The following letter was published in the Canberra Times today.
I sent it because I am very concerned about what is happening to political freedom in Australia. Am I being paranoic or do others share my concerns?
Text of letter follows.
Both Brian Toohey (“Eroding State power” Sunday Canberra Times 9/7/06) and Jack Waterford (“By all accounts a government that can get away with anything”, Public Sector Informant July) have recently warned that that the checks and balances to federal government power in Australia are steadily crumbling. These are timely warnings.
The growing concentration of power in the Executive is evident in:
- the increasing tendency of Canberra to use its financial power to dictate to the States on traditional state responsibilities, with Peter Costello foreshadowing further moves in he same direction;
- the stifling of the role of the Senate and its committees as watchdogs and scrutineers;
- the steady diminution in the role of independent statutory bodies in industrial relations, human rights and administrative oversight;
- the blatant stacking of key statutory boards and Benches with like-minded people;
- the diminution in Ministerial responsibility and lack of accountability of ministerial minders;
- the increasingly farcical operation of Parliamentary Question Time;
- the recent change in methods of appropriation which will make the Government less accountable for its spending;
- the changes to the Electoral Act which will make it harder for some citizens to vote and increase the secrecy veil on political donations; and
- the gradual silencing and intimidation of non-government organisations such as welfare, environmental and youth groups.
And all this comes on top of the huge natural advantage conferred by incumbency and the well-known capacity of Ministers to obfuscate and misinform the public (including through the misuse of public advertising for political purposes).
This is starting to look like a real threat to our democratic freedoms.