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Ministerial Responsibility. Westminster Chain of Accountability Citizens can hold the unelected administrative executive to account through the… Westminster.

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Presentation on theme: "Ministerial Responsibility. Westminster Chain of Accountability Citizens can hold the unelected administrative executive to account through the… Westminster."— 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 Public servant in dept Head of Govt dept Parliament Citizen Local Member Minister responsible for dept question

3 2 Types of Ministerial Responsibility Collective MR Govt is selected by parliament Govt can be dismissed by parliament Parliament will scrutinise Govt 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 Govt 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 govts hung parliaments = no clear majority (last happened in the 1940) Last federal govt to fall as a result of losing a vote of no-confidence was Faddens UAP govt in 1941 (very rare) In practice, govts 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 Govt policy Ministers who cannot agree with the Cabinets 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 Cabinets 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 govt 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 Cabinets decisions on veterans affairs payments were leaked, causing community outrage. The proposed reductions in benefits were abandoned In 1998, Education Minister Kemps 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 govt 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 brothers 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 listhandout

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 Govt 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 Reiths case highlights the importance of the Ministers relationship to the PM as to whether they survive or not.

15 Howard Governments Ministerial Code of Conduct

16 Philip Ruddock – former Minister for Immigration under whose leadership the problems developed in the Department Amanda Vanstone – current Minister for Immigration (under Westminster theory shes responsible) 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


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