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Ministerial Responsibility

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Presentation on theme: "Ministerial Responsibility"— Presentation transcript:

1 Ministerial Responsibility

2 Westminster Chain of Accountability
Citizens can hold the unelected administrative executive to account through the… “Westminster Chain of Accountability” Parliament Minister responsible for dept Local Member question Head of Gov’t dept Public servant in dept Citizen

3 2 Types of Ministerial Responsibility
Collective MR Gov’t is selected by parliament Gov’t can be dismissed by parliament Parliament will scrutinise Gov’t The executive stands and falls together (speaks with one voice) Individual MR Ministers must not mislead parliament Ministers must not be personally or politically corrupt Ministers must avoid a conflict of interest Ministers must not bring the parliament into disrepute Ministers must take responsibility for their Departments

4 Collective Ministerial Responsibility
Making and breaking the Gov’t Strong party discipline and the use of a majoritarian electoral system leads to dominance of 2 major parties in the lower house This means, in practice, that there are strong disciplined majorities in parliament so the House tends to form strong gov’ts “hung parliaments” = no clear majority (last happened in the 1940’) Last federal gov’t to fall as a result of losing a vote of no-confidence was Fadden’s UAP gov’t in 1941 (very rare) In practice, gov’ts are dismissed at elections not in parliament

5 Collective Ministerial Responsibility
Scrutiny of the Executive Question Time Urgency Motions Matters of Public Importance Grievance Debates Adjournment Debates Committee Reports All are limited – as studied previously

6 Collective Ministerial Responsibility
Cabinet Solidarity The executive presents a “united front” to the parliament – stems from the pre-party days when ministers would go into the “cabinet room” of the House of Lords, decide policy and emerge to present parliament with Gov’t policy Ministers who cannot agree with the Cabinet’s decision must resign

7 Cabinet Solidarity Andrew Peacock resigned from the Fraser Cabinet in 1981because, as Minister for Industrial Relations, he was left out of Cabinet’s Wages Committee Paul Keating resigned from the Hawke Cabinet in 1991because Cabinet meeting had become a “disgrace” to which he could no longer be a part of When a Cabinet begins to lose solidarity it is usually a sign of disaffection with the PM. Keating went on the challenge & defeat Hawke for the Prime Ministership

8 Cabinet Solidarity Cabinet Solidarity is not the strong convention it once was… In pre-party times it was the “glue” that held the gov’t together. Party discipline does that now Expansion & division of the Cabinet into Inner & Outer Cabinets means that some Ministers may not be present when cabinet takes a decision – how can they agree without input. Such Ministers now have a “right of debate” within the party room

9 Cabinet Solidarity Cabinet “leaks” are a mechanism Ministers employ to “get their way” in Cabinet. The Howard Cabinet’s decisions on veterans affairs payments were leaked, causing community outrage. The proposed reductions in benefits were abandoned In 1998, Education Minister Kemp’s more radical reforms to Tertiary education were leaked, embarrassing the PM into backing away from them A “leaky” Cabinet is sign a PM is losing authority

10 Individual Ministerial Responsibility
In theory a minister must resign if a successful censure motion is passed – this rarely happens In practice ministers are accountable to the PM and the party – not the parliament The term “ministerial accountability” is probably a more accurate phase than “ministerial responsibly”

11 Individual Ministerial Responsibility
Ministers tend to resign when they become a “political liability” to the gov’t or the PM A “political calculus” determines the fate of a minister who is guilty of wrong-doing… Does the cost of keeping the minister (loss of electoral support, negative media publicity etc) exceed the cost of forcing their resignation (conceding points to the Opposition, admission of wrong-doing)? YES = minister resigns NO = minister stays on PM decides

12 Individual Ministerial Responsibility
Some recent resignations (further reading is required to learn the details of cases) Keating Ministers… Alan Griffiths – electoral funds used to pay business costs – a sandwich shop (personal corruption) Ros Kelly – “Sports Rorts” – using sporting grants targeted to marginal electorates to win votes (political corruption) Graham Richardson – used position to advantage his brother’s business (personal corruption)

13 Individual Ministerial Responsibility
Howard Ministers… John Sharp, David Jull & Peter McGauran - Ministerial impropriety in relation to Travel Rorts affair (claiming too much expenses) Geoff Prosser – conflict of interest Senator Bob Woods – travel claims Senator Brian Gibson – conflict of interest Senator Jim Short – conflict of interest See separate handout for complete list

14 Individual Ministerial Responsibility
Ministers who have come close… Bronwyn Bishop, Minister for Aged Care – maladministration of aged care facilities (blamed procedures of Department) Peter Reith, Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations & Small Business – son ran up $ on Gov’t phone card. Reith repaid the money & refused to take responsibility. Reith was a powerful ally of the PM and a ruthless Minister in “busting the unions”. The PM stood by him Reith’s case highlights the importance of the Minister’s relationship to the PM as to whether they survive or not.

15 Howard Government’s Ministerial Code of Conduct

16 The Palmer Inquiry – an investigating into the Department of Immigration over accusations of maladministration – imprisonment and deportation of Australian citizens & abuse of detainees in detention centres Amanda Vanstone – current Minister for Immigration (under Westminster theory she’s responsible) Philip Ruddock – former Minister for Immigration under whose leadership the problems developed in the Department

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