level. Independent Professor Kim Rubenstein also collected a small but significant portion of votes.

Mr Pocock is also the only ACT independent at either level of government – Labor holds power in the Legislative Assembly, in coalition with the Greens and opposed by the Liberals.

But as the so-called teal tide washes across the nation, is it likely that we could see more independents elected in the ACT? According to both our poll and that other one run by the Australian Electoral Commission, many of you think so.

We asked, Would you vote for an independent candidate? A total of 877 readers voted (and many thousands more in the election poll on the same weekend).

Your choices to were No, I prefer a candidate inside government. This received 26 per cent of the total, or 231 votes. Alternatively, you could vote Yes, we need independent voices for the ACT. This received 74 per cent of the total, or 646 votes.

This week we’re wondering whether the ACT Government should be forced to publicly release its cabinet documents within 30 business days of making a decision rather than the current 10 years.

READ ALSO Canberra Liberals push to release ACT cabinet documents after a month

Canberra Liberals’ leader Elizabeth Lee has called for the current 10-year timeframe for the release of cabinet documents to be significantly reduced. Her proposed legislation is based on laws now in effect in New Zealand where the country’s cabinet is required to proactively release its cabinet papers and minutes after 30 business days unless there is a good reason not to publish all or part of the material.

There are no other jurisdictions in Australia with such a short timeframe. Opponents argue cabinet needs to be able to have robust discussions on complex topics and a drastically shorter timeframe would lead to more populist decision making and obfuscation.

The proposal met with mixed responses from readers too.

Brent Hunter said: “Love the Labor Party and its supporters calling for anti-corruption bodies (which is fine and should happen) and more transparent government and decision making. But the ACT Libs ask for more transparency in the Territory Labor Government and it’s a big, ‘oh, we can’t have that’. Governments are accountable to the people who put them there.”

Others disagreed.

“How did a Liberal Party member manage to say this with a straight face?” Bernard asked. Jarryd Moore noted that as ACT Cabinet documents are released after 10 years, “the ACT already has the shortest timeframe for the release of cabinet documents in the country”.

“Sounds like Elizabeth Lee just wants to make a mockery of this and turn the ACT into a media-driven political sideshow. Did she learn nothing from her party’s recent Federal loss?”

Our question this week is:

Should the ACT release all cabinet papers within 30 days?

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What Lee needs to do is draw a very clear line on Zed’s toxic legacy and move on.

Just being the Canberra Whinge and Fringe Outrage Party clearly hasn’t worked.

They need to develop some actual vision for a change and stand up for Canberra. Not pursue Zed’s populist nonsense like paving over our pristine unique wilderness.

Otherwise yes, Lee makes valid points around accountability and transparency.

The Canberra Liberals will be wise to pursue accountability and drop Zed’s toxic mindless legacy.

Under the Westminster system, the Government is responsible to the Parliament, and the Parliament is responsible to the People. If the system is to be upended so that the governing Party or Parties is to be made responsible to the People, then the Opposition Party or Parties and Independents – as equally part of the Parliament – should have to do the same, that is, on this present question, they should have to release their decision-making reports within the same time-frame to the People as well.

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