Dear Christian: The Coalition will only just have a majority in
the Senate post 1 July. But what happens if a Coalition Senator should
die or become incapacitated? Is it not up to the state governments (all
Labor) to appoint a replacement?

Dear MB: While it
would be fun, we’re not going to see another re-run of the shenanigans
of 1975 when Sir Joh and Tom Lewis of NSW appointed anti-Whitlam
senators to fill casual vacancies, making it possible for the Fraser
opposition to block supply. Big Mal got cold feet pretty early on.
Amendments to Section 15 of the Australian Constitution
requiring Senate casual vacancies to be filled by a person from the
same party were approved by the electorate at a referendum in April
Dear Christian: Would you
please be kind enough to tell me what “ministerial responsibility”
means. It is a term I have read about – but I can’t seem to find any
recent examples.

Dear F: Ministerial responsibility
is the concept of responsibility to parliament and the people of
government ministers collectively for the decisions they take and
individually for the actions of their departments.

This is what House of Representatives Practice,
the Bible of procedure for the House, has to say (pages 48 and 49):
“Ministerial responsibility takes two forms – collective cabinet
responsibility (or ‘cabinet solidarity’) and individual ministerial
responsibility. Both concepts are governed by conventions inherited
from Westminster and both are central to the working of responsible

The second form tends to attract more attention. It
operates inconsistently. Ministers appear to be more concerned to show
responsibility to their party than to the people and their
representatives, the parliament. This means that while they will follow
their obligation to answer questions regarding the conduct of their
departments, they will refuse to assume personal responsibility for its
misdeed – unless, of course, the PM and their colleagues tell them to.
Sound familiar?
Dear Christian: Re:
the Air Warfare Destroyers – I have a theory. The Liberals want their
heartland, Victoria, back. Accordingly, they are not going to allow
anything to happen that could make the Victorian Labor Government look
good. What do you think?

Dear Gary: Nice idea, but… South
Australia’s got the contract. Victoria is stroppy. Both states are due
to have elections next year. SA will be first. The Liberals in both
states are disaster areas – but the South Australian parliament is
calibrated in such a way as to give the party there a better chance.
And that’s all just crass politics.

Politics may not have played much of a role. South Australia’s industrial relations record probably was the clincher here.

you wouldn’t think that Defence Minister Robert Hill was a South
Australian looking at how the politics of the announcement has been
handled. Have a sick bag handy and look back over the last few days of The Adelaide Advertiser. South Australia’s Labor Premier Mike Rann – and the Tiser
– have claimed all the credit themselves. Media Mike invited local
journos into his actual office on Tuesday to be there when he took the
official call about the contract. Naturally, he already knew what was
going to be said.

Savvier backbenchers keep whinging that Howard
Government ministers have forgotten about politics and think too much
about administration. They let hostile state governments grab too much
credit for Commonwealth announcements. They ignore their own
backbenchers, let alone their state colleagues. They let public
servants, not political strategists, do too much of their thinking for

Hilly and his staff deserve a complete bollocking over the
handling and timing of this announcement. The way they awarded the
contract to the Australian Submarine Corporation has given a massive
fillip to Rann less than 12 months out from a general election. Indeed,
they’ve performed as well as a Collins class sub.
Dear Christian:
Kim Beazley, Wayne Swan, Steven Smith, et al of the ALP federal caucus
are screaming out for more tax cuts now for middle income earners. How
are they going to look when the inevitable happens and massive tax cuts
are offered to low and middle income earners in the pre-election budget
of 2007?

Dear Niall: Labor look like bloody idiots today, as a glance at any paper this morning will show (The Telegraph
makes it particularly clear). Unless the economy goes pear shaped and
revenue dries up – or they somehow gets the smarts – things will be
just the same in two years’ time.