To scrutinise the government’s conduct effectively, it is important that parliament understands what informed the government’s decision to pursue a particular course of action.
Australia’s Constitution sets the ground rules for its system of government. But many things one might expect to be in the Constitution are simply not there.
Laws play their role in regulating our governments, but so does our own respect for political conventions. And the way these are upheld goes to the heart of our freedom as democratic people.
The government’s uncontested assessment of national interest and security often trumps the rule of domestic and international law, as well as Australia’s obligations under human rights treaties.
The public service is meant to be independent and bipartisan. But “political” appointments and funding arrangements can hamstring their ability to give fair and frank advice.
Australian society has become dangerously accustomed to our politicians using “national security” as an excuse for the obfuscation of sticky truths.
Political conventions may be challenged and redefined by every new government, but it is their role in promoting political accountability that ensures the health of our democracy.