Saturday, 25 September 2010

Secularism on Saturday...

  • WA's Euthanasia Bill has been convincingly defeated - but several more battles in this war yet to be fought;
  • the Forty Days for Life campaign has started in Adelaide, Melbourne and many international locations.  To help support the local campaign, take a look here.
  • Bishop Julian Porteous has written a rebuttal of some of the key threads in Geoffrey Robertson's book attacking the Pope;
  • for a classic piece of secularist behaviour from someone claiming to be catholic - reneging on signed agreements (on totally spurious grounds) is apparently fine when it comes to politics, as is working not to support peace order and good government, but to destroy it.   No Mr Abbott, destruction is not the role of an Opposition.  The role of an Opposition is to provide an alternative, to hold the Government to account, to seek to improve Government - not to seek to systematically undermine it.  I recommend watching Clark and Dawe on the subject;
  • but I doubt if anyone is worrying about any of this today, instead no doubt preoccupied with one of Australia's most popular and elaborate secular rituals, viz...the Australian Rules Football Grand Final....


David said...

I disagree that Mr Abbott's grounds are "totally spurious", and I think Mr Pearson's analysis in today's Australian is apposite.

Government is strengthened and improved by not being based upon arguably improper and nebulous "nudge-nudge wink-wink" gentleman's agreements.

Terra said...

David - The reality is that much of our system of Government is based on gentlemen's agreements, explicit or otherwise. The Constituion doesn't mention the office of Prime Minister, let alone how he or she is chosen. The Cabinet never rates a mention in the Constitition, let alone any of the conventions associated with it.

And informal pairing agreements have long operated in the Parliament.

Pearson's article conflates two different issues - Oakeshott's desire to vote on substantive issues, and the agreement to provide a pair for the speaker.

While Oakeshott's plan to become speaker was always doomed given his desire to participate in the political process, there is absolutely no basis for a legal challenge to someone refraining from voting as a pair to the speaker - the whole idea is completely absurd (no court could compell an MP to vote on a particular issue).

If Mr Abbott really wanted to pursue the approach he suggested on August 30, he should have held out for that. As it was, Gillard rejected his proposal and he signed his name to a piece of paper.

Abbott has previously said you can't trust his spoken word, you have to get it in writing. Now it seems that even that isn't good enough.

Unless of course he had been able to form the Government in which case I imagine his "constitutional" objections would never have surfaced.

The man clearly demonstrated that he has no integrity whatsoever.

And more generally, his objective of destruction is completely at odds with catholic social teaching.

Salvatore said...

“… reneging on signed agreements …”

But sometimes agreements signed in good faith turn out to be untenable in practice. In this case, given the Solicitor General’s recent advice that a formal arrangement to ‘pair’ the Speaker is unconstitutional, it appears that at least that part of the agreement is void. And surely it’s more responsible to point this out now than to run the risk of the Government’s legislation being tossed out willy-nilly by the High Court later?

In any event, I think that “peace order and good government” are more likely to come from politicians who show too much respect for the Constitution that from those who show too little. Wouldn’t you agree?

Terra said...

Salvatore - Where did you get the idea that the Solicitor-General's advice said this was unconstitutional?

In fact he advised that:'there are no necessary constitutional impediments in such an arrangement subject to certain provisos'.

One of those provisos is that "adherence to the arrangement by the “paired” Member could only be voluntary". As the Attorney General 's website points out, "The pairing arrangements agreed to by both the Government and the Opposition are voluntary."

In short, there is no constitutional impediment to a pairing arrangement between the Speaker of the House of Representatives and another member from an opposing political party.

Salvatore said...

Where did I get that impression? Well, from the Solicitor General’s advice of course!

The crucial qualification seems to me to be precisely that the pairing arrangement be ‘voluntary’ - i.e. not subject to formal, binding agreement (largely because all pairing agreements are informal and voluntary).

And note that the S-G doesn’t even touch on the question of what would happen if the pairing arrangement gave rise to an even division which the Speaker would then be bound to resolve by voting.

The cynic in me can’t help but think that neither side can have failed to see the Constitutional problems with the Agreement, but that they were both so intent on wooing the independents that they would have signed anything.

Terra said...

Sorry but what is crucial about the voluntary nature of the agreement? MPs voluntarily agree to vote the way their party decides, voluntarily decide to be part of a party in the first place and I could go on. None of these voluntary agreements raise any constitutional issue; that's why the Solicitor General says that this one doesn't either!

And the Speaker's casting vote is similarly a non-issue - however the situation arises, he clearly always has a casting vote.

As for your cynicism - I agree. My point is though that, as our bishops point out in their Social Justice Statement this Sunday, "A competitiveness with no rules and a concern to 'win at all costs'" undermines the bonds of our society.

And see my latest post on this issue.