Monday, August 23, 2010

What prospects for meaningful systemic improvement of Australia's governance?

My spirits were lifted this morning listening, on ABC News Radio, to interviews with the various independents who, following Saturday's Australian election, are likely to hold the balance of power in the next Federal Parliament.  It was not so much that I agreed with all that was said, but that what was being said was, in contrast to the election campaign a breath of fresh air, a different discourse, and one in the main dominated by conviction, concern for citizens and for the country and beyond.  Whilst there are many interesting commentaries on what did or did not happen in the election, and no doubt many more to come, Ross Gitten's analysis stood out for me. 

However none of the mainstream commentators seem to have taken up the point, made in my CPD essay, that what we are experiencing is the systemic failure of governance.  The Westminster model as now enacted is no longer fit for purpose, whether in the UK or here.  The parallels with the UK result are intriguing and just as there are resonances there are also important differences.  What is worrying of course is that our system of governance, and the historical ways of enacting it by the main stream parties, will militate against innovation and change on the back of the fresh perspectives brought by the independents and Greens who, after July, will contol the numbers in the Senate.  Fortunately GetUp seems to be on the case. They argue today that:

This moment provides an historic opportunity for GetUp members to push for much needed parliamentary and democratic reform that would never happen under the usual two party dominance of parliament.

Just a few months ago, the balance of power in the UK's new Parliament created the potential for desperately needed democratic reforms, giving new power to ideas like preferential voting, parliamentary process reform, political transparency and more. But despite early hopes, reform has stalled. In Australia we can't let that happen. It is these moments that our movement is made for.

This will take more than good intentions - it will require new skills, understandings, generosity but also significant innovation in new forms of horizontal governance as discussed in my CPD essay.